Friday, October 31, 2008

Dear Hijab

My good friend Dina and I both went through something similar: a great deal of self reflection and discussion about something so dear to us: al-hijab. This is something extremely personal, and it was therefore very difficult for me to articulate my decision when I decided to take it off. Dina on the other hand so eloquently expressed her decision through this letter. I loved it and decided to share it here because in many ways it is an expression of how I felt as well.

Dear Hijab,

We've been together for a long time. For over twelve years we have shared the experiences that tested my values and faith. But now it is time for us to part. This isn't a complete separation, like a divorce from a loved one or an amputation of a limb. I see this is maturation…simply no longer needing the training wheels and graduating to the next level of spiritual growth.

At first I felt it was silly to think so delicately and feel such strong emotion about you. After all, there are far more dire issues that face humans in the world. But then I allowed myself to look deeper into our relationship, from what began as just following God's command to what became a closely knit link between my character, faith and personality. And I thought, at the very least I owe you the recognition of these huge contributions to my life.

Because of you, the world is talking about Islam. You remind people, believers and disbelievers, of God. You have made women stronger, more able to speak up than their male counterparts in this human race. You have challenged governments to allow people their rights. And have challenged people to seek overlap between the Divine and the worldly rather than separate the two, keeping them far apart, as they have been in the past.

And that's just the grand scale. I can't even count the number of ways you have impacted my life, and this letter does not do you justice. I know who I am now, because you've caused me to consistently introspect. You've allowed each part of my identity to blossom at times where "Dina" was a jumbled bunch of factoids like age, ethnicity, geographic location. You've connected me to other Muslims instantly by virtue of physical recognition. You've helped me make a stand, inadvertently, against corrupt ideals and judgments. And most importantly, you've helped me learn the character traits of endurance, humility, and compassion for people that are considered outsiders in a world of homogeny.

So if you mean so much to me, 'why would I let you go,' you might ask. There are several reasons that float around for why you aren't necessary, but I am not about justification of intentions on already-decided issues. I am a woman of principle, and you helped teach me that. So this decision is based on just that, principle.

The journey to this decision began about a year ago when I came across a few hadiths that struck a nerve with me. They didn't seem to coincide with the teachings of the Prophet or, more importantly, Divine Word (aka the Quran). I dismissed my alarm as paranoia and thought I was not educated enough to make any real decisions. I had to continue to follow what others had interpreted from hadiths to mean that you are mandatory.

But that didn't settle well. I am 26 years old, and must listen to the command from God to think. There is benefit and reward in thought. "There surely is an oath for thinking man [person]" (89:5). I learned that out of the 600,000 hadith collected by Bukhari a few hundred years after the Prophet's death, only around 7,300 hadiths have been left and claimed sahih (valid). And this methodology of weeding out the wrong traditions has not been reexamined in 1,000 years. In addition to the hadiths that we use for interpretation that may not be legitimate, much of what we practice today is based on 1,000 year-old patriarchal interpretation of the hadiths that are considered sahih. So when I say the problem isn't with you Hijab, I mean it. I'm not just giving you a cliché break-up message.

I am at a point where I believe hadiths need to be reevaluated and we need to reopen the doors of philosophy and thought. If I'm wrong in all of this, I hope that the level of effort and thought I have put into this search for what's right in life is counted as valuable, if not more valuable, than the minor acts that I am changing. For this reason, I am continuing to follow what is accepted in prayer, fasting, etc. These are matters much bigger than you Hijab, I hope you understand.

This doesn't mean I don't appreciate you or the many years we've spent together. You mean more to me than I can write about or even realize. But I must do what I believe is right and follow my heart in my search for truth.

We'll be seeing each other frequently though, don't worry. At the mosque, during prayers, and at times when I need you. And I know the doors are always open, because God never closes His even when people close theirs.

With love,


YH said...

Wow! This was quite strong. It is something personal and I believe that you and Dino wish for it to be something personal.

So I don't think that I or anyone else has the right to judge. After all, it is our Creator who shall say what's right and what's wrong, not us mere mortals.

So God bless and God speed =).

woman from Yemen said...

Thanks Yawer :)