Our Daughters are More than Hijabis

Last year my daughter and I were at Old Navy shopping for a pair of jeans for her. As I was searching through the toddler clothing racks trying to find proper jeans that weren’t so skinny that they’d cut off her blood circulation, a friendly Muslim saleswoman approached me and struck up a conversation.

She asked how old Ruqaya was, and I said she was a year and a half. Then she said something strange to me: “she’s so beautiful. You should put her in a hijab now, so she can get used to it. Then it’ll be easier for her to wear when she grows up.”

I was taken aback, but in the interest of not starting an argument with a random person at her place of work, I changed the subject back to jeans and went about my business.

Sure, just like any other mom I’ve put a hijab on her and snapped a quick picture because she looks really adorable in it. But the suggestion that I should put my daughter (who was literally a toddler) in hijab for practice is painfully strange.

This ‘get your daughters in hijab ASAP’ sentiment is disturbing for many reasons. Let’s set aside the obvious issue that our daughters are not obligated to wear hijab at such a young age. That is fairly clear to everyone. Let’s also set aside the fact that this perpetuates the false idea that a Muslim woman’s worth in the sight of God is completely reliant on the way she dresses.

Instead, let’s tackle the truth of the matter: our community often focuses on guiding our daughters to wear hijab as opposed to guiding them to genuinely be interested in becoming good people, holistically speaking. I remember when I was growing up, my Islamic studies teachers often wanted to take the girls aside and talk about modesty and hijab and how talking to boys is bad.

Let’s not misunderstand the point of this piece – wearing hijab becomes obligatory for a girl once she hits puberty. It’s a direct commandment from Allah (swt) and every mature & able woman will be held responsible for upholding that commandment. I’m absolutely not encouraging people to stop talking about the issues of modesty and hayaa. It should be discussed in detail, and we should ensure we are speaking about the rules of hijab, chastity, and hayaa in a holistic way to both males and females.

But when we continuously zero in on the topic of hijab while losing sight of so many other important issues, we can easily lose the opportunity to teach our daughters how to develop a meaningful understanding and practice of their faith. We also lose the opportunity to illustrate to our sons that women are to be valued for the depth of their character, not just the length of their hijabs.

I would like to expand the discussion. Let’s have a lot of conversations with our daughters about being courageous, charitable and kind. Let’s talk about our plans to change the world, a little bit at a time. Let’s talk about hijab, too – as a natural extension of our discussions, not as the crux of it.

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “The four best women of Jannah are Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Fatimah bint Muhammad, Maryam bintu ‘Imran and Asiyah bint Muzahim the wife of Fir’aun.” May Allah be pleased with them all.

All of these women have beautiful stories that both men and women can learn immense lessons from – lessons about love, loyalty, courage, intellect, steadfastness, chastity, generosity, patience, kindness, honour. These women’s stories illustrate their depth of faith, perfection of character and distinguished status with their Lord. They were women who persevered through extremely difficult challenges and trials, teaching us about our faith in the process.

They weren’t given the status of the best women only because they covered their bodies. No, they perfected their characters – and modesty was a beautiful part of that package.

We aren’t going to be successful if our only goal is to produce droves of hijab-wearing females. They dress the part, sure…

But will they change the world?

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