So, why do you wear that scarf?
I’ve been asked that question a hundred times, but sometimes still fumble for an answer. The typical answer from a Muslim woman may include references to anything from verses in the Quran, modesty, chastity, protection, self-respect, even analogies of covered jewels. We know that hijab does not define a Muslim woman and is only one aspect of her obedience to God, but it gets 90% of the attention whether we like it or not. A lot rests in our answers—not so much as individuals but as a community of women.
If you stripped away every expectation and by-product of hijab, whether super-imposed or imagined in your own head, what are you left with? Shallow reasons are just not enough to weather storms ahead. There’s got to be something powerful there, something compelling that would drive a woman to stand out in the crowds and put on clothing every day that marks her as a target of controversy and criticism.
Whether the act of putting on your scarf everyday is a conscious statement, a habit, or a clinging to the scaffolding of Islamic obligations, we can all benefit from infusing our hijab with purpose and trying to make it, as much as we can, an expression of the beating, struggling heart inside. As wearing hijab becomes increasingly controversial, maybe we are the generation of women who will have to redefine hijab as an exclusive conversation between a woman and her Creator, in which no one else may interject. In choosing to wear the scarf only to please God, a Muslim woman frees submission of all of its perceived docility and imbues it instead with fearlessness.
For God. Because He created me and knows what is best for me. Because I would do absolutely anything for Him, The Giver of Peace, The All-Knowing, The Kind.
It is as simple as that, but may not always seem so in the fog of my weakness. When I grab two safety pins, a bandana, and a gauze scarf before I walk out the door, it’s an act of devotion that no one else can interpret or take away. But as any other act of worship, it is an expression of the woman inside and we may not be saying the same thing everyday. Some days I wear it with pride, knowing that I will be recognized as a Muslim and feeling privileged that I was chosen for this act of obedience. Some days I feel the modesty, protection, and recognition that hijab gives me. Other times, I can only think how hot the weather is. I complain, but remember that He knows best what I will endure today.
Still other days, maybe I am not feeling it. Am I wearing it for the right reasons? I reach for the scarf in automation… perhaps even hesitation. Maybe I am afraid of what they will think if I wear it and what they will think if I don’t. Maybe I am tired of always performing, being judged, and being strange. As if women did not have enough to deal with in this world, and God knows we are no superheroes.
Still, we reach for the scarf, knowing that even the reaching is a gesture, however soft and slight, to God.