Tips for Beginning to Wear Hijab
Learing About Hijab
Deciding to Wear Hijab
Final Words of Encouragement
One of the most difficult decisions many Muslim sisters face is the decision to start wearing hijab. This is certainly true for reverts, but may also be true for sisters whose families or even whose cultures are not particularly observant. As a revert myself, I have been through the whole thing. I would like to offer some advice that I hope inshallah will be helpful to sisters who are considering wearing hijab but find that something is holding them back. If you don't think that you need to wear hijab, try "Why Should I Wear Hijab?" instead.
Learning About Hijab
The first step is to learn about hijab. There is so much information out there and unfortunately much of it seems to be conflicting. Although most of what you see agrees that the sister must cover everything but her face and hands, some groups say that it is fard to cover everything but the eyes. Meanwhile, certain other groups are dedicated to claiming that covering the hair is not obligatory. It is very easy to get confused. And there are other questions. What is a jilbab? Is it fard to wear one? What do all the names mean?
I have spent about two years researching these issues for myself and I have written several articles that set out what to the best of my knowledge are the correct rules of hijab. Each of these is linked below for you to look at.
Special Focus on Hijab - This is a section in a larger article. It explains where the ruling on covering everything but the face and hands comes from, and the conditions of the headscarf. It also refutes the claims of those who say that covering the hair is not fard.
Evidences for Jilbab - The jilbab seems to be the forgotten obligation of hijab. This article presents dalils from Quran and Sunna, and opinions of many scholars, to show that wearing a jilbab is fard, and it also discusses the conditions and rules of the jilbab.
Examining the Dalils for Niqab - In this article I examine the dalils that are presented by those who claim that niqab is fard and I show that these are not as compelling as they seem at first. I am actually a strong supporter of the opinion that niqab is mustahabb and sunna but I do not believe that it is fard and I believe that saying that it is fard is to introduce into the religion an obligation that Allah SWT and the Prophet (sAas) did not.
Bonus: See my Glossary of Hijab Styles.
For your convenience, I present a brief guide to the rules of dress for the Muslim sister for different situations.
1) Around her husband, a sister may dress however she chooses. There are no restrictions on what the husband can see or touch.
2) Around the mahram relatives, women, and children (a complete list of exemptions is given in Surah an-Nur ayah 31), a sister should cover her awra. There are different opinions on the extent of this. The most sensible that I have seen is from the upper chest to the knee. This includes the region that is also awra in men (navel to knee) and extends upwards to cover the woman's bosom, which is a special concern for her. Display of the hair, arms, lower legs and feet, is universally agreed to be halal for this category.
3) Around non-mahram men, a sister must cover all of her body except her face and her hands. The face is the circle of the face only and does not include the ears or any of the hair. Just think about what you wash in wudu. The covering of the hair, neck, shoulders, and upper chest must specifically be accomplished by the khimar (headscarf). The arms, torso, and legs should be covered by loose, opaque clothing that obscures the shape of the figure. A long-sleeved blouse and a jumper, a long loose tunic and a long skirt, or shalwar kameez are all examples of what is acceptable. As well, most scholars say that the feet must be covered with socks and shoes although a few scholars allow the wearing of sandals.
4) Outdoors and in open public places (such as the market or the masjid), a sister must wear a jilbab as an outergarment, that is, over her other clothes. If she is wearing a khimar, then the jilbab only needs to cover from the shoulders to the ankles, such as a long coat. If she is not wearing a khimar, then the jilbab should cover the head and neck as well.
The above rules set out what you need to wear in each situation in order to be observing correct hijab.
Note: Most sisters, including myself, approached hijab in several stages. Usually the first stage is the modest clothing such as the blouse and jumper, tunic and skirt, or shalwar kameez. The second stage is to add the headscarf (properly called khimar). The third stage, often taken much later after reading up on the dalils, is to add the jilbab when outdoors. In the way of things, I expect that most sisters who are reading this have already adopted the modest clothing and are worried about the khimar.
Deciding to Wear Hijab
This is where the difficulties usually come in. For many sisters, it truly is a jihad. I remember very vividly how scared I was the first day I put on the headscarf and went out into public. As long as you are just wearing the modest clothes, nobody has to know that you are a Muslim. Once you complete your hijab with the headscarf, you are suddenly announcing to everyone who sees you that "I am a Muslim". Here is some advice based on my own experiences.
Wear it for the sake of Allah SWT
Various statements are made about why you should wear hijab, such as for modesty or for protection, but the real reason that we wear hijab is that Allah SWT has commanded it. Whenever anyone asks you, why do you dress like that, that's the only answer you need to give them.
Allah SWT is the source of everything we have, our existence, our life, our capability, even our goodness. If He ever stopped sustaining us, we would vanish in that instant. If He ever took away what he gives us, we would never have even a speck of it. If we worked for millions of years, we could never repay Him for all that He has given us. And yet He does give it to us, and all He asks in return is that we do our best to obey what He has commanded us. Surely wearing hijab is a very small thing that you can do for Him compared to what He does for you!
Wear it for the hope of Jannah
Allah SWT makes tests for us in this world. He makes things difficult for us. He wants to see if we will remember Him, if we will have faith in Him, and if we will trust in Him. These qualities are what is meant by "sabr".
Allah SWT does not lose the work of anyone, ever (see Surah Ali Imran ayah 195). Even if it seems like nobody is paying attention to you or notices or appreciates good things that you do, Allah SWT has seen them, and He will not forget them. Even when it seems like the whole world is against you, Allah SWT is always there for you when you turn to Him. Remember this.
Allah SWT always wants the best for us and in His wisdom He knows why each thing that happens to us is in fact best for us. When it seems like everything is going wrong and life is just one disaster after another, it is easy to forget this and to become bitter and skeptical. Yet we must remember always to have faith that Allah SWT knows best why He has willed this for us, and we must always ask Him only "Make me pleased with what You have willed for me".
This world we live in, although it seems at times to be the only real thing, is actually fleeting compared to the Hereafter, which is better and more abiding. The trials of this world will seem as fleeting as a nightmare when seen from the Hereafter, and the pleasures of this world will also seem as fleeting as a dream when seen from the Hereafter. It's our happiness in the Hereafter that we should be most worried about attaining, because it is what will last forever; and it's our suffering in the Hereafter that we should be most worried about avoiding, because it also will last forever.
Allah SWT has promised Jannah to those who remain steadfast in their faith in Him and who trust in Him. The more difficult it is for you to have sabr, the greater the reward for it. So what will it be? Ease in this world, and perhaps the eternal sufferings in Hell? Or difficulty in this world, and inshallah the eternal bliss of Jannah? Let's face it, the old cliches are true: there's no such thing as a free lunch and you can almost never have your cake and eat it too. We've all got to face difficulties some time. Better by far that they be in the world than in the Hereafter.
So that's what you should set your mind to. Yes, it's difficult to wear hijab. You may be rejected by your family or your friends, you may face harassment and persecution or be fired from your job. These are very scary thoughts. But if you have sabr and keep trusting in Allah SWT, I swear to you sister, this is the path to Jannah, and when you look back on the Day of Qiyamah you will know that it was worth it and have no regrets.
Wear it today and trust in Allah SWT for tomorrow
What do I mean by that? What I mean is that you should take it one day at a time, or even one outing at a time. Sometimes the future seems to stretch on forever and ever and you don't think you can make it that long. You want to give up before you even begin.
So sometimes the best thing to do is to keep you mind focused on what is immediately at hand. Allah SWT will take care of the future. If you have to go out to the market, then concentrate on being able to wear hijab just for this activity and on getting through it. If you do get through it and nothing bad happened, then give thanks to Allah SWT for making it easy for you, and turn your mind to your next outing.
Or if you have to go out to school or work, then concentrate on being able to wear hijab just for this one day and on getting through it. And give thanks to Allah SWT when you have made it, and turn your mind to the next day.
Eventually the outings will turn into days and the days into weeks, and the weeks into months. One day you will realize that you have been wearing hijab for quite a long time and it isn't really as bad as you feared, and Allah SWT helped you get through it. Don't be ashamed. Sometimes it is like this. The most important thing is to have sabr and keep your trust in Allah SWT always.
Wear it and spite the shaytan
My dear sister, the worries and fears in your mind are the whisperings of the shaytan. He wants to talk you out of obeying Allah SWT.
It is very easy to keep going around in circles in your mind and to dwell on all the things that could go wrong. I know that I myself have a tendency to do this, I put it off and I dither and I wait for "the perfect time". If I let myself, I would never do anything at all!
So the thing you have to remember is that you do not need to be perfect in iman to wear hijab. If perfection were a qualification, where is the sister who could wear it??
You must also not fall into the trap of thinking that you should wait until all your worries and fears have disappeared. They never will! Trust me on this, sister.
True courage is going ahead to do what's right even though you are still nervous and scared. So don't listen to the shaytan. Ignore the worries and fears he whispers into your mind. Tell him that you will not let him keep you from obeying Allah SWT and you will not let him rule your life.
Make the decision to wear it
Once you have come to know in your heart that you must wear hijab, then you have to set a day and
JUST DO IT
This is the only way. Set a day and when that day comes, you have to do it. Don't back down. Don't give up. Do it.
Offer salat al-istikhara. Make du'a. Make lots of du'a. Do not stop making du'a. Ask Allah SWT to give you strength. Ask Him to make it easy for you. Ask Him to help you. He will, I swear it to you. He is always there for you when you turn to Him. Remember how much He has given you, how everything that you have, even your very existence, is due to Him. Remember that He deserves this from you. Remember the promise of Jannah. Remember that remaining patient and faithful through difficulty now may lead to Jannah, inshallah. Even if bad things happen, keep these thoughts in your mind. Don't worry about tomorrow. Just concentrate on getting through today, and leave tomorrow to Allah SWT until it gets here.
That's how you do it.
Final Words of Encouragement
I have been wearing hijab since September 1999. I do not regret it. I have never for one instant regretted it. I do not regret it even one iota. Inshallah, you will discover that you feel the same. Even within a few months I came to feel that I would not be properly dressed if I went out not wearing hijab. This is when you know that you have made it!
Never feel that you are alone, or that you are the only one who is scared and worried and nervous. Just about every other sister who has travelled down this road has gone through the same things. I know I have. Your sisters are here for you. We have been where you are. We are encouraging you and cheering you on. We know what it takes because we had to find that in ourselves too. We are praying for your success just as we prayed for our own.
Come and join us.
A few more links
The Veil (Hijaab) - Video featuring hijabi sisters from around the world, set to Dawud Wharnsby Ali's "The Veil"
Hijab is Beautiful - A photo gallery of hijabi sisters from around the world, to encourage sisters who would like to join them in hijab
Hijab for the New Muslimah - More encouragement for sisters who are considering wearing hijab
Hijab Poems - Read some inspirational poems about hijab
Hijab Stories - You are not alone! Read stories by other Muslimahs about how they came to wear hijab.
How to Hijab - So you've decided to go for it. Mabruk!!! Now you need some practical tips on fabric and styling. Here's a page for you. See also her Hijab Gallery.
Thinking About Hijab? Some Steps to Consider - The issues you will need to deal with: yourself, your family, your friends, your job, and your wardrobe. Good advice for the sister who is ready to wear hijab