When I visited Turkey in 2013, I witnessed a beautiful tradition for young women coming of age. Young girls coming of age, beginning their menstruation, or deciding to put on the hijab received a special celebration with family and friends or with their teachers, their spiritual guides. How often do we allow our children and young women to feel celebrated for their decision to commit to something as tremendous as wearing hijab?
Often seen as a political statement, young girls are joining the ranks of women choosing their identity and willing to communicate to the world that their faith is worth the struggle to look different with constantly evolving social standards. Choosing to wear a hijab can be a beautiful and empowering experience for Muslim women.
However, the journey to an empowering experience is never straightforward or easy. Living in predominantly non-Muslim countries means girls have to put more effort and energy into committing to their identities. Every challenge to being not only Muslim or hijabi means being conscious of the potential hostility to choosing hijab. A hijab not only means confidence, it means resistance to the push and pull forces of living with Islamic principles in an environment where Islam is not the predominant faith practiced; this calls for support from family and the community who are willing to stand with and by young women on their journey.
A hijab, although not representing our entire identity, very drastically shapes how we carry ourselves. Young women have an essential task in discovering who they are and if they choose to wear hijab, explore what it means to them. Transitioning into the hijab journey requires trusted places and people – families, friends, community members, educators – to be that support system, not the challenge to someone’s hijab journey.
Although Atlasia Kids serves children under eleven years old, the Rasulallah (SAW) advised us to begin teaching children to pray at seven years old. Hijab is for both boys and girls in different ways. This is when families need to instill – in small steps – the teachings of exemplary women in hijab to show kids that a headscarf does not limit their abilities. As parents and guardians, our job begins much earlier than when our children begin their journeys. When Muslim women wear hijab with confidence, it challenges negative stereotypes and opens up more opportunities for all women.
We should not make wearing a hijab a hard requirement but rather communicate and show that covering our hair in modesty is an extension of our love for Allah and pride in our faith. Additionally, when girls can explore and put meaning behind why they wear their hijab, it is less likely that they will be motivated to discontinue wearing it somewhere down the road. When we encourage young girls to wear hijab and discover what it means for them, this, in turn, reflects the teachings of Islam powerfully: our children are taught to think for themselves, to learn and reason with guidance on how to choose for themselves, while also developing a strong love of Islam through their own self-discovery. Ultimately, we allow our children to inspire other girls to be brave, confident, and those who break down barriers for themselves and others.