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The Hijab: A Label, or a State of Being?
By Danya Akbar
Los Angeles, CA

In America today, many Muslim teenagers are trying to cope with the seemingly impossible task of assimilating into modern culture while remaining true to their morals and values. Most of them fail to understand what the Hijab means for Muslims.
Hijab is an Arabic term for “cover,” and can be used literally, with a scarf, or generally, as a word, which embodies the wide term of modesty. Whichever way each Muslim woman chooses to interpret it, this term has become a label for Islam throughout the modern world as one of injustice and even cruelty.
When a non-Muslim (or one ignorant of the religion) thinks of a woman wearing a hijab or a burqa, an image usually comes to mind involving a heartless father trying to tame his wild daughter by preventing her from exposing herself in order to punish her. Other images connected to this garment are those of the Taliban, who forced women to wear full burqas. This, however, is neither the true meaning nor purpose of the hijab.
The hijab does not actually have to be a garment, but, as recent Islamic scholars argue, it can be an overall understanding of modesty and humility, which includes the covering of body parts and limiting exposure in order to minimize problems with the opposite gender. Many young women are forced into wearing hijabs, and in this they fail to see the purpose behind it. I, myself, have seen a number of girls who completely misinterpret the meaning of the hijab, even when they wear it. They constantly contradict themselves by wearing inappropriate clothing (tight or revealing) along with the hijab. This is completely hypocritical; for the hijab is a piece of clothing, which should add to the already modest woman, and should be used as a tool to enhance modesty, not contradict it.
The hijab symbolizes two very important aspects of Islam, humility and modesty, and thus it is a label. However, the wearing of the hijab should not be limited to this, but should also be used to culminate one’s beliefs in order to allow others around us to understand the meaning of it, therefore enabling them to learn more about our religion, which is so often misconstrued by others.
Okay, so the hijab is something to enhance modesty, but do we know why we are modest? Why we need to cover ourselves, and why we must stay away from the opposite gender? The understanding of the reasoning behind modesty will allow us to further understand a major part of our religion. Women must be modest in their garb in order to limit any attraction from the opposite gender. This can prevent many things, such as kidnapping, rape, and other sexually related crimes.
In American society, dating is emphasized greatly. Each and every young Muslim wonders why we are not allowed to date, and if one is not given the proper answer, one can deviate onto the wrong path. Dating and dealings with the opposite gender are prohibited in our religion because they ruin our experience of marriage. If you have had thousands of men in your life, how will your marriage be special? The Qur’an repeatedly stresses the need for modesty before marriage in order to prevent certain problems. However, it also openly stresses that the union between man and wife is sacred, and should not have restraints. Thus, modesty allows women to save something for their marriage, even though that may seem a long while away.
Muslims must find a way to incorporate their beliefs along with the modern society. Modesty is the key to being a good Muslim, as it enables one to think with humility as well as act in this way. By setting a good example for other Muslims to follow, non-Muslims will also see the true tenets of Islam through its believers. The question is: how will we teach our religion if we do not understand it ourselves? -




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