I remember back in the early 2000s, when I was still in high school, I got an invitation in the mail from a sister in my community. I knew her birthday wasn't for a few months, and that she wasn't graduating, or getting married. So I was confused about what the invitation was for. As I opened it and read through, my eyebrow started to go up. It seemed she was having a party because she had decided to start wearing hijab full-time. For hijab??–that's strange, I thought, putting the invitation down and moving along.
That was then, this is now. Since that first invitation to a hijab party, I've seen these types of get togethers increase in their popularity. Every year now I've been invited to small gatherings of sisters celebrating a milestone in their sister-in-Islam's life: wearing hijab. I've grown more and more accustom to the idea of these parties, so I've stopped raising my eyebrows at each invitation. But last summer, my parents received an invitation to one of these parties, and that was when my eyebrows went back up again.
A sister from around my local community was having a hijab party, but this time it was to be held at a wedding hall. Her parents were going to shell out thousands of dollars not only for the hall, but the added expenses of invitations, catering, decorations, clothing (of course) and desserts I would imagine. All this for *just* putting on hijab. That's seems like a bit much, don't you think?
I remember once I had a conversation with a close friend I went to college with about the hijab parties on campus. She never wanted to go to them, and I mistakenly just figured she was one of those everything's-haram-now type of Muslims. My take on all the parties was that it was just a little bit of encouragement, a pat on the back. These parties on campus were very “low-key”: a few girls getting together, sharing some pizzas, and congratulating a friend on a bold step in the right direction, alhumdulillah.
But what my friend saw it as was the institutionalization of a new religious celebration (think along the lines of Bismillah and āmīn parties). Her stance was that it all starts off “for a good cause” but that's how all innovations start (ooh… buzz word!). What she feared was that one day, this would become a custom, something expected, needed and wanted by all young girls when they start wearing hijab.
I didn't agree with her, because I thought the parties were still out of the ordinary and would never reach that level (little did I know of my parents' forthcoming invitation!) But then she told me, “You don't know how many girls I've heard say, 'When I started wearing hijab, how come my friends didn't throw me a party?' with obvious bitterness and resentment.”
So the problem lies in the fact that some sisters are losing sight of the important motivation and reward of wearing hijab–not the party, not the gifts, not the desserts, not the recognition, but ONLY the pleasure of Allāh. If a sister starts wearing hijab and the first thing she expects is a pat on the back and a pizza party with her friends (which may lead to more grandiose ideas of parties at the scale of weddings)… then she needs to rethink why she started wearing it in the first place.
The greatest reward, and I think most would agree, is the recognition that comes from Allāh, subḥānahu wa ta'āla, and knowing that when you took one step to come closer to Him, He came walking to you.
So, on the subject of hijab parties, friend or foe?… For now I'm going to go with friendly foe on the basis that It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt! And in the case of hijab parties, the someone getting hurt is our īmān. If these parties continue to escalate over the next few years, we're headed down a path which will start to deteriorate the concept of seeking reward and recognition only from Allāh and obviously, that isn't a path we should be taking.