A few months ago we were invited to someone’s house for dinner, where I was asked a question by one of the guests:
“Why don’t you make your mother wear the hijab?”
I love wearing the headscarf—to externally be dressed in a way that enables me to maximize on worship (stop, drop, sujood—prostration—almost anywhere!), but also to be able to walk down the street and very visibly be noted to be a Muslim woman. I chose to wear it not only to follow the wisdom and instruction of my Creator, but also because I believe it represents something else: that I am not defined nor measured by social standards of beauty. I will not lie and pretend it was not difficult, but I love to reflect on the story of Ibrahim, `alayhi as salaam (peace be upon him), and how he was willing to sacrifice his own son in his love for, and faith in Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). While I can by no means equate covering my hair in public to a sacrifice so great, for me this difficulty was made easier when reminding myself that although I love my hair (not that I’m now bald), my love for Allah has always been, and should always be, far greater. AlhamdulilLah (praise be to God).
I am 22 years old, and I started to wear the headscarf when I was 19, after many months and years of contemplation, consideration and prayer. It is not wholly unusual in my extended family to choose to wear a headscarf, but it is also not the norm. When faced with this question however, my answer was prompt: My mother is a million times a better Muslim than I am masha’Allah (what God wills). When I reach her level, maybe I’ll find myself in a position to give her advice.
My mother, masha’Allah, wears hijab in every single aspect of the concept and word—without physically wearing a headscarf. As well as the fact that my mother lives and breathes Islam, that she has the most beautiful sabr (patience) that I have ever seen, that after her first child died, she grew in iman (faith) in Allah’s plan and in love for Allah (swt), she is also humble, modest, loving and of course – Jannah (heaven) is beneath her feet! She works as a mother with all her passion, and as a doctor with all her dedication. Her determination, strength and beauty are wonderful, and I love her dearly. She is not the only one I know like this—there are many friends of mine who are so humble, modest, kind, wise and genuinely representative of Islam in their every action and word without physically wearing the headscarf, that I find great role models in them, and aspire to have that degree of wonderful character and piety. I am by no means undermining the headscarf and outer hijab, but at the same time I ask you all: please do not undermine the equal importance of inner hijab.
It only takes a few seconds to scroll on Instagram and see the array of hateful and judgmental comments against sisters—headscarf-wearing and non-headscarf-wearing. Sometimes it truly makes me want to cry. At which point did we decide we could demean and belittle others, based on our perceptions of their practise of Islam? Headscarf, no headscarf, half-headscarf, or even bikini—nothing legitimises being rude and disrespectful to any human being, let alone a Muslim sister. Of course, giving advice is important, but when we are so obsessed with Islam’s teaching on dress, why do we not extend this to observing Islam’s teachings on etiquettes in giving advice? On top of this, while Allah (swt) is the best judge of intentions, ask yourselves this: is my intention by writing this comment to make a point, boost my ego, or truly inspire hearts and minds with the words of Allah (swt) and the Prophet ﷺ (peace be unto him)?
Instead, let us always learn from one another. Such an approach can only seek to increase our humility. Instead of: what can I point out about this sister that is bad/worse than me, let us ask: what is this sister doing that is better than what I do? How is she practising Islam in a way I can learn to practise Islam? Perhaps she gives more charity than I do, perhaps she listens with more sincerity to others, perhaps she never backbites. Masha’Allah. When I look at my mother, there is an infinite list of things I can learn from her, and I love that about her.
Ultimately, Allah (swt) is the judge of everyone, and He is the most JUST of judges, subhan’Allah (glory to God). Let us increase in love for one another, seek out the good in one another, and always remember that Allah (swt) knows us all infinity times better than we know ourselves, AlhamdulilLah.
To those who have been faced with similar questions, perhaps your answer will be different to mine—and that is fine! But to those who have ever felt demeaned because of comments about hijab, know that no one can claim to speak on behalf of Allah (swt), and He knows best what is in the heart. To those of you who genuinely give advice, keep it up. I am sure you already do, but also take some time to listen to, learn from, and appreciate the struggles of the sister you are speaking to.
So why don’t I ask my mother to wear the hijab? Because she already does. If Allah (swt) wills it for her, the beaming example of her inner hijab may one day manifest into an outer headscarf, but for the moment, she is my mother, and Jannah is beneath her feet <3 AlhamdulilLah.
I end with one of my favourite hadiths (narrations):
“Taqwa is not in the length of your beard, or in the layers of cloth you wear. The Prophet ﷺ said, ‘Taqwa is here,’ and he pointed to his chest.” (Reported by Muslim)
And one of my favourite ayahs (verses):
“Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has gone astray from His way, and He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided.” (Qur’an, 68:7)