What is Hijab?
In one word, conceal. In three words, conceal from attention.
What Hijab is not? Seeking attention.
Well, the word Hijab means a form of screen, curtain or veil. I am not referring to the more famous manifestations of Hijab which include, but not limited to; Jibab, Jillaba, Niqab, Burqa, Khimar etc. I am more interested in the idea of Hijab; the concept.
There is a debate on what hijaab translates in to (in our lives), even though fundamentally most agree that it has to do with modesty and concealment. Modesty being more associated with state of mind (I believe) than outward appearance. Concealment is more to do with one’s physical appearance.
Hijab for Him and Her
There is little debate about what Hijab means for a man, many will respond “what do you mean Hijab for men?!”. Many don’t even consider it, so I will also focus where the juice is; that is Hijab for women. On the extremes, one side argues that Hijab for a woman means covering her entire body with loose, non-thin, non-bright colored material, except may be her face (or her eyes). Hijab is also a tool to avoid “men’s gaze” (attraction). On the other extreme, Hijab means the concept of modesty. I am more aligned with the latter group.
Suppression or Liberation
Due to the recent “interactions” between the west and cultures that are pre-dominantly Muslim, you here the echo of “… blah blah Suppression or Liberation”. You know it is a talk about women in Islam, almost with full certainty. It is talking about one of the manifestations of Hijab. I keep mentioning “Manifestation” of Hijab because it is central to this post.
Up until I started writing this, I thought both supporters for Suppression and Liberation were just two opposite forces of action and reaction (or more appropriately reaction and reaction). Here is a post that talks about the Liberation point of view. While having a discussion recently about the topic, it dawned on me that may be Hijab is Liberation. Before I give my reasons, how about another detour to the world of Marvel Comics?
If you have watched any of the Fantastic Four Movies some five years ago, then you probably don’t need to read this section. Invisible Woman is the character played by Jessica Alba. Of course, since we are talking about Marvel Comics, she has super powers. Obviously she can be invisible. She can also create an energy field around her to protect her from harm (you can remember if you watched the film).
Although it may not be obvious to non-sciency people, her actual power is the ability to manipulate light waves (light energy). Remember this.
I want to argue that Hijab is Liberation, but not as commonly advocated. In order to do that I will like to argue that Invisible Woman has the best Hijab (even though she wears tights); when she chooses to wear her Hijab.
I will like to clear this first, in case the more feminist-inclined have noticed it; by using “Invisible Woman” it is not meant to imply insignificant woman, it means a woman who can be invisible when she wants to.
Back to my reasons. The first reason is that Invisible Woman can be wearing a bikini and still be in Hijaab; if the purpose of the Hijab is to conceal. If you argue that Hijab’s purpose is also to gain the woman respect, then it only takes for Invisible Woman should flash in to their view for a second and then disappear in people’s eyes. Yes, she’ll scare people crazy but she’ll get more than respect, she’ll get props!
The second reason is that Invisible Woman decides when to become invisible, she doesn’t have Mr Fantastic (her husband) imposing on her when to be invisible. How about that for Liberation?
Third reason is possibly the coolest. Like the force field that she uses to defend herself against attacks, the Hijab can be used as a force field to divert or protect from “attacks” of “men’s gaze”. I am aware that many women/girls will prefer to command men’s gaze to validate themselves but I am sitting from the ideal Muslim woman’s perspective here, and the effect of Hijab on her.
Fourth reason is that she can get away from unnecessary conversations people tend to do a lot. All she has to do is to make sure she has her phone silent coz I’m sure someone is bound to sms, ping or call her. This reason may seem out of point but I bet there are women/girls who don’t get dragged in to conversations that end in “give me your BB pin”, because they wear some form of Hijab. I think it’s a guy repellant in some places (Of course northern Nigeria excluded).
The Big Idea
The best Hijab is indeed liberation. As far as physical appearance goes, there is nothing to be modest about when you don’t even appear physically. There is no seeking for attention when you are in the best Hijab. I will like to provoke the idea of Hijab for men, I’m sure there’s a few discussions going on. Is there a Fictional Character that can capture a man in hijab?
The final Idea I will like to leave you with is that Invisible Woman Rocks! especially in her Hijab.