Read about Muslim American feminist, Mona Ebrahim, who released a humorous book revealing why so many Muslim women choose to wear the hijab, viewing their choice as liberation rather than oppression.
Author: Mona Ebrahim
Illustrators: Lina Tarek Ali, Nadia Zuhdi
1) Tell us a little about yourself; where you’re from, studies,profession, hobbies, etc.
Ms Ebrahim: I was born and raised in San Fernando Valley, California. I studied at UC Santa Cruz in Northern California and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Film, TV, and Video.
I got married, lived in France for a bit (where I had my first child), and went back to the states. From then on I did so many things while raising my children, but never really had a “career.”
Between trying to create a film co-op, doing graphic design, photography, videography, writing and teaching, I started a clothing retail and design company with my friend called Rebirth of Chic. We wanted to provide women with clothing that was totally modest, yet artsy and fashionable.
Even though this aim was important to me, what I did with my photography meant even more to me. I wanted to put out images of women who were modestly and Islamically dressed (not tight, see through, shows the shape, with hijab), yet were captivatingly beautiful, but not sexy. I wanted to show my fellow women you can find that beauty and elegance in yourself without having to be sexy and physically alluring. At the same time I delved deeper into my Islamic studies and taught and wrote. I hope to publish some of my writings soon.
2) Tell us about the book, “101 Reasons Why I’m Glad I Wear Hijab”
Ms Ebrahim: 101 Reasons Why I’m Glad I Wear Hijab, is a funny and refreshing look at what is often a serious, controversial, and misunderstood topic. Full of laughs and insight, it whisks the reader into the experience and life-view of this American Muslim author, and gives an understanding as to why so many women choose to wear hijab, even against odds like bans, family’s disapproval, and sometimes societal condemnation.
It is a fully illustrated, 80-page hardcover, coffee table book packed with 101 comic illustrations. Not just a one-time read, this book is one of those “conversational pieces” you leave on your coffee table, shelf, or open library to initiate a conversation in a social setting. It’s a book you can share at your college or reading circles and have a discussion.
It’s a book you’ll want to buy and donate to your local library to finally be a voice that shows the positive things about hijab women feel, instead of all of the countless silencing voices of women and Saudi princesses who run away from Islam, Muslims, and Islamic traditions only to be “liberated” by the West. These are true stories, but where is our story? Muslim women who chose to wear hijab rarely have one.
In the face of punitive comments by people like Ann Coulter, we rarely have a chance to talk back. So here are my reasons, not one, not two, but Ha! 101 Reasons!
“101 Reasons Why I’m Glad I Wear Hijab” is a fun, introspective, and creative book. Sometimes silly. When I first started wearing hijab I started noticing all sorts of benefits, and “Cool, Alhamdulillah!” things about wearing hijab.
So many things I didn’t expect. So I started writing them down; this was back in 1998, the end of my college career. It was a project I was always passionate about but never got around to finish. I had most of the reasons, about 75, in the first few years; and completed more than 101 reasons in 2009, when I picked it up again.
I was so busy with my kids, work, and life that I had it on hold for a long time. From 2009 to now I went through finding illustrators, trying to do the publishing process on my own, and going back and forth with the illustrators, and editing. Finally I gave up and hired a publisher to help me wrap it up! Overall, I learned not to give up, to be patient, and know that everything will come into fruition when it’s appointed time comes.
3) What was the motivation behind the book?
Ms Ebrahim: It started out as funny things I jotted down, and grew into “How many ‘silver linings’ can I come up with?” I know Allah has good reasons to prescribe the hijab, and I, myself, felt so many positive benefits; so why not share them with others?
A third impetus might be that I know so many people want to ask me, “Why would you choose to wear that, honey? Don’t you know you are free here?” Or some Muslims might want to ask me, “Why would you choose to wear that, Sister? Don’t you know we are free here?” So, this is my chance to share my response!
4) What has the response been, thus far?
Ms Ebrahim: A lot of people are excited and eager to read it. I get a lot of laughs from women who wear hijab, when I’ve read it to them. I hear a lot of “Oh my God, that’s so true!” and snickers.
I know some of my reasons, some people won’t get unless they’ve been totally immersed into the American Culture as I have. Some of them are just for fun. Even a lot of my friends and family who don’t wear hijab “get” a lot of the reasons and laugh. And finally, my non-Muslim friends find it eye opening and amusing, and definitely intriguing.
5) If you could give one piece of advice to someone struggling with hijab, what would it be?
Ms Ebrahim: Be positive. If you think everyone is looking at you or hates you, they will. If you be yourself, be friendly and helpful, and a follower of the Prophet Muhammad’s persona and example, everyone will like you whether they want to or not. When I talk to people, people who I can feel have a preconceived notion about me, I can feel their image of me (as well as the hijab on my head) dissolve before my eyes.
Know you have a lot to offer the world, walk proudly, and people will respect you. Finally, if you wear the hijab (or do anything) with the intention of pleasing and following God’s guidance, Allah will give you your due reward and put barakah in your life.