In March 2012 I decided to change the way I looked. I began, as a young Muslim woman, to wear a jilbaab after spending the previous 15 years of my life wearing ‘normal clothes’.
A jilbaab works with a hijaab, which hides the hair, to form an outer over garment that flows from head to toe covering everything but the face. It is a visual statement that proves belief and faith in God. There are two verses of the Qur’an that mention the hijaab and jilbaab, which talk about maintaining modest behaviour, like avoiding showing off and being respectful to others.
I used to live my life as a robot, constructing myself each morning, making sure before I left the house that my hair was either straightened, curled or permed and that my make up was done perfectly! I was truly oppressed; controlled by what society wanted me to look like. I felt like I was being controlled. I wasn’t happy, and I needed to change.
It was difficult because society didn’t want me to be different. When I decided to wear the Jilbaab, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and discovered things in a different light that guided me to unlock the chains of freedom. It was funny the way the guy that I had a crush on and some so-called friends, immediately lost interest. I wondered what’s wrong with me? Instead of thinking what’s wrong with them… they were not interested in the person I am, rather the clothes I wore and the make up I applied.
Reality is that you have to dress a certain way and your figure must be ‘on point’. If you don’t follow certain expectations, you won’t be socially accepted. The status of women is not valued today. If women in the media are continually objectified, how can they be ever really equal to men? Women are sex objects, used to titillate, to sell music, cars, clothes, perfume, watches, and everything else…
By wearing a jilbaab I avoid all of this. I cannot be objectified, and I will not be seen as nothing more than a sexual object. I have increased my status as a woman and I feel invincible! In my opinion Islamic dress honours women, and breaks the barriers of social pressure urging us to be seen as only beautiful. Society doesn’t seem to understand the reasoning behind why Muslim women wear clothing like this. I receive snide comments, and people point and stare at me on a daily basis, as if I’m a suspicious character.
Think of a person in a jilbaab like a safe. Within the safe are valuable items like money and jewellery. These are hidden away from the public because they are meant to be safe. And it’s up to the owner to show someone else the items, rather than them to be for anyone to see. By the same token, as a woman, I should guard my beauty, and remember what I am worth. The jilbaab helps me to do that.
I made a decision to free myself from what I perceived to be an oppressive way of thinking about the female form. I’m now so much happier, I just feel content with who I am. Islam helped me to understand how to feel free by wearing a jilbaab, to become unconcerned by the social pressures of society.