The hijab as a symbol
The Minority Report
I dislike it when people say things to me like, “You’re so lucky you wear a hijab, you don’t have to worry about bad hair days,” or “Wearing a hijab must save you a lot of time,” or “You have it so easy!” I mean, I’ve never walked in your shoes, but based off my experiences P.H. (pre-hijab!) I’m fairly certain that covering my hair with what is widely-regarded as a religious symbol gets far more scrutiny than walking around with frizzy hair. Not only that, but the assumption that wearing a scarf means it must be a mess under there shows a very fundamental social misunderstanding of what the hijab stands for.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight — wearing a hijab does very little to save time. If the average non-hijab-wearing person knew the effort it takes to wrap, pin, unpin, rewrap, get the folds right, make sure that annoying strand of baby hair isn’t showing, wrap and pin it one more time without stabbing yourself in the scalp, they’d second guess who really had it easier. And that’s not to say that we don’t spend even more time on the locks that the scarf is hiding. In fact, since we choose not to display our physical beauty in public, we probably spend even more time glitzing ourselves up in private. You best believe that when we get home and can finally take that scarf off, it’s goin’ down.
Islam encourages that women beautify and adorn themselves to satisfy their own esteem, and also advises that women be modest in displaying that beauty. Islam came at a time when women were treated as a piece of furniture, only valued for what their appearance could offer and very little else. The covering of hair, like in all Abrahamic religions, was asked of mankind as a device against this dehumanization.
We “hijabis” take great pride in our appearance — for ourselves. Wearing the hijab teaches us that we don’t have to satisfy other people’s perceptions of physical beauty. We wear the hijab to liberate ourselves from society’s demands and free ourselves from being reduced solely to our looks. We compel people to see us for our intelligence, our impeccable senses of humor and our magnetic personalities, rather than how we chose to style our hair that day.
That’s where we get down to the real sentiment of the hijab. The whole point is that it shifts the focus from the outer beauty to the inner beauty. When we stop having to cater to other people’s superficial judgments, we can focus on cultivating our souls and our goodness as human beings.
So, in a sense, the hijab does save me time. It saves me time from worrying about what other people think, it saves me time from contemplating how I can live up to the images I see on TV and in magazines, and it saves me time from tearing myself down physically so I can build myself up spiritually. Good hair day or not, the hijab reminds me that my worth as a woman is always invaluable.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is a School of Arts and Sciences Junior majoring in Middle Eastern studies and political science with minors in French and women’s and gender studies.