American Muslim women today are rediscovering the pristine Islam as revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad, more than 1,400 years ago, but without any of the contradictions of ancestral culture. They are essentially engaging in life-long exercise of rediscovering their own selves – what it means to be a human, a Muslim, and more so, a Muslim woman. Wearing a head-covering (hijab) is an important part of their spiritual journey.
One of the most common questions today, asked by Muslims and non-Muslims both is: “Why do Muslim women cover their heads?” The answer is simple – Muslim women observe hijab because God told them to. Quran 33:59 “O Prophet, Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better in order that they may be known (to be Muslims) and not annoyed… ”
Muslims believe that their sole purpose in life is the worship of God alone, according to His instructions, as revealed in the Qur’an, and through the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). So wearing the hijab is an act of obedience to God and, so forms the primary basis for wearing it.
Generalizations about Islam and Muslims are replete in today’s media. Muslim women in headscarves are frequently and unfairly stigmatized. They are regarded on the one hand as oppressed, and on teh other, as fanatics and fundamentalists. Both depictions are grossly wrong and imprecise.
These portrayals not only misrepresent these women’s strong feelings toward hijab, but also fail to acknowledge their courage and the resulting identity hijab gives them. There are even bans on wearing the hijab in some countries. When someone asked Aminah Assilmi about this (a Christian convert to Islam) she said ‘To go without my hijab would be like asking a nun to go to topless. It amazes me, and I can’t help but wonder, if they would have ordered Mary, the mother of Jesus to uncover her hair.”
Another misconception is the belief that Muslim women are forced to wear hijab. For the vast majority of Muslim women, nothing could be farther from the truth. Of course, Deciding finally to wear hijab is sometimes difficult.
Days of meditation, fear of negative consequences and reactions from family or the wider American society, and ultimately, the need for plenty of courage weigh heavily in reaching the decision. Wearing hijab is a very personal and independent decision, coming from appreciating the wisdom underlying God’s command and a sincere wish to please Him.
While the hijab identifies women of followers of Islam, with it comes tremendous responsibility. Hijab isn’t just a covering dress, but more importantly, it’s behavior, manners, speech and appearance in public. The headscarf is an outer manifestation of an inner commitment to worshipping God – it symbolizes a commitment to piety.
Self or inner morality is what gives meaning to the external scarf. This can be perceived from the overall demeanor of any Muslim woman – how she acts, dresses, speaks, and so on. In a land where misinformation about Islam and Muslims abounds, Muslim sisters have the opportunity to portray Islam in it’s true light.
Modest clothing and hijab are precautions to avoid social violations. The Qur’an says this isn’t limited to women only. See Qur’an Chapter 24 verses 30 – 31
Read more at Allahs Qur’an
According to Jabir ibn Abdullah, when he asked the Prophet (pbuh) about a man’s gaze falling inadvertently on a strange woman, teh Prophet replied :”Turn your eyes away” (Muslim). In another tradition, the Prophet (pbuh) chided for looking again at a woman – he said, the second glance is from satan.
So contrary to popular belief, Muslim and non-Muslim, hijab is not worn for men; to keep their illicit desires in check – that’s their own responsibility, as verses and hadiths show. Rather, Muslim women where it for God and their own selves.
Islam is a religion of moderation and of balance between extremes. So it doens’t expect women alone to uphold society’s morality and uprightness. Rather, Islam asks men and women mutually to strive to create a healthy social environment where children may grow with positive, beautiful, constructive and practical values and concepts.
In fact, for many women in hijab, it’s a constant reminder that they shouldn’t have to design their lives and bodies for men.
The concept of modesty and hijab in Islam is holistic, and encompasses both men and women. The ultimate goal is to maintain societal stability and to please God.
Since Muslim women are more conspicuous because of their appearance, it’s easier for people to associate them with the warped images they see in the media. So, stereotypes are perpetuated and Muslim women often seem ‘mysterious’ to those not acquainted with the religious meanings of hijab.
This aura of ‘mystery’ can’t be removed until their lifestyles, beliefs and thought-systems are genuinely explored And, this can’t be achieved until people aren’t afraid to respectfully approach a Muslim woman – or men for that matter. So the next time you see a Muslim, stop and talk to them – You’ll feel, God willing, as if your entering a different world, the world of Islam – filled with humility, piety, and of course, modesty 🙂
Learn more at Why Islam