Today’s Let’s Talk about Hijab post comes from Pari Ali, in Kuwait. She blogs at Weaving Tapestries and is one of those connections that seems to redeem the time-suck of the internet. I met her through another on-line friend who wisely suggested that Pari’s voice be part of this series. I love the beautiful sentences in this post and the way Pari internalizes modesty, makes hijab about character, and I breathed a deep Amiin (Amen) when I read her last lines. Pari is a devout Muslim who chooses…well, I’ll let her speak for herself…

photo by Pari Ali

photo by Pari Ali

The soft, chiffon hijab framed her sweet, gentle face; its pale pastel shades seemed perfect for the purpose. She was a stranger, someone I was meeting for the first time, yet just looking at her I felt I knew her, for her face radiated an inner calm. Her eyes shone with a rare kindness, with piety and contentment. Though her figure was slight, I felt dwarfed before her, humbled.  She knew where she was going, her feet firmly planted on the path of her faith, she was a traveller whose quest was to attain nearness to her God and his pleasure. Like she showed kindness to her fellow humans, spoke in soft, gentle tones, put a leash on her tongue and temper, tried to live her life in a fair and just way, so she wore the hijab. For an educated, independent doctor, it was not an instrument of repression but just one more way to follow her beliefs.

I live in a country where more than half the female population wear hijabs, niqabs, burqas, etc, according to choice. It is not required under the laws of this country; it is purely a matter of choice. For many it is a garment which is a sheer necessity, they are just not comfortable without it. There might be some women who are repressed by their husbands and forced to wear it, but repression has many faces and all of them are equally ugly. It is also not limited to any particular race, religion, culture, country or peoples. In a country like this, where the women are often financially independent, even wealthy, educated, often very highly, where they drive and travel, write and express themselves in a variety of ways, it is personal choice and not repression, which leads to wearing the hijab.

The hijab certainly does not limit their activities. There are women here, who drive the latest and best sports cars, ride Harleys and jetskis, write amazing poetry, paint, are CEOs of companies, are involved in politics, teach at universities, etc and do it all while wearing the hijab. These are strong, individual, independent women, admirable in every way and especially admirable for the strength of their convictions. They do what they believe in without bowing down to the international peer pressure, the stigma that the media has attached to the hijab and those who wear it and the negative image it is unfortunately portraying for many.

They feel empowered by the hijab, empowered to conceal or reveal what they wish to. Dressing as the world expects you to dress, following fickle fashions, following trends often at the cost of mounting credit, is a worse kind of repression. Why can’t a person just be free to dress as they wish to without the fear of being judged solely by that dress? Not that these ladies do not follow fashion or dress well. Almost every western designer name is to be found in their ample closets. The stores are full of the latest styles. They dress in the latest fashions but choose who they reveal their finery to. That is not repression it is empowerment.

I do not wear the hijab, mainly because of the culture I come from. No one in my family has ever worn it. Yet clothes were and still are always chosen for their modesty. Modesty is so deeply ingrained in us it can almost be called inborn. Neither one of my well educated, independent daughters would ever wear a revealing swimsuit or go to a mixed gym. It is just something that is against their nature.

I do wear other hijabs though, in my quest for perfecting my faith. Hijab is described as a curtain, screen or a partition and I have a number of these. Some are of the firmest materials, which stay steady and unmoving, while it is a constant struggle to keep the others, the ones of silky, slippery material in place. I find it simple to keep the hijabs of moderation against greed and envy, of generosity against selfishness, of modesty against unseemly desires, of unkindness over meanness and kindness firmly in place. It is the hijab of calmness over the temper and the quickness of tongue, the hijab of contentment over discontentment, which I mainly struggle with.

I think it is a Universal struggle.

by Pari Ali

Other posts in the Hijab series:

Let’s Talk about  Hijab

Why Doesn’t Your Wife Wear Hijab? by Anita Dualeh

Hijab: Definitions