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Podcast: Hijabi Girls in a Barbie World, Episode 1

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

Published

Join Ustadha Zainab Bint Younus as she discusses the impact of social media marketing and hijab fashion with Shaykha Shazia Ahmad, Shaykha Umm Jamaal Ud Din, and Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi.

Today’s episode will be the first in a mini-series titled “Hijabi Girls in a Barbie World: Evaluating the Spiritual Ethics and Social Consequences of Hijabi Fashion Trends.”

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About the Speakers:

Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women’s issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da’wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

Shaykhah Umm Jamaal ud-Din is a teacher of both Quran and various Shariah Sciences at the Islamic College of Australia, Sydney. Umm Jamaal ud-Din has an Ijazah in Tajweed from her teacher Shaykha Kareema Czerepinski; a BA Languages degree with a major in Arabic from the University of Western Sydney; and is completing her BA in Fiqh and Usul al Fiqh at Al-Madina International University. She has also completed her memorization of the Qur’an, alHamdulillah.

Shaykha Shazia Ahmad grew up in upstate New York and studied with local scholar and teacher Dr. Mokhtar Maghraoui before beginning her studies overseas. In Syria, she studied briefly at the University of Damascus and then at Abu Nour University where she completed an Arabic Studies program (Ad-Dawraat) and a program in Islamic Studies (Ma’had at-Taheeli). She also studied in a number of private classes and attained her ijaza in Qur’anic recitation from the late Sh. Muhiyudin al-Kurdi (rahimahullah). She then spent the following six years in Cairo, Egypt furthering her education through private lessons and study. She has ijazaat in a number of introductory texts in various Islamic subjects and has written on Islam for Jannah.Org, VirtualMosque.com, and various other blogs and publications.​ She also holds a BA in psychology and history from the State University of New York.

Shaykha Hosai Mojaddidi has been serving the Muslim community for over 25 years as a teacher, public speaker, author/writer, spiritual counselor and mental health advocate. She began her Islamic studies over 20 years ago at Zaytuna Institute in the Bay Area California where for several years she served as the lead female organizer and studied aqeeda, seerah, Hanafi fiqh, tazkiyah an-nafs, tajweed, hadith, Arabic, and other sacred subjects with several resident and visiting scholars including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, Imam Zaid Shakir, Dr. Umar Faruq abd-Allah, Shaykh Abdullah al-Kadi, Qari Amr Bellaha, and others. She currently teaches self development and spiritual development classes for adults and youth through MCC East Bay & Rahmah Foundation. She is actively involved with her local community and offers talks throughout the year on a range of topics including spirituality, self-development, seerah, women’s issues, family/marriage, youth issues, social media literacy/safety, and mental health advocacy.

From the Show

“As we look to the example of the Prophet ﷺ, we find that there was an approach to teaching people where they were at, and that’s because people are at different levels and we have to appreciate that. This is where emotional intelligence comes into play.  You learn to ‘read the room’ as they say and look at the demographic you are speaking to whether it’s on social media or in your community or family; and you learn to assess where people are in terms of their faith. Also, in my opinion, it’s far more important that one learns aqeedah and is strongly rooted in their belief; that they have a strong identity of what it means to be a Muslim and they understand fiqh, Shariah, the fard `ayn, etc.  Once this identity is firmly rooted, then it’s a natural continuation of faith to wear hijab as it is defined by our tradition, as it is pleasing to Allah. We have to remember that there is an order and structure to these things. Sadly, however, we often bypass these things and focus only on hijab.” -Ustadha Hosai  

 

“Social media has brought out the most base human desires, normalized them, and made them accessible to all, and so now everyone operates from a place of “feeling.”  We are no longer critically thinking, analyzing, or thinking about the long term effects of our actions. And this of course has contributed to a type of erosion, where the ability to distinguish between what is true scholarship and what is not is lost on many.  In other words, the lines have been blurred to such an extent that people give authority to those who they like; it’s all based on popularity–I like someone because I see myself reflected in them, I like their style, I like how they speak, I like their home, etc. So they become authoritative because I like them not because they tell me what is in my best interest spiritually. This is the great danger of our current world: that actions are based on desires and social media very much feeds into that.” -Ustadha Hosai

 

“We have to go back to the drawing board and help women develop a strong identity.  Many people have a very fractured idea of what it means to be a Muslim woman. They are taking cues from their cultures or cherry picking verses or hadith or whatever they were taught growing up, but they haven’t really come into their own in terms of figuring out- ‘Who am I and why did Allah create me?  Why am I here?’  We have to help women realize there is something unique about them and help them so they don’t get lost; we have to help them realize they are special to Allah. This is the type of discourse we need to encourage in our community as a whole and to push back against the status quo where the individual is lost and a group identity is adopted.  When we lose a true sense or meaning of who we are, it is very easy to just follow the group or whatever sounds appealing instead of critically thinking and forging our own unique path.” – Ustadha Hosai

 

“We need requisite knowledge and proper understanding (when discussing hijab), and coupled with that we need people who are sensitive to the best approach to take- who have emotional intelligence and are not tone deaf in these matters. Unfortunately having wisdom, especially on social media, has been given a bad rap.  If you are thoughtful in your approach, strategic, or seek to have a way that is not hasty, that is immediately labeled as ‘watering down the deen’, or ‘not being firm on the haqq.’  We should have a balanced position, that is firmly grounded in Islamic teachings, and coupled with that an approach of strategy and wisdom.  This is so sorely and direly needed particularly on hijab and womens’ issues.” – Sha. Shazia

“It’s very important we come back to our original ‘why’ in wearing hijab.  As we have seen in the changes of hijab, a lot of people have moved away from it being out of submission and love of Allah and ‘ubudiyyah, and made it more of an act of self-expression.  When you lose its purpose, it’s very easy to come to discarding it.” -Sha. Umm Jamaal

 

“(There is a) crisis of authoritativeness in the community and it goes back to a disconnect from knowledge and scholarship.  Instead, anyone who has a strong opinion – whether they have the requisite knowledge or not – promotes their views as if they are an authority.  This makes it really difficult for the average person, the average young Muslimah, to navigate through, when everyone is speaking as if they are the experts.  As a community it is very important to push forward the people who have proper knowledge to speak on these topics- to really give them the spotlight, and to give people a connection to scholarship.” -Sha. Shazia

“Hijab is often understood and talked about as a type of personal expression, and I would say that this is the wrong cognitive frame to use.  If it’s simply just another form of self expression- like choosing to wear a certain color, or wearing a certain brand or style- it is then completely based on a person’s whims.  This is a very different sort of frame than seeing it as a religious act, an act of ‘ubudiyya, an act that is a beautiful engagement with what Allah has asked of us.  And just like so many other religious acts, it has a body as well as a spirit.  This way of perceiving hijab has to change – this cognitive frame and outlook… to appreciate that it has a beautiful form that needs to be followed as well, and also to center it as an act of worship that connects us to Allah.” – Sha. Shazia

“A lot of women don’t realize that this (knowledge) is the legacy of the sahabiyaat (female companions of the Prophet ﷺ.)  Who is the one who tells us about [hijab] and explains the ruling?  It is ‘Aisha.  It is Umm Salamah who describes how the sahabiyat came to the masjid the next day after the verse of hijab was revealed.  Women have to realize that this is the legacy of the sahabiyaat you are following.  And “the person will be on yawm al qiyama (the Day of Judgment) with whom they love.”  As a Muslimah the ones I want to be raised up with are the righteous female companions and the Prophet ﷺ .  Yes we have the verse, but who are the ones who have explained it to you?  It is your own sisters in faith.” – Sha. Umm Jamaal

“Hijabi fashion is largely just putting a headscarf on mainstream fashion and the fashion industry, with all of its failings and negatives and issues it brings to women. The issues of objectifying women, of a woman’s value being in how sexually appealing she is to men, a very narrow definition of beauty, and even the unethical practices of many of these companies…  these are all just kind of packaged with a scarf on it, and labeled as hijabi fashion or modest fashion and geared to a certain demographic.  This is very troubling and problematic.  This is an issue for us as women, and now it is a greater issue for us as it is specifically targeting Muslim women.  This is something we need to address seriously.  It is very important to have good female role models in the limelight (who work against these trends to counter this.)” – Sha. Shazia 

 

“Being famous is a test that many people fail.  There are many spiritual dangers in it for a person.  One of the ways to make fame spiritually healthy for yourself and your audience is to think about what message you are sending and what you are calling to.  Are you calling to a more meaningful, larger message, or are you just calling to your face?  There is a need to put people forward and give a platform to people who are grounded in deen, and who call people to what is spiritually sound and beautiful.” – Sha. Shazia

 

“We can criticize the influencers but who are the ones following the influencers?  It is us, our daughters, our sisters.  The onus is also on us – to not make such people our teachers and instead to find spiritually beautiful, positive role models.” – Sha. Shazia

“What we are seeing online is merely a symptom.  As spiritual teachers we have to be like doctors and go back to the root (of the illness.)  We talk about how the female companions ran and put on their hijab (when its obligation was revealed) but how many years were they being developed in their faith by the Prophet  ﷺ ? (There was) first a strengthening of tawheed in the heart and then (a focus on) ahkaam (rulings).  When you have built the person up internally then you will find they flow into (practicing it naturally.)” – Sha. Umm Jamaal  

 

“For parents, you can’t force them without doing the ground work.  Teach them to love Allah, love Islam, and love being Muslim.  Make them feel good about themselves as women and make them feel valued in their families, and that they are not treated differently or deprived in favor of their brothers.  There is a lot of trauma that women go through and (in some cases what we see) is acting out of all of that.” – Sha. Umm Jamaal

 

“We need to teach people to have a level of spiritual openness in their learning.  If you come to learning Islam with pre-constructed ideas… then it is going to be hard to be receptive to what the deen teaches.  If you come with your conclusion already formed, then you will not be able to have an honest engagement with the tradition and its teachings.  That’s when we see this dismantling and deconstruction process happening.  The conclusion is already formed and if someone comes against something that contradicts that, they will seek to dismantle or dismiss it.  Instead there needs to be a spiritual openness and a willingness to submit to the truth when we come to it.  This has a lot to do with spiritual development and mentorship and  having a teacher.   You can learn a lot from the books or websites, but this attitude and orientation is very critical to learning and our Islamic practice.” – Sha. Shazia

 

“We have to realize that once you go naming people (in correcting) there are a number of negative effects.  The named person feels shamed, and the more shamed they feel the more likely they are to cling to their wrong.  You will not get them to change their behavior like that. Your aim is to help the person get away from that behavior.  You have to address the act that they have fallen into, so that when people hear about this their minds go to the wrong action they have done rather than the personality.  Once you speak about the personality you further polarize the issue. What happens – and we see it happen over and over again – is someone does something (wrong) in public, and people publicly attack that person, and then you have two camps.  One camp defends that person and feels sorry for them because they are being openly attacked, and the other camp is slandering them.  It gets really nasty, and they feel they can speak about that person however they like and they (take from) their honor.  Your Muslim brother or sister has rights and (even if wrong) their honor still needs to be protected.  The other thing you have to also consider are the onlookers to this debate, and that is a large proportion of our ummah.  They are sitting on the side, watching this ping-pong ball debate, and it gets toxic and they are vulnerable.  And they see this toxicity in the Muslim community and want to move away from the community altogether.  So it doesn’t bring good results. We have to be addressing these issues but there will never be a better way than the way of the Prophet ﷺ in dealing with these issues.” – Sha. Umm Jamaal

 

“It doesn’t need to be only women talking about these issues but it is critically important that we center female scholars when addressing them and they need to be handled well.  We also must make sure this work is done with a level of genuine concern for the one you are addressing.  We have to refresh our intentions, reorient ourselves that this dawah should be done out of a genuine desire for that person to be brought to khayr (good.)  Isn’t that what dawah is about? To bring people to Allah.  This is not anti-men, this is a call… a call for all of us as a community to amplify women’s scholarship.” – Sha. Shazia

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    A.S. Ilott

    October 4, 2020 at 7:46 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum, Jazakum Allah Khaira. Keep up the great work! My only comment is that the intro was too long, so maybe shorten it and provide a longer version on the website (as you have done above).

  2. Avatar

    Spirituality

    October 4, 2020 at 12:36 PM

    Jazak Allahu khayran for the great podcast! I am excited to listen to future episodes.

    Actually, I hope future episodes will discuss issues other than hijaab – as this podcast itself mentioned, we as a Muslim community are hyperfocused on hijaab while neglecting other critical issues.

    Here are some ideas I hope can be explored in future episodes (many dovetail from issues arising from this podcast):

    1. How do Muslimas navigate through religious texts that seem problematic from our current cultural lens? I am talking about Quran verse 4:34, and hadiths stating that women’s natures are ‘crooked’ and women are deficient in intelligence and religion. I am also referring to great scholars whose works today seem to have passages that are misogynist and maybe racist.

    Actually, it would be very helpful to have multiple episodes on this topic, which would allow the Shaykhas to explain specific contentious passage in detail.

    2. Abuse, physical and sexual. How does Islam really view these issues? What about consent? What is the deal with sexual slavery? What about the whole issue of predator teachers/shaykhs? Shaykha Umm Jamaal made a comment that we are not to ‘call out’ those who did wrong – which generally is great advice – but does not calling out these predators allow them violate more and more Muslimas unchecked?

    3. Issues regarding marriage. What exactly is expected of a Muslim woman in marriage? How does a wife navigate issues such as obedience to her husband while a part of a larger culture that holds diametrically opposing values (ie, freedom, equality, self-expression/actualization, etc). Is she expected to be a doormat if that is what he wants? What about financial maintenance by the husband and resulting dependence of the wife, especially living in a culture that so links one’s very dignity with work and earning money?

    4. How to navigate motherhood successfully? Ustadha Zaynab had a very thought provoking article on motherhood and its inherent difficulties in MuslimMatters that should be fully explored – especially as we live in a culture that does not value motherhood at all.

    5. How does one raise strong children who love Allah and are strong in their faith (ie, as mentioned in this podcast, will naturally want to do things like wear hijab?)

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