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What Should We Do When a Muslim Woman Takes Her Hijab Off?

If a woman chooses to take off the hijab, she should not be ridiculed and made to feel bad. At the same time, she should not be lavished with praise as the hijab is mandatory. So, what should we do?

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If a woman chooses to take off the hijab, she should not be ridiculed and made to feel bad. At the same time, she should not be lavished with praise as the hijab is mandatory. So, what should we do?

Over the past decade, there have been many prominant Muslim women who’ve made the decision to take off their hijab. This is not unique to bloggers and influencers, and if you’re plugged into a Muslim community, chances are that you know a few women or girls who have taken similar action. These women and others like them sparked conversations (and, unfortunately personal attacks) across social media around wearing hijab and removing hijab.

How should we, as Muslims and especially Muslim women, react in these situations? What is a kind and good way forward when we face this in our own personal social circles as well as seeing this unfold in the lives of more public-facing Muslim women? (Personal and mean-spirited attacks are just not warranted.) These are questions we at Haute Hijab have mused internally and outwardly with our own communities in discussing the various reasons why Muslim women sometimes “de-jab” and what we owe our sisters in Islam who are going through this and making these decisions.

Before we go further, we’d like to make clear that we are not Islamic scholars or experts in fiqh, but we have more than a decade of experience in serving hijab-wearing Muslim women and Muslim women in general not just through our commitment to selling quality hijabs and hijab accessories to help Muslim women feel comfortable, beautiful and proud in their hijab but also through our media work on our blog and our ongoing community programs we are in close touch with the lives of Muslim women and have gained a lot of insight into what drives Muslim women as well as our challenges and struggles.

And so it pains us when we see sisters struggling for whatever reason, causing us to think deeply and draw upon the experiences of other Muslim women about how best to support and counsel our sisters who may struggle in their hijab and choose to remove it. 

Muslim women wear the hijab for a variety of reasons, but we’ve always encouraged our sisters to consider their intentions around the hijab and center wearing it for the sake of Allah (S). 

We’ve All (Pretty Much) Struggled with Hijab

As Haute Hijab contributor Bibi Watts writes,

I have to understand things before I do them; I can’t incorporate something into my life until I understand the benefit of it. And when I understood why it was mandatory and what its purpose was, I connected deeply with it. That isn’t to say it’s been a breeze since then, but to recognize the importance of knowing why Muslim women are called to cover themselves. For me, it gave the action a purpose and made it personal.”

Hijab is often referred to as the headcover but entails much more. Writes Bibi,

It’s part of a larger concept of how one dresses, speaks and behaves altogether. It is to be known as Muslim, and indeed that itself is can be a difficult kind of living in our society. The pressure of beauty standards in the West has everyone second guessing themselves constantly, more so around how we dress and adorn ourselves in public spaces.”

At some point or another, those of us who wear hijab have all struggled in our commitment to wearing it, how we view ourselves in it, our intentions around it and the basic why am I doing this of it all. Which leads us to wonder, as Bibi does here,

How can I balance knowing that I sometimes struggle with the way I wear hijab and simultaneously support sisters struggling just to put it on? I haven’t exactly come up with an answer, but we see it all around us.”

One thing we know for sure is that as sisters take off their hijab, piling on guilt, snark, and mean-spirited judgment by others helps no one and is unkind. But the flip side of this is applauding our sisters who decide to stop wearing hijab. As Bibi says,

It’s never ok to make someone feel bad about their challenges and decisions, but rewarding a decision with praise or platitudes along the lines of “you do you!” that is unfavorable to Allah (S) should not become commonplace. I know I may receive pushback on this, but I feel it must be said.”

That is to say, if you know hijab, while not the sixth pillar of Islam, to be fard or mandatory (which Haute Hijab CEO Melanie Elturk has written about here), then cheering someone on when they remove their hijab just doesn’t feel quite right. So, how can we be supportive of whatever our sisters may be going through while offering loving counsel?

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We Must Look Out for One Another – But How?

Well, depending on how close you are to whomever in your life has stopped wearing hijab, it starts with understanding their reasons and challenges. 

As Melanie wrote a few years ago, there are many reasons women remove their hijab, including political climate, self-esteem issues or societal pressures, wearing it to make someone else happy without ever having the intention themselves, and loss of conviction in hijab, to name a few.  “Many women went through the motions in life – they got their degrees, found a husband, had kids, etc., and their identity as a Muslim took a backseat. One day they wake up and realize how disconnected they are from their upbringing as a Muslim, so, ‘Why am I still wearing the hijab again?’ Maybe they felt that they didn’t need it anymore. As such, you will find a formed belief that hijab is no longer relevant to their everyday life or one step further, that the practice itself is not in fact mandatory (fard).”

What do we do in these situations for our sisters who are going through this? In order to strengthen our deen as individuals, we must also strengthen the bonds we have with one another as a community. In Surah At-Tawbah Allah (S) says:

The believers, men and women, are protecting friends of one another: They enjoin the right and forbid the wrong.” 

So, how can we help our sisters constructively and with adaab (good manners and kindness)? This is an extremely personal and sensitive thing when a woman decides to take off her hijab. On the one hand, we can start by knowing when and how to give naseehah (advice). Social media has given us a false sense of entitlement to say how we feel about other people’s lives, but it’s because they share it on their platform.

As Bibi writes, while it’s true that you give up some autonomy by sharing publicly, there are still boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. If you see an influencer take off her hijab, one of the best ways to support her is by remaining silent and offering du’a for ease and guidance. This video by @hippiearab explains this so well.

Things rarely go well and are understood in the way you want them to be understood in a public comment thread.”

Melanie also addressed the reasons many women decide to stop wearing hijab and ways to talk with friends who are deliberating if they should or have decided to do so in this video a few years ago. How well you know someone and what your relationship is with a woman who is struggling with her hijab is an extremely important thing you need to consider, she says.

If it’s someone you know, someone you’re close enough to that this is something they would be open to talking with you about, advice will, Insha’Allah, be better received. But advice should be secondary – more important is to understand what she’s going through and give her a safe space to talk, says Melanie. Sometimes the decision to take off hijab has little to nothing to do with the hijab itself, and sometimes it’s all about the hijab. 

“Always start from a place of kindness and by listening to your sister in Islam. Knowing when to just listen and when to share your thoughts is so important. [Use your wisdom and] gauge the moment to see if it is the right time to have this discussion. And, making du’a is always one of the most sincere ways to support one another,” advises Bibi in her HH article.

Center Love and Compassion

Ultimately, just like choosing to wear hijab is deeply personal, so is choosing to remove it. If you’re struggling with your hijab or are just not “feeling it” anymore, we pray that you spend some time considering your intentions and reflecting upon it. Do you not like yourself in hijab anymore? Do you feel pressured to remove it? Do you feel unsafe in your hijab? Do you feel like it’s just not needed? Whatever it is, we hope you have a good support system around you to talk things through and time to spend in private conversation with Allah (S) around whatever you’re struggling with. 

Sometimes, it helps to learn more about why Allah (S) commanded women to wear it. Remember, you’re human, and it’s okay to struggle, which is why it’s important to constantly remind yourself why you wear it, and who you wear it for. At the end of the day, your relationship with Allah (S) goes above all, and we encourage you to get closer to Him by talking to Him, making dua, and learning about His attributes.  

Let’s make sure we center love and compassion with each other in whatever our struggles are without harsh public judgment and shaming. Remember, a big part of your deen is your character. How you make others feel when they’re struggling with an aspect of the deen is very impactful. Don’t be afraid to counsel your sisters in Islam where it is appropriate, but leave the judgment to Allah (S). Just be there for each other. And, we are always here for you feel free to reach out to us. You have an army of women behind you. 

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