I’ve been wearing hijab for almost 16 years alhamdulillah, but I’ll be the first to say I didn’t always look “modest.” In fact, like most women, hijabi or otherwise, I’ve been through many phases trying to find my own personal style and getting comfortable with my body and self. Today there is a pervasive misconception that wearing the hijab instantly renders one modest, but I couldn’t disagree more. Hijab is a concerted effort towards modesty but by no means does one wearing hijab automatically become modest. Modesty, after all, is a disposition, an ATTITUDE. You can wear hijab and act completely immodest or you can not wear hijab and exude modesty from your head to your feet.
In fact, some of the most modest women I know do not wear hijab and increasingly I’m beginning to see many girls who wear hijab yet do not dress or act very modestly. So, it’s not so black and white. In my personal life I am surrounded by beautiful Muslim women, some of them wear hijab and some of them do not. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the issue of hijab has been one of the most divisive among the women of our community. On both sides of the divide there is prejudice, judgement, misconception, disrespect and A LOT of ego. Those who wear hijab can knowingly or sometimes even unknowingly give off an air of self-righteousness as though they are the only ones with a claim on piety and modesty. Those who don’t wear hijab are often mistreated, judged or discriminated against for not doing so which elicits an often unfair negative reaction towards hijab and those who wear it.
My question is, do we not share the same faith? Are we not all blessed with the truth of this most beautiful deen? Have we not all been invited by the Lord of the Universe to testify to His truth? I don’t care if you shroud yourself in 10 yards of fabric and the only thing I see are your eyes or if you choose to dress according to all the latest fashion trends of this society– you are a Muslim woman and you are my sister.
I am NOT your judge and you are NOT mine. We need to stop the self-righteousness and instead of focusing on the issue of hijab, we should focus on the issue of modesty because that is something that applies to anyone who calls him/herself a Muslim. Modesty is about confidence. The moment you decide to live and dress modestly you are making a very strong statement to the rest of the world that as a woman, as a free-thinking, intellectual, articulate and educated HUMAN BEING, you are taking the power back from every one who has ever made you question your self-worth. Modesty is about pleasing Allah and acknowledging the fact that He knows what is better for you than anyone or anything else in creation. When we are ordered to be modest is it for no other reason but to honor us, to raise us in esteem and to protect us?
Similarly, when we are encouraged to dress immodestly is it for no other reason than to exploit us, demean us, and weaken us? Whether you currently wear hijab but don’t dress or act very modestly, want to take the next step in living modestly and wear hijab, or if you’re not quite ready to wear the hijab, what about just making a commitment to dressing with self-respect and carrying yourself with dignity and class? This is as simple as forsaking the “skinny jeans” for looser ones, the low-cut tops for a higher neckline, the tank-tops for longer sleeves, and the short skirts and dresses for longer ones. And even more importantly, this is about changing your attitude and seeing yourself as more than just a walking coat hanger full of embellishments.
It’s also important to note that those who already wear hijab and feel there is a contradiction between their appearance and behavior must not lose hope or, even worse, allow the whisperings of Shaitan to affect them by removing their hijab altogether. Shaytan is notorious for using our own insecurities, feelings of guilt, and low spiritual ebbs to push us away from Allah. We must remember that every action is judged by intention and the one who endures spiritual struggles but perseveres for the sake of Allah is rewarded more than the one whose spiritual matters are facilitated. So, ask Allah for strength and take measured and moderate steps to make the necessary changes. No matter where we are on our individual paths, we must constantly remember that the One who put us on there does absolutely nothing in vain and guidance and misguidance are His alone to decide.
Allah loves you. He created you, He fashioned you, He made you as you are and sees you wholly. His value of you is based on what you make of the beating flesh that resides in your chest; your heart is the only concern you should have with Him. And if you want to present a sound heart to Him then start thinking about what would make Him happy. The first step towards that is a commitment to changing anything that would displease Him. Immodesty displeases Him. So, my beautiful Muslim sisters, hijabi and non-hijabi, let us renew our faith and love in Him and commit to living and dressing modestly. Which is not just an issue of the fabric or lack of on our heads but is an issue of ATTITUDE, of disposition, and ultimately seeking the pleasure of the only One who truly matters.I love you all and sincerely wish you the best in this world and the next.
Authored by Hosai Mojaddidi
Sister Hosai Mojaddidi is the co-founder of the Mental Health 4 Muslims Blog. She started MH4M with Dr. Nafisa Sekandari because she is passionate about providing a unique and tailored approach to mental health support and recognizes the desperate need for such a service in the Muslim community. Sister Hosai has been actively involved with the Muslim community in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 10 years. Working with several non-profit organizations and as a Qur’an teacher over the years, afforded her the wonderful opportunity to meet hundreds of Muslims from different backgrounds and in the process develop many deep and lasting relationships both personally and professionally. She was also able to gauge the mental health issues of the larger community firsthand after having served as a private mediator, advisor and mentor to many.