The Culture of Support

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Culture and hijab are so often intertwined into the worlds and minds of many. How are they actually related? And what’s your experience with culture and hijab?

During an MSA event I once attended, the idea of hijab and culture came up. One of the sisters mentioned how some sisters in the Middle East wore hijab to avoid any comments or stares from men.  Another friend mentioned that the fact that hijab was forced upon women within certain countries made her steer away from it. In one Muslim country, those that wear it are ridiculed.

Whether we choose to ignore it or not, culture and even environment can play a role in our decisions, including wearing the hijab. Before hearing all of this, I always thought that if a woman chose to wear the hijab, even if for the wrong reasons, that one day, she would chose to wear it for the right reason: obeying Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Thinking deeper, I realized it was my hijab story that gave me this “stereotype.”  I grew up in Windsor, Canada, a city known for its amazing Muslim community. My parents enrolled me in the local Islamic School where I decided to wear the hijab.

When I first wore the hijab, it was only because those around me wore it. I knew that it had value and I knew I was doing the right thing, but it wasn’t a conscious decision to obey Allah’s command. My teachers wore the hijab as did the older students. They all wore it everyday, consistently, and without complaint. So I decided that September 1st of my fifth grade would be the first day I would wear it.

It really was not until grade eight at the same Islamic school that I truly understood the obligation of wearing the hijab and the meaning that came with it. I realized that I had chosen to obey Allah ta’ala with this action, and that it was indeed something I enjoyed doing. The hijab became to me a form of i’bada (worship) to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, as well as a form of da’wa as I headed into high school.

This is what gave me the notion that everyone would eventually make the same conscious decision I made. I still hope that this is the case – but life has taught me that each individual is equipped with their own thoughts and beliefs, as absurd as they may seem to others. What’s more, each person grew up in a different setting with different people surrounding them, thus shaping these thoughts and beliefs.  It was my environment that helped me make the decision to wear the hijab, as environment has made others steer away from it.

It was the amazing support I got from those around me that really encouraged me to wear the hijab, and to continue wearing it – be it my mother who explained to me the importance of being consistent, or my school that showed me the living examples of many who sought to fulfill Allah’s obligation upon them. Even my friends who decided to wear the hijab as well, and who have since stood by my side, were there every step of the way, giving me the encouragement I needed.

It’s really not everyone that is blessed with such an environment. Living in the western world, we are isolated from the influence of culture on Islam, and this really does have its advantages. I had the opportunity to learn about Islam in its purest form, away from the influence of culture and surrounded by those who valued it so much more. I did not have to live in a country where I was forced to wear the hijab, and I didn’t live in an environment where the men around me forced me to use the hijab as a protection alone, without the concept of obeying Allah.

I know that this isn’t the case for many of us, and that’s why I love IGIC. Living away from home, it’s now a part of my support network. For those of you who do have an amazing family backing you up, or that one friend who never leaves your side, remember that these are blessings from Allah and be thankful. Remember that those around us can influence us in more ways than we can imagine.