Wearing the hijab comes with many stereotypes and is seen by some as a symbol of oppression toward women who are thought to be only wearing the hijab by force. The Muslim Student Association (MSA) wanted to open the discussion about why Muslim women wear the hijab to deconstruct those stereotypes.
“In certain countries you are forced to wear it, but it takes away the true meaning of the hijab, which is modesty,” said Zareen Ahmed, a second-year mechanical engineering student. “Everything in Islam is about your intention, so forcing someone to do it just doesn’t make sense.”
Women were encouraged to come try on a hijab last Tuesday in honor of World Hijab Day, where they were able to choose from a variety of colorful scarves and learn how to tie them.
The two-part event was intended to show people that the meaning behind the hijab is deeper than just a rule to follow. It’s about modesty, obedience and ultimately, trust.
It was a well-attended event, as organizers and attendees began the day with around 60 scarves and left with barely any.
“Putting on the hijab is a tough thing to do; it took me a couple (of) years to figure out that I wanted to wear it,” Ahmed said. “The fact that these girls decided in like five minutes, I think it was really brave to embrace someone else’s culture and faith as a way of respecting it.”
Ayesha Hussain led the discussion during the evening portion of the event.
Hussain has a bachelor’s in history from UC Irvine, and is currently completing a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Arabic Studies from the Institute of Knowledge in Diamond Bar. She is also in her first year of law school at Loyola Marymount University.
Hussain began by contextualizing “what we do and why we do it.” She said all the laws and rules that are given in the Quran are meant for its followers’ own good and are only beneficial to them.
The young women with MSA talked about how wearing a hijab is not oppressive because the choice to wear it comes from a desire to please God and to gain life in paradise.
“First and foremost, what does the hijab mean? It’s an outward manifestation of obedience,” Hussain said. “That’s not to say though that through obedience of our actions there’s no personal benefit for us as well.”
Students involved with MSA discussed their own decisions to wear a hijab and the significance of that choice.
“I like that it’s a constant reminder of my faith,” said Fatima Sheikh, a third-year accounting student.
Hussain affirmed that thought by saying that it is a good reminder and motivator to act in a way that would accurately represent Islam because it’s an outward mark of the faith.
Hussain also spoke to the faulty idea of asking “What does the hijab mean to you?” because that question comes from a very egocentric place, she said. The meaning of the hijab is not subjective but has a specific meaning behind it and why women are supposed to wear it.
“Islam is a religion of being God-centered. Everything we do it because God said so,” Hussain said. “It’s an act of trust.”
Hussain then encouraged her Muslim sisters to reflect on the reasons why they wear the hijab and to not get so in the routine of doing it, but to take time to examine and reflect on the real reason they wear it.
“It’s important to take time to reflect that I’m doing this because I want to obey my Lord,” Hussain said. “I’m doing this because I want to please him. And I’m doing this because I hope that through his pleasure I will enter paradise.”
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