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’Hijaab Scrutinised. The Social ’Hijaab:The slaves of Allaah & The Slaves of the Society (Part 2/4)

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In this series, Hayat Alyaqout scrutinises the ’hijaab and touches upon several themes such as the religious authenticity of the ’hijaab, the overlap between the ’hijaab as a religious practice and the ’hijaab as a social practice, how men have their own ’hijaab too, and the philosophy of the ’hijaab in relation to the social notion of beauty.


Noticing the Dichotomy

Many Muslims and non-Muslims always bring up examples of women who wear the ’hijaab and in the same time lack a lot ethically and intellectually. The immediate and usual answer most of us usually if not always use is that “mixing between the idea (religion) and the practice (believers’ actions) is not healthy”, that “there is a gap between what is present and what should be”, and that “generalisation leads to intellectual immobilisation.” These are all defensive and justificatory clichés, and if we really want to think soundly, we should not then deny that the ’hijaab is blemished or find justification for that, but we rather need an honest and objective quest to know why was it blemished and how it can be remedied.

Decoding the Dichotomy

The ’hijaab, just like many aspects of Islaam, can have a “social version”; there could be social prayer in which the performer prays not for Allaah’s sake but for the sake of society and the same can be extended to fasting and charity giving. In the case of the ’hijaab another dimension can be added; some society see the ’hijaab is a tradition that women should wear not because it has a deep philosophy, but because a woman is a devilish creature because of whom Adam (peace be upon him) was kicked out of the heaven and thus should be concealed, excluded, curbed and curtailed. This mindset apparently cannot convince women with its twited philosophy of the ’hijaab and it thus imposes it on them. In this case, donning the ’hijaab become an act of submission to not Allah, but to the oppressive backward societal expectations.

It’s a psychological axiom that when a person is forced to do something he/she is not willing or convinced to do and he/ she cannot untether himself/ herself of it, then the person – on a subconscious level most of the time – seeks to destroy and tarnish the reputation of that imposed practise. And that what explains why some ’hijaabi women code of ethics is cacophonous to Islaam’s regulations. That’s how the dichotomy builds up and comes to life.

The ’hijaab has two intertwined sides: a way of dressing, and an understanding to why this way of dressing is practised. In the social ’hijaab the first side only is present and the mayhem begins here for “seeing Is believing” and with the proliferation of the social ’hijaab people start building stereotypes and impressioms about the ’hijaab, and when it comes to impressions, we do not have a second chance to make a first impression.

Might is not always right, and the ’hijaab that is imposed by the some ironclad social traditions should not be differentiated from the ’hijaab that is imposed by the power of the law; both of them lead to the same dire consequences. Allaah in the Holy ’Qura~n says, “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from Error” (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] chapter of Alba’qarah, verse 256). It is thus not acceptable that any religious practise on the individual level is imposed; imagine that people are forced to pray or fast against their wills, this would be the easiest way to create grudgegful hypocrites who would eventually spare not effort to revenge for their confiscated will. The philosophy of the otherworldly reward in the heaven is that we human beings had a relative will in this life, and if we employ it in the right way, we are then rewarded in the heaven by grating us a greater level of will by which we can wish for anything we want and it comes true, “We are your protectors in this life and in the Hereafter: therein you shall have all that your souls shall desire; therein you shall have all that ye ask for.” (The Holy ’Qura~n, [T.M.Q.] chapter of Fu’sillat, verse 31). So, it’s people’s right to choose for they are the ones who will either be rewarded or punished for their actions which should be voluntary.

Why Survive While You Can Thrive?

Nothing dispels the awful stereotypes that encircles the ’hijaab better than leadership by example. Those women who wear the ’hijaab and are convinced with what they do should get out of their shells and market the ’hijaab! The ’hijaab is the path of emancipation that enables women not only survive in a materialistic world, but also to thrive. ’Hijaabi women can be independent, successful and active not in spite of their ’hijaab but by the virtue of it.

In the Next Issues:

Part 3: Men’s ’Hijaab: Justice Not Equity
Part 4: The Beauty of ’Hijaab in Concealing “Beauty”

Hayat Alyaqout -

Hayat Alyaqout [’Hayaat Alyaa’qoot] is a freelance writer and the editor-in-chief of Nashiri E-publishing House. She earned a summa cum laude for her B.A. in political science and English language from Kuwait University.Read More >>

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Last Updated on Sunday, 23 August 2009 22:43  

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