The Story of “The Beauty and the Beast” is simple: An arrogant prince, who refuses to help an elderly woman in the middle of the night, gets cursed by her and thus turns into a beast. She tells him the only way to retain his human form is to find someone that loves him regardless of his looks. Shortly after, the narrator of the movie asks the audience how anyone could ever love someone looking like that?
During a conversation about my headscarf, also known as hijab, a fellow student threw the exact same question at me. According to her, looks are what make potential partners interested, and character is what makes them stay. It was in this moment, I just thought to myself, if a man cannot love me without seeing every single inch of my body, then I did not want to be with that person.
The reason we Muslim women wear hijab is out of our submission to God, the literal translation of the word “Islam.” It means accepting a being as superior and exalted in might and wisdom to you. I believe and trust that God, who created me, also knows what is best for me. So, if God wants us to be modest, that is what we want to do out of respect and love. The ones allowed to see what is beneath the veil are so-called “Mahrams.” Women, one’s husband and men in our family who are not able to marry us such as a father, uncle, brother, son and so on, fall into this category.
Besides, the concept of hijab did not just start with the Muslim faith. Plenty of Christian women, such as nuns, are seen wearing the veil as a symbol for their devoutness and modesty. Especially, the Virgin Mary is usually depicted with a veil on top of her head, while she is holding Jesus in her hands.
Moreover, observing the hijab, and thus being modest, does not end with one’s clothing. It also extends to one’s behavior, such as being humble and moderate, not aiming for a materialistic and braggy lifestyle. In Islam, the only thing that makes you better than someone else is your good behavior; not your gender, skin color, nationality, wealth, appearance or anything else. Hence, whenever anyone asks me if I am concerned about ever finding someone who will love me with a hijab, or if I feel ugly dressing like this, I confidently say no. The only time I would be worried about being ugly is when my heart is.
I do not want to be remembered for superficial criteria like my appearance. It does matter to a certain extent when finding a partner, but it should not be the first thing that comes to people’s minds when thinking about me. People tend to obsess over it like their life depends on it. A lot of beauty and fashion industries try to tell their target group that they have to buy their products in order to be successful and accepted by society, but why? Trends come and go, people’s opinions change, and we are expected to just go with the flow, without questioning it. In this process, many people lose themselves and obsess over things, which were never meant to be eternal, such as external beauty. Thus, the beauty I am encouraged to take care of the most is the one in my heart, attained through good deeds, since I believe that they are the only thing I am going to take with me on the other side. This does not mean that a person who wears a veil automatically has a better heart than someone who does not. However, our society is prone to distract us with many trends and not giving in to them can be beneficial.
Furthermore, against many misconceptions, the Islamic concept of hijab also includes males, but in a different way. They are encouraged, as well, not to flaunt visually attractive traits and keep it simple. Another aspect of a modest hijab that especially men are expected to observe is to act and behave modestly. This should be done by respecting women, not objectifying them or judging them based on their appearance, and instead valuing them for their character, as opposed to their body. It is no secret that females are used as visual stimuli for advertisements more often than males. It is perfectly normal to find commercials advertising cars with half-naked women, which then tempt men to buy or desire them. In Islam we believe these visual triggers, such as an attractive appearance, should not be the first aspect we look for in another person. With our modest clothing and behavior, we Muslims want to focus on what truly makes a human valuable, which are a person’s character traits.
As a Muslim woman, I am supposed to be well-groomed, and thus take care of my appearance, but guard it from the public and just show it to those that are allowed and worthy of seeing it. It is not meant for public satisfaction; that is why the only thing that should matter is what is in my heart and not what is on my head or body. The concept of hijab has shifted my perspective on what truly makes me a beautiful person, and for that I am thankful. Besides, if the arrogant prince in “The Beauty and the Beast” had taken care of his internal beauty, he would have never been turned into a beast in the first place. His repulsive looks merely reflected what was in his heart.
By Kubra Berna Ayyildiz