Raising young Muslim girls in today’s world means raising them with an extra dose of confidence. After all when you look around, they are surrounded by images of women and fashion that contradict Islamic values of hijab and modesty. If we as parents don’t take the time to offer support and encouragement, it’s only a matter of time when our young girls will succumb to these messages that what you are on the outside matters more than the inside.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see how the once simple concept of hijab has turned into an entire industry. “Hijab fashion” is popular now, and even hitting the catwalks at fashion shows. Now, while I am glad that hijab is gaining attention as a positive part of women’s wardrobes, we must be careful not to forsake the true meaning and purpose of hijab.
It is unfortunate that even with many young girls and women proud to wear hijab, you see many not understanding the purpose behind it. Perfectly veiled young women will shun the very hijab they happily wear for their wedding day. Or after wearing hijab for years through college and even work, they just take it off altogether. They know what hijab means, but because they don’t understand its importance, they very easily get confused.
The problem is that when hijab is being promoted as simply a fashion item, it takes on the same meaning as a simple piece of clothing. We all know fashion trends have cycles, and what is popular today won’t be popular a few months from now. But that ideology can’t work with hijab.
So as our young girls are turning baligh (coming of age) and donning their hijab for the first time, are we helping them understand this commitment? What kind of support and encouragement are we providing them?
How to instill the proper understanding of hijab
- Communicate the importance of hijab: For this we have to be very clear, hijab is a concept, not just a piece of cloth. How you talk, walk, behave all fall under hijab. And, yes, it goes for our young boys, too. For our young children we don’t have to go into the nitty gritty, but it is very important to talk about the boundaries of private and public, mahram and na-mahram. Especially with the popularity of social media and the advent of the “selfie” culture, teach your young ones about vanity and protecting themselves in public. Constantly being in front of the camera or perfecting your makeup is contradictory to the concept of hijab. Use role models in Islam to help explain your point – Lady Maryam, the mother of Prophet Isa, Lady Fatima Zahra and her daughter, Lady Zainab, are great starting points.
- Hijab should not make you judgmental: Often you’ll see hijab as the focal cause for passing judgement. Whether it is someone who doesn’t observe hijab who thinks all hijab-wearing women are “backwards,” or the hijab-wearing woman who thinks all those who don’t wear hijab are horrible people. Our young girls should know that while observing proper hijab is required of Muslim women, there will be some who choose not to wear it, and even those who won’t wear it properly. However it is not upon us to judge anyone. Allah is the Judge of all of us, and we should only strive to observe hijab the best we can.
- Offer a support group: A few dedicated sisters in Qom recently started a “Baligha Club” for young girls between 8-10 years old. These girls meet up twice a month and discuss topics with learned adults, like hijab, and other Islamic rulings/issues pertaining to this age. After the discussion they break for a snack and an activity. The object is to strengthen these girls’ faith through support and a fun environment, and allow them a platform to ask any questions and see how fellow girls might be dealing with the same issue.
- Let girls be girls: We all know how hard it can be to let girls “have fun” in the West, given the environment and the respect for the rules of our faith. So be creative and give your girls the room they need to be girls. Have get-togethers where girls can dress up and have fun. Help them take on activities/sports they enjoy in the proper environment, i.e. help organize women’s-only swimming hours, or find recreational activities where hijab is not an issue. If we use hijab as the obstacle in letting our girls be themselves, then soon our girls will resent wearing hijab, especially when they see their non-Muslim peers having so much freedom without it. Hijab should not be an obstacle in our children’s lives, so it is unfortunate when we as parents make it so. If we have made the decision to raise our children in a non-Islamic environment, then we should also make the efforts to help our children have the proper access to Islam they deserve.
- A perfect hijab comes with time: Give your girls room when they are starting hijab. It might not be perfect from the get-go, but allow them time to learn. All you can do is explain the basic rules, then let them understand. For some girls, it might not take them much time to adjust, but for some girls it can be difficult. Don’t pressurize, and instead offer a loving, encouraging environment.
Our young girls have plenty of negative messages to deal with regarding hijab and modesty, it would only hurt to have the same negativity resonating in the safety of their own home. When we see the Holy Prophet’s daughter, Fatima Zahra, we see that she not only wore the best hijab, but she also had the confidence to deal with oppressors. This is what we should want for our daughters.
Hijab is not meant to hide women; on the contrary, it is to protect women as they deal with the outside world. Women just staying indoors don’t have to worry about hijab, so it is contradictory to say that Islam only wants women to stay home and raise kids. Then hijab wouldn’t be an issue at all. But to protect our women in the outside world from needlessly being objectified and disrespected by considering them as only objects from which to derive pleasure, Almighty Allah has prescribed hijab for women, and also men.
May Allah the Most High give us all the opportunity to help provide an environment of love, encouragement and support for our daughters and young women as they observe hijab in today’s world.
Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host the “Raising Faith” column by esteemed guest contributor and student from Qum, Sister Samira Rizvi. Besides being a former newspaper copy editor, Rizvi is a mother of three, an author who writes for Little Muslim Books, and maintains a personal blog. Her column will focus on her experiences in tarbiyat—the upbringing of children based on Islamic values. For past articles in the column see here.