Clothes mean something. When we stand in front of our wardrobe everyday and pick out an outfit, it is usually because we have something to express to the world. As the saying goes, we are what we wear and, we wear what we are. In some societies, dark colours are worn by the elites to signify their social status. In the olden Malay times, the color yellow was only reserved for the Sultans. Everything that we wear has meaning, be it conscious or subconscious. In Malaysia, the hijab is a common form of fashion within the Muslim community. Even so, many still don’t know about it that much.
As someone who studied in a Chinese school for ten years, I was among the minority who wore the hijab. At 12 years old, on a random weekend, I had decided to wear the hijab to school. It was a huge deal to me. I remember my first day going to school donning the white school uniform hijab. I entered class with my heart beating against my ribcage and before I even reached my seat, my friends cried out at the sight of me, forming a circle around me. WOW! You look different! Why do you wear it? Is it hot? Can I wear it too? That last one came from a male classmate! I was a little overwhelmed by all the attention so I couldn’t give that great of an answer. To my surprise, I have friends who still ask me the very same questions here in UNM. So I’ve decided to write this short post to answer all the most frequent questions about the hijab that I wear. *deep breath* Here goes.
Is it hot?
For starters, Malaysia is pretty hot so most of us Muslim girls will go for chiffon or satin. The more airy the material, the better. Although it’s form and feel gives it’s own unique look whilst styling, Pashmina is a death wish! Unless you’re going out on a cool rainy night or for dinner at an air-conditioned restaurant, I’d suggest to stay away. On the context of style, materials like satin and chiffon definitely gives for an elegant flowy look that is versatile, even for a day to night look. Styling with cotton on the other hand, gives a perfectly casual look, a great compliment to fashion elements such as denim and sneakers. My advice? You’ll never go wrong styling with chiffon, satin or cotton, because material plays a part when facing the heat.
Why do you wear it though? (The Golden Question)
In Islam, wearing the hijab is a beautiful act of modesty and honor. It is first and foremost an act of worship. Hijab means ‘barrier’ in Arabic. This defines a wall or a curtain that could be a form of hijab too! It was only recently that the physical cloth head cover was coined as the ‘hijab’. Islam asked women to lengthen her veil and garment, to protect her from harm and to allow her to be recognised and respected as a Muslim woman. From the dawn of civilisation, people wore flowing dresses and headscarves as a sign of Godliness, just like how Mary wore the veil in many Christian depictions. In the Quran, the word that is used to refer to the headcover is actually ‘khimar’. This includes the meaning of the head and then some. During the prophet Muhammad’s time, women’s khimars covered their heads and were allowed to flow behind their backs. So the Quran advised the women that “they should draw their khimars over their chest”. And this verse (24:31) has become a reference for Muslim women today who wear the khimar or in today’s term, the hijab.
Can’t guys wear hijab too?
Uhh they can, I guess. But in Islam, men actually have a different kind of hijab. In the Quran, instead of asking men to wear a hijab too, men were asked to lower their gaze. This is known as the hijab of the eyes.
“Say to the believing men”, the Quran says, “they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.”
This verse (24:30) came right before the verse for the khimar which showed the men’s hijab is placed in higher importance before the women’s. So when a man makes unwanted advances to a woman, the blame is not on the women for not wearing the hijab, it’s actually first and foremost on the men for not lowering their gaze. No harm in “just looking” right? Nope, think again. So although men and women are equal, Islam acknowledges the differences between men and women. Hence, both genders are taught to guard their modesty in different ways.
Why do some women not wear the hijab?
There is no compulsion in Islam. And all deeds that you do sincerely for God should always be just between you and God. As long as you practice your faith with sincerity, that is all that matters. We’re all doing our best and fighting our own hard battles.
So if a woman wears a hijab, that is her choice. And if she doesn’t, that is also her choice.
In a multicultural society that we live in, understanding each other is probably our biggest superpower. As the famous Malay saying goes, “tak kenal makan tak cinta” (you can’t love what you don’t know/understand). I think if we really understood how different we really are based on our upbringing, personality, worldview, experiences and probably a dozen other factors that shape who we are today, it would not be a surprise why we dress differently and that we have our own reasons why. Not to mention, we’re all still growing and figuring things out as we grow older so we’ll always have something to learn from each other. And as we go on that journey, just remember that nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.
Written by Anyss Athira, Style Section Writer.
Important Note :
This time is trying and serious with the pandemic that surround us on a global level. Do stay HOME! Practicing self-isolation and social distancing is of high vitality now. Don’t forget to keep yourself entertained with more write ups from the Style Section!