Empowered by the Hijab

In a world where everyone is overexposed, the coolest thing you can do is maintain your mystery. – Anonymous

The hijab is the covering a Muslim woman must wear once she reaches the age of puberty. The headscarf is a type of hijab which covers the hair and neck. Seeing a woman wearing the hijab is almost part of society’s norms, especially in the Middle East and some parts of the Western world. However, those who do not wear the hijab are often the only ones that criticise it. Some see it as oppressive and a violation of women’s rights. Whereas others may see the hijab as a threat to what they regard as ordinary. Men are threatened by hijabis because they can no longer control a woman by forcing her to be their “ideal lady”.

Many have the view that the hijab is forced upon women and they have no choice but to wear it. Well if this was true, then ALL Muslim women would be wearing it, yet this isn’t the case. Muslim women wear the hijab because of what it offers them. I started wearing the hijab at the age of 8, through my choice, and well before the age of puberty. I have grown to adore it and it has become part of my identity.

The hijab is a statement that is seen and not spoken. It is a statement which shows that women who wear the hijab are empowered and liberated, not oppressed.   Some people dislike the hijab but fail to understand what the women who wear it think of it. Therefore I decided that I would let the ‘hijabis’ do the talking. I asked some girls who wear the hijab to write a short paragraph on their views, and how it empowers and liberates them. N.B. I have in no way edited or altered their paragraphs. 

“Hijab is a sign of modesty. It comes from the word hijaba- which means to conceal. I wear the hijab to be identified as a woman who practises my religion of Islam. The point of my hijab is to liberate me from society’s ludicrous expectations and objectification of what woman could and should look like; blonde, slim, revealing- the human barbie. In essence, the hijab has helped me to free myself from those unrealistic expectations and I’ve granted myself the power to say to the world – I am much more what you physically see- my appearance should be the last thing you notice in me – that in itself is an idea that defines the standards of freedom. It is not the hijab that oppresses women, it is the illiterate mind. In contrast, the hijab liberates a woman, gives her freedom. Let’s face it, we all love to look beautiful but the problem arises when we take advantage of that and put appearance as number one characteristic – when have we seen an Ad when a woman’s intelligence makes her extremely attractive?  My hijab therefore allows me to be judged on my personality before my appearance .Beauty is like a book, it cannot be judged by its cover. Hijab is asking to be heard before being seen.”

– Ranya Al-hamami & Taif Al-Adnani

“To me, Hijab makes me feel protected. I was not forced to wear it, nor do I feel oppressed. I can confidently walk down the street without having creeps whistle at me or follow me around. I believe that women shouldn’t have to display themselves to the world nor flaunt their bodies in front of men/strangers who only view women as a seductive image. My hidden beauty is saved for my husband only… not temporary men who I meet throughout my life. It’ll make my husband feel special knowing that he’s the only man who can see the beauty of me that the world cannot see. Most importantly it makes me feel powerful and modest.”

– Sarah Mohammad

“I think that the hijab is the only solution to one of our most strong and ancient enemies; judging. The hijab provides many important things for a woman, such as, protection, power, purity and possession over the way others see her.Humanity finds that the most valuable things are the things that are found under layers of rock, soil, water, etc. And the hijab does the same for a woman, it makes her more valuable than the apples that have already fallen off the tree.”

– Sara Mohamed

“My hijab is empowering. It is empowering because it is a symbol of Islam, therefore my actions are a reflection upon my religion, giving me a responsibility. It is empowering because it provides a veil between me and all things harmful, like personal protection from Allah (SWT). It is empowering because it is not just a physical factor, but a mental one too, allowing me to purify myself of negative thoughts and become an optimist, which can aid a successful and happy future. This hijab has become a part of me, hence, I am now empowered.”

– Marwa Al-Fadly

“My freedom is the hijab. My freedom is not falling trap to the way society wants me to dress, rather dressing only to please my lord. My freedom is knowing my place in this world, rather than the place society puts me in. Hijab forces out the intellect beauty and conceales the physical and temporary beauty. They will not objectify me, rather they will be forced to respect me. This is truly empowering and a perfect escape from materialism to spiritualism.”

– Isra Hasan

“I chose to wear the Hijab (yes, you read that correctly) when I was around 9 years old. Little did I know that by simply choosing to cover my hair in public I would be making a public statement. Obviously when I was a child I had no idea about what that statement was – that it was simply me proudly displaying my faith. Now at the age of 16 I can say that the statement is me boldly standing out in a world which is so completely and utterly infatuated with image and exteriors. A world that cares more about seeing my hair than seeing my heart. A world which is, as hard as it is to admit, inherently racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic. That is what the Hijab is, to me at least. I’m showing the world that I am more than my beauty and ultimately, I am more than what they think I am. The Hijab is the embodiment of my freedom and expression as a woman. By me wearing the Hijab (and others too), the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is put to the test. My Hijab forces people to look beyond the quality fabric so effortlessly wrapped around my head, to focus and judge me based on my character and mannerisms. To me, that is what empowerment is.”

– Mariam Ghuwel

From these statements, it is clear that women feel the hijab protects them from falling into the trap of social conformity. We aren’t judged on how skinny our body is or how long our hair is, because this is hidden. Once the physical features are covered, a person is forced to look into a woman’s personality and intellect. The hijab  is a barrier between society’s negative views and treatment of a woman. We say, “I will not have the same hairstyle, wear the same clothes, use the same makeup. I am an individual and I will choose to express my individuality as I please.”

However I feel the most important thing the hijab does, is allow a woman to be a representative of Islam. When you see a thoughtful, well-mannered and intelligent hijabi, your perception of Islam completely changes. Hijabis are the strongest women in the world because when the world hates on Muslims, they walk down the street with their heads held up high saying “you can’t phase me”. Men can hide behind their beards and say that it is just a trend, but women wear the hijab with pride and integrity to promote Islam. No matter how much the world  tries to convince Muslim women that they are oppressed, hijabis continue to be pioneers fighting for a world that doesn’t judge a woman based on her body.

If our society continues to exclude women based on what they choose to wear, then yes I am oppressed. But I am not oppressed by Muhammad, I am oppressed by you John.

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