Confessions of a non-hijabi
As a teen, a couple of years ago, influenced by society and culture, I decided to wear a scarf over my head whenever I went out. Then, as the wheels of maturity turned, I wriggled out of the cocoon of ignorant following and started to question myself.
Why exactly did I cover my head?
Was it because some of my friends had adopted the practice and many people I knew did the same?
I stopped. That was it! Guilty as charged.
As expected from any mother who took pride in the fact that her daughter had become a ‘modest little lady’, my mother was slightly curious and disapproving of this sudden change of heart when I stopped covering my head. Before you judge me for my bold admission, I ask of you to read on and consider the grounds on which I took such a decision, for I am nor a modern ‘liberal’ damsel nor the prodigy of Maya Khan.
Let us first explore why these ladies wear a hijab (headscarf) in the first place.
Before I committed to the decision of shedding my scarf, I ventured to ask girls I knew, and random women I met at the bazaars (who were not very candid) why exactly they wear hijabs. These were some of the answers I found ricocheting back at me;
My fiancée tells me to.
Mum won’t let me go out till I wear one.
Pehenna chahiye (one should wear it).
It gives me a sense of security when I go to the university. Plus, it saves me from all the trouble of doing my hair everyday.
I’m covering my satar, behen. (Satar: Prescribed Islamic method of covering one’s body)
This last one, who said she wanted to cover her satar using her abaya, to this day, wears hers with folded sleeves with the dupatta (scarf) sliding on to her shoulders. Apparently, it does not really matter how sincerely you wear your hijab as long as you’re wearing it.
What I learned was that donning a hijab in Pakistan is more of a culture practised due to family and spousal insistence. The commandments of God apparently do not play a strong role in many women’s decision to adopt a head-scarf.
Thus, I began to wonder, does culture or familial insistence hold more weight than the word of God?
I look around myself every day and see women in all kinds of flashy abayas. These have appliqués and karhaai and can be anything from bell sleeved to body fitted. They are all designed to radiate a sense of fashion – not to provide complete covering as is their so-called purpose. There are some who even get their hijabs fitted because they look ‘too fat’ unless they are altered to their size. Some wear their head-scarves so that their long braids fall on their backs and then there are those who don the Islamic headscarf during the day but appear at weddings with no trace of modesty – hair straightened and streaked, and clothes that wouldn’t remotely imply any Islamic undertone.
Modest hijabi by day and savvy-liberal by night?
‘Sab chalta hai’ (everything goes), they say upon my startled gestures.
What is more disturbing is that approximately three of every five of these religious madams I’ve come across, offer prayers about once a day – often before exams and never during holidays.
It may no longer come as a surprise that a bigger fraction of these ladies, who are from considerably respectable backgrounds, indulge in illegitimate relationships with men from their universities or over the internet.
Respected reader, I am but a 16-year-old girl, seeking the will and raza (permission) of Allah (SWT) through the self pursuit for answers to life; a life where the principles of religion stand before the opinions of those around us and where they hold more significance than the stereotypical ideologies imposed by society in the name of Islam.
I beg of all the ladies out there, not to exploit the idea of the hijab and to re-evaluate their reasonings if necessary and reconsider the act of covering up if it is not what they intend to do sincerely from the heart.
If I am wrong in my approach of religion, may God forgive me and if you are wrong in your approach, may God forgive you.
Follow Arfa on Twitter @Ezazi_
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.