Guest writer Zaineb Shebani eloquently discusses the mannerisms of providing advice and how we may be falling short on this right.
I recently came across an article posted by a friend on Facebook that had a picture of a woman wearing a headscarf and a full sleeved long dress that was very form fitting and clearly outlined her figure. She was standing next to her husband at a ceremony. The article was referring to how modest the woman looked in her hijab and how committed she was to her faith for dressing modestly while being in an atmosphere in which all the other women were wearing revealing gowns.
I could see that many of my female Muslim friends were reposting the link; and reading the comments on their posts, I noticed that their Muslim friends were praising the woman in the article for her modesty and saying that she was an inspiration to other Muslim women. While I admire her courage and confidence to wear the headscarf and cover her body in such an environment, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with the fact that the article was giving the wrong message to Muslims and non-Muslims because her dress did not meet the Islamic standards of hijab.
I debated on whether I should repost the link and share my opinion about it as I am aware of how hijab has now become such a sensitive and controversial topic. I was afraid I would be criticized and receive comments from people who disagree with me and that a heated discussion may arise from the post. However, I remembered that as Muslims it is our duty to remind and guide one another of what is right and wrong and so decided to go against my fears and post my opinion anyway.
As expected, I received several comments accusing me of being judgmental. I was also accused of backbiting and even received a comment from someone criticizing my own hijab. Some of the comments, in fact, were so offensive; I decided to delete the entire post from my wall.
It saddens me to see how Muslim women are no longer open to accepting advice about hijab. While everyone’s hijab, including myself, can be improved on so many different levels, it does not mean that we cannot remind one another of the proper Islamic dress code. What I find most disappointing is how many Muslims nowadays automatically assume you are judging others when the topic of modesty is brought up. When I posted the link, I had no intention of judging the woman and did not criticize her faith in any way. Only Allah (swt) knows what’s in her heart and I am fully aware that she could be a much better Muslim than I am, but that wasn’t the point. The point was the wrong image the article was portraying about hijab; and with my sincere intentions, I simply wanted to point that out.
The same goes for when we advise those who don’t wear hijab or don’t wear it properly. Just because someone reminds you of how Allah (swt) asked us to dress, it does not mean that they are looking down upon you; nor does it mean that they are judging you. It simply means that they are following their duty as Muslims by conveying Allah’s message and enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.
Why is it that when it comes to advice about praying or fasting or any other form of ibadah (act of worship), we are open to it and never do we assume that the person giving the advice is judging our faith nor do we consider his/her intentions negative? On the contrary, we usually reflect on our ibadaat and try to make ourselves better. Why is the topic of hijab a different story then? Is hijab not a fard (obligation) like praying and fasting? Why do we consider speaking the truth of how Allah (swt) asked us to dress a form of negative judgment and make assumptions about the intention of the person giving the advice? If you think about it, when we make these accusations and assumptions, we are actually the ones being judgmental.
Keeping quiet about the truth clearly goes against the Islamic teachings, and as Muslims it is an obligation to advise our brothers and sisters. The Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘The deen (religion) is naseeha (advice)’ [Muslim]. Therefore, we must keep in mind that we represent Islam and are held accountable for giving and accepting knowledge.
I understand that there are many Muslims who may advise others in an impolite or aggressive manner, but we should always give our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt and not so easily pass judgments about their intentions. We shouldn’t get angry with the way in which people advise us nor should we accuse them of things that may not be true, instead we should thank them for their advice and then kindly remind them of the correct manner in which a Muslim should speak to his/her brother or sister. It could just be that your fellow Muslim does not know the correct techniques for giving advice, and it is your duty to address that by giving polite naseeha in return.
We are, of course, free to choose whether we want to accept advice or not, as Allah (swt) said: ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ (Qur’an 2:256), and the job of the person giving naseeha is only to convey the message and not to force it upon anyone. What we must not do, however, is promote what goes against Islamic teachings by stating our own opinion of what we perceive to be right. When we do this, it means we are misrepresenting Islam by spreading misinformation.
In a lecture I once attended by Shaikh Khalid Yasin, he so beautifully phrased the importance of accepting advice. He said that humans are like upside down glasses: when we try to pour knowledge into their hearts, it never goes in; so we should turn ourselves right side up and allow knowledge to be poured into our hearts because we never know which drop of water might save our life.
So, my dear respected sister in Islam, please be more open-minded towards accepting the advice of our brothers and sisters who want what’s best for this ummah (Muslim community), because you never know which piece of advice could be the reason behind your guidance. I understand the struggles and temptations a lot of Muslim women go through and face nowadays and how difficult it may be for them to wear hijab or wear it properly; but if we cannot be more open minded towards changing our attitudes regarding accepting advice, then Allah (swt) will never open up our hearts and guide us.
I would like to end by saying that I am not a scholar, but a simple practicing Muslimah; and that the advice above is addressed to me before it is to anyone else. So, please accept this humble piece of advice from a sister who has the interest of the Muslim ummah at heart. May Allah (swt) guide us all to the correct hijab. Ameen.