Friday, May 8, 2009

Don't Diss the Trying Muhajabah !

Some Muslim women (and some men too) have the tendency to criticize sisters for how they wear hijab, for them not fully covering, even for not covering their feet. Many women are simply not ready for hijab, they have accepted Islam but they are not ready to take the next step. They may take baby steps, wearing a small scarf every now and then, wearing a long blouse over jeans, but are not ready to take the plunge into being a full time muhajabah. This may take time, as everyone is different, it may even take some sisters YEARS to wear hijab full-time.

Be patient with them dear sisters, be kind to them, be supportive, be a good example, do not repel them with harshness and they may eventually come to wear proper hijab full-time InshaAllah. You could also prepare a 'new hijabee' package for them, give them a couple of nice hijabs, maybe...and we might not have even thought about it....maybe they can't AFFORD to buy hijabs or more modest clothing. There is one sister here who stopped coming to the masjid because persons were harsh to her...she cannot afford to buy the modest clothing, her family is against her being a Muslim, then she comes to the Masjid and gets dissed :( Where is our compassion?

As for those who used to wear proper hijab and you notice them slipping, again be supportive, talk to them with kindness, encourage them to wear proper hijab again, they may be going through a trial and you may be able to help them InshaAllah.

I came across the following post at Muslimah2Muslimah and am re-posting it here, its very relevant to all of us. The next time we see someone trying to wear hijab, be supportive, don't diss them, a lot of them DO know what proper hijab is but are just not ready yet. And those who do not know what it is, you teach them...I didnt say lecture or demand that they do it, just be subtle and gentle, let them know, preferably not in front of a bunch of people so as NOT to embarrass them, and most of all BE PATIENT.

May Allah Subhana wa ta'ala fill us with love, mercy, humility and generosity, and rid our hearts of arrogance and pride Ameen!

Below is the post from Muslimah2Muslimah, reposted with permission. JazakAllah Khair Sisters.


It had been ten years since she had set foot in a mosque. Being away in college had broadened her mind in many ways; one of them being her reconnecting with Islam. She had begun praying five times a day a month ago, and now felt ready to pray in public, at the university's Jumu'a prayer. She paused and stood a few feet away from the women's entrance. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the silk scarf out of her purse and tied it carefully on her head. Her ponytail stuck out a bit. She smoothed the creases on her long-sleeved beige shirt and tugged at the bottom of it to make it longer over her pants.

The prayer was great. She had never felt this sense of inner peace.

Afterwards, she tried mingling with the sisters, but nobody even looked her way. A few of them even pretended not to hear her greeting. The only sister who did talk to her said in a huff: "You know your prayer is not accepted in those pants and that tiny thing you pass for a Hijab. I suggest you get more Islamic knowledge and dress properly before coming back here." The words stung her like a million bumble bees. Too numb to respond or speak, she charged out of the hall. Never again would she associate with these people, she told herself. And never again would she return to Jumu'a.

Are you shocked reading about this incident? Don't be. It has been a reality in almost every Muslim community in North America. This harsh judgment and intolerance shown towards Muslim women who do not wear Hijab can lead to at least some Muslim women to become alienated from the Muslim community, and could lead to a complete loss of Islamic practice.
While Hijab is an obligation clearly ordained in the Quran and Sunnah, the above-mentioned method of its enforcement and encouragement is not Islamic, according to Muslim scholars, researchers and activists. Muslims have to start seeing the issue from a different perspective, they say.

"I would say that the overwhelming majority of Muslim women I have met who don't cover and who believe in God, believe they should cover, but believe they're not ready yet," says Sharifa Alkhateeb, vice-president of the North American Council of Muslim Women, in an interview with Sound Vision.

This reality indicates there is a seed of faith that needs to be nurtured and encouraged. As well, it means these women need all the support they can get. Abdalla Idris Ali is a member of the Islamic Society of North America's (ISNA) Majlis Shura, which debates Islamic issues and establishes policy for the organization. He says what also has to be remembered is that many Muslim women are coming from cultures where the Hijab is not practiced, for whatever reason. These sisters should not be condemned. Rather, Islamic concepts like Hijab, should be explained to them.

Another possibility is that Muslim women who do not wear Hijab are coming from families which are either not practicing Islam, or are downright hostile to it. In this situation, "it's actually a celebration that a young Muslim woman wants to pray Jumu'a," says Kathy Bullock, who started wearing Hijab two weeks after she converted to Islam. "I think that's where the tolerance comes in."

Another reason some Muslim women may find Hijab difficult is because of the often negative ideas surrounding Hijab. For instance, that wearing Hijab kills marriage and job prospects. Muslim activists must seek to dispel such myths. "There needs to be a lot more support for the women who decide to cover," says Bullock, who completed a PhD. about The Politics of the Veil from the University of Toronto in January. Bullock also gives a chilling warning to those who condemn non-Hijabi Muslim women: "We might be wearing Hijab but we might be doing something incredibly wrong which cancels out the reward [for wearing it]." One of these things she mentions is arrogance.

Some Muslims seek to condemn non-Hijabis out of their understanding of the Quranic injunction of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Yet, they fail to take the right approach in doing it, in accordance with the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), which was one of kindness, gentleness and patience. Interestingly, some Muslim men and women who criticize non-Hijabi Muslim women seem to have different reasons for doing it and varying ways of approaching a sister who does not wear Hijab.

"Unfortunately on the brothers' side there is a push to make Hijab the marker of Islamic identity," says Bullock. She also emphasizes the hypocrisy of many Muslim men criticizing Muslim women who do not wear the Hijab, while they themselves wear no beards, images on their shirts, or ill-fitting jeans. These forms of dress are strictly prohibited for men in Islam. Yet, go to any Jumu'a or Jamaah prayer, and these forms of unIslamic dress can be easily seen. Also, the lowering of the gaze is rarely ever practiced.

"I think some of the men put too much emphasis on the women instead of looking at their own selves," she says. However, Alkhateeb thinks most of the men are less vigilant than the women about Hijab, partly because they figure the women are going to take care of it.
She argues that the majority of the Muslim men who are over concerned about with the issue of Hijab because they don't trust themselves sexually, and fear their own reaction to a woman who is not covered Islamically.

For women, weak self-identity and faith could explain the harshness shown towards non-Hijabi Muslimas. "It is so difficult to maintain the practice of covering, emotionally, psychologically on the job and in everyday life, you get so much negativity from other people that the reaction of most of the practicing women and activists is to develop a cocoon, a protective cocoon, and part of that protective cocoon is in continually, verbally and in other ways rejecting what is unlike yourself," explains Alkhateeb.

"And that is to shore up your own self-identity. I think that part of the reason they are so negative is because this is part of shoring up their own self-identity and because there is a hidden fear that if they let down their guard that they'll stop covering. And if they allow any space in their mind to alternative ways of thinking that their thinking will fall apart. And that means that the underlying precepts and concepts are not strong."

"While it is correct to say that Hijab is correct in the teaching of Islam we tend to forget that there are many other basic issues, why the over obsession?" asks Jamal Badawi, a member of the North American Fiqh Council.

Part of the reason some Muslims treat non-Hijabis so harshly is because of their lack of understanding about where the obligation of Hijab ranks on the Islamic ladder.
A more correct approach would be gradual and would mean implementing more important aspects of Islam, like Iman (faith), and praying five times a day before moving on to requirements like Hijab.

"We fail to see any Ayah (verse of the Quran) pertaining to Hijab in the entire Makkan revelation that was given to the Prophet, that's almost 13 years. The injunctions about more detailed aspects relating to the righteous Muslim community were revealed during the Medinan period. Some in the middle, and later part of that period," explains Badawi, "This is a revealing lesson for us because it shows that Allah knew in advance what injunctions He wanted to reveal," he adds. "Yet He delayed the revelation of those matters until many, many years of preparation on the level of Iman, submission to Allah, love of Allah and the sincere desire to voluntarily obey Allah and His Messenger. Once that base was established it wasn't difficult at all for the believing women to willingly abide by the injunctions of Allah. "

Badawi says this is similar to how the Islamic commandment forbidding intoxicants was introduced. "The same process of preparation took place to the point that when the final prohibition of intoxicants was revealed it wasn't difficult for men to abide by that willingly and immediately." He explains this was especially difficult for Muslim men, who were the ones reported more likely to consume alcohol than women at that time.
"Some well-intentioned Muslims seem to miss these lessons from the gradual revelation and become too legalistic to the point of doing more harm than benefit, notwithstanding their good intentions," adds Badawi.

"Muslims gain a little bit of knowledge and they want to run around with a baseball bat and beat people over the head with religion. That's exactly what [has] made many young people leave the mosque," says Alkhateeb. Using the right method to tell Muslim women about Hijab is crucial, just as it is in advising Muslims to implement any other requirement of the faith. "In the Prophet's whole life he led by encouragement not pressure," she says. "The way he behaved is the opposite of how most Muslims who are practicing Muslims behave towards each other in terms of giving advice. His way was not carrying around a religious baseball bat."
The thinker and writer, who has also been an activist for the last 35 years points out the "baseball bat" methodology is in full swing when many Muslims encounter non-Hijabis.
"Instead of inviting her and embracing her, they're immediately trying to think about what they can criticize her about," says Alkhateeb.

The Prophet also did not use"vigilantes" to impose a religious requirement like Hijab.
"When we deal with the Sunnah, we find that he never appointed vigilantes to go around to reinforce something that believing Muslim women were encouraged to do, or use any harsh words or actions to arrive at that desired situation or desired setting," says Badawi. "The approach that he followed which we should follow as our example was not to focus on issues like Hijab before Iman and psychological and spiritual preparation was in place." Badawi stresses inviting to Hijab and other Islamic requirements should be done in a way "that would motivate people to respect the moral values of society rather than simply forcing them to do so. In fact that goes back to the definition of Islam which is willing trusting and loving submission to Allah and obedience to His Messenger."

As an example, he cited an incident from the lifetime of the Prophet when a Bedouin man urinated in the mosque. When other Muslims saw this, they became very angry and wanted to rebuke him harshly. The Prophet on the other hand, stopped them and told the man gently what he was doing was incorrect. "That story is a classic example of the contrast between the attitudes of some well-intentioned Muslims who want to correct the wrong immediately and by any means and the approach of the Prophet of kindness, gentleness, persuasion and wisdom," he explains.

"The other aspect which is frequently missed is another rule of ordaining the good and forbidding the evil which was addressed by many scholars especially by the famous Shaykh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah," says Badawi. "The rule basically is that if in a given situation, attempting or trying to forbid the wrong may result in greater harm than benefit, then it is better to tolerate the wrong on a temporary basis."

"I think the classic example that Ibn Taymiyyah is referred to is when the Tatars invaded Muslim lands," explains Badawi. "He was told that some of these soldiers were drinking and that they should be stopped because this is part of forbidding the wrong yet, he advised that they should be left alone. His reasoning was that if those soldiers become sober, they might go on killing more people which is a greater harm than drinking".

"This is not a new rule," he emphasizes. "It is a basic rule in Usul al-Fiqh, the roots of Islamic law, that if some harm is inevitable then it is better to tolerate the lesser harm in order to prevent great harm." Badawi demonstrates how this rule could apply to a situation where a Muslim sister who does not wear Hijab attends Jumu'a prayer. "For example, if that sister is approached in a harsh way she may not come again which could hurt her and hurt the community at large. But if she's welcomed first and there's demonstration of brotherhood and friendship, then in a gentle and wise way that is suitable for her, she can be encouraged, then of course it would be a far better result than the confrontational, harsh approach."

"It's only by mixing in the right company that someone who is contemplating Hijab will have the strength and courage to make the final act," says Bullock. This means women offering friendship, as well as involving the sisters in Islamic activities through organizations like Muslim Students' Associations. Bullock notes that if a Muslim woman wants to do something for Islam she should be applauded "because she could be out there doing something else."
"Muslim organizations have a duty to say what is right and to invite in the best of manner women to cover and to support them when they do so but that doesn't mean individuals should be judgmental when women are not covering," she adds.

However, Ali and Badawi draw the line of involvement of non-Hijabi Muslim women in Muslim organizations at the leadership level. They both say that any Islamically-oriented organization will select a person to be their leader who reflects their goals and aspirations. That means a Muslim woman who does not wear Hijab would not be selected because she is not fully following the precepts of Islam. Similarly, a Muslim man who is not fulfilling Islamic obligations like prayer, chaste behavior, etc. would also not be selected for a leadership position in such a milieu.
Badawi says this is not exclusion. Rather, it is the natural outcome in any milieu which aims to be Islamically-oriented. Its leadership will represent the precepts of Islam as much as possible.
"I'm against the term exclusion because if we apply the Islamic Shura (consultative) method then the leadership would emanate from the people, will be chosen by the people. And if the community or Islamic organization in a given setting are truly Islamically oriented, one would expect that the person chosen to be the spokesperson and symbol of that organization should reflect their conviction and values in the best possible way."

Badawi gives an example of how he, "with my weaknesses" approached an aggressive non-Hijabi sister and the result. Many years back, during a visit to Australia, one sister, during one of his lectures, a non-Hijabi Muslim woman asked questions about Hijab, in a disapproving manner. He talked to her kindly and give information without harshness. Two years later, he returned to Australia, and a sister in full Hijab approached him, asking if he recognized her. He did not.
"I am the one who was arguing with you about Hijab two years ago," she told him. "But it is the approach and information that you gave me that helped me to study more, to educate myself and to make up my own decision and I am happy with what I decided."


  1. asSalamu alaykum !! mashaAllah , this was a reaaal good post .. i really like it.. i liked it so much im gonna link your blog on my page if u dont mind.. if u want me to remove the link, let me know...

  2. Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

    MashaAllah, glad you liked it Sister Muslimah. Of course I dont mind you linking to my blog, please do :), JazakAllah Khair.

  3. What an ironic twist! For a non-Muslim that wears hijab you get criticized, ostracized, and judged harshly *for* wearing hijab!

    If you would like to join my hijab blog (it's private so I have to go around blabbing about it....) send me an email at:

    Yes there's supposed to be 2 rr's !!

  4. Wow, I've never met a non-muslim that wears hijab :). Welcome to my blog Coffee Catholic. I'll send you an email InshaAllah (God's willing)

  5. Masha'ALLAH. This post was beautifully done, sis. Shukran for the reminder and we must all be aware of our approach, as you said. It is sooooo important!

  6. This is a great article on this sad behaviour of some muslimahs. Alot of reverts come in with an almost naive and innocent approach, such a pure religion then you meet some muslim characters!who are we to judge others when only Allah knows if they will reach jannah even before us!
    Jazakillah, people need to know this

  7. MashaAllah Muslimah2Muslimah :), you are most welcome, jazakAllah khair again for permission to repost.

  8. MashaAllah Sister miseducation of the cushitic girl, yes who are we to judge others, if we concentrate on our own faults we will hardly find time to be pointing out other peoples faults.

  9. This is quite unfortunate that people tend to discourage others in the mosque instead of encouraging them.

    If we can't encourage someone on Islamic grounds we should atleast not discourage them. But this is a terrible truth that there are people who wont let you and even stop you from saying prayers or remember ALLAH in the masjid and to our surprise, they are Muslims.

    There are loads of such people.

    There are many victims of such people that I've seen who, now, don't even think about going to masjid because of these ignorant people.

    But please ask our sister who is facing such problematic people (if you can) to leave that masjid if the Emam isn't supportive too. Those ignorant people doesn't deserve to teach her. And she doesn't need such people's knowledge.

    Wearing Hijab is rewarding act but that doesn't mean it is necessary for being a Muslim.

    If you've heard about Rabia Basri (Rahmat-uLLAH alaiha), she didn't wear hijab or niqab. (she is a student of Hazrat Hassan Basri (RA)).

    One day a pious man came to Rabia Basri (RA) to ask her about this matter. So when he came, Rabia Basri (RA) wore her hijab. So he asked, "you don't wear hijab before other people why are you wearing it in my presence?".

    To this she replied, "The people around here, they are animals so I don't need to wear hijab among them. For the first time a human being has come to me so I wore it." (this is english translation so it might be not as exact as her words)

  10. Wonderful post,sister. How very true and a much needed reminder. Thank you!

  11. Yes Br Aurangzeb, it is quite unfortunate that some people act like that and end up discouraging the person from attending the Masjid, we need to be more patient with our brothers and sisters.

  12. Sister Umm Omar, MashaAllah! you are most welcome.

  13. Asalaamu alaikum sweetie

    Mashallah, a lovely read... And som beautiful points were made to help remind us and put into practice.

    Being new to observing hijab, I remember an incident in the prayer room at work with a sister I see.. I was sat applying lipsalve when she came and sat opposite me and congratulated me on wearing hijab-she was very sweet but also made a comment about me not wearing the hijab properly (it was a loose wrap in the first week or so!) and said she hoped I would soon wear the hijab properly...

    Her intentions were good but maybe not the best thing to say to a self concious 3 day old new hijabi!

    Well done on posting honey
    Stay blessed

  14. Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullah dear Sister Jannah,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the post, MashaAllah!
    It may not have been the best way to say it at the time, but I agree her intentions were good, InshaAllah.

  15. Excellent post sister! good job!!!

  16. MashaAllah Anon. Glad you enjoyed it.

  17. Asalamu Walaikum Sis,
    Could you say that louder, I don't think enough people could have heard it! I have seen this too many times and it goes for other areas where a Muslim may be slipping and his/her siblings are so ready to drop them! Really, it must be our own weaknesses that make us so unable to support others when they need it. Instead of supporting each for good, we just drop it.
    Love and Peace

  18. Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullah Sister Brooke, thanks for visiting my blog :). Yes insteading of just dropping people at signs of slipping we need to support them and try to help them back to the right path, I mean if the Muslim community doesnt help and support them, then who will?

  19. I have read 2/3 of the article as I'm in a rush to go for college. Sorry if my comment seems too short.

    Nevertheless, this is one of the best post I've ever read concerning Hijabs. JazakAllah khair for sharing!

  20. MashaAllah, You are most welcome SirAdib !

  21. You are most welcome Sister Maria :)

  22. Assalamualaikum sis,

    Brilliant post. It's really a daunting feeling to be ostracized, with or without hijab. Until now, I find it perplexing how people can't go up to someone and be kind enough to exhibit a good conduct by telling them on what is proper hijab instead of giving the evil eye at them.

  23. Wa alaikum salaam Sister Hajar,

    I try to assume that the person doesnt know better and not judge them, because they may really not know what is proper hijab, and in that case it is for us to inform them , in a nice way of course :)

  24. for ages, i've been a part time hijabigirl, did notice some girls who already wore hijab, that they dont treat me as one of them even though i prayed five times a say, always proper clothing, long, loose, but still nothing! and i really think thats so bad and throws a person away from that hijabi group of girls!
    but since now, alhamdulillah, m hijabi girl, m not gonna make the same mistake!1
    may Allah send His Mercy upon all of us, inshaAllah!

  25. Allah is ar-Rahman (the Compassionate) and ar-Raheem (the Merciful). If we wish to be like our Lord and please Him, we need to adopt his Divine Attributes. Every Muslim should consider this before criticizing another Muslim, which is an act of egotism, suggesting, "I am better than you," or "I know better than you," or "You are not good enough." If a Muslim criticizes someone, he or she should ask Allah's forgiveness for approaching that person without compassion and mercy, Allah's most mentioned traits.