Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Opting Out of World Hijab Day

Asalamu Alaykom,

Today marks another "World Hijab Day" and I am opting out of it.  Oh, make no mistake, I still wore a hijab today.  I got up and put on a hijab before dawn to pray fajr.  After hurrying around making breakfast, making lunch, waking the kid, and getting ready, I got on hijab again.  I wear hijab out of the house because I don't show my hair, neck or chest to any men except my husband.

My Background

I wear hijab as a protection from Allah.  I wear hijab for religious reasons.  I take it very seriously because I felt how life was for me before I wore it; I know that I was unable to be my own person without hijab.  I know that my body was for men's eyes from the time I was very young.  Astragferallah.

I know how I felt when I wore it in Egypt when I first visited in 2002.  I really didn't mind it.  I felt like I finally had permission to stop that social contract of belonging to the masses.  For the first time, I felt like I didn't owe anybody anything.

I will never forget how it felt when I was enroute from Egypt to America and I walked into the Frankfurt Airport bathroom.  I had decided that the hijab was only going to be for Egypt (since it was a Muslim country) and that I could never wear it in America.  I took it off and walked outside.  For the first time in two weeks, I was uncovered in public.  Immediately, I was gripped by a dizzy nausea.  I rushed back to the safety of the bathroom as I wasn't sure what had hit me.  We almost missed our plane!  Now, I believe that my extreme reaction was the result of stripping off my protection.

Back in the States, I started to wear hijab.  I would wear it in Muslim surroundings such as the mosque, halal restaurants or grocery stores.  Then, I began to wear it any time I was out of the house---with the exception of work.  At work, I was wearing a scarf that I would tie in back which was more Rhoda Morgenstern than Muslim.

It wasn't until the last day of 2002, that I was coming back from lunch with my then-husband and I reached under my chin to re-tie the scarf but didn't.  I left it there.  It wasn't so much activism as tiredness.  Rosa Parks got her start that way too.  When I came back to work in the new year, I came back as a Muslimah in hijab.  I was harassed and called names on an hourly basis.  By the end of March, I was fired (a matter which was later settled out of court).

A Covenant with God

Faith journeys are about just doing something because you feel it has to be done.  

My husband has asked me, "Do you love Islam?"

I know he wants me to answer, "OH, HABIBI!  I love Islam with all my heart.  It is my deepest soul and the widest river and the mountains of my being!"

Instead, I answer with another question, "Do I love breathing?"  I have to breathe.  It's not as if I have a true choice other than to die.  I do feel that I would have a spiritual death to be without my Islam and a part of my submission to Allah is the hijab.

Hijab is not just a piece of fabric.  It has had such power that it has completely changed the course of my life.  It has changed the way I interact with others.  It has changed the way I see myself and see my body.  I need to wear hijab---and not just for one day out of the year.

It doesn't mean that every woman has to wear it.  Truly, only a woman who feels the need to wear it should.  I have never lectured a woman not in hijab that she should wear it.  I have only supported a woman who already feels the pull.  I have also supported women who have taken off the hijab to stay true to themselves.

Non-Muslims in Hijab

Sacredness is not going to be understood in a day.  It has taken me many years to get to this level of understanding about my hijab.  I used to think that World Hijab Day served purpose in celebrating this part of my identity but it has become a day for non-Muslims to try it out.

Alhough I won't quote the many writings of these non-Muslims, the gist is basically the same.  They felt empowered somehow and faced discrimination.  I seldom (if ever) read about the hijab in relation to their faith.  I don't think I've ever read about a woman who combined wearing hijab and prayer (an outer and inner combo).  It's all about self knowledge, inter-personal knowledge but not about that amazing spiritual connection with God.  It all seems to be so dunya or "of this world".  

All of that is deep.  Non-Muslims in hijab for a temporary basis will never reach that depth.  It's impossible!  You can't get deep while looking around to see who is scoping you out.  You can't get deep while being out in public as a kind of Islamophobic target without any conviction of "I must wear this or I will suffer dire consequences."

The ability to see an end to the hijab experiment means that it is useless in understanding my life.  I don't take it off when I feel like it.  It isn't always a joy but it is always on me.  Commitment is key.  I am committed to it.  Sure, there has been faltering but in the end I am living my life as a veiled woman. 

Honestly?  If you have a scarf on your head but you haven't committed to Allah that you are wearing it for protection, then you are ONLY WEARING A SCARF and not hijab.  A ring on the left hand isn't a wedding ring unless the wearer has made a promise.  Any woman can place a ring on her finger and pretend she is really married but she knows that, in the right circumstances, she can take it off; play time will be over.

I don't like that the World Hijab Day has been co-opted by non-Muslims.  Let it be.  If you really want to wear hijab, then become educated on the reasons behind it.  Learn about Islam from reputable sources.  Dress more in long and loose clothing to feel the protection of Allah.  Go step-by-step in a process of understanding modesty instead of a showy display for a day which is all about getting attention.  

In Islam, something can be very good but still have more bad against it.  Be careful not to endorse something because you wish it to be positive rather than seeing it for what it truly is.  I am not so sure that the good out weighs the bad for World Hijab Day.  

Allah Subhana Wa Tallah is the Only Judge and will accept any good deeds from what is done with the right intentions.

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