How to empower girls and young women to fiercely own their hijab

How to empower girls and young women to fiercely own their hijab

A sister in South Africa was lamenting how “it’s very sad that our teenage girls don’t love to wear Hijab. I have given them a challenge to wear hijab and be proud of it. Yet they still don’t want to wear it”. She asked me if I had any ideas on how she could encourage them.

I had to think about this quite a lot because as a mature woman convert my ready uptake and love of hijab is a very different experience to a 13 year old girl faced with the same Consumer Social pressures to ‘be sexy, skinny and available” as I face; except unlike me they have not had a lifetime of experiences that challenge this false form of ‘liberty’.
I considered in some ways there is may be a similarity for young girls entering womanhood and facing the social pressure to be ‘pretty eye candy’ and valuing themselves based on their outer appearance; and for myself and other mature women who are facing the deep seated fear of leaving their youthful, beautiful and noticeable stage of life – being that the whole world seems transfixed by the idolization of youth culture – especially of young women.  So with that in mind, I can appreciate how hard it is to adopt hijab and believe that hijab is going to conceal our ability to attract attention.
And the thing is this is in fact TRUE – outer hijab and hijab conduct do in fact conceal inappropriate, degrading and often uninvited attention from men (or at least it should if the men actually FEARED GOD and lowered their gaze; a topic for another time).


So back to how to empower teenage Muslimahs to embrace with all their heart Allah’s guidance of hijab.  To be avoided is talking about ‘beauty of hijab’ and thus feeding into the latent preoccupation with having to be beautiful in order to be worthwhile. Also to be avoided is going down the halal vs haram, fard of Allah (swt) path, this is the last thing rebellious teens who are trying to exercise autonomy will listen to.

This got me thinking to why I am a proud hijabi activist – check my blog Emboldened Hearts: as a form of protest against the degradation of women in global consumer culture through removing them of their clothes.
Well, 13 is a tricky age... and if the girls are being influenced by popstars, models, actresses and magazines (which we all are on some level) then their sense of worth will be attached to being pretty, sexy and available. This is anywhere in the world, not just the West. So the focus is not on the outer clothing...the message has to start so much sooner about teaching girls and empowering them from infancy to see their value in their character and achievements. Frankly just like boys are taught from infancy.

I am afraid adults, parents and society have a lot to answer for regarding the messages they give girls and say about women in front of them. Especially ethnic Muslim cultures...where girls are often raised to be silent, pretty servants of men.

So in this kind of context, the focus on 13 year old girls now, who likely have many or all these experiences. The big focus has to be on reprogramming these wrong messages and empower them to not fear finding their worth from being smart, strong, courageous and breaking barriers.

They need to be given access to the powerful Muslim women of the Summit who are fierce, successful and gorgeous in hijab; and others Muslimahs like them in all fields of life.  Yes there are great women of Islamic history who are exemplary role models, but in all fairness they have no meaning to young girls of today. 

These great women like Khadija (ra) are almost as imaginary as fairy tale characters to young girls. No disrespect intended in this statement, as a grown woman the point of reference for me into Islam was Khadijah (ra) among others.

And do not be restricting on hijab style, let them watch the Youtube Hijab tutorials with cool looking Muslimahs from around the world.

Telling people anything never works...they need to be shown and given ability to experience for themselves.

The truth of hijab is not just the clothing, it is more the guidance for how to set boundaries around boys and men commanding respect and dignity.

It is a women's rights and liberation statement.

Point to the fact that in Secular Global consumer culture women's bodies are turned into products for men's pleasure.

Point out how in movies, music videos, computer games...they take away a woman's power and autonomy by stripping her of clothing    (e.g. action computer games and movies the female cop may have a gun but she is in revealing tight clothing, whereas the male cop is in full padded riot protective gear) - this is done because they refuse to give the equal respect to the woman even if she is performing the same job and holding a gun (symbol of power and authority)

So personally I would be approaching hijab from women's rights- feminism. Ask them who do you think is more powerful...the young woman sending naked messages to guys to get self-esteem and self -worth OR the girl who covers and puts up boundaries between herself and men so she does not get used, abused, disrespected and discarded?

There is no doubt in my mind that hijab conduct even more than the headscarf is directly aimed at forcing men to respect and dignify us through their attitude and actions.  There can be no greater liberation than this.  And in a global culture where rape and violence against women is at pandemic levels, where on average 1 in 4 women you speak to will have been violated in one way or another; at the core of all this are men who do not respect, dignify or value women as human beings with the inherent right to be treated with respect.   Hijab is a VISUAL reminder (to those men with eyes to see) to Fear Allah (swt) in their treatment of us.  I am not saying hijab is a forcefield, it will not protect you from being raped; babies are raped, old women are raped and women in burqas are raped. But what the headscarf does is remind us that reflecting back is a woman God commanded respect for and it is a visual reminder to men to treat us with the respect that God commanded of them. 


wrtten by Zahra Summayah New Muslimah Coach and Founder of Manifesting Muslimah



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