Let me first put this out there:
I wear hijab (the traditional Muslim headscarf plus loose, modest clothing) and I believe there is great benefit to it in this life, and the Hereafter. I don’t think it is the end-all of whether someone is a good Muslim. I do encourage Muslim women to wear it, but don’t automatically discount them as a “bad Muslim” because someone doesn’t choose it for themself.
Okay, let’s move on.
Any hijabi (woman who wears hijab) knows that flying can be a somewhat stressful time. There are the looks in the airport, the “random” screening, and just the uncomfortable feeling that we can’t do anything too noticeable. For instance, I was walking past a door in the airport yesterday and noticed something written on it about birds, which I thought was odd. Then I looked at the rest of the door and realized it was a door for the Department of Homeland Security. As a covered woman, I don’t want any extra time checking out that door, though I still wonder why it’s also associated with birds of some sort. Anyway, I digress.
I worry that these situations will discourage Care Bear (my 13 year old daughter) from wearing hijab as it’s seen as a hassle and lessens her sense of safety. It makes me sad that hijab gives some a feeling of less security instead of more security. Allah tells us in the Qur’an that it is a safeguard for women:
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:59)
I walked into our trip with this unease in mind and I was concerned in how I would be treated as a traveller, both in the airport and in an area I was unsure of the response to Muslims. I was in for a pleasant surprise.
First, I was not given the “random” screening I’ve had every other time I’ve flown since I started covering. Both on our flight from our home and back, I was treated as if nothing was different. Wow! This was the first time in the 5 years I’ve been wearing hijab that has happened. Second, we were treated very nicely from Muslims we came across, and two actually started a conversation with me expressing their wishes to be more practicing.
It was refreshing to have Care Bear witness how hijab connects us to a worldwide community. So often she sees me only in our local area, and interacting with Muslims we already know. People we’ve never met before exchanged salams (greeting of Muslims to other Muslims) in this new area, and we encouraged each other in this journey that can feel overwhelming at times. The two Muslims that said something to me about wanting to practice more never would have said anything had I not been wearing hijab.
Hijab is not just about being strong or weak; a good Muslim or bad Muslim; extreme or liberal. As Allah says in the Qur’an, quoted earlier, it is about protection and being recognized. Sometimes the idea that one will be recognized as a Muslim is a deterrent for people to wear hijab, but I must say from experience the benefit outweighs the risk.
I don’t want to lose sight that hijab is about pleasing Allah, and there will be times where wearing hijab is not easy. It isn’t about what is easy or beneficial, but instead what is right. The lesson I want Care Bear to learn, and all teens for that matter, is that living Islam is worth it. Teens are in a time where the importance of other’s impressions are at an all time high, and hijab can make teens very aware of how others perceive them. But just like the weather, there are sunny days and rainy days. If we are patient through the rainy days, we get to experience the sunny ones, and benefit with our good deeds in the meantime.
I think many teens would be surprised how many positive reactions they would get from the world at large if they focused on doing what they think is right, even if it is the unpopular thing.