Extend beyond Yourself


Though hijab is used to protect yourself, it can also be used to educate others.

There is a hint of irritation I feel whenever I hear the question, “Are you Islamic?” But the part before that question, I don’t mind so much.  “I’m asking you this because you’re wearing a headscarf…are you Islamic?”

I try and remove the irritation. I clear my throat silently, put on a smile, and remind myself that I should be thanking Allah for giving me the opportunity to educate another non-Muslim about my beautiful faith.

“Yes, I’m Muslim,” I reply confidently and proudly.

Maybe the tone of my voice makes the person register his mistake.  “Oh, is it better to say Muslim rather than Islamic?”

I nod hesitantly, not wanting to give the impression that I mind so much. “I consider Islamic to be an adjective to describe a theological concept, but Muslim is often only used to define a person.”

And the conversation moves forward with ease, opening up doors to other topics in Islam.

What I’m trying to point out by narrating this experience is that this conversation would most likely not have occurred if it were not for the cloth around my head, making me distinct among the group of individuals surrounding me.

For so long, my first impulse was to think how some people have no common sense when they ask me what religion I follow.

“Well, duh! Can’t you see what I’m wearing?  I’m obviously Muslim,” is what I want to say.  That certainly is not the polite voice of a Muslimah, but rather an angry Shaytan trying to steer the conversation.

Over the course of the years, I have come to the realization that just as I do not know some faiths as well as my own, others have not yet focused on Islam, much less grasped the connection of hijab within Islam.

The common misconception of hijab is that it forces the Muslim woman to shift inward and shy away from society.  She cannot be open and direct anymore, much less climb a ladder to establish herself outside the home, such as with a career.

Evidently, this is not the case. As Muslim women, we definitely should be humble and focus on improving our inner spirituality.  However, I see no reason as to why we should not be able to move outward and use the hijab, the very cloth that reminds us of our modesty and serves as a symbol of our faith, as a means to educate our fellow citizens.

Wearing the hijab does not entail being a recluse, or at least a recluse among non-Muslims. It gives us the prestige to inform others of our faith; it serves as the starting point for a conversation.  It gives us that dynamic ability to reach both inward to our soul and outward to the world when improving our spirituality.

Wearing the hijab is a good deed in itself, but the deeds that result as a consequence perhaps amount to even more.  In a public place, the hijab serves as the instant commonality between you and another Muslimah, leading to the good deed of greeting one another.  In school and the workplace, the hijab solidifies your identity and proves to your colleagues that the hijab is compatible with daily life.  Taking it one step further, it can instigate dialogue about Islam and perhaps dissolve misconceptions one may have.

So, you see, hijab ties us to society in a wonderful way, which we may not perceive readily.  Of course, one must also be careful and remember the true essence of hijab, which is to act modestly, and stay within the limits.  You’re not going to want to initiate a chat about your hijab with that cute guy in your class because, well, your intention of talking to him overpowers your intention of educating him.  An appropriate balance is crucial so keep your intentions pure.

Allow the hijab to extend beyond yourself to others, to provide room for discussion and understanding in a stuffy airtight room.  And appreciate the hijab for what it allows you to do, the many deeds that you garner as a result of it.