of a Japanese woman who embraced Islam and adopted Hijab and found
how it provides the wealth of self confidence, serenity
and dignity to a woman.]
I reverted to Islam, the religion of inborn nature, a fierce debate
raged about girls observing the Hijab at schools in France.
It still does. The majority, it seemed, thought that wearing the
head scarf was contrary to the principle that public – that is state
– funded school should be neutral with regard to religion. Even as a
non-Muslim, I could not understand why there was such a fuss over
such a small thing as a scarf on a Muslim student’s head. The
feeling still persists amongst non-Muslims that Muslim woman wear
the Hijab simply because they are slaves to traditions, so
much so that it is seen as a symbol of oppression. Woman’s
liberation and independence is, so they believe, impossible unless
they first remove the Hijab.
Such naiveté is shared by “Muslim” with little or no knowledge of
Islam. Being so used secularism and religious eclecticism, pick and
mix, they are unable to comprehend that Islam is universal and
eternal. This part, women all over the world, non-Arabs, are
embracing Islam and wearing the Hijab as a religious requirement,
not a misdirected sense of “tradition”.
I am but one
example of such women. My Hijab is not a part of my racial or
traditional identity.; it has no social or political significance;
it is, purely and simply, my religious identity.
I have worn
the Hijab embracing Islam in Paris. The exact form of the Hijab
varies according to the country one is in, or the degree of the
individual’s religion awareness. In France I wore a simple scarf,
which matched my dress and perched lightly on my head so that it was
almost fashionable. Now, in Saudi Arabia, I wear an all-covering
black cape; not even my eyes are visible. Thus, I have experienced
the Hijab from its simplest to its most complete form.
What does the
Hijab means to me? Although there have been many books and articles
about the Hijab, they always tend to be written from an outsider’s
point of view; I hope this will allow me to explain what I can
observe from the inside, so to speak. When I decided to declare my
Islam, I did not think whether I could pray five times a day or wear
the Hijab. Ma be I was scared that if I had given it serious thought
I would have reached a negative conclusion, and that would affect my
decision to become a Muslim. Until I visited the main mosque in
Paris I had nothing to do with Islam; neither the prayer nor the
Hijab were familiar to m. In fact, both were unimaginable but my
desire to be a Muslim was too strong, Alhamdulillah, for me to be
overly concerned with what awaited me on the “ Other side” of my
The benefits of observing Hijab became clear to me following a
lecture at the mosque when I kept my scarf on even after leaving the
building. The lecture had filled me with such a previously unknown
spiritual satisfaction that I simply did not want to remove it.
Because of the cold weather, I did not attract too much attention
but I did feel different, somehow purified and protected; I felt as
if I was in Allah’s company.
As a foreigner
in Paris, sometimes felt uneasy about being stared at by men. In my
Hijab I went unnoticed, protected from impolite stares.
My Hijab made
me happy; it was both a sign of my obedience to Allah and a
manifestation of my faith. I did not need to utter beliefs, the
Hijab stated them clearly for all to see, especially fellow Muslims,
and thus it helped to strengthen the bonds of sisterhood in Islam.
Hijab soon became spontaneous, albeit purely voluntary. No human
could force me to wear it; if they had, perhaps I would have
rebelled and rejected it. However, the first Islamic book I read
used very moderate language in this respect, saying that “Allah
recommends it (the Hijab) strongly” and since Islam (as the word
itself indicates) means we are to obey Allah’s will I accomplished
my Islamic duties willingly and without difficulty, Alhamdulillah!
reminds people who see it that God exists, and it serves as a
constant reminder to me that I should conduct myself as a Muslim.
Just as police officers are more professionally aware while in
uniform, so I had a stronger sense of being a Muslim wearing my
after my return to Islam, I went back to Japan for a family wedding
and took the decision not to return to my studies in France; French
literature had lost its appeal and the desire to study Arabic had
replaced it. As a new Muslim with very little knowledge of Islam it
was a big test for me to live in a small town in Japan completely
isolated from Muslims. However, this isolation intensified my
Islamic consciousness, and I knew that I was not alone as Allah was
I had to
abandon many of my clothes and, with some help from a friend who
knew dressmaking; I made some pantaloons, similar to Pakistani
dress, I was not bothered by the strange looks the people gave me.
months in Japan, my desire to study Arabic grew so much that I
decided to go to Cairo where I knew someone. None of best family
there spoke English (or Japanese) and the lady who too my hand to
lead me into the house was covered from head to toe in black. Even
her face was covered. Although this is now familiar to me here in
Riyadh, I remember being surprised at the time, recalling an
incident in France when I had seen such dress and thought, “there is
a woman enslaved by Arabic tradition, unaware of real Islam,” (which
I believed, thought that covering the face was not a necessity, but
an ethnic tradition).
I wanted to
tell the lady in Cairo that she was exaggerating in her dress, that
it was unnatural and abnormal. Instead, I was told that my self-made
dress was not suitable to go out in, something I disagreed with
since I understood that it satisfied the requirements for a Muslim.
But, when in Rome….so I bought some cloth and made a long dress,
called Khimar, which covered the loins and arms completely. I was
even ready to cover my face, something most of the sisters with whom
I became acquainted did. They were, though, a small minority in
speaking, young Egyptians, more or less fully westernized, kept
their distance from women wearing Khimar and called them “the
sisters.” Men treated us with respect and special politeness. Women
wearing a Khimar shared a sisterhood, which lived up to the
Prophet’s saying (Allah’s blessings and peace be on him) that a
Muslim gives his salam to the person he crosses in the street,
whether he knows him or not.” The sisters were, it is probably true
to say, more conscious of their faith than those who wear scarves
for the sake of custom, rather than for the sake of Allah.
becoming a Muslimah, my preference was for active pants-style
clothes, not the more feminine shirts, but the long dress I wore in
Cairo pleased me; I felt elegant and more relaxed.
In the western
sense, black is a favorite colour for evening wears as it
accentuates the beauty of the wearer. My new sisters were truly
beautiful in their black Khimar and with a light akin to saintliness
shone from their faces. Indeed, they are not unlike Roman Catholic
nuns, something I noticed particularly when I had occasion to Paris
soon after arriving in Saudi Arabia.
I was in the
same metro carriage as a nun and I smiled at our similarity of
dress. Hers was the symbol of her devotion to God, as is that of a
Muslimah. I often wonder why people say nothing about the veil of
the catholic nun but criticize vehemently the veil of a Muslimah,
regarding it as a symbol of “terrorism” and “oppression.”
I did not mind
abandoning colourful clothes in favour of black; in fact, I had
always had a sense to longing for the religious life style of a nun
even before becoming a Muslimah.
six months in Cairo, however, I was accustomed to my long dress that
I started to think that I would wear it on my return to Japan. My
concession was that I had some dresses make in light colours, and
some white khimars, in the belief that they would be less shocking
in Japan than the black variety.
I was right.
The Japanese reacted rather well to my white khimars, and they
seemed to be able to guess that I was of a religious persuasion. I
heard one girl telling her friend that I was a Buddhist nun; how
similar a Muslimah, a Buddhist nun and a Christian nun are.
train, the elderly man next to me asked why I was dressed in such
unusual fashion. When I explained that I was a Muslimah and that
Islam commands women to cover their bodies so as not to trouble men
who are weak and unable to resist temptation, he seemed impressed.
When he left the train he thanked me and said that he would have
liked more time to speak to me about Islam.
instance, the hijab prompted a would not normally be
accustomed to talking about religion. As in Cairo, the hijab
acted as a means of identification between Muslim’s; I found myself
on the way to a study circle wondering if I was on the right route
when I sew a group of sisters wearing the hijab. We greeted
each other with salam and went on the meeting together.
My father was
worried when I went out in long sleeves and a head-cover even in the
hottest weathers, but I found that my hijab protected me from
the sun. Indeed, it was I who also felt uneasy looking at my younger
sister’s legs while she wore short pants. I have often been
embarrassed, even before declaring Islam, by the sight of a woman’s
bosoms and hips clearly outlined by tight, thin clothing. I fest as
if was seeing something secret. If such a sight embarrasses me, one
of the same sexes, it is not difficult to imagine the effect on man.
In Islam, men and women are commanded to dress modestly and not be
naked or semi-naked in public, even in all male or all female
It is clear
that what is acceptable to be bared in society varies according to
societal or individual understanding. For example, in Japan fifty
years ago it was considered vulgar to swim I swimming suit but now
bikinis are the norm. If, however, a woman swam topless she would be
regarded as shameless.
In Islam we
have no such problems
defined what may and may not be bared, and we follow. The way people
walk around naked (or almost so, excreting or making love in public,
rob them of the sense of shame and reduces them to the status of
animals. In Japan, women only wear makeup when they go out and have
little regard for how they look at home. In Islam a wife will try to
look beautiful for her husband and her husband will try to look good
for his wife. There is modesty even between husband and wife and
this embellishes the relationship.
accused of being over-sensitive about the human body but the degree
of sexual harassment, which occurs these days, justifies modest
dress. Just as a short shirt can send the signal that the wearer is
available to men, so the hijab signals, loud clear: “ I am forbidden
that it is preferable for a woman to stay at home and avoid contact
with male strangers as much as possible. Observing the Hijab, when
one goes outside, has the same effect.
married, I felt Japan for Saudi Arabia, where it is customary for
the women to cover their faces outdoors. I was impatient to try the
Hijab and curious to know how it felt. Of course, non-Muslim women
generally wear a black cloak, rather nonchalantly thrown over their
shoulders but do not cover their faces. Non-Saudi Muslim women also
often keep their faces uncovered.
accustomed to, the Hijab is certainly no inconvenient. In fact I
felt like the owner of a secret masterpiece, a treasure, which other
can neither know about, nor see.
It is an error
of judgment to think that a Muslim woman covers herself because she
is a private possession of her husband. In fact she preserves her
dignity and refuses to be possessed by strangers. It is non-Muslim
(ad so called “liberated” Muslim) women who are to be pitied for
displaying their private self for all to see.
Hijab from outside, it is impossible to see what it hides. The gap
between being outside and looking in, and being inside and looking
out, explains in part the void in the understanding of Islam. An
outsider may see Islam as restricting Muslims. In side, however,
there is peace, freedom and joy, which those who experience it have
never know before.
Muslims, whether those born in Muslim families or those reverted to
Islam, choose Islam rather than the illusory freedom of secular
life. If it oppresses women, why are so many well-educated young
women in Europe, America, Japan, Australia, indeed all over the
world abandoning “liberty” and “independent” and embracing Islam?
blinded by prejudice may not see it, but a woman in Hijab is as
brightly beautiful as an angel, of oppression scar her face. “ For
indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but is the hearts within
the bosoms, that grow blind.” Says Allah in the Holy Quran
How else can
we explain the great gap in understanding between such people and