Mariam Sobh is a broadcast journalist based in Chicago and founder/editor-in-chief of Hijabtrendz.com. She is also a contributor to a book of essays entitled, “I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim.” Sobh, and other authors from this collection will be talking on the UW-Madison campus on May 5th. look for more details soon on Inside Islam.
Hijab is a word in Arabic that translates into a type of “covering.”
When someone observes the rules of hijab, it typically consists of a headscarf and clothing that covers all of the body modestly, leaving only the face, hands and feet exposed.
To make things a little bit easier to remember, hijab is basically the dress code that Muslim women observe. It should be loose and not see-through. It should draw attention away from a woman’s body parts and get people to focus more on her intellect.
Of course there are differences of opinion and some might feel that hijab is more of a code of conduct and a guideline for how Muslim women should behave.
I personally understand it as something that God wanted us to do and I do it.
Because we all bring our own understanding to issues of religion, there are a plethora of interpretations, but the majority of Islamic scholars believe that Muslim women have to observe hijab by covering not only their body, but their hair as well.
It’s not to say that men don’t have to observe their own type of hijab. They do have their own modesty guidelines (though they may be rarely observed in comparison to women).
I have worn the headscarf for a very long time and I’m not going to sugarcoat things and say this is the best thing in my life. There are days when I feel like uncovering my hair when I’m outside my home because it would be so much easier to fit in.
My personal view is that it’s so hard to balance faith and life these days. There are so many distractions and responsibilities and for me; wearing this piece of fabric is the one thing that helps bring me back to my spiritual side. It’s a constant reminder that I’m different and oftentimes I think it has prevented me from getting involved in a lifestyle that may have been detrimental to my well being.
Everyone has their own reasons for why they choose to cover or not. But at the end of the day I truly believe it is a personal relationship between yourself and God. You have to find contentment with your choice and move on with life.
Wearing the headscarf can be a touchy subject among Muslim women. It’s not just from outside that we face pressure, but from within our communities as well. Some folks might feel that your personal choice is not good enough–that you should be even more conservative, while others may feel that you are too over the top and need to just observe a modest dress code without a headscarf.
I find that when I’m with friends the topic of hijab rarely comes up. Most of the time we are ultra-sensitive about it because we don’t want to offend anyone. If someone is thinking about starting to wear the headscarf or we are all venting about how hard it is to wear one and get a job–that’s pretty much when we discuss it. But no one will go out of their way to try and convince others of why the choice they made is “right.”
Do you observe hijab? Why/why not? Whether you are Muslim or not, what does modesty mean to you? Why do you think Muslim men observe hijab less than Muslim women?