What Does it Mean to Wear Hijab with Ihsan, and Why is That Important?
Jan 13, 2023
Dilshad Ali
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Editor's note: It's our annual #LikeYouMeanItHH beginning-of-the-year reflection time! What does it mean to "wear it like you mean it?" We invite you (and ourselves) to renew our intentions and reflect on what our hijab (and faith and other areas of our lives) mean to us.
Ihsan (Arabic: إحسان ʾiḥsān, also romanized ehsan), meaning "to do beautiful things," "beautification," "perfection" or "excellence" [Wikipedia]
We know that intentions are so important for us as Muslims. We are taught that we should consider our niyyah, or intentions, and make good intentions in everything we do – not just in our deen (faith) but also in our dunya (worldly) pursuits. Why are we doing what we are doing? For what reason? Whom are we doing it for? Is it for praise? Is it because we want to be seen? Or, is it for the sake of Allah (S)?
But what about ihsan? Where does that play into our intentions towards our hijab (or any other areas of our life, for that matter)? If ihsan means to do beautiful things and with excellence and perfection, is this part of our relationship with our hijab and our commitment to Allah (S)?
HH CEO Melanie Elturk
We know that a woman’s decision to wear hijab is extremely personal and between her and Allah (S). And we know that as we continue to wear it, whether we don it earlier in life or later, we may go through ups and downs and challenges with not just how we wear it, but why we wear it. Our hijab makes us visible in public. It may make others think we are representations of Islam whether we want to be or not. We are individual women carving out our own paths and working on our own relationship with Allah (S)
Some of us make the decision to wear it, especially those of us who are converts/reverts to Islam, and suffer from lack of family or friends’ support. As our fashion writer Hakeemah writes here, “Once a woman converts, all too often one of the first things she is encouraged to do is to start observing hijab. And although wearing hijab is important, a balanced approach is vital so that she doesn’t see her value as a Muslim as solely in her ability to commit to hijab swiftly and with perfection.”
Hakeemah goes on in her post to plead with all of us to do better in how we talk about and support each other in the wearing of hijab and all the complexities around it. Which brings us back to this idea of ihsan. This one word has so many incredible meanings. As Ihsan Arabic explains it: “Charity, the performance of good deeds, beautification, excellence, courtesy, grace, kindness. It holds all these meanings and more.
“The key to its meaning was given to us by the Prophet of Allah (S). When asked about ihsan, he said: ‘It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you.’”
So yes, it’s about striving for perfection and beauty in what we do. But perfection is hard, and Allah (S) knows that many of us struggle with it. Ultimately though, ihsan comes back to making that intention to serve Allah (S) to the best of our abilities. Let’s absorb that a bit.
In her launch post on Instagram for our fourth annual “Where It Like You Mean It” campaign (#LikeYouMeanItHH), Melanie asks our communities to think about why we wear hijab, and accept that it is a journey for us all: “I had to grow into it and wear it for the right reasons. Not because it was expected of me, or because my friends did, or because my dad wanted me to. I had to get to a point where I was wearing it for myself, for my faith, for this beautiful relationship I had with myself and God.”
If we can get to that, if we can center that (and not just in our relationship with hijab but across the span and actions of our lives) then ihsan is ours for the taking. And as the Quran says, “Will the reward for doing good (ihsan) be anything other than good (ihsan)?” [55:60]
May we all strive to wear our hijab and live our lives with ihsan and with the best of intentions – for the sake of Allah (S). May it be a choice we make willingly and with love, strength, power and grace in our hearts. Ameen.
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