A human take on Hijab by Organica

*for the purpose of this post, hijab will mean all varieties of head coverings.

When I am asked why I wear the headscarf, I struggle to find a response I believe. It was only recently, during a reflective meeting, I realized my true answer to the question.

I do it for God. God alone.

I no longer subscribe to the classical Muslim rationale behind hijab: a piece of ‘cloth’ is enough to simmer down a man’s attraction to a woman, and temptation to break a holy commandment. According to this school of thought, the burden falls on a woman to ensure order. A woman is blamed for misconduct and the man is portrayed as a helpless victim who is unable to restrain their inflamed desires [refer to ‘Man Box’ post by my friend Jehanzeb). One could argue, society as a whole has conditioned men and women into these measly roles – with very little room to break free.

The question remains: Does hijab preserve a woman’s sexuality and offer protection from the testosterone-laden hungry wolves?

I would go with ‘No.’ Hijab doesn’t protect women from being raped, sexually harassed and objectified [See current events: Egypt and other Muslim countries and their struggle with sexual harassment]. I received an alarming email from my university last night. A young woman walking late at night was close to being raped if it were not for a pedestrian who saved her. That could have been me. I park my car close to that area. My scarf would have not mattered: a rapist doesn’t care about my scarf. If someone wishes to harm, they will.

When hijab is presented within the context of ‘protecting one’s sexuality’ and ‘ensuring order’ it reduces a woman to a piece of meat or a helpless lamb who requires protection from the angry wolf. It blames the victim and enables, justifies, reinforces man’s perverted sexual behavior to which women pay the price.

If you’ve ever been in the company of young Muslim men and women, you’ll notice that the ‘hijab’ is never an obstacle or a barrier from having two people fall in love, feel attracted to one another or to have premarital sex! I, for one, express my fashion sense with my hijab. And, in some instances, my hijab reflects my sexuality, not conceal it.

If as Muslims we honestly reflect on how we argue ‘for’ hijab, we’ll find that it’s more of a symbol of piety but in no way reflects piety or offers protection from temptation.

The argument women when in hijab are no longer ‘rated’ by their body but their ‘brain’ is untrue. Muslim women (or men) are not immune to the pressures of modern society to fit in a certain mold. If you are a Muslim woman (in hijab) and you walk into a Muslim gathering, women and men will JUDGE you based on your looks, your body and how you are dressed. Women today are pressured to ‘lighten’ or ‘darken’ their skin; go on extraneous diets to lose mad amounts of weight; and, are expected to either ‘tone down’ or ‘up’ their fashion or dress choices.

Muslim or not; female or not, the pressure is on. It just looks different for the secular or religious. Women are ‘screwed’ either way, not even in the good way.

**

I am intrigued by how nuns live. Here are women who have chosen to ‘marry’ themselves to God (although He didn’t ask it of them) and sacrifice one of the most fundamental functions of life: sex. I could never comprehend ‘why?’ What benefit was it to be celibate for life?

And one day it occurred to me, the nuns made their sacrifice for God, and God alone. They were not practicing their faith for man, but FOR GOD. And in so many ways, wearing the hijab in order to protect from man’s lust goes against my monotheistic faith. My beliefs dictate that all my actions are done for God, to please Him alone.

My job as an equal human is not to curb anyone’s sexual fervor, but to enhance my own faith and connections with God.

So the next time someone asks: “Why do you wear it?” I’ll point to the sky and smile “For Him”

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9 thoughts on “A human take on Hijab by Organica

  1. Lat says:

    Well said,Organica! But I’m just curious how the word hijab came to represent piety that sits on the head alone.If hijab is meant more than just a headscarf,then all believing women are hijbis regardless whether one wears it or not..The word hijab we mostly know have more than one meaning, that is screening, and yet how did it come to lie solely on a woman’s head?

    i myself use the word hijabi because that’s how people were calling women who were a headscarf but I’m not comfortable with it.I prefer to usse the Malay word Tudung or just a headscarf because it is what it is.If it means more to a woman wearing it so be it.I wonder if a nun’s dressing had anything to do with hijab gaining a high piety symbol.For them they did not just wear the headscarf they secluded themselves from the ordinary life to devote entirely for God.And their God is a man.that’s why for nuns they ‘marry’ God.they are called brides for their heavenly spouse which I don’t think is the same for monks. i don’t think that’s what is meant in the Quran when it mentions hijab or khumur.It’s more for modesty sake for interacting with people than for God.And ways of modesty defers in each community and all is hijab!

  2. almostclever says:

    Wow Lat, you make an excellent point.

  3. mariam says:

    Dear Lat your comment is very interesting. 🙂
    “It’s more for modesty sake for interacting with people than for God” so wearing headscarf or any thing like it while praying lonely in a room is meaningless.is not it?

  4. […] generously allowed me to reproduce her essay “A human take on Hijab” in which she discusses why she wears hijab and what it symbolises for […]

  5. Metis says:

    I loved this post and I loved Lat’s comment and I’m wondering about Mariam’s question.

    I read recently that hijab as *hijab* that we know today AND the daily prayers were regulated and codified in the Abbasid period. Who knows if women prayed with their heads covered before that? Do we have any evidence that they did?

  6. Muslima82 says:

    I love this article. I recently stopped wearing the hijab/khimar, etc. because I’ve lost sight of what it’s for. Meaning the reasons that are stated in this article should be the reasons: modesty and for God alone. However, I believe that each Muslim woman should find their reasons why should they want to wear it. Muslim women can be just a modest and pious in terms of action and dressing modestly without the hijab as well as those that do wear hijab.

    In other words, a woman should not be pressured or forced to wear the headscarf should their family and/or friends because the Quran/Sunnah/Hadith says she has to. If the woman doesn’t feel this way, and is forced to wear it, only negativity will blossom. They will drive her away from the faith. Bottomline here is our Ummah has forgotten the greatest statement that is listed more than once in the Quran: No complusion in religion.

  7. Lat says:

    @Mariam,

    You said,” so wearing headscarf or any thing like it while praying lonely in a room is meaningless.is not it?”

    It’s how we attach meaning to it.Years ago,I was kind of surprised to see in TV how muslim women prayed with their coats and scarves and some with everyday cloths.In my region I was used to praying alone or in groups with a white shroud like garment(this is how I see it) which resembles the one that dead people are dressed in 🙂 In fact I still do pray my ritual prayer like that 🙂 I want to be reminded of my ‘death’ or temporary life so I still wear it.Maybe it speaks of humbleness/humility as well. it’s only recently that patterns and colours have been introduced.Then I realized that it was a cultural thing.How one perceive prayer and bring the attitude out of it. Men don’t have to dress in these sort of garments.They can pray as they are.The male Arab dress that some men wear is a recent phenomenon here.Most still wear pants and sarongs(something like a long skirt 🙂 ) when praying.

    As metis pointed out above,we may not know exactly how women prayed early in Islam.If a woman chooses not to cover while praying alone in her room,then it’s her choice.There’s no one to judge her in her space except God.And He is not a man.Thanks for sharing this Mariam.It’s an important question as not just muslim women cover while praying as other non-muslim women do this too.I hope i’ve answered your question 🙂

  8. Sara says:

    Wow, loved this article Organica!

    “Muslim or not; female or not, the pressure is on. It just looks different for the secular or religious. Women are ‘screwed’ either way, not even in the good way.”

    So true! Again, great article!

  9. susanne430 says:

    Great post! I love how you concluded it, but was curious why you believe God requires this of you. Do you think perhaps He requires covering of hair for some women, while others should cover their faces entirely and still others are acceptable in His sight wearing shorts and a tank top? Maybe God has different requirements for different people and it’s our jobs to realize what He wants from us and submit to it.

    Thanks for sharing this. I love that you do it for God alone and not to make yourself less of a sexual temptation to the men out there. In fact, you are the opposite expressing your sexuality through your stylish head scarves! Love that! 🙂

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