Nusrat Qadir Hijab

Islam signifies the hijab as modesty and a means of protection.

Featured Contributor Nusrat Qadir pens an open letter to the Washington Post in response to an article written by Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa.

Dear Sisters Arsa and Hala,

After reading your article, I wish to say I am sorry anyone ever made you feel that you had to cover your hair or head and that in doing so it made you feel your human rights were infringed upon. I am sorry if anyone imposed their will upon you making you feel like the hijab is not for you. I for one have not had this experience but can only imagine how it made you feel.  It seems as if you have not had my experience, so I would like to share with you how the hijab makes me feel.

After much introspection and study of Islam and the Holy Quran, I came to believe that the Holy Quran was indeed the word of God Himself and that the injunction of one’s beauty not to be revealed is not implied but a very direct one. The Holy Quran injunctions in chapters 24 and 33 were direct in my opinion to adopt a dress code of modesty. While culture defines what the head covering could be, I find it easiest when I wear what is now referenced as the “hijab” in most societies. By covering my head and hair, it serves as a reminder of God being above me and my commitment to Him. As a result, I am always ready to walk in society similar to the manner of the female companions and wives of the Prophet Muhammad.

It is not just the observance of covering my head and having an outer garment to wear in public, but the behavior of righteousness that I wish to strive for as an American born Ahmadi Muslim. Prophet Muhammad’s companions both male and female represented the elite models of the righteous who were inspiring Muslim heroes and ones I wish to emulate. Muslim women define covering themselves differently primarily based on their culture and society, especially since this level of modesty was presented in religions before Islam as a central teaching of morality. Since Islam is meant to be a universal religion, the exact style of covering is defined by the predominant culture in one’s country of residence. In a society such as America, most women have opted for the hijab style head cover and terminology making it our unique definition for the Western society, since it's not just about the head cover dress code that is required by believing women but also a reminder to guard one’s conduct. My head cover reminds me to safeguard my chastity and sanctity by guiding my behavior and conduct and keep regard of hijab as a mark of my distinction in society.

Islam signifies hijab as modesty and means of protections, not as a sign that she is inferior to man. Hijab in chapter 33 verse 60 indicates that it is a physical barrier to unwarranted harassment. And while yes the Holy Quran advises both men and women to safeguard their chastity, only God knows that what is in the heart of a man when he looks at a woman. I do not know the inner state of morality any man possess and choose to be proactive and preventative in my approach to society by my choice of modest dress and head cover. I like that I let society only see what I choose and find this to be very liberating. I prefer being recognized in public as a Muslim woman trying to protect my dignity and honor. It’s my identity, and when I bring myself to the mosque for prayer, I like that I am prepared for prayer in a manner similar to the companions of the Prophet Muhammad.

‘O Prophet! tell your wives and your daughters, and the women of the believers, that they should pull down upon them of their outer cloaks from their heads over their faces. That is more likely that they may thus be recognised and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.’

I wish you had the chance to feel this, and while your article suggests my choice lacks freedom, I hope this letter lets you know that there is freedom in wearing the hijab. Should you have any concerns, I suggest you study the statements of His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad the Khalifa of Islam, who reminds society that there is no commandment for men to cover forcibly the heads of women, but an injunction from the Holy Quran for believing women that they should not display their beauty. While we may differ on our public expression of modesty, I respect that this is your choice. If your actions bring you closer to God, then I wish you peace in your direction. My goals to become closer to God requires contentment of my heart by protecting my sanctity and following the historical example of righteous women in Islam.  I hope that you will accept that my choice to cover my head is just that- my choice in the practice of True Islam.

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