The Hijab is a Part of Muslim Women’s Identity الأستاذة نضيرة بريوة

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The Hijab is a Part of Muslim Women’s Identity

Everyone knows about the extent ofdifficult challenges faced by Muslims in the world, due to cultural, intellectual, social and religious intrusions by the West. In fact, this cultural imperialism affects the Muslims negatively including the Muslim identity. In addition to the emergence ofwestern ideologies such as globalization, secularism and other systematic methods of westernizing the Muslim life, the West has been trying to influence the Muslim women in particular in many ways. For instance, the emergence of “feminism” among Muslim women, following the western feminist tradition, without proper awareness of how Islam perceives women, often leads many Muslim women from the virtuous Islamic path.  Thus, feminism negatively impacts Muslim women‘s uniqueness, and induces them to reject the basic religious practices of Islam due to their illusive quest for “freedom” and the desire for a modern lifestyle. Consequently, wearing the hijabhas been deemed as a form of oppression and as old fashioned. This essay sheds light on the challenges faced by Muslim women wearing the hijab,the hijab’s significance in Islam and the way we could keep true to Islamic dress codes.

      First, the challenges faced by Muslim women living in the West for wearing the hijab. The hijab, nowadays, is associated with assumptions like terrorism, fundamentalism and extremism, especially after the 9/11 event. In terms of association of the hijab with “terrorism”, Muslim women who wear the hijab, and in particular those who live in the West, are sometimes perceived as “terrorists”, as “dangerous” and “violent” women. Muslim women who wear the hijab are also deemed as “fundamentalists,” who do not change their lifestyle. Thus, they have been considered as traditional women of the “desert”, who know nothing about fashion and up-to-date lifestyle. Furthermore, the hijab, among some of women, including some Muslim women who adapt to or assimilate in the western cultural mainstream, is seen as a “material object” that refers to ‘nothing’ but extremism because of their ignorance. For instance, in the western eyes, Muslim women who wear the hijab are considered as oppressed by Islam and, in particular, by Muslim men. However, the association of the hijab with “oppression” is only a propaganda used by western women to serve their ideology but, in fact, the position of women in Islam, their history and culture are totally different from western women’s background. Similarly, Muslim women wearing the hijab are also deemed as extremists. In regard to extremism, even some Muslim women link the hijab to extremism due to their cultural, traditional, customary, and even, intellectual backgrounds. What is more, some “blind” Muslim women who embrace the ideology of feminism believe that the hijab is a “material object” that hides their beauty. In sum, Muslim women who wear the hijab, especially those who in the West, face numerous challenges due to negative assumptions associated with it.

Consequently, some Muslim women, unfortunately, give up wearing the hijab, and accept the modern way of life.  Today, most Muslim women either do not wear the hijab or wear it incompletely; they cover their heads with scarves in different modern styles and cover their bodies with clothes that do not show decency and modesty required in Islamic dress. Nowadays, the hijab is not deemed as part of a Muslim woman’s identity which is as important a practice as the other religious rituals, such as the daily prayers and fasting during the month of Ramadan. Furthermore, despite the differences between women and men due to physical, psychological and religious reasons, Muslim women struggle to be equal to men by removing the hijab, arguing that the hijab is an obstacle to freedom, especially after the emergence of ‘feminism’ in the West. Hence, the rise of feminism among Muslim women makes the latter to consider the hijab as a “material object” that limits their freedom. What is more, feminism makes women dress like men, and an indicator of this is that many Muslim women and girls, nowadays, wear t-shirts and trousers.

However, the hijab is a part of a Muslim woman,it is a part of her religion and it is a part of her identity. The hijab is compulsory in Islam based on the following explicit Quranic verses: an-Nur: 31, 60 and al-Ahzab: 59, which advise women to wear the hijab:


“وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَى جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الأِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَى عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ وَلا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِنْ زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعاً أَيُّهَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ”  النور/31

“وَالْقَوَاعِدُ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ اللَّاتِي لا يَرْجُونَ نِكَاحاً فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْهِنَّ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ يَضَعْنَ ثِيَابَهُنَّ غَيْرَ مُتَبَرِّجَاتٍ بِزِينَةٍ وَأَنْ يَسْتَعْفِفْنَ خَيْرٌ لَهُنَّ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ”  النور/60

“يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلابِيبِهِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَنْ يُعْرَفْنَ فَلا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُوراً رَحِيماً” الأحزاب/59

The above verses prove the compulsion of the hijabin Islam.Thus, Muslim women should not wait for others to tell them whyandhow to wear the hijab. They should not also wait for others to teach them to show commitment to the Islamic dress. However, the awareness of the hijab’s importance in Muslim women’s life should be enhanced as the hijabdefines not only the Muslim women’s outer selves but also their inner selves. They need to improve their religious self-esteem to keep true to the hijab. To do so, theyshould read the primary sources of Islam – the Quran and the Sunnah–to have a “transparent knowledge” which helps distinguish the correct perception of the hijab as a sign of faith and modesty from assumptions that are associated with it by its critics.

To conclude, the hijabis a symbol of Muslim women’s religious conviction, identity, means of protection and a way to be closer to Allah. To them, it is empowering, spiritually fulfilling and also a standard of beauty. Hijab-wearing Muslim women are also confidently anchored in their faith and culture. They refuse to fit in the up-to-date fashion and prioritise their faith over the craze of fad.

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