“The Tone-Up” amplifies the voices of Muslim women who have something exclusive about Muslim women to talk or rant about. In this instalment, Raheemat Rafiu addresses the misconception that the Hijab is a measure of piety.
I started wearing a Jilbab in my final year at University. The Jilbab in question was an over-the-head outer garment that I had admired for so long. It was, however, towards the end of my study that I eventually decided to start wearing it. Even though I wore the Jilbab in uni at the time, I really wasn’t close to other Jilbab-wearing Muslim women. There were very few spaces for sisters gatherings. The Hostel mosques were all under lock, so there was little or no avenue to meet and interact with other sisters, except for a few “salams” I exchanged on my way to and from lectures.
Some of the few sisters I encountered however left me in a state of shock with the hate that they spewed! These sisters literally, CURSED other women who were not wearing the Jilbab. They were so full of hate, refused to give or respond to Salam, and all they seemed to talk about was the length and breadth of other sisters’ hijabs. It was really appalling to discover that these sisters would mock other sisters who were trying to wrap their hijabs after salah. They referred to themselves as the “no-hijab-pin” ummah. After all, if you needed to pin down a scarf, then it was no longer a hijab!!!
There were so many rules attached to wearing a Jilbab… You couldn’t wear a jacket over your jilbab, because according to them, it would make you look “attractive”. Rather than put on a winter coat, you had to endure the cold! You couldn’t add a scarf as an accessory, because it would look too “fine” and draw attention. Even the “Egyptian jilbab” was not the best, because it was just too “stylish”. These rules never ended. There were so many dos and don’ts and too much “textbooky” practices. Of course, it was the men who had never worn a Jilbab that passed these fatwas. And my beloved sisters. without examining these rules, took them in good faith!
It is important to note that most of these sisters who spewed so much hate, were not initially jilbab-wearing women. They chose to wear the jilbab along the line. But one way or the other, they seemed to be deluded away from the reality that they were once like other women who did not wear the jilbab.
Wearing a jilbab was a very personal choice for me. It was convenient. It made me feel at peace, and it removed the excessive need to “look good”. I wore the Jilbab full-time for a little less than 2 years, and I loved it! Anyone who has worn a jilbab would know that it’s really comfortable. You don’t have to worry about “what to wear”. You can literally wear anything as an inner clothing, and you don’t have wardrobe malfunctions (for the most part)…It’s a very simple and elegant and flowy attire!
However, I no longer officially wear a Jilbab because it’s no longer practicable for me. Being a PhD chemistry candidate means that I get to be in a laboratory almost all the time. In a bid to avoid laboratory hazards, I had to stop wearing the jilbab, especially while at work. The weather was another reason I took it off. In Nigeria, you could literally wear the jilbab all year long, without any stress, but extreme weather conditions in the United States would not allow that.
In the extreme winter months, layering would raise the edges of my jilbab, sometimes exposing my legs even when I had a pair of socks on. It was really uncomfortable. The risk of exposing my arms while trying to remove my jacket in class, for example, was just too much to bear. So, I had to make the choice to observe modesty to the best of my ability, while preventing myself from laboratory hazards. It was my own way of “tying my camel”.
Taking off my Jilbab was also a matter of safety. I had been harassed a few times both in my Jilbab and headscarf. But my Jilbab seemed to draw a lot of negative attention. Unfortunately, in the United States, Muslim girls get killed for wearing the hijab. The culprits do not necessarily know the difference between a headscarf and a Jilbab, but in my opinion, the headscarf drew less attention.
Is the Jilbab the best form of covering I would ever wear? Oh yes, it is! I sacrificed a little too much to make this my identity, but my Lord is the best of planners, and for everything that I “lost”, he gave me so much more…in folds.
The jilbab is a beautiful piece of clothing. But should we for any reason, be hateful towards sisters who have decided not to wear it? If we keep being spiteful of the women who do not wear the Jilbab, shouldn’t that make us reflect on our own “why”? Are we truly happy to wear this piece of clothing, or does the hijab feel so much like a burden that it makes us angry with other sisters for “living the life”?
We all know the basic rules of modesty. Let us concentrate on our own personal journeys with Allah, and never ever HATE other sisters for the length, breadth and style of their hijabs.
This essay was culled from the Blog of Raheemat Rafiu. You can read more of her work here
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