Another post about hijab

May 20, 2016

jersey-hijab-for-women-13First, let’s just face the fact that hijab may for eternity be a topic of discussion. As much as we may attempt to declare that it’s just a choice or just a scarf the questions surrounding hijab continue. Recently one of my Facebook friends who is somewhat of a public figure decided to take off their hijab. I wrote a comment of support under her post. Not support of her taking off her hijab but the support of her choice to make a decision based on the circumstances of our time.

When it comes to wearing hijab in the modern age -if you live in the West, I don’t believe there’s a one size fits all solution. Hijab is an obligation and no reputable scholar (that I’ve come across thus far) has said otherwise. Not wearing hijab -I refer only to the headscarf as hijab in this post, is not listed in the section of enormities in Reliance of the Traveller, one of the greatest books summarizing Shafi’i law. The only time I’ve heard it mentioned as a major sin is when it is mixed in with a hadith mentioning women who are clothed yet naked not going to paradise:

“There are two types of the people of Hell whom I have not seen: men in whose hands are whips like the tails of cattle, with which they beat the people, and women who are clothed yet naked, maa’ilaat mumeelaat, with their heads like the humps of camels, tilted to one side. They will not enter Paradise nor even smell its fragrance.

But it seems like a far stretch to categorize women who don’t cover their hair with the women the prophet, peace to him, mentioned in this hadith. So I mention it as not being a major sin just to put it in perspective that we are not talking about a sin akin to blasphemy or adultery. Strictly speaking, a woman is ordered to cover everything except her hands and face -some scholars include feet in what can be shown, some exclude it. For this reason, I never understood the stress on covering the hair in particular. Many women feel comfortable showing parts of their arms, neck, ears, legs, chest and would in the same breath condemn women who show their hair.

“Asma’ bint Abi Bakr entered upon the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wearing a thin dress. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) turned away from her and said, “O Asma’, when a woman reaches the age of puberty, nothing should be seen of her except this and this” – and he pointed to his face and hands.”

Yet my issue with hijab -or rather my issue with the way the Muslim community deals with hijab, is largely my feeling that it comes from a place of sexism and control. Imam Zaid and Shaykh Rami Nsour are two of the few scholars I’ve heard encourage men to also wear something on their head in solidarity with Muslim women. But far too many men demand of women a strength in the face of hardship that they do not demand of themselves. Far too many men are not interested or concerned about the safety of their Muslim sisters as much as they are about her covering. Far too many would rather judge a woman who decides to take off her hijab instead of understanding why she has.

If we approach this issue with an intention of understanding  we wouldn’t be surprised when women choose to take off their hijab or struggle to wear it. Our beloved, peace to him, promised us that Islam would become more difficult to practice as time moves forward:

“There will come a time of patience when the one who adheres steadfastly to his religion will be like one who holds a burning coal.”

This is not an excuse to take off the hijab but it is a reminder to men and to women who find hijab easy to wear that they should approach women who take off hijab and struggle to wear it with kindness and understanding, maybe for them wearing hijab has become like holding a piece of hot coal.

I don’t know what the world will look like in the coming years, but chances are things won’t get easier for Muslims living in secular societies. At some point we may have to hide our faith, leave our countries, or live in seclusion. But what we must keep hold of is our prophet, peace to him, and God. We have to continuously attempt to do our best and be sincere. And that will look different for each of us.


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