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 HIJAB: Unveiling the mystery?

HIJAB: Unveiling the mystery?

American Muslim women today are rediscovering the pristine Islam as revealed by Allah, God, to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, more than 1,400 years ago but without any
of the contradictions of ancestral culture. Consequently they are essentially engaging in a life-long exercise of rediscovering their own selves – what it means to be a human, a Muslim, and more so, a Muslim woman. Wearing the Divinely Mandated hijab, the veil or head covering, as a part of their everyday dresses is among the first steps toward this rediscovery.

In a society which shamelessly publicly exposes a woman’s body and intimate requirements where nudity somehow symbolizes the expression of a woman’s freedom and where the most lustful desires of men are fulfilled unchecked – it is little wonder such an introspection leads many Muslim women to the decision to wear hijab

However, generalizations about Islam and Muslims are replete in today’s media and, by extension, in the minds of many Americans who shape their image of the world through the media. Veiled Muslim women are typically unfairly stigmatized. They are regarded on the one hand as suppressed and oppressed, and on the other, as fanatics and fundamentalists. Both depictions are grossly wrong and imprecise. Such portrayals not only misrepresent these women’s strong feelings towards hijab, but also fail to acknowledge their courage and the resulting identity hijab lends to them.

Amongst such misconceptions is also the belief that any Muslim woman who wears hijab is forced to do so. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the final determination to wear hijab is often not easily reached. Days of meditation, an inevitable fear of consequences and reactions, and ultimately, plenty of courage weigh heavily in reaching the decision. Wearing hijab is a very personal and independent decision, coming from appreciating the wisdom underlying Allah’s command and a sincere wish to please Him.

"I believe hijab is pleasing to Allah, or I wouldn’t wear it. I believe there is something deep down beautiful and dignified about it. It has brought some beautiful and joyous dimension to my life that always amaze me," said Mohja Kahf, assistant professor of English and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, in an internet posting.

"To me hijab is a gift from Allah. It gives me the opportunity to become closer to Allah. Also quite importantly, (it provides me) the chance to stand and be recognized as a Muslim," Fariha Khan, 18, of Rockville, Maryland, said.

However, with this recognition comes tremendous responsibility as highly visible representatives of Islam and Muslims. Anywhere covered sisters go, Muslims and non-Muslims alike recognize them as followers of Islam. In a land where misinformation about Islam and Muslims abounds, Muslim sisters have the opportunity to portray Islam in its true light.

But the greatest responsibility related to hijab is the understanding that there is more to hijab than just the scarf; the internalized modesty really matters. This internal moral system gives meaning to the external scarf. This can be perceived from the overall demeanor of any Muslim woman – how she acts, dresses, speaks, and so on. Only when the internalized modesty manifests itself through the external hijab can sisters represent Muslims according to the beautiful example set by the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and followed by his companions.

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