What to Do If…
You feel depressed, frustrated, and miserable, and you’re losing self-confidence due to friends’ rejection, criticism, and mistreatment after your decision to wear the hijab?
• On the individual level, stick to Almighty Allah’s order to wear hijab. Following Almighty Allah’s order must have priority over any other order. At the same time be patient regardless of the hardships you may encounter, bearing in mind that true believers are always tested.
• While striving steadfastly to be respected, accepted and well-treated by your surrounding community, do not forget that Almighty Allah is on your side and will support you till the result is for the good of Islam and the Muslims, Allah willing. Almighty Allah says: [And those who strive in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right] (Al-`Ankabut 29:69).
• Stop worrying about the looks you get from the people. Then you will feel comfortable because whenever you pay attention to everyone around you and become obsessed with what those people must be thinking about the hijab, you will feel uncomfortable and even sick from worry.
• You need to decide how important it is to you to observe a commandment of Allah the Most High even if it means that you will receive strange looks. Once you decide with conviction that it is more important for you to observe the hijab because wearing hijab pleases Allah the Most High, you will actually find yourself being able to walk with confidence and blend in with all the other diverse cultures.
• Sister, return curious glances with a saluting smile; return an insult here or there, a negative comment, or ridiculing with firm, steadfast but still polite eye contact. Then move on and thank Allah the Most High that you are holding firmly to your belief, in an atmosphere that does not encourage you to do that.
• Look for good Muslim company. You may find some other Muslim students who will be of great help. Also, if you start addressing the issue and turn from an imaginary victim to an activist in your university, advocating multiculturalism and dialogue, you will have more confidence in who you are and what you represent.
What to Do If…
• If you are living in a community where the debate surrounding the hijab issue in schools has been going on lately, then try, together with some other girls facing the same challenge, to do your best to pressure public opinion to change the law that banned hijab in schools. Be mindful that banning hijab is a challenge to your identity in that community. However, whatever steps you take throughout your struggle, you must apply wisdom and be legally aware. Here are some practical steps toward changing your community’s public opinion:
• Exert pressure on the government by using all constitutional and legal means to get the unjust law changed.
• Keep the issue alive in the media.
• Forge alliances with all peace-loving and democratic elements inside and outside your community to cooperate in fighting for human rights. Unify the community on beneficial goals and projects that are relevant to the time and place, and thus project a common front.
• Pray to Allah to help us remain steadfast in our struggle for truth and justice and to grant victory in all our endeavors.
• In case life becomes unbearable under the new laws, remember that Muslim women are allowed to use the best possible alternatives available to them. If wearing a bandana is the only option, then you are allowed to do that, for it fulfills some requirements of hijab, but keep in mind that it is not a full substitute for hijab, since it does not cover the neck. But until such time that the pressure is off, you are allowed to wear it to school or other places where hijab is banned. While resorting to this option, you should never acquiesce in taking off hijab nor relish its removal, for doing so is akin to rejoicing in disobeying Allah. Other alternatives may be studying abroad, home schooling, or funding and establishing Islamic schools.
In all cases, a Muslim has to try all possible means to avert the violation of legal rulings, but if a Muslim is faced with failure in all these possible means, then the law in Islam states that extreme necessities might relax what has been strictly forbidden. But this has to be done with extreme caution and with great wisdom in measuring the pros and cons of every situation. The other rule in fiqh states that necessity is judged according to the circumstances that surround it.
What to Do If…
• Know your rights in a democracy and learn the language of the people to speak for your rights in a democracy.
• Get out of your cocoons and be part of the wider community so that others know that you are not against them and so that they come to see you for what you are: law-abiding citizens who believe in freedom, dignity, and respect for everyone.
• Let your mosques become part of the wider community instead of being obsessed with rituals and dogmas that have no relevance to the life of the people. Let the pulpit reflect the life-changing vision of Islam and the realities of people’s lives.
• Join hands with all peace-loving and democratic citizens for common purposes. Enlist their support in this struggle to protect the freedom to practice your religion.
• Master the media and communications so that your message is conveyed to everyone.
• Last but not least, trust in Allah and struggle for truth and justice, for that is what life is all about. Life, for those who are true to their faith, is all about struggle; we rest only in the next world. As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told his beloved daughter when he was on his deathbed, “After today, all toils of your father are over!”
What to Do If…
• The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “There is no obedience to anyone in disobedience to Allah.” In other words, you are not bound to obey your boss if he orders you to disobey Allah.
• Since wearing hijab is a religious requirement in Islam, you are allowed to exercise this right in your work place. Wearing hijab is part and parcel of the Muslim woman’s religious and personal freedom. The observance of such freedoms is prescribed in modern constitutions, international agreements, and the Declaration of Human Rights. Your boss is not allowed to discriminate against you on that ground or force you to take off your hijab. If he does so, he is violating the laws of the land. This must be made clear to him.
• As a Muslimah, therefore, you should never compromise your principles. If you cannot handle this issue by yourself, you may do well to get a letter from Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), and similar advocacy groups. Simply getting any of the advocacy organisations involved may help you in your case. Sending your boss a firm and clear message that what he is asking is a violation of law is usually enough to bring some sense to him.
What to Do If…
• One thing must be clear; you are never allowed to be rude or impolite to your parents regardless of how harsh or hurtful their attitude towards you may be. Rather, you should show through practical examples that you still love them; speak to them gently and act kindly.
• Bear hurtful words patiently; deal with them as Allah tells us to deal with the hurtful words of the ignorant ones: [When the ignorant address them, they walk away from them saying, “Peace”] (Al-Furqan 25:63).
• Reinforce your determination to follow the truth by thinking of the transient nature of this world, and never lose sight of the fact that our final destination is meeting Allah in the next world.
• Let remembrance of Allah (dhikr) be your constant companion. It will lessen your burden and give you joy and soothe your ailing heart.
• Remind yourself continually about the struggles and sacrifices of the Messengers of Allah. It would be a good idea to read Surat Yusuf reflectively, as it embodies the constant struggle between truth and falsehood.
• Use every opportunity to speak to your parents gently and persuasively to convince them of their wrong attitude. If they do not listen, don’t give up praying to Allah to open their hearts and guide them to the truth.
• Do your best to be an example of modesty and decent behavior, all of which are extensions of a person wearing hijab. Perhaps through your struggle and steadfastness and the guidance from Allah the Most High, your parents’ attitudes may change. But do not become sad or disappointed if they do not.
• Parents—especially those with a non-Western background—put great emphasis on their children’s obedience. Be obedient in all other aspects, except when it comes to disobeying the rules of Allah.
• Try to get closer to your parents. Spend time in strengthening your relationship with them, especially your mother. Remember, people usually respond positively to requests of people they love and are strongly attached to. Ask her about her opinion in your choice of colors, shoes, dresses, and so on. Maybe she just wants to be sure that you stay well dressed and elegant. Or she may just be afraid that you won’t have any chance to marry one day, so explore her reasons for disapproving and try to tackle them by displaying real examples from your environment, but do not argue with her. Of course, this might be the crux of the problem and your mother might not think it is obligatory. Still, you should not argue with her or with your father. Respect them at all times. Choose a suitable time when she is calm and share the idea with her so that you show your belief that hijab is obligatory.
• Finally, think about all other creative ways of persuading them like turning to someone who is more knowledgeable to talk to them or giving them a book that explains this issue.
Those who harass believing men and believing women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a grievous sin. O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad) That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Surah Al-Azhab, 58-59.