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No, You’re Not a Bad Muslim

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No, you are not a bad Muslim woman.

Am I dressed enough? Should I cover my shoulders more even if I don’t wear the hijab? Can I put makeup on? Is my hijab covering enough or should I wear it in another way?

There are lots of questions that Muslim women might ask themselves, whether they are Muslim through their family — “born Muslim,” as some people might say — or whether they converted to Islam.

As a Muslim woman myself, I know that I am for a fact pleased with my religion, and I consider my behaviors to be in alignment with my beliefs, and respectful towards Islam. However, when I walk in certain areas of my city, when I go to other countries, or simply when I talk with some acquaintances, the look that I get from people differs a lot.

To some people, I can see in their eyes that i am not covered enough for them — even if some don’t believe in any religion at all. For others, I see that I am “too covered,” and that it bothers them. Sometimes, I get a mixed feeling from people who think that I should wear the hijab, but that I should dress even more modestly, with a jilbab or niqab, or otherwise I cannot consider myself a Muslim. 

How is it that we cannot decide what we wear, how we want to wear it, how we feel comfortable with it, and still consider ourselves Muslim? 

I’m not putting the blame solely on men here, as I’ve both seen and been the recipient of hateful comments coming from both men and women.

Recently, I have seen a lot of people — even Muslims — attacking women for their clothing; for not wearing the hijab, or for wearing it, but with a small piece of hair showing at the front, or not tied too tight, or without a bonnet underneath it. It bothers me. It bothers me to see that even in our own religion, which tells us to leave that which does not concern us, some people believe that they have the right to say to others what they can and cannot wear. They shame you for your clothing, when you’re in fact just happily minding your own business.

In fact, the most violent comments that I could see online about such topic were actually coming from Muslims. Muslim athletes being criticized for wearing hijab during the Olympics was predictable. Seeing the European Union try to ban wearing the hijab at work is shameful, but again, predictable. But seeing our peers open their mouths and express their disgust towards us is another thing. And I’m not putting the blame solely on men here, as I’ve both seen and been the recipient of hateful comments coming from both men and women.

Some people need to understand that not all Muslim women can wear the hijab or any other religious piece of cloth easily, as they may face discrimination and abusive comments from their family, friends, and colleagues. Some parents (Muslim or not) even forbid their daughters to wear hijab. This can happen because parents think it is in the best interest of their child, because they are scared of their daughters being bullied or attacked for their faith. Other times it can be because of their misguided understanding of their own religion.

Another thing that some people need to understand is that some women don’t intend on wearing the hijab at this moment. They might not feel ready for it until very late in their life — or maybe never — and that’s okay, too.

And no — the women who do wear the hijab should not remove it just because they would “look better if they showed their hair” or because they’d be “cooler in the summer” if they took it off.

And no — the women who do wear the hijab should not remove it just because they would “look better if they showed their hair” or because they’d be “cooler in the summer” if they took it off.

I get it that most people that don’t belong to any kind of religion may not understand the meaning behind the wearing of the hijab, the niqab, or the jilbab. I also get it that they might feel confused when they see Muslim women which do not wear any of these, as the media always shows Islam as a religion that enforces the wearing of those clothes on women.

I also understand that people who are not Muslim might feel that Muslim women at large are oppressed due to what they’ve seen in the media. The media always depicts our religion as a religion that tries to belittle women. Unfortunately, there are many of us who are used to ignorant and hateful comments coming from non-Muslims.

But as a recent convert, what I never expected and don’t understand is how our own brothers and sisters, that I sought comfort and help from in understanding my deen and my place in our religion, allow themselves to make comments which can be even more harmful than the ones we’ve been hearing for centuries from people that know nothing about Islam.

I don’t wear the hijab. I happened to walk into a room where most women, if not all of them, wore it. The looks I received, the comments that I could hear — when our religion tells us that we should never criticize others harshly — those made me so lost at first.

What am I doing? Am I a bad Muslim woman if I don’t wear the hijab?

What might others think of me?

Am I being disrespectful of my religion?

Who am I to allow myself not to wear the hijab?

Those are all questions that have crossed my mind more than once since I converted. I know that most women may have asked themselves the same questions at least once in their lives.

As a recent convert, what I never expected and don’t understand is how our own brothers and sisters, that I sought comfort and help from in understanding my deen and my place in our religion, allow themselves to make comments which can be even more harmful than the ones we’ve been hearing for centuries from people that know nothing about Islam.

On the other hand, the amount of times that I have seen hijabis being criticized publicly on Twitter or in real life for not wearing the hijab the way others wanted them to wear it, is also countless.

She is showing a piece of her hair, how disrespectful. She is wearing a very bright and colorful hijab, she isn’t modest at all. She is wearing the hijab, but her pants are very tight and she’s wearing heels, how is that religious?

Let’s not even talk about the hijabis who have decided to stop wearing the hijab because they receive hate from people telling them to remove it. Yet when they remove it, they receive hate. Sometimes the hate is from non-Muslims because they’re wearing a hijab, or hate from other Muslims because they aren’t wearing it “properly” or because they’ve removed it. There have been many very public examples of this, and it’s so heartbreaking. For me, the heartbreak is compounded when the comments come from other women, especially fellow hijabs, who essentially ostracize the other person because they feel that you no longer deserve to be considered a “good Muslim” since you did this.

Perhaps those pointing fingers and judging others for not being a “good Muslim” should examine themselves and their own behavior first.

You are commenting on someone else’s life that you have no matter in, how disrespectful. You allow yourself to make others feel bad about the way they live in their religion, how humble is that? You destroy a woman’s self-esteem, confidence, faith in the world and trust in herself, for what?

Is it your life?

Is it your head?

Is it your body?

Is it your religion?

In the end, I just want to remind all Muslim women that no, you’re not a bad Muslim for being yourself and trying to find your identity in our religion. You should not feel ashamed of the journey and where you’re at right now in this moment. You should never forget that your current situation is not your final destination — things can change at any time.

The only thing that matters is that you feel confident in your religion and that you’ll be able to grow within it, and find comfort in it, regardless of what you’re wearing. No one can have a say on who you are on this journey except Allah, and what you go through has already been written for you. Feel confident with yourself, and have trust in Allah, for he is the One to take you on this journey — and Allah always knows what’s best.

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