Silberman student on a quest to raise awareness for Islamic traditions, including the hijab
Above: Irum Abidi, FDU Florham Campus student and founder of '1000 Hijabis' blog. (Photos courtesy of Abidi)
By Kaidi Ilves
“There are a lot of things wrong with our society, and one of the big things is a lack of tolerance,” says Irum Abidi, a senior, studying management at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silberman College of Business. Abidi recently started a blog called '1000 Hijabis,' a collection of what she hopes will be a thousand personal stories of Muslim women and their reasons for wearing a hijab, or a head covering.
She continues, “The idea for ‘1000 Hijabis’ came from me wanting to make a positive change and broaden people’s perspectives. Much of the intolerance against Muslims stems from a lack of knowledge about our religion. My aim is to change that.”
Abidi was born in Pakistan, a country with a Muslim majority. Her family relocated to the United States when she was two years old, and she grew up in a Pakistani neighborhood in South Brunswick, N.J. She actively participated in community and religious events until she began attending college. “I started to fall out of touch. I was never too far from the mosque, but I began feeling more and more distant from my Pakistani and Muslim community,” she says.
In the last couple of years, Abidi has taken a more active role in attempting to re-connect. However, in doing so, she has witnessed some hurdles for Muslim women she wishes didn’t exist.
“Muslim women are so misunderstood. A lot of people think we’re all extremists, that we don’t get to make choices, and we are part of some crazy religion that puts women down,” she says. “The one thing that sticks out most about Muslims is the head cover. People don’t understand why it is worn or why Muslim women would hide their beauty, and the whole meaning is lost on them,” she continues. Although Abidi doesn’t actively wear a head cover herself, she says she is toying with the idea. “It’s a big and impactful decision to permanently cover your head,” she says.
“The head cover, to many Muslims, is about connecting with God by being reserved,” says Abidi. According to the Quran, the collection of Muslim religious texts, both men and women are urged to be modest, both in their actions and their dress. Abidi explains, “The scriptures are interpreted differently in different societies, in some allowing only the hands and face of a woman to be exposed, and in others requiring all men and women to cover their heads in a veil and avoid tight clothing. Islam considers the beauty of a woman to be sacred, and the reason for wearing the head cover is to not expose oneself to strange men, or men that are not part of a woman’s immediate family. It all goes back to modesty.”
#1000Hijabis Peace (Nov. 13, 2015) — Salma Latif, a senior at FDU’s Florham Campus, double majoring in fine arts and behavioral neuroscience, wore the hijab on and off through middle school, until she was ready to choose whether it felt natural or not to wear it. According to Latif, it is a fantastic addition to her fashionable wardrobe.
The word hijab refers to all types of head coverings, but the meaning is most closely associated with a scarf, covering the head and neck, leaving the face clear. Muslim women around the world wear a number of different head coverings, such as the niqab (a veil, worn with a head cover, only exposing the eyes), and the burka (a one-piece veil covering the person head-to-toe, leaving a mesh opening for the eyes). A more detailed description of various head coverings is available here.
Abidi says the concept of hijab actually encompasses much more than wearing a head cover. “Hijab is our religious conduct, for the eyes, ears, and mouth. It’s about being humble and avoiding explicit things. All Muslims are supposed to abstain from things associated with not being modest, drinking alcohol, graphic descriptions of sex, and so forth. It’s the same for men and women, and, by way of the hijab, our religion aims to keep us on the more reserved track. Other religions go about it in a different way, but the goal of modesty comes up in many religious texts.”
#1000Hijabis Evolution (Dec. 7, 2015) — Zahraa, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, explains there are three steps in being a hijabi — a wearer of the hijab: doing as God commands, understanding why God commands one to do so, and understanding why you yourself chose to comply with God’s wishes. She said she has found patience through walking through the three steps, and for her, wearing a hijab is a source of both pride and honor.
Abidi’s blog, which she started in November 2015, currently features about a dozen stories of women wearing their hijabs. Abidi expects to keep posting between two and three stories each week. To suggest your story to “1000 Hijabis,” contact Abidi via her blog or her facebook page.
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