Faith Friday: The Struggling Muslim - Hijab and Modernity

Jumaah Mubarak everyone!

When I wrote a post about Islamophobia not too long ago someone asked me this question: I would love to hear what's your answer/opinion if someone, be it a non-Muslim or Muslim, asks you, "Why do you have to wear the hijab in this modern world?"

Muslims and non-Muslims have asked me a question along those lines. Wait, what? Muslims? Yes, there are Muslims who don't believe the hijab is relevant today and that's a personal choice. There's no compulsion in Islam, especially in matters pertaining to the heart's worship. Muslim men and women have told me that I shouldn't hide what God has given me and that covering the awrah is old-fashioned. To be honest, I used to think that the hijab was a conservative mode of dress and never thought I'd eventually wear it myself but I never criticised a Muslim woman for wearing hijab and dressing modestly. In fact, I secretly admired them for having the courage to be steadfast in their faith instead of conforming with the ever changing trends of with the "modern" world.

To answer your question, this is what I would say:

There are many misconceptions about the hijab. Firstly, I only have to wear hijab or cover my awrah in front non-mahrams. So that means when I'm at home or when I'm only surrounded by women I don't have to cover my hair or other parts of my awrah. Secondly, there's no point in trying to be "progressive" if it means sacrificing peace of mind and a relationship with your Creator. Fashion trends don't last but what has existed and will always exist is Him. The pursuit of pleasing people is like chasing pavements whereas the pursuit of pleasing God is never fruitless. 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed." {Hadith Qudsi, Sahih Bukhari - read full commentary here

What is deemed modern is only modern for a moment in time but Islam was sent through the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Final Messenger of Allah swt. In Surah Al-Anbiyaa, God revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), "And We have not sent you except as a mercy to mankind" {21:107}. Allah swt didn't say he was a mercy to the people of the 14th century but to all mankind. This means the message of Islam is to last until the end of time.

Furthermore, Islam will always be relevant because the Holy Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad's sayings (hadiths) address the issue of the human character and human nature. Cultures and social standards have evolved but human nature has remained the same throughout centuries. The human character and soul are aspects of the self that will always require help. Yes, the Qur'an was revealed over 1400 years ago but if you think about it people are still dealing with the same issues that are discussed in the Qur'an. Issues such as identity, family relations, social relations and lifestyle. So when Allah swt tells us something in the Qur'an (i.e. to dress and behave modestly) there is surely wisdom in it that will benefit not only us but our grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren and so on. Let's not forget that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said,

"Every Deen (religion) has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (haya)."
 {Abu Dawood}

Islam is a way of life, a way of thinking. Its principles have been established by Allah swt to transcend all trends and eras. Women of the 21st century are as deserving of respect, dignity and honour as women of any point in time. Most importantly, while people may define beauty in terms of aesthetics, Islam advocates that true beauty lies in good character (akhlaq) and part of having good character is inner modesty which usually translates into physical modesty.

I thought it would be interesting to see what other people had to say about this topic so I posted the question on my Facebook page. Some of my favourite people responded, alhamdulillah

How would you respond to the question? Any thoughts or questions on hijab and modernity?


Maryam said…
A well articulated response. Beautiful post, alhamdulillah.

Oh and I believe the first quote is a quote from the Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakel Karman:

“Man in the 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.” -Tawakel Karman
aishah amin said…
i love this post Sha! and I realy like what Shea wrote, about feeling at peace..hijab does make me feel that's something so special that makes me feel protected and guarded in a a precious gem..

Also, I am of the opinion that if you are a Muslim, you are not supposed to question and say "hijab is not neccesary in the 'modern' world", because it is compulsary..I think Muslims who say that might not have reached the basic understanding of why we should wear the hijab..It's just like the solat..For example can you say, "Oh I don't do my solah because it's not neccesary in this modern world"..? NO. you can't, because Allah has told us to do so, and both are equally compulsary for us.
chimidama said…
What a way to start Friday morning..Alhamdulillah..

I believe that we as servants has no right to question the rules from Allah..

Not even a single word 'why'.. Allah knows the best for us..

Thank you for this beautiful post :)
yatie chomeyl said…
salam sha,

Coincidently I worte about this topic in my blog today. I took the pciture you put here in your blog post in my entry too. Hope u wont mind. Thanks in advanced.
Ariena Hisham said…
I think the people that think like that is a kind of people that uneducated.
Mona Zenhom said…
As I started reading I immediately thought of that first quote about evolution and scrolled down to see it. Then saw myself and was like woah. But seriously, it's such a poignant subject.
Yunne Osman said…
i think all the response are brilliant but i personally love what aishah amin said, in the post AND here in the comment =)
Mustika said…
nice blog.

maybe we can follow each other if you want? :)
Iffah Izzati said…
Assalamualaikum Shahirah!

Glad you put up this post! i love it, as always!

anyways, just wanted to let you know that i was the one who post that question. heehee. sorry that i didnt put in my name. totally realize about it when i have post out the question. haha!

and i love this part here, "The pursuit of pleasing people is like chasing pavements whereas the pursuit of pleasing God is never fruitless."

thank you so much Shahirah!

Iffah Izzati
*miniatoses* said…
Assalamualaikum sis,
I CAN TOTALLY RELATE TO THIS POST.. actually most of your post about the yourself and the deen.. keep writing! xo
Laila said…
Thanks for sharing this post, it's so interesting, :)
Anonymous said…
hi sha,
meaning of hijab is very wide..not only to cover your hair but you need to fulfill the concept of hijab.
its nothing wrong for being 'hijab and modernity' but have you asked these questions to yourself;am i wearing transparent clothing or short sleeves or loose long sleeves or tight clothing; am i cover my chest area or neck area; am i wearing skinny jeans; and all sort of questions.Above all, we must try our best to be a good muslim and this practice or behavior will be accepted by Allah.
i bet you are not going to publish my comment and i get it...but if your intention of writing this post is to purify everybody's soul then i guess you should posted it.
Shahirah Elaiza said…
-daa-: Salaam, you raised some good points, jazakAllah khair, and I don't disagree with them. I'm not sure why you think I wouldn't approve this comment?

But I also think when we impose all kinds of rules it may overwhelm those who are just starting to wear hijab. As Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad once said, "We are always demanding perfection from people". Instead of giving naseeha (advice) the gentle and proper way we drive away people from practicing Islam.

The path to purifying our intentions begins with the purification of the heart so before we can even judge someone we have to remember that it isn't an easy process.

We can try our best to be practicing Muslims but along the way we will make mistakes and learn from them inshaAllah. Fortunately, He is All Merciful and Understanding, as exemplified in the following hadith.

Narrated Abu Hurairah (رضى الله عنه): The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “Undoubtedly, Allah does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather He looks at your hearts and actions.”

{Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Number 6220}
Anonymous said…
I have been Muslim for 12 years. The first 5 or 6 I was practicing and wearing hijab and then I took it off and stopped practicing for about 5 years. Alhamdulilah Allah has guided me back and I have started to wear the hijab again even though I never thought I would. I haven't yet started wearing it to work though, please make dua for me. I love this article. And I love your whole blog. Mashaallah, you seem so kind and soft hearted. May Allah swt preserve and increase you.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing!
Why Wear Hijab