A hijab by any other name is…fashion.

The hijab has been getting a lot of attention lately. Women who wear the hijab (Islamic head covering) are becoming more vocal, asserting their existence in a world that has attempted to define them. Women who wear the hijab are speaking, shouting, writing, running, jumping, strutting, fencing, dancing and singing their way to recognition, in an attempt to redefine themselves on their own terms, to show the world that hey, we wear the hijab and we can do anything.

Anything and everything. NOTHING holds me back. 

I am a proud, hijab-wearing, independent, Muslim WOMAN who can make her own choices and do whatever she wants. 

And the world is seemingly responding. People seem to be accepting the fact that (believe it or not!) Muslim women who wear the hijab are. Just. Human. Female. Girls. ETC. who happen to cover their heads and most of their bodies.

Which is of course a good thing. Right?

The “modest fashion” market is recognised as a booming niche that big corporations need to tap into. From Nike, to MNG, corporations are wholeheartedly embracing (or cashing in on, whichever way you prefer to see it) Muslim women by creating collections specifically for them, all touting the #diversity trend.

Hijab style bloggers are now found in abundance and are making waves by normalising modest fashion.

In fact, we just had our first hijabi model strut the runways at NYFW, with many applauding this “huge step forward” for the Muslim, hijab-wearing woman.

I happen to be a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman, and somehow, I do not think this is a huge step forward for us. I think this is a step in completely the wrong direction. Why do I think it’s wrong? Because it reveals this desperate need to “show” the world that we hijab-wearers are “completely normal” and more so, that we can also do “anything”.

Furthermore, it still espouses the concept of the “self” that is the object of worship in this 21st century.

Most of these things that we seem to be stamping our presence into are things that have all been done before by women, who just happened to not wear the hijab. And I’m saying hijab specifically because there are models who are Muslim, but just do not observe the hijab. There have been Muslim female athletes who have competed in the Olympics, but they just don’t wear the hijab. There are Muslim female journalists, professors, doctors etc who just do not wear the hijab.

I know the struggles and difficulties that hijab-wearing women face, the stigma that is attached to this choice of ours to cover ourselves and how much we have needed to work to bring down these walls of misunderstanding, of ignorance, of fear, outside our culture, and within it.

But simply throwing ourselves into EVERYTHING is not going to help us either. When we make the decision to do things that are entirely against the core values of our religion, it will inevitably harm us. Our religion is based on guidelines that clearly show us the limits of what we can and can’t do. This is something that we should have confidence in, that we have a framework that shows us how to tread the middle path, not throws us into an open field, leaving us to meander along aimlessly. We shouldn’t be trying to mould the religion to suit our desires and wants in this life, we should be trying to mould ourselves to do what our Creator has decreed for us.

I’m going to take the example of modelling and fashion. It is by its very nature an exhibitionist, shallow and demeaning industry. It uses women’s bodies with the intention to objectify and exploit. How then do we applaud and cheer when a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman has now been “accepted” by this industry? How do we say to ourselves, YES, this is progress, when the whole situation is such a contradiction. When a Muslim hijab-wearing woman can strut Kanye West’s runway and met and was styled by him and his wife Kim Kardashian. Yes, let’s pat ourselves on the back and be proud of our “steps forward”.

As we seemingly take these “steps forward”, in reality, we are taking steps backward as the more we engage in such acts, the further we move away from a core tenet of our Deen; the need for humility.

And the great irony is that as we scramble to show the world that we can do “anything”in our hijabs because we are striving to smash the Western narrative that Muslim women are controlled by men and were forced to wear the hijab, we are simply doing this in a way that still frames us within their narrative, within their definitions of what being a successful, independent, strong woman is.

That she must be beautiful. That she is valued for her appearance. That she must exhibit herself to the world in designer labels and a contoured face with fake eyelashes and lip fillers and plastic surgery, that she must strut down a runway to be an object, a clothes hanger… with a hijab on and an IG feed full of selfies to document all this.

It actually makes me incredibly sad. It makes me so sad because I think about the example that we are setting for our young girls. Are we showing them anything different? Are we showing them that we need to hold onto the rope of our Deen, and that this might (or does) look different from the “norm”, and that no, we don’t need to strive to be styled by Kim and Kanye, and that this is something that we should be thankful for, that we should be confident in, as Muslims.

As Muslims.

Not as women. Not as hijab-wearing women.

But as a Muslim. As a servant of Allah (swt).

That we are able to be confident in what Allah (swt) has decreed for us and not just attempt to “break down barriers” simply for its own sake. Not because “hey, I want to be the first so-and-so to do this in a hijab…” so that I can “go viral”, oops I mean, “break stereotypes” and “empower women…”

What we are taking away from ourselves and our youth is the history, the beauty, the wisdom, the incredibly unique culture and religion that they come from and we are telling them that this is superseded by the need to fit into this (Western) world.

We are not taking back our own narrative. We are not redefining our selves. In fact we are fighting to be permeated, assimilated, obliterated into a culture whose values are against everything that the religion that we so obviously parade and hold up the flag with our hijabs, stands for.

This is not to say that “Western culture” is “wrong”. What I’m referring to is the capitalist, consumerist, exhibitionist, narcissistic, shallow and exploitative culture of fashion, of music, of Hollywood and so on.

Delpozo’s Fall/Winter 2017 Ready to Wear collection was interesting for me because the collection included this…

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Hijab? Nope. Just “art”.  Just “fashion”. Just “ready-to-wear”. Just Vogue.

How different is it from this?

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It’s not.

Both are art and fashion. Both are simply garments. Both objectify women by placing them on a platform strutting to fast-paced music. One is designed by a non-Muslim, the other by a hijab-wearing female Muslim designer. Sure the intentions are different, but the outcome is the same. Both place the woman as an object to be gawked at.

And so, “hijab” by any other name is simply…fashion.

Unless, we define ourselves, our hijab, in the terms of the religion that we claim to follow. Unless we take back the definitions of what it means to be female and Muslim.

There is another way to “break stereotypes”. There is another way to engage with the fashion world. A way that does not compromise the values of the religion that we proclaim to want to teach the world about. A way that is confident and uncompromising and unique.

Yes we live in this world, but we do not live for this world. And our attempts to be seen as “normal” should not come at the cost of our values. We should revel in the beauty of our religion and go out into the world confident in it, not for the sake of this world, or for society, or culture, or breaking down stereotypes, or acceptance, but for the sake of pleasing our Creator.

I am not raising my daughter with the mantra of the 21st Century, “you can be anything you want to be…” I want to raise my daughter to spend her life seeking what it is that Allah swt has decreed for her, and to fulfil this purpose, not for her to pursue her passions, her desires and her whims, which can ultimately lead her to folly. I want her to pursue the path that Allah swt has written for her, one that teaches her to put her Self aside, one that teaches her to serve humanity, the one that teaches her to have mercy, compassion, and humility…

Featured image source.

83 thoughts on “A hijab by any other name is…fashion.

  1. Assalam aleikum dear sister.
    What a courageous post on the hijab! Finally someone echoed what a lot of us think about the growing pandemic in Western countries…
    Wearing the hijab is a personal choice to submit to Allah Almighty rather than the fashion of society.
    It is a choice to be beautiful to God, rather than to people. And it is a choice to cover and dignify the body Allāh gave us, rather than give in to a culture that teaches women they are to be sex objects who sell their bodies to market even modest clothing!
    It is sad to see the whole purpose of hijab being distorted at the expense of of our beautiful religion!

    We should spend our energy raising voices of women scholars who strive to spread beneficial knowledge in humility, achievement and devotion to Allah SWT.

    may Allah SWT guide us all

  2. I LOVE this so much !!! You’ve verbalized my thoughts 100% I’ve always wondered do people really know the meaning of the word “hijab”? And it’s so sad to see that Muslim women are the ones who are so desperate to fit in to the Western ideologies that they disregard the true meaning if the word “hijab”. Jazakhallah. May Allah SWT guide us all

  3. I am not raising my daughter with the mantra of the 21st Century, “you can be anything you want to be…”  this is a great piece I must say. I’m not a Muslim but you’ve enlightened me. This quote has also said it all. The whole is turning into something else and until we find our purpose in life and do what is right, there will always be indiscipline

  4. Really liked the post… its really amazing and courageous of you that you have written such an amazing , informative and perception changing post and i really liked your thoughts about hijab 🙂

  5. Mashallah, that is such a great piece. I hope it will increase the confidence of most of our sisters to respect their faith and their virtues by wearing the hijab.

  6. Interesting read…Indeed islamic women are beautiful irrespective of how much body part they choose to cover, or the manner in which they choose to carry themselves. It’s an extremely personal choice. Keep writing and Wish you a Happy Ramadan!

  7. I’m not Muslim but a rather Catholic veil-wearing nun. I congratulate you for your fervent faith and pride of your values. I’m proud also of mine, which includes my habit and veil and shields me from the mainstream of making women’s bodies prey of a wild commercial merchandising of flesh. I’m not prudish but I’m against the obligatory exhibition of young girls’ bodies. I myself did it before consecrating to God. I don’t pretend that all women conceal their bodies as we do. But by asserting modest fashion we make a statement against the exploitation of women, either with a hijab or a nun’s veil…

  8. As a Western American woman, I, too, applaud your sentiments. This “so called” acceptance is just another way to make money from your faith. Pretty soon it will be “cool” for non-muslim women to pirate the hijab without any concern at all for the disservice done to you and your sisters. I remember when teenagers began to adopt “gangsta'” clothing from the black hip-hop kids because it was “in” as soon as the designers get into your culture, they will want to market to a larger audience. Just sayin’

  9. Great post. Thank you. I love your last sentence: “want her to pursue the path that Allah swt has written for her, one that teaches her to put her Self aside, one that teaches her to serve humanity, the one that teaches her to have mercy, compassion, and humility…” I pray this works out for her, and for all our children. It will make such a difference in our world.

  10. You brought forward a ver valid point. Instead of trying to do all things possible in a Hijab, why can’t we look at it as a normal practice and respect the way it is supposed to be.

  11. Jazakumullahu khayran for this awesome note. I hope our sisters can imbibe this message and make a change. The western world mocks our doctrines and deployed another appeasing but devilish means to indoctrinate feeble minded Muslims. It is high time we stick to the rope of Islam, with an undeterred spirit so they know what we stand for -Islam, and we are not going to back down on our principles and teaching in face of any trial or intimidation. 💪

  12. The western companies, medias and governments are always too conceited that they have the insight of everything just as God, they have the responsibilities to save people in the name of freedom and democracy even though the people actually don’t need their “help”.

  13. As a western man I found this to be a very interesting read. I appreciate your views and perspective about hijabs and religion, and that it is a choice to serve your Lord.

    That is what religion and life is all about. I long for the day everyone is allowed to not be jugded for their choices and for who they are as human beings. It’s your choice. It’s your life.

  14. good post. but today hijab is seen as a threat to the west people they cant even let people live on their own. this is a nightmare for women who want to practice it in their lands where they claim to be open minded and well educated society. May Allah SWT help those sisters.

  15. I love this post, hijab is not about freedom , you cannot simply do this and that while wearing hijab. But lately all hijabers talk about fashion and freedoms, which is not represent what islam is all about

  16. Your response to the cultural appropriation of the hijab reminds me of the the same issue voiced by the indigenous peoples of the United States. Their sacred ceremonial dress has been appropriated as well. Used for things such as Halloween costumes. I hope more Muslim women are heard on this subject. I am not Muslim, but I do respect the sacred.

  17. This is Beautiful.
    Everyone can dress as they please. And being different is Bold.
    Women in Hijab are Beautiful and deffenetly have a voice of their own.
    I love this article.

  18. Ramzan Mubarak! Would like to add a few lines.. Women observing purdah or hijaab is not a phenomenon special to Islam. In India women had been observing purdah infront of elders from time immemorial. It also has nothing to do with pleasing a holy spirit by keeping the self free from sins. But to many extent, as feminists claim that history is a male story, hence males around the world had taken care to keep the women folk out of harm by making them observe certain rules, which I think, for the benefit of the immediate society where such rules had been created. I do not adhere to the idea of a fashion parade by women infront of people who take them as objects of whatever.. but I think there is harm when one exists to only please others, a person pleasing an audience or a spirit. That sooner or later robs a person of his identity or self and makes him/her a member of a system which gradually loses the power of reason & logic..

  19. Hi, I love your post! I am actually an atheist, but wholeheartedly agree about how we need to stop being so superficial and treating women (and sometimes also men) as objects. We should be focusing on inner beauty- what we say and do to others. How we choose to clothe ourselves is a silly thing to obsess over.

  20. I am not a Muslim woman and I may not fully grasp the complexities of your subject, but I love the passion with which you wrote about it. I love that your beliefs are strong and that you are not afraid to express them.

  21. This is awesome and so so true! I love that you are speaking for the masses, not the few. Hijab should preserve modesty, not diminish it on a platform already tainted with a negative brush. We should raise our daughters to be the best they can be for themselves, not for others. Jazakhallah for this post 👏🏻

  22. Your thoughts are as beautiful as you, I’m sure someday you will let the world know that how beautiful a woman can be with hijab. Ramazan mubarak ♥

  23. Very intriguing, well stated article. Admittedly I do not know much about your faith, however, I can appreciate your insights. As a mom who struggled with her identity, I try to instill similar values in my girls. I will be glad to share this message with them. Could you help me with a question? I have seen many beautiful hijabs on ladies at the mall. Understanding they are an expression of adoration to the Creator, is it appropriate to compliment the fabric, the pattern or how it complements her features?

    1. Hello there! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. It is indeed appropriate to compliment a woman wearing hijab. A core part of Islam is to strive for that which is beautiful, because God is beautiful and loves that which is beautiful. Go ahead and compliment that woman wearing a hijab next time, I guarantee it will bring a smile to her face and joy to her heart, and you may even make a friend. Also, if you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us at themodestlife1@gmail.com.

      With peace always, Saltanat.

  24. Brilliant! I agree with everything you have said in this article. Unfortunately the hijab has become a fashion statement for many Muslim girls, and it appears that the true meaning of hijab is slowly disappearing.

    1. Thank you! It is truly a struggle to wear the hijab, and I think we need to do our best to frame our own narratives and experiences of wearing the hijab, but also and perhaps more importantly, act by being true to the tenets of our religion.

  25. Very well.. i love this post and im so happy that someone told the bitter truth in public. You said very well the reality of today. May Allah help us all in choosingthe right path. Ameen.

  26. These thoughts have been raging in my mind for so long and it was so refreshing to see you channel the same thoughts into words in such a beautiul way!

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