The Privilege of Hijab

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Guest writer Hana Young shares her reflections on how hijab is a really privilege that we may not initially recognize.


It’s a fairly common misconception that men are considered as superior to women in Islam. Of course, for anyone who knows even the basics of Islam, they will know that this is certainly not the case.

One of the rules of Islam that I feel demonstrates this is the privilege of the woman’s hijab. Again, the misconceptions surrounding the hijab couldn’t be more incorrect; for example, it is often seen as oppressive, a sign of man’s domination over women. But, I actually see hijab as one of the many occasions where women in Islam are given a privilege that the men do not enjoy.

It is worth mentioning that men also have to follow certain rules regarding clothing, which also maintains their modesty, and that sometimes we may recognise a Muslim man by his beard. But the main difference is that a woman’s hijab clearly sets her apart from other women. It is for this reason that I refer to hijab as a privilege. You see women, unlike men, have the unique ability to advertise their religion. They are, literally, a walking advertisement for Islam. If Islam considered women as inferior to men, then why would they be given this responsibility?

Since returning to the UK after converting to Islam, and putting on the hijab in the UAE, I have become really conscious of standing out from the crowd, particularly when I’m at home in rural northern England. Each time I go out, I am always aware that many of the people I come across will not know anything about Islam, as they don’t live in a very diverse area. I feel like I have a huge duty towards Islam to use each trip out as an opportunity to do some good for Islam’s reputation. As a hijabi, every detail of my behaviour will inevitably be attributed to my religion. This conclusion seems to be drawn all the time when it comes to Islam: responsibility of any individual Muslim’s behaviour is always attributed to the religion itself. Unfortunately, however, this more often than not concerns the negative behaviour of just a few individuals. So I try to do my part to correct some of the negativity that surrounds Islam. It’s the fact that I have the chance to do this that makes me so grateful to be wearing a hijab. We too must make ourselves conscious of this privilege all the time: we represent Islam.

I have unfortunately come across occasions where sisters have clearly forgotten this fact. Times when, for example, a woman in hijab has been less-than polite when being served at a store, or causing a scene when trying to complain about some service. In restaurants or cafes, I have seen groups of hijabis using foul language, and not considering others around them. Of course, we are all human, and we all have those days where we have little patience and making an impression is the last thing on our minds. But our head coverings should be a reminder of this unique duty that we have. Allah gave us this privilege, and with it came the right to be respected and honoured. The least we can do is use it in a positive way to do some good for our religion.

It’s a responsibility and duty on every Muslim to give a good impression about Islam and to represent it for its qualities of justice, fairness and mercy. But it is for us ladies that this duty is even more important, as our beautiful hijab means that we are instantly associated with our religion. Ladies, we must do it justice!

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Hana Young reverted to Islam in February 2009 after moving to the United Arab Emirates. She is now living in the UK and wants to represent Islam to the British public. Follow her blog at http://hanamuslimah.wordpress.com.

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