The Hijab: my veil, my choice

by Malak Chabkoun – Staff Writer, The Sagamore
March 23, 2004

Summer is just around the corner, and that means it's time for the fun, parties, beaches, and the questions. Every year, as summer nears, I get into gear to answer a lot of, "Aren't you hot??" or, "How can you be dressed like that when it's 90 degrees outside? I would never do it if I didn't have to!" or, "Man, you should take all those clothes off in this heat, you're in America now, you don't have to dress like that anymore!"

Ever since I made the decision, yes, I chose this by my own will, to wear the Hijab, the Muslim women's veil and long dress, I've gotten a lot of looks, remarks, and well-meant advice.

But, see, the thing is, I was born in Little Rock, Ark. I moved to Indiana when I was about two-years-old. The way I dress has nothing to do with where I'm from and everything to do with what God has commanded the Muslim women with.

When I was getting ready to enter fifth grade, I begged and pleaded with my parents to wear the Hijab. They said I was too young. I said I was ready to do it. In the end, they relented, and it's been a decade now that I've been wearing the Hijab, and I haven't looked back.

In fact, rather than limiting me, the Hijab has given me freedom. It has allowed me to build myself as a woman and to focus on my inner-self rather than my outer appearance. Don't get me wrong, outer appearance matters too, but it doesn't matter one bit if there is nothing substantial inside. I haven't been prevented from going to school and getting an education or working because I am wearing the Hijab or because I am a Muslim woman.

Women were not created by God to be looked down upon or stepped on by men. They were not created to be slaves to what their society imposes on them. They were created by God to better society and to nurture future generations. God gave women the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to contribute to society meaningfully, long before men gave these rights to them through man-made systems.

It is true that many women may be oppressed by men, but Islam is not responsible for this oppression. In the Quran, Allah says, "There is no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from error.?" Therefore, in Islam one cannot be forced to follow the religious guidelines, if someone is being forced, it is mere culture that is doing this.

Not only that, Hijab is a reflection of faith and the choice should be in the hands of the woman herself. If she fully accepts Islam, she has chosen to accept this tenant of religion as well.

Before Islam, the women who lived in the Arabian Peninsula had no rights, they were the property of their husbands as were goats and cattle. Then, Islam came by way of a prophet, and God restored to women their rights, and made them honored and esteemed members of society. In fact, as the Prophet Muhammad delivered his Last Sermon to the people, he gave them a reminder, "Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.

One time, a woman came to the Prophet Muhammad complaining about her husband's treatment towards her, and Allah revealed a whole chapter of the Quran, titled the Woman Who Pleads, acknowledging her complaint and giving her reassurance.

Incidences such as these were not uncommon during the early Islamic period, women had been suffering at the hands of men for a long period of time and early Islamic leaders worked hard to make sure the oppression stopped. For this reason, when I hear about a woman being oppressed in a so-called Muslim country, I know that this while the act may be done in the name of Islam, it has nothing to do with what this religion is built on.

Just as there is a stereotype that most Americans are materialistic, there is a stereotype that most Muslim women are forced to wear the Hijab. When you speak, however, to a Muslim woman, you will more than likely find she is proud to be obeying God and no one else in choosing to dress the way she does.

Because I know the true foundations of Islam, I don't view my veil and long dress as awkward or demeaning. I view it as a protection of that which God has given me, a protection of my physical and mental capacities.

The veil has given me self-respect and allowed me to value myself as a woman. My Hijab may cover my hair, but it opens my mind.

Extracted 03/26/04 from The Sagamore


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