Hijab Friday: What’s In a Name

Salaam y’all, and happy Friday! Hope you are having a blessed day wherever you are. Hijab Fridays are back after last week’s little travel-induced hiatus, and I am super exciting to be back writing about a topic I find so interesting!

So today I want to talk a bit about “what’s in a name?”

There are so many names that people use to refer to their headscarves: hijab, shayla, wrap, scarf, khimar, jilbab, veil, covering, dupatta, burqa, niqab, face veil, and on, and on. I know when I first converted hearing all of these different words being thrown around, and not having any idea of what to actually call the thing on my head.

Now, I personally usually use the word “hijab” to refer to my whole way of being, especially as it pertains to being outside the house. For me, hijab (lit. barrier, screen, etc.) refers not only to the way I choose to dress myself with long, loose and opaque clothing covering everything but my hands and face, but also the way I conduct myself with others or in the presence of others.

For example, I do not shake hands or greet/kiss/hug non-mahram men. I don’t care if he is “family” or whatever excuse many will make, if he is not technically mahram it’s not happening. When out and about as well, I try to keep my eyes on my husband or on the path I’m walking. This is not so much a modesty, lowering the gaze, in the sense that I am scared of my thoughts about others type of thing, as a lowering the gaze that I hope will show everyone that I expect the same respect from them. In Algeria, this includes men and women, because everyone is watching and talking about everyone else 24/7, like it’s the national pass-time.

One thing I do not include in my overall definition of hijab, my dress, and my code of conduct, is silencing myself in public. I know many people say that the voice of a woman is ‘awrah (“nakedness” to be hidden in front of non-mahrams), but quite honestly if I want to have a conversation with my husband, I am going to have a conversation with my husband whether we are on the bus, in the market, walking by the beach, whatever.

I don’t particularly lower my voice (I mean, I’m not shouting either), and I certainly am not going to just stay completely silent if I have a need or something else that needs to be spoken up about even in mixed company.

So that is what I think of as “hijab,” and it is the most commonly used term, but many other words on that list are useful to know as well.

For one, I like the word “veil” to refer to it, just because it sounds aesthetically pleasing to my old-fashioned self. But anyhow…

Many of the other terms used to refer to the actual piece of clothing have mostly to do with what it is called in a certain language/culture, or the type of the clothing you are wearing.

So for example: you could say that the style of headscarf I used to wear was something more like a shayla, a long scarf wrapped around the head to show only the face. Now, however, I wear what I would call a jilbab- a set with a long skirt and a top piece that flows all the way down from my head to below my knees.

A khimar is usually much the same kind of thing, except it is just a long flowing scarf without the convenient arm-bits that my jilbab has.

Which leads me to another thing that I wanted to address really fast: the word hijabi.

I don’t actually like the word hijabi, at all. Firstly because I feel that it is an over simplification of my entire being just based on one thing: my appearance. In this case, the scarf on my head.

I also don’t like it because of the massive culture that has sprung up around the word hijabi, and especially the “hijabi fashionista” type scenario.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with dressing modestly and retaining your own sense of personal style, dressing nicely, liking certain brands, or even being interested in fashion.

The thing that I personally don’t like to associate myself with here is the giant industry that has been created out of “modest fashion,” and the women who play into this and the cosmetics industries schemes. I feel that this is really quite counter-productive to what hijab is supposed to be all about. There is so much emphasis on taking the eyes off of external appearance and focusing on your talents, mind, personality, etc., and then there is this modest fashion industry and all that comes with it that says “yeah, you can be modest and here are the latest trends on how to do that. And btw, make sure you have this colour lipstick or you are so last season.”

Kinda missing the point, in my opinion.

At any rate, this is why I don’t like to be referred to as a hijabi. If I am referring to the aspect of my personality that has to do with modesty and the way I dress I infinitely prefer the term “muhajabah,” as it has more to do with being a covered woman in general, and the behaviours that go with that, and not necessarily any connotations that have to do with a random scarf just thrown on my head.

Quite honestly I don’t even feel that connected to the series title Hijab Fridays anymore, but I revived it from my oh-so-clever 21 year old self, and I haven’t found something catchier that still gets the essence of what I am writing about every Friday. Suggestions welcome!

So, I hope there has been some interesting food for thought here. I’m not really writing about legal or technical definitions of words, but just how I have personally come to use them since I began my hijab journey. Let me know your thoughts!

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3 thoughts on “Hijab Friday: What’s In a Name

  1. I hate to be that guy, but just a minor tiny little correction, if you don’t mind: you translated the word عورة (nakedness) as “beauty/ornament,” when that’s actually the meaning of زينة.

    But now that you mention it, “hijabi” is really a problematic word. It makes it seem like that person is all about the hijab, all day every day… or like they follow the hijabi madhhab or something. It’s more syllables, but a better, more accurate and neutral word is “mutahajjabah” (veiled/covered). That’s an antonym of the word used for someone who doesn’t cover: “mutabarrajah” (exposed/uncovered).

    Good stuff as always!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ashleybounoura

      No worries, “that guy” is pretty much my own free fact checker, so I don’t mind at all! I’ll get on changing that in shaa Allah. Funnily enough, the difference between those two is actually one of the few things I do know about Arabic, I must’ve just not been paying attention to which one I was using! Jazakallahu khairan for the correction!
      Also, the hijabi madhhab….lol

      Liked by 2 people

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