• Hanisah from ELEVEN

Struggles of Wearing the Hijab

The image of the hijab is equated with the image of a Muslimah. Everybody is familiar with the cloth and what it signifies in Islam, but what of the person under the garment? Being a hijabi may come easy for some, but many too face struggles upon donning it for certain reasons. Ultimately, the donning of the hijab is a private decision and it is commendable to see our Muslimahs deciding to wear the hijab, but it isn't always smooth-sailing! Here are some struggles our Muslimahs face and overcome as they pursue their journey to be closer to God.


The Heat

When we think of Singapore, we think of the sunny weather and warm climate. Foreigners may love basking in the sun, but almost every other local complains about the heat. Hijabis are definitely not spared from this! One of the struggles many of us face when wearing the hijab would be the hot and humid weather here on the sunny equator. With my long sleeve tops and pants, and a scarf around my head, I cannot deny that the heat gets to me sometimes, and I’d rather stay home than go out unnecessarily just so that I can stay in front of the fan.


Fashion and Clothing

Most of us want to present ourselves well and in the styles that we like and enjoy. Being a hijabi means that more often than not, our wardrobe is confined to certain types of clothing and the cute outfits or styles that we like may not be a part of it. Sure, many could say “you can just use tights/an inner inside” but to even think about wearing them in that manner takes a different kind of courage because the intended look is already different and some may feel like it is too daring a choice. This is the worry of balancing modesty and fashion. Many of us are still figuring out how to be fashionable in a hijab or finding out ways we can incorporate our sense of style in a halal manner.


For some, being sporty in a hijab can be hard too because sportswear is not conventionally compatible with modest wear. In primary and secondary schools, our attire for physical education classes consists of t-shirts/drifit shirts coupled with shorts. As a hijabi, we have to actively find alternatives that may or may not suit us well. I personally find it hard to find track pants that fit me well, and they often get torn really easily. Some of the challenges in modest sportswear could also be related to the heat in Singapore too as doing sports would mean sweating even more.


Increased Scrutiny

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of being a hijabi is not the garment itself but how the hijab invites unsolicited comments and policing of our own bodies. Donning the hijab is a personal, spiritual and religious journey for the individual - but because it is ostensibly displayed, many people seem to be too comfortable to partake in making comments. Especially for the people who are just starting out, this could be one of the biggest hindrances of continuing to wear the hijab because of the pressures placed on them. Some examples would be people (surprisingly or not, many men too) telling you how to wear your hijab, how you should wear your own clothes, or how you should not be doing certain things because you wear the hijab et cetera. It is almost as if we are not in charge of our own decisions and bodies. Despite the wishes or intentions that people have behind their words in commenting on our clothing, it can feel as if we have lost a part of our autonomy.


Alienation

Sometimes, you are able to tell that people identify you as ‘the hijabi’. It is not uncommon to be the only hijabi in a class full of people from other races and religions. We stand out, no matter what, because of the hijab. Sometimes as a result of this, it is possible that we are not seen for our individual capabilities, but merely judged by our religion - as if we have nothing else to offer such as our skills and personality. It can feel very demeaning for us. As much as religion is a part of my identity, the instant equation of Islam with the hijab makes it hard for people to see us beyond the cloth. This might make one wonder then about the social challenges of how the hijab is perhaps perceived by others to be aggressively religious despite it essentially being just a piece of cloth.


I know some of the points may seem minute, and perhaps you think that the obstacles listed are mere excuses. However, I urge you to be more understanding of our other sisters who indeed do face these as their own personal struggles and to not judge nor condemn them for we are all tested in different measures. To my sisters who have read and resonated, you are not alone. Perhaps our personal struggles make our journey of being closer to God more meaningful. We are, after all, humans. May God grant us favour in our various journeys towards Him.

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