How to React to Un-Veiling

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A riveting discussion on the combination of kind words, sweet gestures and a high profile subject.

We all hear about the wonderful, heartfelt stories about why and how a sister put on the hijab. But how often do we hear stories about a sister who has done the complete opposite? How often do we hear the story about the sister who after one year, five years, or even 20 years took off her hijab?

Not very often. As a matter of fact, the subject of taking off the hijab is considered so taboo, it’s hardly ever discussed to begin with, even though it has become quite common. The only way to tackle this problem is to discuss it openly and judgment-free.

Here are a few steps we can take inshAllah to help a sister who has taken off her hijab. Please remember, these are only suggestions to help.

1. Realize that reasons may differ

The first thing to know is that not all women who take off their hijab do it for the same reason. As every individual is completely different and unique, so is the reason that someone may choose to unveil. The best way to tackle this issue is to realize that you cannot treat everyone the same. For some, a tough-love approach may be more effective, while others might need more compassion and a softer approach.

2. Show concern, not judgment

It is very important to let a sister know that you want to help. Sometimes a few simple words are more than enough, rather than a long talk about importance of hijab. It is best to have good intentions and say, “If you’re going through a tough time or just need someone to talk to, I’m here to listen.” This way, you are neither prying, nor judging and the sister knows that if she decides to talk about it, you care enough to help her out.

3. Speak privately

If you decide that you know the sister well enough to discuss the situation, speak to her privately, one-on-one. Speaking to her in a group or in front of others may make her feel defensive and instead of listening, she may turn away. With the mass use of the internet, you can even approach a sister in an e-mail or via chat, if you feel that speaking to her in person might be too forward. And remember, as stated before, sometimes a few words of concern are more effective than a long lecture.

4. Use this opportunity to remember your own flaws

These situations should also remind us of our own flaws. The only reason people can talk about a sister who has unveiled is because her weakness is public. People assume because they can see it, they have a right to talk about it. But we all have our own flaws. They may be private, but that doesn’t mean they are any less harmful. So we should take the opportunity to humble ourselves and seek repentance for our own sins, when we see someone else’s.

5. Do not discuss the situation with others

Many times people do not want to question a sister because they don’t know her well enough to ask or they don’t want to pry. However, if people don’t want to talk to a sister about her decision to take off hijab, they should not discuss her situation with others either. This would not only be unhelpful to her, it is destructive to ourselves because we should have a fear of upsetting Allah subhanu wa ta’ala and fear of the punishment of gossiping.

6. Provide opportunities to increase Iman

As a woman who has taken off her hijab at one point in her life and put it back on, alhamdulillah, I can speak from experience. When I unveiled my veil, I was met with all sorts of judgments and critics. This reaction made me feel that many Muslims only want to befriend you and invite you to the halaqas and the events when you are wearing hijab and seem like a good Muslim. But the second they see your flaw, you are left in the background, when in fact the exact opposite should be happening. If a sister has revealed a flaw or her weakness, she should be helped. She should be invited to the halaqas, not so people can judge her, but because maybe she just needs a boost of iman, as we all do from time to time.

7. Make Du’a

Lastly, and most importantly, the absolute best thing you can do is make du’a for her. If you sincerely care and are worried about her decision, then turn to Allah ta’ala, because indeed He is the only one who can help. After all, He is Al-Muqallib al Quloob, the Turner of Hearts.