No person can approach Islam without considering that glaring badge of belonging– the head-covering of women. My comments in this post refer to the physical expression of hijab– the headscarf. I won’t post evidence for it or against, nor will I cite sources supporting my position. Each person is free to research and accept what he/she wishes to accept with regard to the meaning and/or necessity of hijab.
There are two reasons hijab is such a constant and controversial subject. The first is that it carries multiple meanings that many women fail to understand. The second, and perhaps more obvious, is that hijab makes a visual, obvious and unspoken statement about a woman’s religion.
Rather than take a position for or against, I take a position at the intersection of the figure-eight, at the center, between the militant hijabis and the most liberal of liberals.
All are correct. All women are free to use hijab for whatever benefit it can bring them. If you think hijab is a spiritual practice that brings you closer to Allah, and if you wear it, or wish to wear it, then do so confidently. If you think it a requirement from Allah, then do your best to observe it. You will find support for your position, if you need support.
If you think hijab is not required, or that it does nothing to support your faith, or if you dislike it, reject it, or think it is irrelevant to your faith, then leave it– with impunity. You will find support for your position, if you need support.
If you wish to wear it only at the mosque or when you wish to advertise your Islam, know that you can do so. Head covering is not an all or nothing affair, unless you wish to make it so.
I would ask all of you to keep in mind that hijab holds multiple meanings for Muslim women. Each woman is free to use hijab– or not use it– in support of whatever meaning resonates with her. We must realize that an uncovered Muslimah is no less a Muslimah than a covered one, nor is a covered woman is more pious, more observant, or more educated than an uncovered woman. If she is more pious or educated, her status should not be inferred based on what’s on or off her head.
If we want equality and respect for women, we must recognize within our own ranks that hijab is a versatile practice, with levels of meaning. We must understand and support our sister Muslimahs, whether they practice head hijab or not. We must not forget that hijab originates as a concept, and embraces many aspects of feminine–and masculine– strength as well as modesty. With regard to practice, hijab can permeate all aspects of person’s existence, not only the head.
When head hijab can be worn, not worn, accepted, ignored, and seen without judgement, Muslims will have achieved a milestone in their ability to function effectively in Western society.