The Prophet (saws) describes one of the people of hell-fire as “women who are clothed yet naked, walking with an enticing gait, with something on their heads that looks like the humps of camels.”
Narrated in Muslim
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
So, for today’s Hadith of the Month I picked up this one. Most of us know it, most of us use it to condemn sisters that have bumps in their hijabs. And let’s be honest, most of us have tried it at least once: the “camel hump hijab.”
Today, though, I wanted to write about some of the various interpretations that there are of this hadith, not all of which necessarily have to do with making a hump on the top of your head.
The first part is quite clear: women who are clothed yet naked. Scholars refer to the obvious interpretations for this, i.e. wearing tight or thin clothing so that you can see the body and skin, wearing short clothing so that parts of the body that should not be out (like the bottoms of the legs for example) are seen, or just generally wearing clothing that draws the attention to the wearer (such as super-showy sequins or some such).
I don’t like to police other women, just like I don’t like other women to police me, but I think this part of the hadith is a very good reminder for all of us. Like I always say, wherever each of us is on our personal journey, we should always be striving for that next level. Covering the forearms may be a no-brainer for me, because I have already been there. But for a sister who is just starting out, that may be the best step she is able to take right now, and I have other challenges (currently it is wearing something thick enough under my jilbab that the wind doesn’t go showing all of everything to everyone…).
As for the second part, “walking with an enticing gait,” this has been interpreted to mean not only the way that some women walk, swinging their bodies around and drawing all eyes to them, but also the word enticing can be interpreted to mean that they are making what they do attractive to others.
This puts me in mind again of the whole discussion around the “modest fashion” industry. I was discussing this recently in a WhatsApp group, and one of the sisters noted that we cannot judge anyone’s hijab because we don’t know where they are on their journey, which I totally agreed with. Another sister pointed out, however, that while we cannot judge anyone on their personal journey, we can, and should, call out an industry and a society that is purposely advertising “clothed yet naked” as “modest” or “proper” hijab. It is not one person’s hijab that is the issue, it is the culture in Muslim majority and non-Muslim majority countries alike that want to make their hijab as sexy as possible, and through YouTube and fashion blogs, online shops and advertising, call on sisters to do exactly the same.
The third part of the hadith, “with something on their heads that looks like the humps of camels,” is the controversial bit.
The most well-known interpretation is that this refers to women who make massive displays of their hijab by using extra veils, turbans, clips, poofs, and this, that, and the other. Side note: when I first converted I didn’t know that it was a thing for sisters to use a ton of stuff to make their scarves like that, I thought they literally just had that much hair haha. Anyhow, this is the part of the hadith that is used today to curse women who “volumize” their hijabs in this way.
Also, please do note that I am not (nor, I think is anyone) talking about the natural little bumps you get from simply having hair. That is normal…I don’t even put my hair up in a bun, but let it hang down in a pony-tail and you can still see the lump where it starts in back of my jilbab. This is referring specifically to artificially-created humps on the top/in the back of your scarf that are there for no other reason than to call attention.
There is another interpretation, however, that states that this has to do again with how women carry themselves and behave, that they raise their heads arrogantly and do not lower their gaze from things that are not permissible (i.e. staring blatantly at an attractive man in the grocery store). This goes back to the theme that I have been writing about a lot recently: that modesty is part clothing and part behavior.
That being said, and with the fact that I have come across a couple of different opinions regarding this whole “hump” phenomenon, I think we do need to think critically—not judgementally—about what we are doing with our hijabs. Whether it is halal or haraam or damning you to the hell fire, is puffing yourself up with scarves and scrunchies really in the best of intentions? Our intention with hijab is to first and foremost obey and come closer to our Creator. From that stem the intentions of modesty and differentiating ourselves as believing women from women of other faiths.
So my question for any sister still doing the hump-style is, are the puffing and the primping and the clips and scrunchies and pins really doing anything to increase your closeness to Allah swt? Is the intention behind it modesty, or is it a competition to see who can get the most volume from their hijab? Are you doing this as a form of personal expression because you truly believe in it, or is it a blind imitation of a trend?
I hope this can be some food for thought, outside of the usual “halal-haraam” dichotomy that is so often used when talking about how women dress, and I hope that wherever my sisters are in your journeys with hijab, Allah swt will give you that strength to take the next baby step for His sake! We all had to start somewhere, and we all have work left to do, that is the nature of life =)