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She undeniably loves her Lord with all of her heart. She stays up until the early hours of dawn praying and asking for His forgiveness. She is never seen without the Holy Quran in her grasp, with her temper controlled and peace in her heart. Nevertheless, all that is dismissed as she is looked down upon by her fellow Muslim brothers and sisters because she does not have a scarf wrapped around her head.
The literal meaning of “hijab” in Arabic is a ‘covering’ or a ‘veil’. It represents a concept far greater than simply an item of clothing; it’s also a way of presenting one’s self-modesty in action. Appearances and clothing can always be changed, but actions and attitudes take longer to develop and are, in fact, at the core of what defines one as a Muslim. How you act is as important, if not more, than how you dress.
Given that, this means that, in a sense, it’s possible for hijabis* to be immodest and for non-hijabis to be modest. Acts of modesty such as being humble are often overlooked, and some are too focused on how a women should be looking modest. I do not mean to say that wearing hijab is not of importance, rather I stress that it is not our place to be placing judgements against those who do not. Wearing hijab is a personal decision we make for ourselves, in an effort to please our Lord, not other people. No matter what step of faith we are at, we should focus on bettering our own selves to keep us on the path to Jannah**, not worrying about others.
When we think of what – or, better yet, who – a Muslim is, we should be visualizing a stereotyped appearance, as that would be generalizing a whole diverse range of people with the same brushstroke. As Muslims, we are aware that we are constantly being judged by others in society, and judging others before we get to know them, especially our fellow Muslims, goes against Islam’s teachings. At the end of the day, appearances, actions, and intentions are judged by Allah (SWT), so our concern should be to refine ourselves to make sure that Allah (SWT) is happy with us. Ultimately, we must remember that no one has the authority to judge the faith of anyone else, especially not based on their appearance.
*A “hijabi” is a Muslim female who wears the headscarf
**The Arabic word for Paradise