The biggest issue with the Western concept of beauty is that the idea of women being nothing more than mere objects is promoted in commercials, advertisements, and all other media outlets.
Being an American Muslim may at times seem like an oxymoron. The types of culturally acceptable activities society tells us are the “norm” are almost always contrary to what Islam and the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) have taught us. Activities such as drinking, partying, drug usage, and promiscuity are promoted so much that fighting against it all and keeping Islam alive within ourselves has been proclaimed as our Jihad while living in the West. Although the daily struggle is experienced by both females and males, Muslim women are faced with an issue that most of the time goes beyond their own conscious awareness. This issue lies within the concept of beauty that is defined almost every time we are exposed to our outside environment.
The biggest issue with the Western concept of beauty is that the idea of women being nothing more than mere objects is promoted in commercials, advertisements, and all other media outlets. Women are used to sell products by becoming the products themselves. Advertisers almost always make sure to show one or more gorgeous, physically flawless women as means to appeal to both men and women. From the surface, this technique may not seem very manipulating, but the psychological effect this has on people is tremendous. After seeing such images of women over and over again, most Western women are convinced that in order for them to be considered attractive by men, they must look and act in a certain way.
Islam, being Allah’s final and perfected religion, has provided its female followers a way out of such oppression. Many, ironically, look at this solution as oppression, when in reality, it is nothing more than a blessed gift from our glorious Creator. It is the sacred Hijab of Lady Fatima and Lady Zainab (peace be upon them). That simple piece of clothing has preserved and protected women for centuries. It is the one teachings of Islam that can transform a woman from being seen as an object to an equal human being in the eyes of men. This solution is not a part of any other religion, making Islam the only religion that provides such liberation for women. Unfortunately, however, the Hijab is still disputed amongst many women today, who are unable to understand the wisdom of Allah and take for granted His blessing.
Throughout most of my life, I never took the time to stop and think about the environmental aspects that clash with my religion. I hadn’t really contemplated their effects on my faith until high school began, when the importance of “finding yourself” became prevalent. All that I and the rest of the kids my age wanted was to be accepted by society, even if it meant placing some of our beliefs and values aside. Such an act is very risky with Muslim youth, because compromising our religious values never leads to the pleasure of Allah or progression in faith.
Since nearly every kid my age went through this stage, I began to notice how much my Muslims friends were assimilating into their high schools. I suddenly started seeing kids that used to show me off at Sunday school with their amazing Qur’an reading abilities and kids who always obeyed their parents becoming completely different from what I knew them to be. The most shocking of it all was that the group that I saw this occurring the most within were the sisters who observed Hijab. Although a few of them stuck by their promises to Allah and remained modest, others did not seem to be on the same path. Some began dating, while others began partying and going to the wrong places with the wrong people. A few girls slowly began wearing Hijabs that seemed to be getting smaller and looser, until the point where they finally “liberated themselves” and threw away the piece of clothing that Lady Zainab cried over in Karbala. Seeing all of this from the perspective of a girl who did not wear Hijab, I was quite disturbed and infuriated with my Muslim sisters. If these were the girls that were claiming to represent the religion of Lady Fatima, then there was seriously something wrong.
It was because of my disappointment that I began considering more and more to begin wearing Hijab. Since I knew that I couldn’t do much to change what was happening with the other sisters, I knew the only thing I could do was bring change to myself. This was when what the real world was like became clearer to me. How could I possibly reach my highest potential as a follower of the Ahlul Bayt if I did not at least try to walk in their footsteps? And as a female, one of the biggest duties I had was to make the ladies of Islam proud, which I didn’t feel like I was doing.
Finally, the time came where I decided that I had to become a better person. Not realizing that it would be Halloween the next day, I planned the night before that I would start by laying out my morning clothes with a Hijab to match it. As I drove to school that morning and got closer to my final destination, my heart rate got faster and faster. Once I arrived into the parking lot and got out of my car, I looked around and saw a few kids in my grade. They looked at me, but it didn’t seem like they noticed anything unusual. As I walked to my first period AP Psychology class, I knew that it would be one of the hardest moments in my life. I opened the door and a few kids bursted out laughing. My friend looked at me and said, “Is that like your Halloween costume?” I just laughed and said no and that it would be permanent. After all of my classmates heard that, they said, “Oh, we thought it was a costume!” I laughed it off and settled in. Ironically, that day in class we discussed the portrayal of women in media and how they become objectified and dehumanized. Right then was when I realized that Allah will always be there to help me out whenever I try to become closer to Him.
Once the class was over, I proceeded on to my other classes. All of my close friends that knew what it was were there to support me 100 percent and helped me get through my day. Some of my teachers asked questions about it and seemed to really appreciate what the Hijab was. As the day was coming to an end, and I was walking to my locker, a Jewish boy from my Psychology class came up to me and asked, “Did you feel awkward when the class laughed at you?” “Yeah it was a little awkward,” I said. “I mean, I didn’t really know what to expect, but it wasn’t so bad because I knew it was a misunderstanding.” “Well just to let you know, I knew that it wasn’t a costume when you walked in and felt bad when they laughed,” he said. “I know it’s hard to wear that because back when I used to wear a Yarmulke to school, even though our school is mostly Jewish, a lot of the kids would laugh at me.” I looked at him and with an appreciative smile thanked him.
Time went by, and as people figured that my Hijab was permanent, a lot of people, both students and teachers, came up to me, asked me questions, and told me that they were impressed with my decision. Thankfully, everything seemed to be going great. Apparently, teachers were asking my Pakistani English teacher about it, and my Anatomy teacher Google-searched “Hijab” before class one day in order to avoid putting me on the spot and asking me about it. Being the only girl who wore Hijab in a primarily Jewish and mostly pro-Israeli school wasn’t as bad as I had thought.
Overall, my experience in starting Hijab was a very smooth one. It turned out that the biggest obstacle I had to get past was my own fear of what others would think. It taught me a lot and changed the person that I am. Most Muslim girls who have experienced the beauties of Hijab like me claim that Hijab is liberating. However, if that is the case, then why do so many girls struggle to start? Hijab, just like prayer or fasting, is a personal decision. If a girl feels as though she is not yet ready to take upon the challenge of wearing Hijab, then it is her choice to do it when she feels comfortable, but she also needs to realize that she will be answerable before Allah for breaking His laws on the Day of Reckoning. The one difference between Hijab and prayer is that whether a girl wears it or not, those who are around her will be affected. In my opinion, it is better to be the girl who constantly reminds those around her of their Creator and His religion rather than being just any ordinary girl trying to live by society’s impractical standards.