Have you ever felt all stirred up about something but not able to get the words out? Have you watched classmates stand up and speak out and think, “dang, I can’t do that”? Have you wanted to be an activist but in your own quiet way? Truth is, we aren’t all comfortable grabbing a megaphone, getting up on a soapbox, or simply speaking up at all. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t necessary to a cause and can’t invoke the change we hope to see! Let’s talk strategy for the regular girl…
SHOW UP. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”—Desmond Tutu
Recently a super shy thinkpeace girl who feels anxious in crowds was determined to step out of her comfort zone and take part in one of the Women’s Marches. She was passionate about the need for women to collectively raise their voices in mass numbers, sending a clear message that our voices, minds and bodies matter. She knew she needed to be there. But the anxiety was almost too much. The solution? She needed a plan. She needed a small group around her to keep her feeling safe. She needed an exit strategy, just in case it became too much. And she needed a poster that spoke for her. SHOWING UP matters.
During the UN climate negotiations in Paris, youth delegates were not able to carry signs advocating their beliefs. They came up with an alternative idea to symbolize their interest in the need for zero carbon emissions: they painted a black zero near their eye. No words were spoken and no signs were held, but the message was heard loud and clear.
GET CREATIVE. Are you a songwriter or a poet? Are you a photographer or a dancer? You have a unique way of expressing yourself that can powerfully reflect upon a social justice issue! Using your creative expression of your values and beliefs can light a spark in someone else. Post your work. Put it out there for others to see. This form of indirect activism has an impact.
WRITE IT OUT. A lot of thinkpeace girls are more comfortable writing about causes they believe in than speaking out loud. Recently one wrote a fiery op-ed piece on campus sexual assault and racial hate crimes. Others write for their school newspapers on issues ranging from why feminism matters to the importance of community service to the need for responsible gun control legislation. If there is a local, statewide, national, or international issue that sets your heart on fire, write about it! Speaking out, in written form, can prompt important dialogues which lead to action and change.
WEAR YOUR CAUSE. thinkpeace girls recently held a community event for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Many conversations were started that day due to a variety of tshirts worn by facilitators and participants. One said “We are Selma” which started a conversation about Black Lives Matter. Another said “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” which prompted a discussion about human rights violations. Many thinkpeace girls wore pink pussy hats in January to Women’s Marches and some are busy making brain hats to wear for the Science March on Washington in April. This is an extremely meaningful and easy tool for igniting conversation about your cause. Posters, phone cases, shirts, buttons, and hats are small ways to show your position, often prompting good dialogue.
HOW ABOUT A LATTE? Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is simply talk it out with one other person. You don’t have to talk to the entire community to be an effective activist. Every single person matters. Every vote, signature, and commitment matters. Often people need an opportunity to hear another point of view. All too often we get stuck in pockets of agreement, whether on social media or our friend base, where we are all of like mind. It really helps to talk respectfully with someone with other views and listen, really listen, to one another. Ask someone who might have a different perspective than you to grab a coffee or hot chocolate with you and dive into the deep end. What ever you do, don’t run away from the hard conversations. Turn toward them. Soften your heart. Hold your ground. Listen. Speak your truth. Listen some more. This is a great way to practice peaceful activism!
READ ALL ABOUT IT. We encourage you to read as much as you can from reliable sources. Do your homework. Fact checking does matter. There’s this idea out there that media can’t be trusted but we believe that there are in depth reports, unbiased research, and scholarly writings that are not only worth your time but imperative to your activism. Fake news is dangerous and you need to be educated on how to discern fact from lies. We suggest this article to help guide you: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/05/503581220/fake-or-real-how-to-self-check-the-news-and-get-the-facts. “If you see your friends sharing blatantly fake news, be a friend and kindly tell them it’s not real. Don’t shy away from these conversations even if they might be uncomfortable.” Know that what you think and what you say is based on fact.
You can choose to be an ally for others facing injustice. Your presence can offer a safe place, simply by standing next to someone or walking down the hall with someone. Recently riders on a NYC subway took out hand sanitizer from their bags to erase swastikas on the subway walls. Take initiative! Look around and see what you can do. Your quiet activism will inspire others like you to spark fires of their own, and this ripple effect will help transform the world. So regular girls– the ones with quiet voices and pounding hearts– let’s do this! Take what stirs you up and ACTIVATE! And, as always, know that your global girl community stands with you. You are not alone in this business of difference-making. We are here cheering you on!
director’s note: this is the conclusion of 15 year old Mariyah Rehmani’s ebook. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts and have learned something along the way. As we’ve been posting these installments there has been a dramatic rise in America of Islamophobia. Until classes in ethnic studies are required, until we talk around our dinner tables and on the bus about the people of the Middle East with the goal of awareness and understanding, until more dialogue takes place between all races, faiths, and genders, there cannot be peace. Thinkpeace girls? It’s time for action. Recently there have been reports of threats and attacks in schools across the United States. A 7th grader in Ohio, threatened to shoot a Muslim boy on the bus ride home from school, calling him a “towel head,” a “terrorist,” and “the son of ISIS.” A sixth-grade girl wearing a hijab in the Bronx was reportedly punched by three boys who called her “ISIS.” So now, after reading Mariyah’s ebook– do you understand HER choice? Has your awareness been raised? If you saw her walking down the street in your town, what would you say, do, think? Let’s talk.
SPRING WEAR: Spring is all about having fun with different colours and prints. Lots of flowery designs and fun pastel shades fill the wardrobe of this season. It’s a great time to try new styles and experiment with something out-of-the-box! Spring has weather that can be warm but also windy, which means it gets a little tricky to dress up without getting either too hot or too cold. The following styles that were put together by some talented stylists showcase how one can enjoy the spring weather in full style, without having to compromise on modest fashion and can have fun all the while.
SUMMER WEAR: It’s that time of year where it’s hot and sticky (and possibly humid). But it is also the time where schools are out and everyone wants to be outside and have lots of fun. Amidst the trend of bright colours, light fabrics and short clothes, it becomes a little daunting for a muslimah to dress modestly yet not die of heat. The following looks feature different ways in which you can dress with modesty and beat the heat! The following looks will also help you gain an understanding of what colours and styles you can wear to dress light but also fashionably. So, sit back, relax and flip through the summery styles waiting for you on the next few pages!
EVENT WEAR/DRESSY LOOKS: Whether it be for a night out with your friends, or a dinner with your family, here are ways the hijab can be worn for dressier, more formal occasions.
FALL WEAR: The ethereal beauty of falling leaves and the perfect sweater weather make fall one of my favourite seasons. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cool, and sometimes this weather can be tricky to dress up for. Let’s see how hijabis pull it off!
WINTER WEAR: As winter sets in and it becomes more and more chilly, most hijabis use their trusted fashion defence mechanism: layers! Winter means more prints, more styles, more material, and sometimes even a scarf or two more to spice it up!
director’s note:This is the fourth installment of Mariyah’s ebook,The Hijab and Its Purpose. In this post she puts together a LookBook full of stylish ways to wear the hijab, for all kinds of events and activities. On Thursday we’ll post seasonal fashion ideas and her conclusion. It is our hope that you enjoy this teen girl’s expression of style, grace, modesty and faith. It’s all wrapped up together for her and many girls like her around the world. As Coco Chanel said, “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” Mariyah, like many thinkpeace girls, is that courageous girl who speaks up and says, “Know me. I am worth knowing.” Imagine…
CASUAL LOOKS: Whether it is for a walk in the park or to go hang out with your friends, all of us need casual, comfortable and laid back attire in our wardrobes. Pieces that are easy to wear and can be worn for a multitude of purposes. Boyfriend jeans, loose tops and trendy yet not overpowering accessories can help you achieve the perfect casual look. However, feel free to mix and match, add a skirt or a pair of sunglasses! The following looks will help you stay comfy yet fashionable, all while wearing your beautiful hijab! This look is perfect if you’re out for a stroll or buying groceries. A loose button down shirt when worn over boyfriend jeans can help turn an otherwise formal piece of clothing into the perfect casual look. What’s more, these pieces are easy to wear and can be thrown together in a jiffy if you’re in a hurry. [I usually am!] Pair this with easy to slip on loafers or sandals as shown. A nice cotton scarf, either plain or printed will go perfect with the entire ensemble.
FORMAL WEAR: Whether it be a business meeting or simply a day at work, looking sharp and well-presented is always important. Sometimes it can be hard to dress modestly while looking like you’re ready for business. Hopefully, the following looks will help give you a better understanding of how to pull this off and look your best in the workplace. These looks are examples of how you don’t need to sacrifice personal style or modesty in order to not just look- but feel good in your everyday work environment!
Thursday:The Seasons in Hijab Fashion and Mariyah’s conclusion
director’s note: please join thinkpeace girls and watch the commercial-free television premier of He Named Me Malala on the National Geographic channel, Monday, February 29th at 8pm/7C. We’ll be live tweeting about actions you can take to stand up for girls worldwide. #imagine
On July 12, 1997 I looked into my daughter’s eyes for the first time and was filled with a love deeper than I had ever known and so much hope for her future. I named her Remington, a strong Scottish family name that I knew suited her. It wasn’t super feminine or decisively masculine. To me she was a gladiator, determined at birth to fight for what is right and to protect others. I just knew. 7,748 miles away on the same day another gladiator was born. Her father looked into her eyes and felt the same rush of love and hope. He named her Malala, after another girl who had dared to speak out. My daughter was a blue-eyed blonde, his was a brown-eyed brunette. Both were born in popular locations, Remington in the San Francisco Bay Area of California and Malala in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. As parents, we all looked forward to the same things: first words, first steps, first days of school. We wanted our girls to grow up happy and healthy, smart and capable, warriors ready to do their part to make the world a better place.
Their worlds, however, were vastly different. Remington had the privilege of attending wonderful public schools where the greatest danger to her was crossing the street in a heavily trafficked neighborhood or, worse-case scenario in Northern California, an earthquake. Meanwhile, Malala’s country was being taken over by the Taliban who insisted that girls be denied access to education. For her educator father, this was not to be. She attended his school, despite the threats against him. He was adamant that all children, boys and girls, had the right to an education. True to her namesake, Malala began to speak out. The result, as you know, was a bullet to her head and the shooting of her classmates as well. As the world rallied around these girls, praying for their survival and outraged at this act of violence, my daughter became more determined to use her voice her way. Malala went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and speak before the United Nations and at events like the Global Citizen Concert. Her voice is strong and her message constant: all children have the basic human right to an education. Meanwhile Remington is a quiet activist, doing her part to educate others about the issues facing girls worldwide and actions they can take to be a part of the solution. Both are continuing their educations and are actively pursuing peace and tolerance in their own way. Hopefully Remington will never know the fear and anxiety that are an every day part of Malala’s life, though certainly she has her own. Hopefully Malala’s message of “Books not Bullets” will be heard. Hopefully Remington’s message of “listen, don’t judge” will be heard. Malala asks us to stand together. Together they are doing their part to spread their messages and advocate for girls’ rights.
What are you doing? You are each gladiators stepping into your own arenas, whether that’s the stage and the podium or the dorm room late at night– the battle is still being waged. Your voices must be heard. Your differences should be celebrated. Your opinions, thoughts and feelings MATTER. You are a girl and you matter. At thinkpeace we encourage you to step into your arena ready to listen, understand, question, and support knowing that you have all of us standing with you. Just as we all stand #withMalala.
director’s note:In this third installment of Mariyah’s ebook, The Hijab and Its Purpose, the author presents various women who have made the same decision that she has and how they are not limited in their actions as a result of their choice. Mariyah also addresses questions most frequently asked of her. We encourage you to read her thoughts and think about your own values and how you present yourself to the world. We’ve been getting a lot of feedback on this series, with a multitude of opinions and attitudes. We’re so happy to have this opportunity to learn, share and support the choices of girls around the world! Imagine!
Hijab doesn’t stop you from doing what you want
Shireen Ahmed – A passion for the game, a passion for her faith
Here is the story of Shireen Ahmed: a hijabi who shares her experiences with her passion for football, her connection with her hijab, and the ups and downs she has faced due to this. On March 1, 2014 something happened that changed Shireen’s life forever. On this day FIFA [The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or the International Federation of Association Football]announced that the IFAB [the International Association Football Board] had overturned their decision on banning head covering on the field. Friends, relatives, family, everyone was congratulating her and sharing this exciting news. Ever since July 2012, Ahmed has written, blogged and talked about her hope, gratitude and frustration with the process of the ban. When she heard the news, she was elated. But she was also exhausted and drained from the time lost from the sport she had come to know and love as a child. “It was a part of my identity. It was a part of my routine. It was a part of my life.” Ahmed says. In those years when the hijab was banned, she tried to find other ways to occupy herself, to keep her motivated and give her a sense of fulfillment.
She writes for the Huffington Post saying that she could relate to the anger and frustration felt by so many women who were told “NO” by an organisation that was supposed to create opportunities and advocate for the beautiful game of football. (Ahmed)
But life went on. She got on with her life, still watching football games but not playing as regularly. Later on, after what she says felt like several lifetimes, she found a league that would accept her and her hijab. She loved having to be able to play the sport again, the sweat rolling down her face, and the thrill of the game in her heart.
“And I remember what I always knew: I was a footballer who wore hijab. Not a hijab-wearing woman who played football. Fast forward to 2014 when Jerome Valcke announced: “It was decided that female players can cover their heads to play.” Muslim women could always play. Now they are permitted. Semantics.” Ahmed quotes.
She also states that she thanks God that her daughter will not have to go through what she did. She also says that today, she is not “happy”; she is disappointed that she lost so much time and energy. She pledges not to let it ruin other childhoods and affect and exclude people.
Football is for all of us. It should always have been. – Ahmed
Tawakkol Karman – Striving for Justice
Yemeni woman Tawakkol Karman- a journalist, politician and human rights activist was one of the youngest people to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 (Age 32), alongside Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee. Karman was awarded the Nobel Prize for her ‘non-violent efforts towards women’s safety and the right to participate fully in peace initiatives’. In 2005, she founded an organization named ‘Women Journalists Without Chains’ that documents unfair treatment of writers and newspapers and also reports human rights abuse/violations in Yemen. She was the face organizing weekly protests against the Government corruption and suppression in the year 2007 in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. She continued on her journey against injustice, encouraging public to support the Arab Spring Movement taking place in 2011 and was an active vocal opponent against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime. When giving her acceptance speech in Arabic, she spoke about the struggles of the Arab women and how the situation must be changed. She says: “To all those women who are still stumbling on the path of freedom in countries with no social justice or equal opportunities, to all of them I say, thank you. This day would not have come true without you.”
When she was questioned about her hijab and how it is not in proportion with her level of education and wisdom, she replied saying: “Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is regressive back to ancient times.” This is one of her most widely circulated quotes, and one that has stirred much passion as well as criticism.
Mariah Idrissi – “Your personality isn’t restricted when you’re wearing a hijab.”
Mariah Idrissi was taken aback when she heard her model booker friend ask whether she wanted to pose for H&Ms latest ad campaign. “You know I wear a headscarf, right?” She said in reply. Idrissi, currently 23, is H&Ms first model to don a hijab and has begun a lot of discussion on Muslims, the Hijab, and the modelling industry. She is attempting to send a message to everyone out there: “People have said, ‘Wearing a hijab is about being modest so how come you are posing?’ But why can you not look decent and covered? You don’t need to be naked to look good. There is no restriction on having a personality if you wear a headscarf,” she says.
While the shoot was taking place, Mariah says that she ‘pushed her opinion on what to wear’. There was one pair of trousers that was a bit cropped and I had to tell them there was too much ankle on show,” she laughs. “We went with the big flares instead. Then we picked the checked scarf because of the colour but it was too short to cover me so we had to find a sewing machine and stitch two together.”
When asked about her relationship with the hijab, and how she started wearing it, she said she started wearing it at age 17. “There was no pressure,” she says. “My dad is a more relaxed Muslim. But I started teaching at the school so it made sense, I did Islamic spoken-word poetry and started praying five times a day so had to cover up for that anyway. My mum started wearing it at about the same time I did.” She also shares that wearing the hijab has been a very natural to her, and that she hasn’t really noticed people treating her differently. “London is the best place in the Western world to be a Muslim. It is so multicultural.”
Why is it worn?
It is worn for a variety of reasons, because there are a variety of women who wear it, and do so for different causes. Some wear it because they believe it is God’s command, an obligation, and they must do so. Some do it because they feel more confident. Some do it so that people judge them for their mind and character rather than their physical appearance. Some wear the hijab because they are drawn to it. I, like many women, wear it for all the reasons above. (see section on why women wear it)
Is it compulsory?
Again, this is a matter that is widely been debated upon. Some believe that it must be done and is obligatory, a duty that must be completed. Some say it is a matter of personal choice, and some say it is not needed at all. It all depends on your culture, how you have been brought up to think of it as, and your personal perspective.
What is its message?
The message of the hijab to everyone else, is whatever the wearer wants it to be. This is something that is very subjective, changing from person to person. Some might want themselves to represent their community, their religion. Some just want to be taken seriously, and for their intellect, their personality, and their mannerisms rather than what people can see on the outside. I personally wear it to let others know what I believe in, that my creator has asked me to do something, whose benefits override any other doubts I had. I want people to know me for the words that come from my mouth, and my actions, rather than perceive me based on physical traits.
What is the historical context/reason behind it, if any?
The most accurate historical context behind the hijab would be the revelation of those particular verses that ask the believing women to cover themselves and ‘place their khumur over their bosoms’ (AlIslam.org). These verses are speculated to be revealed in the latter half of 6 A H (in accordance to the Hijri or Islamic calendar). This when converted to Christian (Gregorian) dates is 627 A.D. The women of Madinah, considered to be the most pious and believing, tore their aprons apart and covered their heads when they heard this commandment from God. Please see the ‘Purpose behind the hijab’ section for a detailed explanation of the same.
Is it for culture or for safety?
Some may say that the hijab is merely a cultural tradition, while others may argue that it is a commandment from God. My personal view is that although the style, material, and fashion with which a woman covers her head, chest, and neck area etc. may be largely influenced by her cultural environment, wearing the hijab is an obligation a Muslim woman may choose to fulfill. I certainly believe that there is a certain amount of safety that covering of the head and bosom as well as wearing modest, loose clothing has to offer.
Is it comfortable?
It is as comfortable as you choose it to be. Wearing the hijab is something that a woman must be comfortable with, and she has to do it because she wants to. There are many different styles and materials to choose from, depending on what is available and how the weather in your country is, one can always choose the kind of covering one is comfortable in.
Does the colour matter?
One of the very first Hadiths I memorized as a kid was “innama al-a’mal bi-l-niyyat,”. What it means is that the judgements of a person’s actions are made based upon his intentions, i.e. if his intentions were good he will be rewarded and if they were evil, they will be punished. Similarly, the colour and the way in which you wear the hijab (or do anything for that matter) depends upon your intention. Generally, it is advised to stick with colours and prints that are not too eye-catchy or flashy so as to attract unwanted attention. However, it all depends upon one’s intention while wearing it. If a woman wearing any kind of scarf intends to do so to attract attention or to lure males, then the entire point of wearing the hijab is rendered moot. The point being, the intention and thought behind wearing your hijab is more important than the colour of your scarf.
Why only women?
As mentioned in the earlier chapters, the hijab is not only for women. Moreover, the hijab is more than a scarf on your head. It is your mannerisms, your thoughts, actions, the lowering of your gaze, and modest behaviour and attire. This applies not only to women, but to men too. However, the satr or the portion of one’s body that must be covered in public is different for women and for men. Indeed, God has made these guidelines with his unparalleled wisdom.
How was the orientation/structure of it decided?
As mentioned before, there is no particular structure or style of the hijab. Women all around the world wear it, and do so in a variety of different ways, using a vast selection of materials, colours, and styles. There is no set structure to it. Each country, or culture will have women wearing their hijabs in a different manner.
How long is it lengthwise?
Scarves and hijabs come in a variety of sizes and lengths. Typically, they are rectangular in shape and around 2m lengthwise and 2/3m in width. However, their length and width can vary greatly and this is just a rough approximation.
After what age do girls begin to wear it?
It is a girl’s choice whether she wants or doesn’t want to wear it. It is also her choice as to when she wants to begin wearing it, as and when she is comfortable. However, some girls are encouraged to begin wearing the hijab as they start puberty.
How did the hijab come into being?
As stated in the previous questions, the hijab began being worn after the verses regarding the same were revealed around the latter half of the 5th century. Although, covering of the head is much older than that. “Most people think of the veil solely in terms of Islam, but it is much older. It originated from ancient Indo-European cultures, such as the Hittites, Greeks, Romans and Persians. It was also practiced by the Assyrians. Veiling had class as well as gender implications…” (Dashu)
Why is it generally black?
The hijab and burqa (outer loose covering) is most commonly black, although it can be of any colour. Black is a basic colour that goes with almost all other colours and different styles. There is no such compulsion to wear black but it is definitely preferred by many women.
What is the use if it only covers your hair?
This is something I get asked A LOT. People are quick to question how covering only one part of your body “makes you modest”. That is something that needs to be understood, beauty is not just in the head and the hair, and neither is the hijab. As I have tried to clarify time and time again, hijab is not defined just by the covering of the head, although this is what the term has come to be known as. The hijab is more than a piece of cloth, it is your behaviour in front of others, the sincerity and intentions behind your speech and your actions, the way in which you interact with all those around you, how you present yourself. Refer to the previous chapters for more detailed information.
Do you wear it at home too?
I generally do not wear it at home, as I do not wear my hijab in front of my mahram, i.e. a list of people in front of which it is permissible to not wear the veil. These include people like your parents, younger siblings, grandparents, mother’s brothers, father’s brothers etc. Although, if we have (non-mahram) guests over I do wear my hijab at home.
What are the consequences of not wearing it?
In most parts of the world, there is no consequence of not wearing it. As it is an individual’s choice to wear or not to wear the hijab, it is also her choice if she wants to take it off. For most people that believe in the hijab, and covering up, also believe that it is a sin to not wear it and the consequence is in God’s hands.
Are you going to teach your children to wear it too?
I have always been an advocate of letting people make their own decisions for themselves. When my kids are of the right age, I will help them understand what the hijab means and figure out what they want for themselves. I will show them the verses in the Qur’an and from the Hadith. I will make sure they understand why I do it and what the true meaning behind it all is. They will have to make the decision by themselves.
How comfortably can it be followed at a workplace like a school in India?
I am fortunate enough to be studying in an international school that promotes values like openmindedness and intercultural awareness. I did not hesitate to start wearing the scarf at school; I knew I was doing it for myself and to strengthen my relationship with God, rather than for the people around me. Alas, many schools in India do not allow headscarves to be worn and have strict rules against anything that deviates from the dress code or uniform. As for me, I think I am very much comfortable with my hijab and can do everything that I did without it. I can study, take part in discussion, play football, run around, pretty much everything. I don’t feel bound by it because I know my hijab is in my hands. I do get the occasional stares or questions about “HOW can you possibly wear a scarf in this heat!?” to which I answer that over time you get used to things and disadvantages like hot weather are much smaller in comparison to its advantages.
director’s note:In the second installment of Mariyah’s ebook, The Hijab and Its Purpose, the hijab is presented in many forms and through the eyes of various people. As we open our minds to various cultures and belief systems, it is important to remember that there are REASONS people believe what they do and it is only through really listening that we can come to understand our differences. It is our hope that these blog posts will spark meaningful dialogues and a better understanding of what makes up all the colors of the world. Imagine!
“Coarse talk does not come into anything without disgracing it and modesty does not come into anything without adorning it.” — Al-Tirmidhi, 4854
Different Types of Veils Worn
There is a variety of different types of veils worn all around the world. Muslim women wear these different types depending on multiple factors including the country they live in, the culture they are a part of, the occasion, or for some; even the weather. But most of all, the woman herself decides what she is most comfortable wearing, and makes her choices accordingly. One must remember that the Hijab or veils come in different sizes, types, materials and colours, and can even be worn differently under each broad category. As it is visually apparent, they provide varying amounts of coverage of the Woman’s body.
Why Some Women Choose Not To Wear It
Many people are not aware of this, but there exist a number of Muslim women who choose not to wear the hijab at all. Just like those who wear the veil, women who choose not to have their own personal reasons. Some claim that the Qur’an does not explicitly talk about covering one’s body through a veil such as the hijab. They feel as though wearing the hijab is more of a cultural interpretation of the words written in the Holy Book. Some claim that it is too hot where they live, and they would not be able to bear the heat. Some say they aren’t ready for the commitment or the responsibility of wearing the veil every day in public. Oftentimes, women who wear the hijab in the public world receive a lot of social stigma, and things like stares and uncomfortable glances become a daily phenomenon.
Why She Doesn’t Believe In the Veil- Mrs. Sajeda Jamal
“Mrs. Jamal has more than 15 years of experience in the early childhood learning space and was raised in Dubai where she completed her B. Ed and Certificate in ECCE. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher, curriculum designer and app developer”.
What is your view on the Hijab? Do you think it is necessary for a Muslim Woman to wear it?
No it’s not necessary. I feel it is more to do with the culture than with religion. Of what I have read in the Qur’an, the word used is Khimar which means “cover” and in the broad sense it could mean anything, like a bed covering or a sheet. Although the Quran does ask the woman to cover her bosom. But nowhere does it say to cover the hair or face. It does talk about cover the beauty, the word being used “Zinat”. Personally speaking, I feel like a modest dressing is more important. It is important for a girl to dress not to lure men in any way. Revealing dressing to me is improper dressing. I don’t see harm in wearing the Indian Shalwar Kameez (Traditional dress worn mostly in India and Pakistan), and do not see the need to wear any extra scarf over the head. I do not see why you would say that the entire beauty lies in the hair. That is stupidity.
Mr. Jamal (Mrs. Sajeda’s Husband): Firstly, the Qur’an is the only indisputable book, the word of God. It does not say “cover your hair”, it only says “khimar”. God is not short of words, and could have specifically mentioned “hair” or head. In Indian culture and Arab culture etc. women are expected to cover their heads. It is merely cultural. Additionally, you face is your identity, it is part of who you are, why do you throw that away?
What Is the Purpose of the Hijab?
To better understand the purpose and meaning behind the Islamic veil, what better way to do this than to read verses directly from the Holy Islamic Book: The Qur’an. In Chapter 24 titled an-Nur (meaning: The Light), in verse 30, Allah commands Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) as follows:
Translated, it means: “Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.” (Al-Islam.org)
This message commands all Muslim men to glance downwards i.e. to not look at any other women lustfully (apart from their own wives) so as to avoid the possibility of temptation. This is often referred to as “Hijab of the eyes”.
In the succeeding verse, Allah commands the Prophet (s.a.w) to address the women of Islam:
Meaning: “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste) …” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)
This is a very similar commandment as that which was given to the men in the previous verse, dealing with “The hijab of the eyes”. It also states that women should “Guard their private parts”, doing so by being chaste. (Al-Islam.org)
The teaching of “hijab of the eyes” is very similar to the biblical teachings as well. In The Gospel of Matthew, chap. 5, verses 27-28, Jesus (as) says: “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, you shall not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Keeping this in mind, if you ever see a Muslim talking with the opposite sex and looking downwards, it is not because of a lack of confidence, but rather it is him/her abiding by the Qur’anic as well as Biblical teachings. Subsequently came the verse that describes the Islamic dress code for Women:
“…and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they should place their khumur over their bosoms…” (Al-Islam.org)
What does “Khumur” mean in this verse? the , ِخ َما ر is plural of khimar ُخ ُم ر Khumur veil covering the head. Check any Arabic dictionary like Lisanu ’l- ‘Arab, Majma ‘u ’l-Bahrayn or al-Munjid for further clarifications. Al-Munjid, which is the most popular dictionary in the Arab world, defines alkhimar as “something with which a woman conceals her head.”
Fakhru ’d-Din al-Turayhi in Majma ‘u ’lBahrayn (which is a dictionary for words specifically from the Qur’an and hadith) defines al-khimar as “scarf, and it is known as such because the head is covered with it.” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)
So the word khimar, by definition, means a piece of cloth that covers the head.
Click here to watch the wonderful Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan discuss the meaning of the Khimar:
So what does the phrase “Place their Khumur over their bosoms” mean? Let us dive into a little Islamic History: According to various commentators of the Qur’an, the women of Medina in the pre-Islamic era used to put their khumur over the head with the two ends tucked behind and tied at the back of the neck, in the process exposing their ears and neck. By commanding women to “place the Khumur over their bosoms, Almighty Allah ordered the women to let the tied ends of their scarf loose, subsequently extending onto their bosoms so that they may cover their ears, neck and chest area. (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”) Our understanding of these verses was then confirmed by the reaction of the Muslim Women to this commandment of God. The Sunni source quotes Ummu ’l-mu’minin ‘A’isha, the Prophet’s wife, saying:
However, it is crucial to note and to understand that different women interpret the Qur’an’s words differently. Many women simply believe that wearing the Hijab is a cultural translation of the words from the Holy book and do not think that Khumur is something that covers the head, but rather just the bosom. (As it is not stated explicitly in the Qur’an but that most people agree that the definition of the Khimar is a cloth that covers the head.) Finally, the verse goes on to give the list of the mahram – male family members in whose presence the hijab is not required, such as the husband, the father, the father-in-law, the son(s), and others. This verse ends with a list of the mahram, i.e. the people in presence of which the veil is not required, for e.g. the Husband, the father, the grandfather, sons(s) and so on and so forth. There also exists another verse in the Qur’an that talks about wearing a loose garment Jalabib (sing. Jilbab) around themselves as to not attract attention towards their figure. In essence, the purpose of the hijab is to promote modesty, and in turn, safeguard women from the lustful stares of men (and vice versa) and to ensure that both women and men do not commit illicit acts. It is about empowering women, and giving them a medium through which they are no longer objectified by society, but liberated from it. They are much more likely to be judged by their personality and intellect rather than their body and their sexuality. It is important to keep in mind that the religion of Islam is a lot about prevention rather than cure. A lot of the commandments by God restrict any acts that may lead to unlawful behaviour.
A brilliant video that really opened my eyes about the effect of wearing a burqa/hijab in the streets (Must see):
The Science Behind the Hijab
You may be surprised to know that the hijab is not merely a baseless practice, it too has a science behind it. All of what is in the Qur’an is scientifically accurate knowledge. Let’s look at the ways in which the brain works, and how the hijab may help a woman. The brain is one of the most fundamental organs of the human Body. It receives inputs from sensory modalities, i.e. feeling, smelling, seeing and testing etc. The stimuli that is received from various parts of the body is then stored and processed in the brain. It connects different ideas together, forms new ones, and makes decisions upon what actions should be taken in response to the given information. The brain builds the bridge from input to output.
Therefore, the conclusion that controlling sensory information coming from the eyes can largely impact the working of and further tasks such as memory, analysis of stored information, processing thoughts, learning, recognition, and several social and emotional facets relating to fed stimuli is most definitely a logical one. Neurons in the brain have the task of processing all this oncoming information, and distributing it to various parts of the brain for timely retrieval in the future. Lastly, the output of this processed information is relayed back to our brain or corresponding muscles in the form of words, actions and thoughts. Thus, it is safe to conclude that if wrong or incorrect sensory stimuli is fed to the brain, the neurons processing and storing that kind of information will in turn result in the imparting of bad ideas, thoughts and finally, bad actions and words. A simple diagram of the same information is given below:
It is then crucial to understand the fact that when a person is exposed to an environment with large amounts of provocative stimuli, especially coming from the eyes and the visual system, it leads to relevant and similar kind of aggressive and provocative words, actions and thoughts. Younger, more susceptible individuals with minds that are easily affected by such stimuli, lacking a resolute enough self control will quickly get affected by the kind of stimuli that is provided to them. They are highly likely to think, act and say things that directly correlate with what they hear, smell, taste, but especially see around them. This is why kids that play violent video games or games with similar themes are often drawn to behave in the same aggressive manner. With the advent of ever-advancing science and technology, in a world where all kinds of resources and all kinds of stimuli are at the tips of your fingers, it is even easier to get exposed to obscene or inappropriate themes. Not only this, with social gatherings, events, parties, universities etc. there is a lot of interactions between males and females. I am not claiming that this is wrong, but rather stating that there is higher tendency of receiving provocative stimuli in these kinds of social situations.
Moreover, both males and females can dress modestly, wearing loose, unprovocative clothing that stops an indecent kind of sensory stimuli from entering people’s minds. Everyone must also maintain a certain level of modesty in the way they carry themselves, the way they talk and the words they use and in their actions and converse with other with people. This could essentially help minimise or even prevent “unwanted emotional or social consequences”. (Haydari)
Once again, it is essential to enforce the idea of prevention before cure. Both women and men must do their part in acting, talking and dressing in a decent manner so as to avoid the wrong kind of sensory stimuli from entering one’s minds. Another very important aspect of ‘purdah’ or veiling that is outlined in the Qur’an is the lowering of the gaze.
The Health Benefits of the Hijab
“In Chinese medical texts, in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine, it was stated that wind can cause sudden changes within the body and will upset the body’s equilibrium thus, creating bad health.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)
It has been written that ailments such as the common cold and flu are related to wind elements that disturb the body’s equilibrium when they enter the body, and cause symptoms such as a running nose or sneezing. “In the traditional Islamic medical texts of Al-Jawziyya, there are numerous references to the “four elements” of fire, water, air and earth and how these affect the body in adverse ways. In particular, we are advised to stay away from drafts and protect our heads in wind, breezes, drafts and cold weather.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”) Also, covering the head is important for a variety of health reasons in the warm weather. V.G. Rocine, a prominent brain research specialist, discovered that phosphorus found in the brain begins to melt at 108 has found that brain Phosphorus melts at 108 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a temperature that can easily be achieved if one stays under the sun for a short period of time without a head covering. When this takes place, a temperature that can be easily reached if one stays under the hot sun for any length of time without a head covering. When this happens, irreparable damage to the brain is done, including memory loss and loss of a few brain functions. “Although this example is extreme, Brain damage can still be measured in small degrees from frequent exposure to and overheating of the head.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)
Bernard Jensen, noted chiropractor and neuropath claims that this is due to the fact that the brain “runs on the mineral phosphorus” (“Science Behind the Hijab”), which is easily affected by heat.
In the end, the Islamic dress code is meant for and in the interest of Women’s safety and well-being, rather than her subjugation or oppression, as media often portrays it as.
Next week: the hijab does not keep you from doing what you want
director’s note:Mariyah is a dynamic, fun-loving, artistic, bright and compassionate 15 year old from Pune, India. When she arrived at camp 2 summers ago in NYC she appeared confident and completely at ease wearing her hijab around the city. Some of her thinkpeace sisters had questions and even judgments, and she addressed them all graciously and with determination to educate them. As our society becomes more xenophobic and fearful of anything associated with Islam, we think Mariyah’s study on the purpose of the hijab is more important than ever. We encourage you to learn about differences– racial, gender, religious, sexual, economic– and see that differences don’t have to separate us. In fact they can be the beginning of meaningful dialogue that can open our hearts and minds, bringing us together and truly creating peace. It starts with listening and respecting… Please join us as we journey into discovering more about differences every week in our thoughtful thursdays posts… Today we begin with Mariyah’s choice to wear a hijab. We will be posting sections from her ebook over the next few weeks.
The Hijab and Its Purpose
This eBook is intended for the purpose of helping the reader understand what the hijab really is, and what it stands for. It has come to my understanding that the people around me, and those not around me too, have a very hazy perception of the hijab. Many people ask me about why I wear it, and even if my dad forced me to wear it. This inspired me to write about the hijab, and why it is close to the hearts of millions of women worldwide.
Inside, you will find everything you need to know about the hijab; everything from its origin, to its purpose, its message, its types, and even the science behind it! This will give you a holistic idea of what it is all about. Understanding the hijab, and even Islam is very important in this age. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions worldwide (“The Fastest Growing Religion in the World Is … – CNN.com.”). Unfortunately, it is often portrayed in a bad light by the media, and ongoing violence and terrorism is almost always attributed to our peaceful religion. The hijab too has been shunned by many as being “oppressive” and “restrictive”, even though thousands worldwide can testify to it being exactly the opposite. My aim is to help clear misconceptions and preconceptions about the Islamic veil and dress code in general. Along with this, you will find out more about the concept of modesty and about successful women who wear the hijab with pride. At the end you will discover a gallery of pictures showcasing how different cultures affect hijab styles and the variation in the hijabs themselves, country to country. Finally, there also awaits a LookBook that portrays just how modern trends are seamlessly integrated with the hijab creating a whole new category of ‘Hijabi Fashion’. So please do not hesitate, and flip through to find out more about this beautiful concept of the hijab.
hi-jab, (hĭ-jäb′) n.
1. Any of several cloth head coverings worn by Muslim women.
2. The veiling of women in some Islamic societies, customarily practiced in order to maintain standards of modesty.
[Arabic ḥijāb, cover, curtain, veil, from ḥajaba, to cover] (“hijab”)
Many use the following verses from the Holy Qur’an to help describe the requirements for a Muslim women’s dress:
Although this is not commonly known, there are also dress codes for Muslim men to abide and they include covering of the body from at least the navel to the knees and not wearing excessively tight, sheer, or flashy clothing. (Islam101.com) Most rules regarding the Islamic dress code and the verses from the Qur’an that they have been derived from have been interpreted differently by different people. This is why that there is a diverse world of
views and opinions on whether women should wear the hijab or not, or to what extent. This will be touched upon in further detail later in this book.
Modesty can be defined as “regard for decency of behaviour, speech, dress, etc.” or even “the lack of vanity” (TheFreeDictionary.com) Contrary to popular belief, modesty is not about “how much skin is too much?” or “How much can I leave uncovered until I get into trouble?” It is certainly much more than what you wear or how you look. Modesty means acting towards others in a way that is humble and compassionate. Modesty means avoiding vanity and striving to be pure in your thoughts, in your words and in your actions. It means dressing yourself in a way that not only makes you comfortable, but protects you from unwanted catcalls and lustful stares. Of course, it is not a women’s sole responsibility for what goes on inside a man’s head, but she can certainly make a big impact through the way she dresses, speaks, and carries herself. Men are accountable for their own thoughts and actions, and they too are expected to practice modesty in all spheres of life. Ask yourself: “What impact do I want my personality and my appearance to have? What message am I trying to convey to everyone around me?” It is through the very concept of modesty that the hijab tries to make a positive change in society.
Why wear it?
The first important thing to understand about why women wear the hijab is that there is not one universal reason behind choosing to veil oneself. There can be multiple reasons for different people based on what they choose to believe or interpret. Some say the verses in the Qur’an indicate that they are obligated to cover their heads and chests. Others believe that practicing wearing the hijab is the best way to exercise modesty. Some wear it in order to stand as a symbol of their religion, to stand out from a crowd. A lot of people wear the hijab because it makes them feel more confident. Many claim that while wearing the hijab, the feel they aren’t being judged for their looks and rather for their manners, personality or intellect. Most of all, women wear the hijab because they like it, and they want to wear it. The bottom line is; women use the hijab and wear it for a multitude of reasons, each helping a woman grow and succeed in a different way. An article from UK’s Telegraph Newspaper that reads “Feminism, fashion and religion: Why Muslim women choose to wear the veil” beautifully illustrates the point I am trying to make. In the article, numerous women share their reasons for practicing the hijab on Reddit, a popular social media platform: A user named ‘Captain Monkee’ writes: “I like to use it to promote feminism, however it is very hard to express it because of how people view it. There ARE a lot of women who are forced to wear it, and I think that’s really wrong, no matter how religious or what country. The hijab is forced in some places in the world, or by certain people – especially men in many cases. I will not deny this. This is not feminism. I want to take this hijab and make it my own. First choose if I even want to cover or not. Define WHY and HOW. I will choose what colours I will wear. What materials. Not just black and white.”
This highlights the freedom that a woman has when she is wearing the hijab. She decides what she wants to do with it. After all, it is HER body, HER head, and HER choice. No one should be forced to do something they do not want to. The user ‘Pharmersmarket’ writes: “I genuinely like wearing it. It makes me feel put together and confident in a weird way. Maybe because it does take a certain level of courage to visibly separate yourself from normal society. To start wearing a hijab I had to stop caring about what other people thought and now I can be proud of that. (6) 10 “It definitely doesn’t stop street harassment, but men do treat you with a bit more respect. I don’t think it’s right to treat a girl differently because of how she’s dressed but it does happen.
She focuses more on what she believes defines being Muslim, or rather helps send a message to others around her. She also emphasises that in the end of the day, it’s a choice; you do it if you want to, or don’t do it. Another user ‘Boggle_leged’, who states she is a lawyer, begins:
“I, as well as most Muslims I know in the West, am not fond of the burka or niqab here, because it could expose an individual to unnecessary harm and harassment. Since there are strong religious opinions that permit just the hijab without covering the face, I personally feel that it is a better choice. (7) 11 In the end, however, as long as that individual has made the decision independently and knows why she is doing something, I respect her decision.” An important thing to note is that the only reason that she is not in favour of other women wearing the burka or niqab is that she feels it causes unnecessary “harm and harassment” to women. I believe that this is something that should be changed. Everyone has a choice to wear what they feel like and express themselves in whatever way they choose, so long as they do not cause any form of harm or hurt to anyone around them. Yet another user, possessing the screen name ‘474064’, says: “Personally, I love wearing the hijab. Nobody could pay me enough to take it off. It honestly liberates me because I get to choose how much of myself I reveal to the public. It’s awesome. I have drawers full of a variety of vibrant colours and prints. I match them with my outfits and wear a different style every day. It’s kind of like a beautiful, religious fashion statement.” These are some of the many reasons behind why different women from different parts of the world feel the need to wear the hijab. I hope they not only help in understanding the concept behind the veil better, but also serve to inspire and enlighten.