But No One Can See What’s Underneath!


Guest writer Bint Abdisalaam reminds us that wearing hijab doesn’t mean we have to forgo our natural tendency to be beautiful.

From My Sisters’ Lips by Na’ima B. Robert is one of my favourite books. It’s a book that I can very much relate to and one that I often read despite the amount of times I’ve read it. One term that Na’ima coined in this book was “NMT New Muslim Tramp Syndrome.” When some sisters start covering, they can tend to dress down and be lazier in their fashion choices than before they were wearing the hijab. Subhan’Allah, when I started covering up, I would find myself exactly in this situation and at times, I still do.

Before the hijab, my outwardly appearance was everything to me. My dad would constantly nag me to stop spending hours in the bathroom perfecting my hair and make-up, and then spend another few hours in my bedroom dealing with the dilemma of what to wear. When I did start wearing the hijab, I felt this buzz and excitement which eventually died down a few months later.

It didn’t die down in the sense that I didn’t want to wear it, it was just that the person who was so immersed in herself turned into someone that would be able to get away without combing her hair for two days and I could wear a SpongeBob sock on one foot and a striped sock on the other and no one would notice! I was taking full advantage of this new found liberation from the laborious task of plucking, painting, and brushing that was so common before.

When I wasn’t wearing the hijab, my aim was to look attractive to the opposite sex but with the hijab, the purpose was to not attract. Wearing a tracksuit with a little bleach stain on it or really old, worn out t-shirt was fine by me as no man would see what was underneath my abaya. My mum would just look at me and say ‘I feel sorry for the man who marries you if this is what you look like now!’ My opinion was, I’ll save the worrying about looking good for when I’m married but for now, let me just bask in this!

My mother, this dangerously glamourous woman clad in her abaya and niqab never dressed the way I did. She took pride in what she wore and would never be seen dead in anything ghastly. She always had something nice on underneath her abaya, ‘just in case’. Looking at this woman with four children to feed, a job and a house to clean yet had the time to look good really put things into perspective for me.

Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty.” [Sahih Muslim]

Allah has given us the provisions and wealth to look beautiful. We can pop by the store and buy a show-stopping dress, go to the hairdressers and get our tresses cut and blow-dried. Doing these things under the halal boundaries such as only dressing up in front of your mahrams, using those provisions that Allah has blessed us with is a great thing.

One sister who was speaking at a sisters pampering session at my university said, that it’s part of our fitrah (human nature) as women to want to look good; as we cover up, at times we’re going to feel the need to break the mundane cycle of wearing that hijab, abaya, niqab or whatever you wear, and bring out your make-up kit, favourite perfume, and a killer dress every now and then. There’s nothing wrong with doing so as the occasional dressing up does wonders for our confidence and besides, if you’re married you get to look nice for your husband too insha’Allah.

The problem with my thinking was that as I was so used to dressing up for other people, once I was required to cover up everything, I didn’t see the purpose in trying to look nice anymore. Many women think like this and it’s a sad mentality to have as it just reveals our need for approval from men, and from women too. What’s wrong with dressing up for just you? What’s wrong with wearing that gorgeous top as long as you yourself know that you look good underneath that abaya?

The day that we stop trying to impress people will be the day that we start trying to impress ourselves. I suggest that start doing so by caring for yourself without any thought of what someone will think. Get that manicure, put on a little make-up, straighten or curl your hair today, and paint your toes just for you.

No one may see what’s underneath, but neglecting ourselves is only at our expense.


Bint Abdisalaam blogs at Pearls of Naseeha www.pearlsofnaseeha.com, a blog for sisters by sisters, and generally covers many important topics such as trials in university, marriage, free-mixing, and hijab.