If You Choose to Cover, Do It For Him, Not him

If You Choose to Cover, Do It For Him, Not him

“I don’t mean to be offensive to your culture, but you have absolutely breathtaking eyes.”

I turned to look at the stranger who had thought to compliment me in this way while I was wearing a hijab, jilbab, and no makeup.

Though I avoided the man after that, his comment definitely made me reflect on the purpose of hijab and the experience of covering one’s body — especially because I had recently been criticized by a Muslim woman about the way I was dressed. She’d said I shouldn’t go to such “extremes” in the way I cover myself, because it makes me look unattractive and backward.

It was as if the purpose of hijab is to make women look unattractive, and if they don’t meet this standard, then they’re not doing their job of protecting men. tweet

I thought about how I had seen other women get called out in the exact opposite way for their dressing, as they were harshly advised to cover themselves properly so they wouldn’t be a source of lust for men. It was as if the purpose of hijab is to make women look unattractive, and if they don’t meet this standard, then they’re not doing their job of protecting men.

Amidst all of this aggression and confusion, there is an ongoing discussion about what hijab is, what it means to be feminine, and whether the hijab oppresses or liberates women. This debate is a totally separate issue from the real-life, everyday struggles that Muslim women go through when choosing to cover or expose their bodies.

Women generally face two separate kinds of pressure on a regular basis. The first is that, in order to be feminine, you must reveal your body and look, dress, and act a certain way.

For the most part, people are aware of how women’s pictures are thoroughly airbrushed before appearing in magazines and other places, and how an increasing amount of women are undergoing cosmetic surgeries, but that doesn’t reduce the expectations they have for women to match that flawless ideal image; you must constantly meet an impossible societal standard of beauty in order to be accepted.

Amidst all of this aggression and confusion, there is an ongoing discussion about what hijab is, what it means to be feminine, and whether the hijab oppresses or liberates women. tweet

The second kind of pressure is from the inside: The kind that Muslims themselves put on their women when they make them feel like they’re “less Muslim” for not covering their bodies in a certain way, or that they’re extremists if they dress “too modestly.”

Whether you’re being pushed to look gorgeous all the time, or you’re pressured into maintaining the perfect, “moderate” level of hijab, either way, you end up giving up your right to dress for yourself and God.  You’re dressing for someone else.

Take a moment to step back and connect with your Creator. Are you happy with the way you dress when you go out, while knowing that He sees you? Are you trying to improve yourself? How does your behavior reflect your inner hijab?

Regardless of what level of physical hijab you’re practicing — whether you’re consciously covering your legs, wearing longer sleeves, choosing shirts with higher necklines, buying looser clothes, wearing a headscarf, or covering more than that — it’s not easy.

Whether you’re being pushed to look gorgeous all the time, or you’re pressured into maintaining the perfect, “moderate” level of hijab, either way, you end up giving up your right to dress for yourself and God.  You’re dressing for someone else.  tweet

There are other women who understand how you feel when you look in the mirror and think your legs look really nice, but still pull on that long pair of jeans or full length skirt anyway, instead of going for something shorter; or when you want to show off your curves, but hold yourself back; or when you’re pinning your hijab on while knowing that your hair looks perfect underneath; or wanting to put one on, but losing the battle against your fears once again.

And He knows. He knows when you see another girl who’s dressed in a more revealing way than you and is getting more attention from men for it, and you struggle to push out the thought that crosses your mind about wanting that as well.

He knows when you stop yourself from flirting with the guy you’re talking to. He knows when you’re going through one of those days when you want, more than anything else, to just blend in and look like everyone else — and the days when you’re proud of standing out, and wish that everyone who stares at you would know how content you are with what you’re doing.

Regardless of what level of physical hijab you’re practicing — whether you’re consciously covering your legs, wearing longer sleeves, choosing shirts with higher necklines, buying looser clothes, wearing a headscarf, or covering more than that — it’s not easy. tweet

Never stop trying to improve your relationship with God through your inner and outer hijab, no matter what people think or say.

Don’t let anyone else define your hijab for you, besides God. If you’re striving to please Him, nothing else matters.

The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said, “When lewdness is a part of anything, it becomes defective, and when haya is a part of anything, it becomes beautiful.” [Tirmidhi]

Cover for Him, not for him.

“Tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts, and to not expose their beauty except what’s obvious of it, and to throw their headscarves over their chests, except in front of their husbands, or their fathers, or their fathers-in-law, or their kids, or their step-kids, or their brothers, or their paternal nephews, or their maternal nephews, or their women, or what their right hands possess (of the females), or the men who don’t have desires left for women (due to old age or illness), or the young children who aren’t yet attracted to women. And they shouldn’t stamp their feet so that what’s hidden from their beauty is exposed. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you (altogether), so that you may be successful.” (Qur’an 24:31)

Read more:  Hijab is not worn to keep men from harassing you.  It’s a man’s responsibility to not sexually harass or assault women. 

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If You Choose to Cover, Do It For Him, Not him
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