Rafed English

The Scarf and a Woman’s Identity

The subject of identity seen by many is one of the most important subjects in the world today. Within human history, each one of us has sought to look at, develop, and understand the identities of the people around us in order that we’re able to live with human beings in a way which is known as a peaceful coexistence. When looking for an identity, we find that virtually every area of our lives is governed by the individual having an identifier around him. Even at the most trivial level, a passport, a bus pass, or a driver’s license, are all forms of identifiers which within our lives today are seen as vital components of our every move.

Innately within a human being, there is a constant search to identify his or herself with something. What that thing is—be it metaphysical or physical in nature—is the constant search for an identity. And among one of the most important identifiers today isthe idea of clothing. As an example, there are certain individuals who will not travel unless they have a bag with ‘LV’ written all over it. Or you find those who have a small badge with the letters of PRADA. Because clothing is and has always been a piece of identity for every human being; accordingly, the concept of Hijab is seen today as one of the main identifiers of the world. And therefore, when a person sees a woman in Hijab, her first identity is that of a Muslim.

In addition to being an identifier for Muslims, Hijab continues to liberate women from the media perception of beauty and using women as a commodity. To be liberated is not doing what you want, when you want to do it; but rather, in Islam, liberation is engaging in what is right without fearing what others may think. Similarly, control is not putting a piece of cloth on a woman; control is when TV, movies, and magazines tell people what to wear and how to be attractive.

When a woman spends thousands of dollars to look skinny and live by standards of fashion designed by men—a patriarchal society will undoubtedly continue to exist among us. It is at this level that Hijab is a threat to consumerism because it forces an individual to look into her soul rather than striving for a narrow-minded image of what she should look like according to the standards of men.

Hijab, like every other concept in Islam, has a twosided aspect—physical and spiritual. A head covering in itself is not sufficient in acquiring modesty and therefore, an attractive mannerism and humbleness are vital when attempting to liberate oneself from the media norms of sex, violence, and drugs.

In this manner, the honor of representing Islam through this garb holds a great responsibility. In a world where vulgarity and arrogance are at their peak, the uniformed need to be modest both physically and socially is what gives Hijab the fundamental need in societies today. Though interestingly, in many societies Hijab is continuously portrayed as a means of oppression through the concealment of hair and skin. On the contrary, the concept of this covering is not an entity to hide a woman; it is to expose her. Because of her garb, when she is disclosed as a Muslim, her modest demeanor becomes a teacher for society as to what is morality and ethics. And it is this physical covering working as an equilibrium with the social humbleness taught by Islamic values that demonstrate the essence of what morality is.

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