World Hijab Day Special: Wear the Label


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Tasneem Vali

Writer at Learn to Laugh
Tasneem Vali is an architect, independent writer/editor and volunteer with ICNA and Guider, Girl Guides, Canada.

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Image courtesy http://hijabforall.blogspot.com/

Image courtesy http://hijabforall.blogspot.com/

When Prophet Muhammad (sa) started preaching ‘the Message’, the initial three years in Makkah were a secretive form of Dawah. The Prophet (sa) selected people based on their character and inclination to accept Islam. The six early years resulted in only 40 Muslims, yet they are the foremost, as-Sabiqoon al-Awwaloon.

I volunteer at my kids’ elementary school twice a week. This is the best Dawah I can do, using my personality, knowledge and temperament to initiate a dialogue about Islam. I pray to Allah (swt) before I approach anyone.

I live in a country with a majority population of non-Muslims, just like Makkah in the preliminary stages of Dawah. I asked my daughter’s grade four teacher, a Christian, about World Hijab Day during a recent discussion.

“Yes, I’ve heard of it,” she says. “From what I have noticed about you, you wear the Hijab, and it is not a costume but a lifestyle choice, am I right?”

“It is a lifestyle but not a choice; there are clear rules for men and women to cover themselves,” I reply.

“Then why would you celebrate a ‘day’? To me that means it is a costume one puts on for a period, like Halloween.”

The impetus behind World Hijab Day might be, “to introduce the world and non-Muslims, in particular, what it feels like to wear Hijab.” In reality, this reduces Hijab to a mere prop in a play, to be put on or taken off whenever you feel like it. 

Our conversation continues, but she has a point. When we delegate a ‘day’ for something, it becomes special for that particular day, like Mother’s day, Father’s Day, birthdays, Valentine’s Day etc… Are we ready to limit Hijab to only one day out of 365?

When they ruled and conquered the world, Muslims adopted local practices. This is reflected in Islamic architecture, art, literature and cuisine. In fact, when Muslims learned during their campaigns into China’s borderlands that two of their prisoners of war knew how to make paper, they sent these two POW’s under special guard back to the Khaleefah so Muslims could benefit from this knowledge, just as the Prophet (sa) did after Badr. We must embrace change, but not to the extent that it redefines our core values.

The impetus behind World Hijab Day might be, “to introduce the world and non-Muslims, in particular, what it feels like to wear Hijab.” In reality, this reduces Hijab to a mere prop in a play, to be put on or taken off whenever you feel like it. Wearing Hijab just because everyone is doing it trivializes it. I asked my non-Muslim friend, a university student about World Hijab Day. She didn’t know about it, but said, “It’s like I am wearing a label. So I wear Hijab, but I am dressed in my usual clothes, I eat ham and I drink wine. Would that be acceptable representation? Now, people think I am Muslim because I look like one, and they then perceive everything I do and assess your faith. Would you like that?”

I ask you the very same question. Wearing Hijab is a ‘branding’ of the Muslim woman, to use a marketing term. Therefore, everyone wearing one is now representing Islam, which is the reality of the way our world functions. Ibn Khaldun in his Muqaddimah says: “…the vanquished always want to imitate the victor in his distinctive mark(s), his dress, his occupation, and all his other conditions and customs.” Are we so easily deceived, that wearing a Hijab, a mark of honour for women, has become a mere ‘custom/costume’ that must be shared with others because they can experience its ‘exotic’ feel.

Celebrating World Hijab Day in countries where the majority is Muslims is flippant. Would you advocate a ‘Salah Day’ so people can ‘feel’ what it is like to pray five times a day? 

Prophet Muhammad (sa) never used this kind of Dawah to invite the Quraish or the other desert tribes toward Allah’s (swt) message. Recall the explanation of Surah Kafirun given by Sayyid Qutb – In the Shade of the Quran: “When Muhammad (peace be upon him) declared his religion to be that of Abraham, they (Quraish) argued that there was no reason for them to forsake their beliefs and follow Muhammad’s instead, since they too were of the same religion. In the meantime, they sought a sort of compromise with him proposing that he should prostrate himself before their deities in return for their prostration to his God… To clear up this muddle,…this sūrah was revealed in such a decisive, assertive tone. “Say: ‘Unbelievers! I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what I worship. I shall never worship what you worship, nor will you ever worship what I worship. You have your own religion and I have mine.” (Al-Kafirun 1-6).

Celebrating World Hijab Day in countries where the majority is Muslims is flippant. Would you advocate a ‘Salah Day’ so people can ‘feel’ what it is like to pray five times a day? Hijab, covering one’s hair and chest, is an obligation; there is no opinion of any scholar that will contradict the Quran’s requirements. By relegating an obligation to a ‘day’, and asking people to ‘try’ it out defeats the purpose.

This is my humble opinion. May Allah forgive me if I have hurt people’s feelings, but I am uncompromising about confining Hijab to only a ‘day’. It is the ultimate label. Wearing it makes me a symbol for Muslim women everywhere. Hijab is not a costume; it is my ATTITUDE!

  1. Salam alaikum,
    It was an interesting article with a different take on WHD.
    In my opinion the incident about Surah Kafiroon is probably not the right way to explain this day off since WHD is not about letting them bring their beliefs into Islam and us leaving some of our beliefs. It is also not about just a day.It’s about letting other ladies who do not wear the hijab to walk in our shoes before passing judgement. This way they get to learn about the challenges that we might face but we still choose to wear it because it is a commandment of Allah. It is not for muslim ladies, because they know it’s not for a day but a commandment of Allah as a lifestyle. Furthermore, it might give muslim ladies the courage to try it on for a day and inshaAllah might give them confidence to wear it permanently.
    All in all, I think it’s always good to see an issue from a different perspective.

    • JazakAllah for your insight Humaira, but as you can read in the article it’s not about wearing on a head covering, it’s about the attitude that goes with it. Wearing a head covering in this day and age is acceptable almost anywhere, (Quebec is fighting for niqab)…
      So just by trying on the scarf, they do not experience the entire spectrum of emotions/ adversities etc…
      WHD is leaving our way of life, it is delegating a ‘day’ to a commandment, that is not our way. Our way is the entire package, everyday, alhamdulillah
      And Yes, Islam is all about accommodating different perspectives…

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