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February 1, 2021


This World Hijab Day, I’d like to share and reflect on my experience and practice of hijab.

I’d also like to explore the deeper meaning of the Islamic concept when it comes to behaviour.

Today, the hijab is especially scrutinised and subject to discrimination by the media, members of the public and also some politicians.

It’s therefore important to share how the hijab is so important in the lives of many Muslim women like me.

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Wearing a traditional long-length khimar (headscarf).

Firstly, it is important to distinguish between the concept of hijab as we know it (covering our hair with a scarf and the rest of our body) and the actual veil/headscarf – referred to as a khimar in Arabic. The latter specifically refers to a piece of cloth that covers the head and chest area (as referred to in the Qur’an).

On the surface, the common understanding of the concept of hijab is viewed as simply wearing a headscarf. However, the meaning is more comprehensive and goes deeper than this as the practice extends to the behaviours and actions of a Muslim.

My journey in hijab: Going public

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Wearing a hijab can give some women a sense of community.

The exact moment I first wore the headscarf is a blur to me; it was more than 10 years ago. But, I do remember how I felt. I remember the excitement, the awe, the delight, the wonder!

During those moments and those early years, wearing the headscarf simply seemed like fun. It was another cute accessory to wear which some of my friends around me had already colourfully donned.

I don’t know what it was exactly that drove me to make this decision, but if I think about it deeply enough, I think I wanted to stand out as an individual. Yet at the same time, I also wanted to belong to a community and have shared experiences with them.

I felt like wearing the headscarf might be the missing puzzle piece that would fulfil me. And Alhamdulillah when the time came to wear my headscarf, I remember feeling more connected to my community around me and that felt wonderful.

Over the years, Alhamdulillah, I have felt more and more connected to Allah (SWT) and my faith.

Stewardship: Guarding my behaviour

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Wearing hijab is a public declaration of faith.

As I mentioned earlier, apart from the headscarf being an external form of modesty, it also forces one to focus on one’s own behaviour. In my case, because I am representing my faith quite publicly, I need to be careful that my actions align with my principles.

I am now more mindful of my behaviour when I wear my headscarf as I try my best to watch the way I speak and act.

At the beginning, I tried my best to pause or be kind in moments when I was tempted to snap at someone. I tried my best to not throw an empty bottle on the pavement and instead find a proper bin for it.

All these small but mighty actions were something that I would continuously strive for and something which I still try to do every day. Ultimately, my practice of hijab contributes to the improvement of my self-discipline, which I treasure deeply.

It goes further than the physical – I’m observing the hijab of the heart, the mind, the eyes, the ears and the mouth.

So, there is wisdom and importance to be modest in our speech and our actions.

Facing discrimination: Me and my hijab

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Connecting to Allah (SWT).

To be honest, I didn’t actually understand the spiritual meaning of hijab until a few years after I had started wearing the scarf. During that time, I faced a lot of hardship when trying to explain it to some friends and relatives who questioned my act of practising hijab.

Although this was a hard time for me and the start of the discrimination was pretty rocky, the more I was discriminated against, the more empowered and stronger I felt to hold onto my hijab.

My hijab felt like a reassurance and always filled me with a sense of peace whenever I faced those difficulties. I had no idea why I felt that way but what I did know was that it further strengthened my faith as I dove deeper exploring the hijab and understanding my own intentions.

During this time, it was so natural to practice and wear hijab that it became an extension of me.

It wasn’t until my late teens when I did further reading and research, and had those fruitful conversations, that I understood that the hijab ultimately redirected the focus from the materialistic world towards the spiritual world of God and faith.

This made me more reflective and more mindful of my behaviour. For me, practising hijab is a form of submission to Allah (SWT) to fulfil His commands and feel closer to Him.

This is even more incredibly powerful and empowering as we live in a world that tends to submit to the self, its desires and also to the endless cycle of consumerism.

Therefore, in a world that is dominated by placing the self at its centre, my hijab is a constant reminder of placing God at the centre of my world.

This gives me conviction, confidence and also control over my body as I choose to submit to the Creator every day through the act of wearing the hijab. I’m diverting attention away from my physical appearance to my inner self, while also redirecting my focus to what truly matters.

Considering the current climate in which we live that is constantly feeding our narcissistic tendencies, the hijab feels like an act of resistance. Although it’s difficult in many moments, it is ultimately a strengthening factor in showing personal agency in regards to choice and self-identity while also helping to liberate me of my own desires.

Thus, my hijab both grounds me and uplifts me and serves as a reminder to continuously strive towards pleasing God, both inwardly and outwardly.

 

*Disclaimer – this blog relates to my personal experiences only.

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