Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Object of Faith

People attach meaning to objects. We have always done it…and we will always do it. But, the understanding of what the object means and what meaning that
should be attach to it, is different for everyone. We all have our ‘perceptions’ of what the object means because each person will see the object differently. This meaning is then passed down from generation to generation. And most times forms part of our cultural norms.

Clothing is much the same thing. It is pieces of material that is sown together. The meaning behind the piece of clothing is mostly dictated by the designer. Either s/he wanted to capture the 60’s or design a garment that will make women seem thinner. The clothing has a bigger purpose than just covering the human body from the elements. Many people also use clothes to express how they feel. I am the type of person that dresses this way. If I feel good I look good.

Given the right circumstance a simple object like clothing becomes a political statement; a statement of identity as appose to a religious choice (as it should be) or an expression of the wearer. Hijjab is a perfect example of this.

Every Ramadaan it’s the same story, many girls who don’t normally wear hijjab (including myself) will now wear it for the duration of the month. For me, dressing differently keeps me constantly aware of the fact that this month is special. But the meaning of hijjab for me is much more complicated then just choosing an item of clothing to wear. It is for this reason that I do not wear hijjab every single day. (The reason I will discuss in a later post)

Let’s get one thing straight, I do not negate that I am suppose to wear hijjab. Why? Not because I want to be recognised as a Muslim, or my mother said so, or to hide my ‘beautiful’ hair from prying male eyes, BUT because Allah (SWT) said so. Full stop.


The meaning behind the hijjab is that people think that just because you wear it, you automatically have the characteristics of a good Muslim girl. This meaning behind hijjab is a socially constructed thing.

In other words, people perceive that by wearing this piece of clothing you automatically have a certain type of character. So because your head and/or body is covered you are innocent, respectable, and ‘good’. But here is the thing, I have a big mouth and tend to bob my head when I here music. So if I was wearing hijjab people would say, "Look at that girl, she has on hijjab but she is jiving in the street". So does that automatically make me a bad person? In the Quran, it doesn't say; wear hijjab because it will automatically make you a better person.

It does make me feel good to wear hijjab in this month. And to see all the other girls also do the same. It makes me feel connected to something greater, and there are times when I wish I felt like that all the time.

I recently got an email from someone that said “This is not hijjab then it went on to describe a list of things. Now I do not disagree with theses points. It is valid and true. But what I don’t understand is why are you complaining? At least the girl is making an effort to be identified as a Muslim. Even if it is only for this month or only on Fridays. It is a step in the right direction. And yes, if someone is doing something wrong it should be pointed out to them, in a decent manner, and then they must make that choice for themselves.

No one, be it person, mufti or state has the right to dictate to people how they express their religion, culture or personality!! Whether it is telling them not to wear the niqab or telling them how to wear the hijjab.

NOTHING irritates me more than when I decide to wear a scarf and Muslim people ask me “Why you looking all holy all of a sudden?” As a Muslim it is your duty to say that I look good. Not question my faith because I look different.

I cannot say it as simply as this. Just because people wear hijjab, does not make them more faithful, pious or righteous. Because the hijjab is a physical object. This physical object does not have human characteristics; therefore the wearer does not automatically assume those things.

It’s like a crown doesn’t make a king. But the crown is a representation of his king hood. Hijjab does not make you a Muslim, but it is a physical expression of your religious choice of obeying the religious law.


The whole concept of Niquab and Hijjab is highly contested for many reasons. What we as Muslims need to understand is that our faith cannot be contained in an object; it is not sowed into the garments that we wear. That essentially what all people need to understand is that a scarf is just a scarf. And the meaning that we as people attach to it is not the same meaning as divinely ordained.

There are times when I don’t want to wear hijjab, just because I know that the Muslims who don’t wear it, are going to comment on it and think that I think, I’m all of a sudden better than them…and the women who do wear it, are going to look at me funny as if to say 'Oh whatever…You are only starting now…I’ve been doing this longer than you, therefore I’m a better Muslim than you.’ I read a blog where the commenter admits to judging women who don’t wear hijjab but make salaah. Then the objective of wearing hijjab (not to draw attention to myself) is defeated.

My criticism is not of commenter, but on her thinking that many many other Muslim women share. Let us remember that people are multi-faceted and that nothing is what it seems. Just because a girl does not wear hijjab does not mean that she does not make her salaah, or that she is less of a Muslim than you. Instead of commenting on the fact that some girls have their heads covered yet their bums open. Or that they are wearing a kurta but you can see their body shape.
Rather think, 'today that girl has made a choice to be identified as a Muslim'. Be proud of that fact. Rather comment on how beautiful women who suddenly wear hijjab look. Let us positively re-enforce behaviour.

Muslim women are the back bone of the society. We need to start treating each other with respect and understanding even though we don’t agree with each others decisions. Because Allah (SWT) has given all of us free will and a brain to think for ourselves.

So to the Muslim women out there today...which ever way you decide to express yourself and your religion, acknowledge that there is a right and wrong way to do it. Whichever choice you make it does not automatically make it 'right' but it is your choice and you will answer for it.

JM!

2 comments:

Suhaifa Naidoo said...

I couldn't have said it better even if I tried. Beautiful post!

Trinity said...

Thank you Suhaifa.