Another popular influencer has removed her hijab which has brought back the polemic about muslim public figures on social media and how they influence the new generation when it comes to religious practices.
I have to admit that whenever it happens and they post their first picture scarf less, I can’t help but read the comments that come with it. Disappointed followers express how the sister in question was a role model for them and inspired them to keep wearing their own hijab.
So today I wanted to talk to the dear sisters who are currently struggling with their scarf and who are wondering if they should remove it or not.
I’ve travelled enough to see how the culture of a country impacts the reasons why we make that jump and the way we wear the hijab so let me start by sharing my personal story. Maybe you’ll feel grateful for being born in your country, maybe you’ll relate to what I’m saying and will feel less lonely.
As you guys might know, I was born and raised in France. My parents are Moroccan and they made sure Islamic values and practices were part of our education alhamdulillah. However, I only truly felt connected to Allah when I was 20 and living alone, 400 kms from my family, for my studies. That’s when I started praying consistently and really grew an interest for tafseer, hadiths, the seerah of the Prophet (pbuh)… I always had imaan (faith in God), I was just missing practise and knowledge.
It only took a couple of months for me to start thinking about covering myself. I was worried about how it would change my life but the desire to wear a scarf became stronger with time so I decided to ask my university’s director if I could legally do it. This might sound weird to you but in France, wearing the hijab, or as they officially call it “external signs of religion”, is forbidden in certain establishments. I grew up almost NEVER seeing muslim women wearing headscarves at work, in both the public and private sector. Even my mum had to swap her hijab for a bandana while working as a cleaning lady.
For the record, I haven’t lived in France for the past 6 years so I don’t know what it is like now, but this is how it was for us back then.
My university was really small, it actually looked more like a high school, everyone knew everyone so I knew that if I started covering my hair, I would become the first and only one and consequently the centre of attention for a bit. I had to be sure the law was on my side beforehand, hence me asking the director. Once I got the green light from him, I went for it, relieved and happy to be able to practise my faith as I wanted.
After that, I did notice that some professors who used to love me started ignoring me. It was a bit disturbing but I thought I was just being paranoid and moved on.
One day though, my head teacher called me in her office in the middle of one of my classes. I thought something big happened but she just asked me random questions that could have waited. When I got up to leave the room, she added “oh, and by the way, could you please remove that?” while pointing at my scarf. I was so puzzled by her question, you guys should have seen my face. I then asked her what that request was about and she explained to me that some of her colleagues were not comfortable with my hijab, to which I answered that it was not my problem and that I intended to use my right to wear it without caring about professors’ personal opinion.
I put up a strong face in front of her but imagine how disappointed I was. It suddenly all made sense to me, I knew exactly who she was talking about. One of my favourite professor stopped acknowledging me and letting me participate in class, I could tell she was unhappy with my new lifestyle change, but to go as far as teaming up with my head teacher and setting a fake meeting to ask me to remove it? How petty of them. They were both strong women, with feminist values so I expected better of them.
This is just an example of things that would regularly happen when I became a hijabi in France. To get a student job I had to remove my scarf for interviews and when I got a position in a restaurant, I knew I would also have to sacrifice what I now considered to be a part of me for 12 hours each week. My faith grew stronger nonetheless, as well as my resentment towards my country’s close minded mentality.
I put up with the mean looks in the bus, with the security agent following me at the supermarket, with the cashier and the baker not replying my good mornings. I put up with all that nonsense because I knew why I was wearing my scarf. It was for Allah and Allah only. I felt amazing in my spirituality and nothing could shake that.
The reason why I’m telling you all this is not to complain about my beloved birth country and its limiting beliefs on what freedom of practising your religion is. It’s to show you that in religion, like in anything in life, what matters is not how you do things but why. The intention behind an act is more important than the act itself in Islam, we all know that.
So if you are in a phase of your life where you’re wondering what’s the point of wearing your hijab, I want you to ask yourself some questions and answer them with honesty.
Why did you start wearing the hijab in the first place?
Was it for cultural reasons? If yes, what could help you make it more of a personal choice? How can you regain the control over that choice?
How can you get closer to your Creator so that culture becomes a detail in your decision to wear your hijab?
If you feel lost and don’t know who you are anymore, I know how tempting it can be to remove it to “start fresh”. You might be thinking that your practise doesn’t reflect how you look and that it’s hypocritical of you to cover yourself when you don’t even pray anymore for example.
In that case, ask yourself: will removing my hijab take me further from Allah and open the doors for more sins or the opposite?
We both know what the answer to that question is but sometime we forget how much of a protection the hijab is. It’s not just a piece of fabric. If you adopt the lifestyle that comes with it, it protects you from going to the wrong places, from being approached by men with bad intentions, from sinning publicly because, as hijabis, we represent Islam whether we want it or not, especially in front of non Muslims.
However, when it comes to influencers, I think we’ve given them more responsibilities than they can handle. Most of them don’t talk about religion, they’re not out there claiming to be spiritual guides. They talk lifestyle, fashion, parenting… So I can confidently say that I admire Dina for her sense of style, I like Amena for her ambition and business skills, I love Haifa for her positive attitude and good vibes, I follow Ascia for the vulnerability she shows in her interviews.
But for religious inspiration, Allah has given us the best female role models and those are none other than the wives of the Prophets (pbuh) and the sahabiyat (ra), his companions. Whether it was in their character or their behaviour, they were THE best of people because they lived amongst and followed the best of us, Mohammed (pbuh).
And I see you coming already, you’re gonna say that we don’t have as much access to information about the sahabiyat as we do for modern days influencers and I want to disagree on this one. They are thousands and thousands of hadiths, surely we can find inspiring ones about women. There are also many books about the subject like Great women of Islam: who were given the good news of paradise by Mahmood Ahmad Ghadanfar and Shaykh Safiu Rahman Al Mubarakpuri.
Those are the resources we should use when it comes to finding religious role models. These are the women we should look up to to practice our religion.
Sure, we don’t get visuals of how they used to wear the hijab but a lot of scholars dedicated time to study that subject. There’s a very interesting lecture about it on bayyinahtv.com in which Nouman Ali Khan goes in the detail of what hijab means, the different ways of covering and their origins… I’ve learnt so much while watching it and I encourage you to check it out if you’re subscribed to bayyinah TV. That’s the type of content that can truly be motivating spiritually and it’s not that hard to find those books, lectures, videos…
So I invite you to review who your role models are when it comes to your religious practice at the moment, maybe you need different and more appropriate influencers in that field.
In the end, wearing the hijab is truly a journey, the way we do it evolves with time. What matters is that it brings you closer to God.
If you’re still struggling to decide whether to remove yours or not, don’t hesitate to talk to your hijabi friends about it. I’m sure they had the same doubts as you, there’s no shame in having those thoughts. And if you don’t have a support system that understand you fully, I’m always here to talk! As long as you’re aware that you’re not alone in this.
Take care of yourself and your soul.