I’ve often been reminded, mostly by some condescending boy, that I should fear Allah when I speak. That usually doesn’t end very well for them. Because every time they declare “itakullah” I am reminded that the only thing I should fear is Allah swta. I have always seen my allegiance to Allah swta, and the truth, to be far more precious than my allegiance to social customs and norms. Rather than doing what’s expected of me as a woman, I do what seems right.
So here we are facing another Ramadan, and one of the challenges that come with the blessed month is being in the company of the Muslims so much and so often. I have daughters with me and I am careful about the messages about womanhood and modesty that they receive. I am also trying to constantly evolve, understanding the things that I took for granted in a deeper and more complete way. Modesty, a characteristic of Muslims, regardless of gender, is often used as a shackle on the ankle of strong women.
But even I have to check my understanding. Modesty is not hiding. It isn’t trying to look like everybody else for fear of standing out. Allah says to put on our overgarments “so that you will be known as free believing women“, not so that you match the current fashion. It isn’t permission to go with the flow or remain silent in the face of injustice. Modesty is about not giving away your power, and not seeking fame for doing what’s right. Modesty is about restraining yourself so that you can do justice to others. It is about making yourself small so that you can see the greater picture. It is about talking less so that you can hear more. It is about accepting that your opinion is just that, an opinion and others are entitled to theirs.
As for the issue of hijab, I am evolving there are well. Wearing the hijab has not been a struggle for me. Putting on the headscarf and lengthening my dresses was easy enough. The hardest part is shopping. However, lately, I have been questioning my understanding of hijab. Maybe it’s because I have taken it for granted for so long, and yet in recent months, I have received more attacks for wearing it than at any other time in my life. As always, when people try to take something from you, you cling to it more strongly.
I have been asking myself, “are you hiding?” Did this thing become an excuse for you to neglect yourself? To become lazy? Did not wanting to mix freely with men give you an excuse to stay home and do nothing.? Sister Naima b. Robert calls it New Muslim Tramp Syndrom, where you neglect yourself because you have embraced a new identity. A way of thinking about yourself that relinquishes you from all responsibility to the fashion world. It only gets worse if you are a new mother, and comfort becomes the name of the game. For me, being a work-at-home mom means that there are few reasons for me to leave. And that isolation can be comforting.
But as the summer approaches, I am reminded that there are a great number of places to go and things to do and I want to see and do as much of it with my kids as possible. This year will be the first summer where my eldest daughter will be expected to observe hijab, and as we move forward I am becoming more aware of the example I give her. Have I given her the right impression? Does my hijab look like a beautiful addition to my attire or is it a way to conceal all of my flaws? Am I hiding in my hijab or am I wearing it with pride?
I am not sure what the outcome will be, but I am becoming more confident in what hijab is and is not. I am convinced that it isn’t the prison that some of us make of it. And it isn’t a hiding spot. It should be beautiful because Allah swta loves beauty and he wants to see that reflected in believing people, right? And in the end, Allah swta knows best.