From the Old Blog: The Hijab as a Symbol

Early in the summer, I reached an all time low in my iman and aqeedah. I lived a privately tortured existence as I tried to sort out my thoughts and emotions regarding Islam and my place in it. In utter disbelief and shock, I found myself whispering the shahaddah on a number occasions as I often found myself outside of the fold and into kufr.

Perhaps I was suffering from a drawn out and insidous condition called Salafi burnout. The term is believed to have originated from Shaik Abdal Hakeem Murad in his essay Islamic Spirituality: The Forgotten Revolution (READ THIS!!).  Indeed, my burnout has been a slow process taking place over a number of years as I realized that I somehow lost myself in this charade to be a “good Muslim”. 

I’ve lost myself before, well over a decade ago, as I found myself in a cloud of addiction and emptiness. I fought my way out of it and really this experience has been no different. To lose your very personality, at your own doing, is a bleak and depressive condition indeed.

So I’ve found that I can still be a Muslim and maintain that which is integral to my happiness and mental health: intellectualism and spirituality. In fact, I found that our history is rich with these two concepts although presently most Muslims and the ummah as a whole are bankrupt of the wealth that lies therein.  This does not concern me in the slightest, as I have found that my relationship with God is not dependent or exclusive to our collectively miserable and loathsome condition.  Nor does the fact that many will shun me and shake their heads in disgust when I say that I now belong to the group that, if you had to put a label on it, would be called “progressive” or  “reformist” Muslims.  I do fear real life reprisals and social outcasting, but will gladly face that fear in exchange for my own integrity and dignity.

So that leads me to the hijab.  I’m seriously considering taking it off. I feel that it is somehow a remnant of a more conservative me, a me that no longer exists. I’m on the fence about whether or not it is truly obligatory, but that doesn’t even matter in the end. Somehow I feel the need to strip down, down to my bare bones, and start this thing over, starting at the foundation and working my way up.

And yet, this piece of cloth has such a hold on me. It’s a powerful symbol. One that’s politicized by non-Muslims and even more so by Muslims. Somehow my self worth is all tied up in it, as silly as I know this is. Somehow to take it off would be closing a door to a part of my being that has been a good part of my identity for the better part of the last seven and a half years. 

And so I continue to mull and struggle, when really I just want to be free of it.



Filed under feminism, hijab, Islam, spirituality, ummah

21 responses to “From the Old Blog: The Hijab as a Symbol

  1. You do not need to belong to any sort of group to know you are a good Muslimah. Just be a good person and that is good enough for Allah swt. Everyone has their own way of veiwing Islam, whats beautiful is that we all fit in this fold of Islam because God accepts us all the way we are. I don't want you to get involved with reformists because I belive they are trying to change the literal word of God to something that would suit their own way of thinking. Cant they just let it be? If they are so disturbed by the meaning, and feel that it needs to be changed, why do they belive it in the first place?!?Subhan'Allah. Just be you. religion might be complicated but God isnt. Put your trust in him Insha'Allah.

  2. Oh and I might add.. i went through the same faze of doubting the Hijab. As a result I took it off, only to realise that I had done the biggest mistake in my life and that it was obligatory. I learned it was obligatory because I noticed all these different men approaching me for the wrong reasons, (flirting) and I was tumbling downhill. I used to look at Hijabis and think "Im pretty sure, they are protected from all this crap" because I knew that bad men are not attracted to women who are covered and fear God. I knew that this is what God wanted for women, he wanted to protect us from men staring at us like wolves, he wanted to protect us from the men that HE CREATED and therefore knew what controls them and what wouldnt.I had a longggggggggggggg journey to discovering Hijab is Fard and I am so glad sis. Please dont take it off. I regret what I did so much, even though I wear Niqab now, I kind of hate myself for what I did…May Allah swt forgive me.

  3. I really think it's great that you are so self aware. It's a difficult decision because of how much emphasis people put on hijab for Muslim women, but in the end it's your head and your life and your decision.

  4. It is not just a silly thing love, it has become a powerful part of your identity. I can understand the dilemma you must feel. Exercise your choice, take it off and if it feels better so be it. If you miss it then by all means put it back on. It is a choice to be made and it is not black and white. There is gray in-between. Removing it does not have to mean forever, just as putting it on does not have to mean forever. Hijab is all about what it means to you, what it symbolizes for you.I support your choice either way sis.

  5. Sounds like how I was a few years ago. I felt like if I wear hijab I was pretending to be more religious than I was. You have to do what is best for you. Anisah

  6. I've been through something similar. I just waited it out, the feeling passed, and I was happy that I didn't give in to the temptation to take it off. My islamic views aren't the same as they were when I first put hijab on, but I believe that I still live a better life with my hijab on.

  7. First I want to preface this with a great big masha'Allah. So many sisters have given good, beneficial advice I am not sure what else I can or should add but I do feel I need to comment.Sis I pray that Allah swt helps heal your heart and guides you on the correct path. I would encourage you to speak with someone of knowledge and compassion who can help you work through any issues or problems you might be having. Sometimes I know I am wrong simply by the number of people who try to convince me I'm right. If there's a serious issue I'm having doubts about and yet they can be so sure it's right, that's a red flag for me. Please be cautious of who you turn to for nasiha; when we are sinning we want others with us so we don't feel so alone and ashamed and our advice isn't always helpful or correct. I do not judge you anymore than you judge me, sis. We all must strive please Allah swt and I cannot say I am a better muslimah because I wear hijab. Only Allah knows who is successful in this life and who is not.I do know I am proud to wear my hijab because it's both a symbol and a reminder. A symbol to the world: I am Muslimah, hear me roar! I can give dawah by being kind, helpful and respectful. I feel I would miss out on so many great opportunities to help educate others.It also reminds me to be modest and God-fearing in my daily life. It's my reminder that I am a Muslim and I do not belong to myself but that I am a slave to Allah. Oh and it hides my double chin. LOL 😉 Ma salaama sis…

  8. So I've found that I can still be a Muslim and maintain that which is integral to my happiness and mental health: intellectualism and spirituality. In fact, I found that our history is rich with these two concepts although presently most Muslims and the ummah as a whole are bankrupt of the wealth that lies therein.I absolutely hear you. I had a very similar discussion with my closest friend about this last night. I've been feeling almost jealous of the innocent faith that many in my family have, and that I also once shared.You know, that time when one believes that muslims are perfect and its so easy to play the part of the salafist without question? Music haram? no problem. Mother's day haram? no problem. Until the day you wake up and, as you've mentioned, you've lost yourself. Then there's the long path back to finding yourself and navigating the religious/political/cultural trappings…while desperately trying to hang on to that innocent faith you once had. This is my struggle. Over the years, the more I've learned about Islam in practice, the more I've critically analyzed it and felt the blinders coming off, the more I've felt removed from the religion. I find myself loving God and speaking to God often. I'm just getting more out of singing and swaying to dhikr than in the ritual prayer. And when I speak to my more conservative friends, I just get so tired. Like it's almost not worth having the religious reminders/halaqas that I so dearly loved years ago. It's tiring listening to the proper way to do things. It's tiring struggling with people who cannot see beyond the party line. I'd rather dissect these beliefs and engage in an intellectual discussion.I think I'd be quite happy just being in love with God and shedding religious traditional trappings and symbols. While I haven't taken hijab off, if you ask me if I think it's a requirement, I'm not sure what I'd say. Probably that it's just a symbol, as the interpretation of modesty is varied. But in my own struggle, I can't help but feel I've lost something. I just haven't figured it out yet. You really do have a great sense of self. And I think there's a lot of wisdom in these comments. I also support you in whatever choice you make. Do what you need to love God, yourself, your family and support your mental health along with your faith.

  9. Love the post. Love the comments. I'm struggling to put hijab on and wear it full time, myself. As I've shared in my own blog, though, I don't know that it's because I feel it is commanded by Allah(swt) or because I want to be recognized in the community as a Muslim. (this helps immensely with dawah in a non-Muslim community, for example, because all good deeds do not bring attention to you but to your creator, at least that's how I feel when in hijab).It's hard navigating through Islam, especially as a convert/revert. There are so many stages: initial discovery/enlightenment, an onslaught of rules often followed by disillusionment, and then the crawl back to a rediscovery of self and one's personal spiritual needs/a productive relationship with God/Allah.I've only been Muslim for 1.5 years and I've experienced all of these stages and may experience them again and again before my time here on earth is up. Mash'Allah, God does not want us to grow stagnant in our faith and if we work at it we can constantly rediscover his mercy.I can't tell you what to do. Just pray and follow your heart. As someone else said, if you choose to take it off, it doesn't have to be forever. A relationship with God, as with any relationship, is constantly growing and changing and you need to be comfortable following where Allah leads.

  10. Asalaam alaikum sister,YOU ARE BEING TESTED ALHAMDULILAH!Translated of the meaning:"Do men think that they will be left alone on saying "we believe" and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false." (Qur'an 29:2-3) this is your creator telling YOU this."And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty)" (Surah Al-Talaaq 65 :2) personally i am CLINGING to this verse at the moment in my life! Umm Tareq

  11. Ann

    I'm really impressed that you are sharing your feelings on the topic. Bravo for having the guts to put it all out there. Remember that only you can decide what is right for you.

  12. DD

    "Mash'Allah, God does not want us to grow stagnant in our faith and if we work at it we can constantly rediscover his mercy."I really like the comment. I think it may even be healthy for us to have up and downs in iman, Allahu Alaam.This post is interesting as i kinda went through a similar thing straight after Eid ul-Adha, but it only lasted for about a week. It came about after i had bad experiences with some Muslims where i live. Seriously, i have found that i must preserve my iman by keeping AWAY from the Muslim community. But then there are the good Muslims who serve to boost your iman just by being around them :PYou have to go on your own journey and in saying that why do you have to be a part of any group (like the progressives or the reformers)? You might lose yourself again in one of those groups. Just be YOU 😀

  13. MMB

    Only after recently meeting 3 women who wear the full face veil (only eyes showing) and black gloves, did I fully come to understand how prevalent the connection between dress and piety has become. I, even a recent convert, had assumed (and maybe even hoped) that these women would be the most pious people I had ever set my eyes on. I had hoped that their iman would be so strong that I could just feel it. Boy was I wrong. After spending a few hours with them, I realized that I had recently begun to, like many, wrong equate how a Muslim woman dresses with her iman. What a big mistake. While I wear hijab myself and have no plans to take it off alhamdulillah, if you think doing so will make you a better Muslim, best of luck to you. Appearance isn't everything…isn't that what many of us converts escaped from in the 'western' world? Yet, we have made it an issue in our world as well, how sad.

  14. Salam sis, it seems I have missed a lot in the past few weeks. I fisrt took off my hijab for a year (give or take)and then I put it back on.All I can say is that it is your journey. MMB's comment pretty much sums it up for me. I have seen good (mashaAllah) and I have seen very bad examples of hijabis.Now I'm going to ask the dreaded question…how does your hubby feel about it?Maing dua for you.

  15. @ salma– he's dealing with it and i'm doing my best to make it up to him 🙂

  16. Asalaamu alaykum! MashaAllah well written, beautiful, and honest post! I couldn't find a word for what I've been going through…now I know what it is:Salafi burnout yep that's exactly what's happened to me this past year. I've nearly gone crazy seriously…I'm currently seeing a therapist and taking medicine for how depressed I've become living a very strict, and orthodox "Islamic" life without ever considering my own heart and feelings.I think a lot of us get caught up in this whole "Al Maghrib" stamp approved be a good Muslim lifestyle that we forget that we are imperfect humans and that Islam isn't supposed to be difficult. I tried wearing the hijab for a year…I'm a convert btw. My in laws approved of it and the whole islamic community had nothing but good things to say when I wore hijab. But I've taken it off and frankly I don't care what they think. And no, I don't think God will send me to hell for clothing…if he does then ok but I'm not keeping hijab on to please other people.Other thing is I've noticed so many girls and women wearing hijab simply because everybody else is wearing it. It's become a status symbol, a fashion statement, and tool.Whatever you decide, though, I think you should do it for you and you only. I also fear people in my community labeling me a progressive kafir…but actually I fear what my in laws would say if they knew that I'm don't want to be so strict on myself anymore because it's making me crazy.May Allah keep on the path to him always aameen.

  17. "I do fear real life reprisals and social outcasting, but will gladly face that fear in exchange for my own integrity and dignity." Amin! I relate to this post so much. I've also been taking off my scarf lately, and still wearing it sometimes. It's freeing to not feel obligated to wear it.

  18. I'm finding myself outside of orthodoxy also, and hijab is a part of it, but not all. Orthodoxy, in it's very definition is based on stagnancy. The world is not stagnant, why should religion be? I need/crave debate, ideas, intellectualism. I don't find that in Orthodox Islam, rather I find a regurgitation of the ideas and thoughts of people who have been dead for a century. Their work is meaningul to be sure, but we need to continue grow and develop.

  19. @ Hispanic Muslimah– I'm so sorry to hear that dear as I know how difficult it can be bc I've lived it as well. There is surely more to Islam than the conservative salfist interpretation, but unfortunately that's what's popular right now.

  20. @ Liberal Christian– As always I respect your views and input. It's an interesting comparison between changes in the Catholic church and the call for reform in Islam.One thing that Muslims take great pride in is the fact that truly our religion has changed very little since the 6th century. At one time I would have been in that crowd, but now I see an urgent need to modernize. What that word "modernize" means exactly is anyone's guess, and certainly it is a slippery slope between changing doctrine as it relates to women's rights, individual freedom, homosexuality, and any number of "controversial" subjects and losing the character and religion altogether. More than ever we need to be having these conversations and debates. Unfortunately, as Muslims continue to feel persecuted and struggle with post colonial issues, we've turned to the easy doctrines, the black and white, the stagnant, the orthodoxy. Obama made the very controversial claim during his '08 campaign that the (economically) disenfranchised will turn to their guns and religion. I think of this often because it is so true and very applicable to what's going on in Islam right now.Looking forward to seeing more commments from you inshallah. Salams.

  21. Lovely post! I'm going through your old posts only now as I've only just discovered your blog. But this was a great read!I'd support your choice whether you wanted to wear it or not — so long as it was done after much thinking and NOT because someone told you that it's what you SHOULD or should not do.I find it funny that some of us here are speaking for God 🙂 "You're going to displease God but please the enemies of Islam." Really? Who are these enemies of Islam? Do they include those who don't believe the hijab is obligatory and/or don't wanna wear it whether it's obligatory or not? And how do you know that it'd displease God? Since when did the hijab become a symbol of God's happiness or unhappiness?

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