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The word hijab refers to both the head-covering traditionally worn by many Muslim women and to the concept of modesty in Islam generally.
With the increased terrorist attacks in the early 2000s, and the Arab spring. Islamophobia has become a reaction to Islamic extremist attacks all
around the world and the target for this Islamophobia has unfortunately been Muslim women who wear hijabs. In some Muslim states like Lebanon, Morocco, there have been complaints of restriction or discrimination against women who wear the hijab and in countries like France and Belgium face coverings and hijabs for women younger than 20 years old have been banned. But what is the hijab? And what does it mean to Muslim women? How are they treated because of it? We sit with two hijabis, Khususiyah and Sumayya to answer these questions.
Could you tell us about yourself? Who are you and what do you do for a living?
Khususiyah: My name is Khususiyah and I’m a Law student and writer.
Sumayya: I’m a student and part-time Baker.
Could you tell me about the hijab? What is it and why do Muslims observe and wear it?
Khususiyah: Hijab is one beautiful thing (Maa Sha Allah) That Allah has blessed Muslims with, not just the women but the men also. Hijab is one of the commandments of Allah to all Muslims which must be observed and paid attention to by all Muslims and most especially the female gender. In essence, hijab is an item of clothing worn on top of an inner cloth to cover the chastity of a woman, it is meant to cover the nakedness of a Muslim woman that is not supposed to be seen by others aside from her mahram i.e her father, her brother, her husband etc. Which other male members of the public cannot and should not see the nakedness of a Muslim woman. The hijab is supposed to be an item of thick clothing that is worn, which means we shouldn’t see what is beneath it, hijab is supposed to be big/baggy not a tight piece of clothing, hijab is supposed to cover from head to toe of a Muslim woman, hijab Is not supposed to be colourful, hijab is to be worn with the fear of Allah the Almighty as He will reward everyone who observes the hijab with the sole aim of pleasing Him and obeying His commandments and not for the sake of human beings acknowledgement of who is more religious and who is not. Various Islamic schools of thought have shared their opinions on what hijab should be like, its purpose, manner in which it should be worn For a better explanation, you can check through the Islamic jurisprudence of any of the 4(Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali) When I say the hijab is for both genders, I am not saying men also have to wear items of clothing that cover from their head up to their toes. No, I am saying hijab is dignity, patience, tolerance, humility, shyness, composure. Hijab is more than a piece of clothing that covers from head to toe, one who wears the hijab must be soft-spoken, easy-going, and generally be capable of stabilising chaotic situations as the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) has thought us.
Sumayya: The hijab is a covering that is being worn mostly by Muslim women in obedience to the commandments of Allah.
How important is the hijab to you and Muslim women in general?
Khususiyah: Hijab is a very important topic for Muslim women in Islam. It can not and should not be sidelined. Modesty is one thing we should practice in society at large, when we discuss modesty, we talk about hijab. Hijab is every Muslimah’s pride. Hijab is comfort, beauty, shyness, respect, confidence, morals, etc. I bet you’ll agree with me that the proper usage of the hijab brings nothing but goodness to humans.
The clearest verse on the requirement of modest dress is Surah 24:31, telling women to guard their genitalia and draw their khimār over their bosoms.
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their private parts; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their breasts and not display their beauty except to their husband, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sister’s sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. — Quran 24:31
Sumayya: The hijab is very important to me. It’s part of my identity, the moment you see me you know I’m a Muslim woman. It’s part of who I am and even more so because Allah has commanded me to do use it. It’s in the Quran it’s the book of hadith and a lot of Islamic texts. So I’m doing it joyfully, I’m doing it with pride, my hijab, my pride. I know that sounds cliche but it’s true my hijab is my pride. I think it’s very important for Muslim women to use the hijab. And as the common saying goes you’re addressed how you’re dressed and I believe using the hijab commands a certain level of respect. I’ve seen this happen many times because when I wear the hijab people think I’m married and because of that they don’t talk to me anyhow in a certain way.
Have you ever been discriminated against because you wore a hijab? What would you say are the most common stereotypes and profiling you’ve received from wearing hijab?
Khususiyah: I have been treated differently simply because I wear/choose to wear the hijab. All Muslim females have faced various stigma from people of other religions or those who think the proper way of wearing the hijab is extreme etc. Even those who wear a scarf, waist-length hijab, knee-length hijab, and the one from head to toe which is called (jilbaab) have in one way or the other been treated badly.
Sumayya: Yes, I have been discriminated and it is usually by Non-Muslim people that don’t understand the concept of Hijab and people usually see it in a certain way I don’t know what they see it as but they act like it’s a barrier to so many things, they think that because I’m wearing the hijab I don’t know how to do certain things or I don’t understand certain things or I don’t have the same level of intelligence or understanding or brilliance. They feel like this hijab is a limitation to who I am and to what I can do. And I don’t know where the misconception comes from. I’ve been treated differently so many times I can’t even begin to count in Nigeria and outside Nigeria simply because I’m wearing the hijab.
The most common stereotypes I’ve received are one, that I’m not educated and two that I don’t have a fashion sense, because I try to be very strict with my hijab and I try not to compromise it anyway I can. A lot of people, mostly my friends and close friends have treated me differently because of it. Sometimes when I’m probably going for a wedding or an event and everyone is all dressed up in a flashy way. And I dress in a modest way including my hijab and they tell me to take it off for that one event and I refuse to. The reaction is usually that I’m acting like I’m the most pious and above them. And it’s very common for hijabis in our society. But it doesn’t determine whether one is religious or not. I’ve received all this stigma from family and friends, but it doesn’t stop me.
Do you think there’s a certain way Hijabis are treated in the world today that’s stereotypic and harmful to them?
Khususiyah: Well, I can’t say certain types of interference or sentiments come from wearing hijab. In all honesty, Muslim women who wear the proper definition of hijab encounter a lot of sad reactions from other Muslim women who don’t practice the hijab and from the people of the society at large. Even though some of those who wear the proper hijab also look down on those who wear the scarf or short hijab too, It’s all entwined.Going by example, we can say Muslim women who wear the hijab are forced to remove them to get one position or the other, in other to live in a particular society, to get certain privil.es etc… I’m sure we all have heard one story or news where a hijabi is being bullied by others. They call us “people from the backward society”, which is a funny assertion to me because if only they knew. I’ve seen an occasion where a little girl wearing a hijab while playing around with her friends fell in the process, this old woman from another religion was passing by and the only thing she could say was “why won’t she fall, when this *thing* on her head is big”. Subhanallah! the kind of society we live in, she didn’t bother helping the little girl up. Was that woman trying to say other people who don’t wear the hijab don’t fall while playing? Or was she saying the hijab took away her balance? Hilarious s right? Even among our friends in school, at home, madrasah, work and every gathering, we see the way hijabis are treated, the stereotypic behaviour is not there, only when we are among other hijabis but once there is a mixture it is bound to happen although not all times and not in all gatherings
Sumayya: I think yes because there are places where the hijab has been banned. Where they don’t allow girls to wear the hijab in some countries. This is really bad and it’s kind of harmful. For instance, if I want to earn a degree in a particular country or a particular school, the school is really good and they have all I want, but I can’t go there. That’s terrible. People restrict hijabis and tell them what they can or cannot do. And as a hijabi you are limitless, you are boundless. The sky is just your starting point. You can do anything you want. It doesn’t matter. People need to stop the stereotypes and misconceptions attached to the hijab. It’s bad because as women we are already disadvantaged and being a hijabi adds to that.