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My Hijab Made Me Happy

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 02:38:27 PM, Nakata Khaula, The Simple Truth


My Hijab Made Me Happy: When I reverted to Islam, the religion of inborn nature, a fierce debate raged about girls observing the Hijab at schools in France. It still does. The majority, it seemed...Read Full

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[Experience of a Japanese woman who embraced Islam and adopted Hijab and found how it provides the wealth of self confidence, serenity and dignity to a woman.]


When I reverted to Islam, the religion of inborn nature, a fierce debate raged about girls observing the Hijab at schools in France. It still does. The majority, it seemed, thought that wearing the head scarf was contrary to the principle that public – that is state – funded school should be neutral with regard to religion. Even as a non-Muslim, I could not understand why there was such a fuss over such a small thing as a scarf on a Muslim student’s head. The feeling still persists amongst non-Muslims that Muslim woman wear the Hijab simply because they are slaves to traditions, so much so that it is seen as a symbol of oppression. Woman’s liberation and independence is, so they believe, impossible unless they first remove the Hijab.


Such naiveté is shared by “Muslim” with little or no knowledge of Islam. Being so used secularism and religious eclecticism, pick and mix, they are unable to comprehend that Islam is universal and eternal. This part, women all over the world, non-Arabs, are embracing Islam and wearing the Hijab as a religious requirement, not a misdirected sense of “tradition”.


I am but one example of such women. My Hijab is not a part of my racial or traditional identity.; it has no social or political significance; it is, purely and simply, my religious identity.


I have worn the Hijab embracing Islam in Paris. The exact form of the Hijab varies according to the country one is in, or the degree of the individual’s religion awareness. In France I wore a simple scarf, which matched my dress and perched lightly on my head so that it was almost fashionable. Now, in Saudi Arabia, I wear an all-covering black cape; not even my eyes are visible. Thus, I have experienced the Hijab from its simplest to its most complete form.


What does the Hijab means to me? Although there have been many books and articles about the Hijab, they always tend to be written from an outsider’s point of view; I hope this will allow me to explain what I can observe from the inside, so to speak. When I decided to declare my Islam, I did not think whether I could pray five times a day or wear the Hijab. Ma be I was scared that if I had given it serious thought I would have reached a negative conclusion, and that would affect my decision to become a Muslim. Until I visited the main mosque in Paris I had nothing to do with Islam; neither the prayer nor the Hijab were familiar to m. In fact, both were unimaginable but my desire to be a Muslim was too strong, Alhamdulillah, for me to be overly concerned with what awaited me on the “ Other side” of my conversion.


The benefits of observing Hijab became clear to me following a lecture at the mosque when I kept my scarf on even after leaving the building. The lecture had filled me with such a previously unknown spiritual satisfaction that I simply did not want to remove it. Because of the cold weather, I did not attract too much attention but I did feel different, somehow purified and protected; I felt as if I was in Allah’s company.


As a foreigner in Paris, sometimes felt uneasy about being stared at by men. In my Hijab I went unnoticed, protected from impolite stares.


My Hijab made me happy; it was both a sign of my obedience to Allah and a manifestation of my faith. I did not need to utter beliefs, the Hijab stated them clearly for all to see, especially fellow Muslims, and thus it helped to strengthen the bonds of sisterhood in Islam.


Wearing the Hijab soon became spontaneous, albeit purely voluntary. No human could force me to wear it; if they had, perhaps I would have rebelled and rejected it. However, the first Islamic book I read used very moderate language in this respect, saying that “Allah recommends it (the Hijab) strongly” and since Islam (as the word itself indicates) means we are to obey Allah’s will I accomplished my Islamic duties willingly and without difficulty, Alhamdulillah!


The Hijab reminds people who see it that God exists, and it serves as a constant reminder to me that I should conduct myself as a Muslim. Just as police officers are more professionally aware while in uniform, so I had a stronger sense of being a Muslim wearing my Hijab.


Two weeks after my return to Islam, I went back to Japan for a family wedding and took the decision not to return to my studies in France; French literature had lost its appeal and the desire to study Arabic had replaced it. As a new Muslim with very little knowledge of Islam it was a big test for me to live in a small town in Japan completely isolated from Muslims. However, this isolation intensified my Islamic consciousness, and I knew that I was not alone as Allah was with me.


I had to abandon many of my clothes and, with some help from a friend who knew dressmaking; I made some pantaloons, similar to Pakistani dress, I was not bothered by the strange looks the people gave me.


After six months in Japan, my desire to study Arabic grew so much that I decided to go to Cairo where I knew someone. None of best family there spoke English (or Japanese) and the lady who too my hand to lead me into the house was covered from head to toe in black. Even her face was covered. Although this is now familiar to me here in Riyadh, I remember being surprised at the time, recalling an incident in France when I had seen such dress and thought, “there is a woman enslaved by Arabic tradition, unaware of real Islam,” (which I believed, thought that covering the face was not a necessity, but an ethnic tradition).


I wanted to tell the lady in Cairo that she was exaggerating in her dress, that it was unnatural and abnormal. Instead, I was told that my self-made dress was not suitable to go out in, something I disagreed with since I understood that it satisfied the requirements for a Muslim. But, when in Rome….so I bought some cloth and made a long dress, called Khimar, which covered the loins and arms completely. I was even ready to cover my face, something most of the sisters with whom I became acquainted did. They were, though, a small minority in Cairo.


Generally speaking, young Egyptians, more or less fully westernized, kept their distance from women wearing Khimar and called them “the sisters.” Men treated us with respect and special politeness. Women wearing a Khimar shared a sisterhood, which lived up to the Prophet’s saying (Allah’s blessings and peace be on him) that a Muslim gives his salam to the person he crosses in the street, whether he knows him or not.” The sisters were, it is probably true to say, more conscious of their faith than those who wear scarves for the sake of custom, rather than for the sake of Allah.


Before becoming a Muslimah, my preference was for active pants-style clothes, not the more feminine shirts, but the long dress I wore in Cairo pleased me; I felt elegant and more relaxed.


In the western sense, black is a favorite colour for evening wears as it accentuates the beauty of the wearer. My new sisters were truly beautiful in their black Khimar and with a light akin to saintliness shone from their faces. Indeed, they are not unlike Roman Catholic nuns, something I noticed particularly when I had occasion to Paris soon after arriving in Saudi Arabia.


I was in the same metro carriage as a nun and I smiled at our similarity of dress. Hers was the symbol of her devotion to God, as is that of a Muslimah. I often wonder why people say nothing about the veil of the catholic nun but criticize vehemently the veil of a Muslimah, regarding it as a symbol of “terrorism” and “oppression.”


I did not mind abandoning colourful clothes in favour of black; in fact, I had always had a sense to longing for the religious life style of a nun even before becoming a Muslimah.


After another six months in Cairo, however, I was accustomed to my long dress that I started to think that I would wear it on my return to Japan. My concession was that I had some dresses make in light colours, and some white khimars, in the belief that they would be less shocking in Japan than the black variety.


I was right. The Japanese reacted rather well to my white khimars, and they seemed to be able to guess that I was of a religious persuasion. I heard one girl telling her friend that I was a Buddhist nun; how similar a Muslimah, a Buddhist nun and a Christian nun are.


Once, on train, the elderly man next to me asked why I was dressed in such unusual fashion. When I explained that I was a Muslimah and that Islam commands women to cover their bodies so as not to trouble men who are weak and unable to resist temptation, he seemed impressed. When he left the train he thanked me and said that he would have liked more time to speak to me about Islam.


In this instance, the hijab prompted a would not normally be accustomed to talking about religion. As in Cairo, the hijab acted as a means of identification between Muslim’s; I found myself on the way to a study circle wondering if I was on the right route when I sew a group of sisters wearing the hijab. We greeted each other with salam and went on the meeting together.


My father was worried when I went out in long sleeves and a head-cover even in the hottest weathers, but I found that my hijab protected me from the sun. Indeed, it was I who also felt uneasy looking at my younger sister’s legs while she wore short pants. I have often been embarrassed, even before declaring Islam, by the sight of a woman’s bosoms and hips clearly outlined by tight, thin clothing. I fest as if was seeing something secret. If such a sight embarrasses me, one of the same sexes, it is not difficult to imagine the effect on man. In Islam, men and women are commanded to dress modestly and not be naked or semi-naked in public, even in all male or all female situations.


It is clear that what is acceptable to be bared in society varies according to societal or individual understanding. For example, in Japan fifty years ago it was considered vulgar to swim I swimming suit but now bikinis are the norm. If, however, a woman swam topless she would be regarded as shameless.


In Islam we have no such problems

Allah had defined what may and may not be bared, and we follow. The way people walk around naked (or almost so, excreting or making love in public, rob them of the sense of shame and reduces them to the status of animals. In Japan, women only wear makeup when they go out and have little regard for how they look at home. In Islam a wife will try to look beautiful for her husband and her husband will try to look good for his wife. There is modesty even between husband and wife and this embellishes the relationship.


Muslims are accused of being over-sensitive about the human body but the degree of sexual harassment, which occurs these days, justifies modest dress. Just as a short shirt can send the signal that the wearer is available to men, so the hijab signals, loud clear: “ I am forbidden for you.”


This shows that it is preferable for a woman to stay at home and avoid contact with male strangers as much as possible. Observing the Hijab, when one goes outside, has the same effect.


Having married, I felt Japan for Saudi Arabia, where it is customary for the women to cover their faces outdoors. I was impatient to try the Hijab and curious to know how it felt. Of course, non-Muslim women generally wear a black cloak, rather nonchalantly thrown over their shoulders but do not cover their faces. Non-Saudi Muslim women also often keep their faces uncovered.


Once accustomed to, the Hijab is certainly no inconvenient. In fact I felt like the owner of a secret masterpiece, a treasure, which other can neither know about, nor see.


It is an error of judgment to think that a Muslim woman covers herself because she is a private possession of her husband. In fact she preserves her dignity and refuses to be possessed by strangers. It is non-Muslim (ad so called “liberated” Muslim) women who are to be pitied for displaying their private self for all to see.


Observing the Hijab from outside, it is impossible to see what it hides. The gap between being outside and looking in, and being inside and looking out, explains in part the void in the understanding of Islam. An outsider may see Islam as restricting Muslims. In side, however, there is peace, freedom and joy, which those who experience it have never know before.


Practicing Muslims, whether those born in Muslim families or those reverted to Islam, choose Islam rather than the illusory freedom of secular life. If it oppresses women, why are so many well-educated young women in Europe, America, Japan, Australia, indeed all over the world abandoning “liberty” and “independent” and embracing Islam?


A person blinded by prejudice may not see it, but a woman in Hijab is as brightly beautiful as an angel, of oppression scar her face. “ For indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but is the hearts within the bosoms, that grow blind.” Says Allah in the Holy Quran (Al-Hajj-22: 46)


How else can we explain the great gap in understanding between such people and us?





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