Q&A: Appropriate Age for Hijab & Other Issues

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Dear Readers: The following question was submitted by Jami Sinclair, who is writing a book with a Muslim character and would like input from the Muslim community on whether her portrayals of Islam are accurate. Besides her questions, which I will be posting as they come up, Jami is also seeking sensitivity readers for her manuscript. Please help out if you can.

QUESTION 2:

Please forgive my ignorance. I appreciate the opportunity to ask questions here!

In my middle grade spy adventure (for 9-12 year olds) the main character’s best friend Jasmine is a Muslim American girl, working within a US spy agency to take down a villain who plans to eradicate Muslims from America.

Her mother (who is also a spy for the agency) wears a hijab. I currently do not have Jasmine wearing one.

From my internet searches, this would be acceptable in most Muslim families, since she is pre-pubescent. She is currently twelve-years-old, but I could make her eleven, if that helps. Does this seem reasonable?

Also, her parents intend to allow her to decide when and even if to wear one later. It seems this is common to allow the child to come to their faith with their own decision, but perhaps I misunderstood the results of my internet searches.

Note: Her mother is Muslim, her father is Christian and is the director of the spy agency. I appreciate that the Muslim community is diverse, so there will be differing opinions on this, but I’m looking for what is most common within American Muslim families.

Thank you for your help!

More Questions from Jami

Want to be a sensitivity reader for Jami? Read this post.

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11 Comments

  1. Hi Jami,

    Congratulations on your WIP and thank you for your commitment to capturing a culture and religion as . In trying to answer your question to the best of my understanding of my faith, I would say the interpretation of wearing the Hijab is subjective among Muslim families, when it comes to prepubescent girls. Some believe it should be adopted the sooner the better, so it comes naturally when the time is right. Where as others, feel it would be best to leave it till the individual enters the right age, which is early teens to the best of my knowledge.

    Good luck!

  2. Hi Jami,
    To the best of my knowledge a Muslim girl has to wear complete hijab when she reaches puberty ( onset of menses). Since your character is pre- pubescent, she still has time to decide and start practicing hijab. But young girls do wear headscarf ( to form a habit for future)…..you can portray your character wearing a sporty headscarf 😉

    All the best for your book.

    • I think perhaps I am misunderstood when you suggested…

      But young girls do wear headscarf ( to form a habit for future)…..you can portray your character wearing a sporty headscarf

      I thought you meant like a scarf to merely cover her head. But it sounds like the sporty head scarf you suggest would need to cover more. So, actually, it would look like a hijab. Although, maybe my confusion comes between “Hijab” sometimes referring to the head covering, and sometimes the practice. Would just wearing a bandana on her hair be a way to begin to get used to a head covering at age 11, or would it need to cover more?

      As always, thanks. And Ramadan Mubarak. (Hope I got that right 😉

  3. Dear Jami,

    In addition to the above, I wanted to point out that the majority view in Islam is that a Muslim man may marry a believing woman from the Christian faith, but the reverse is not true. It would be highly unusual for a practicing Muslim woman to marry a Christian man, and this type of marriage is actually haram (prohibited) in Islam. I’m not saying it never happens. Personally speaking, I know of a few women who converted to Islam later in life (after they were already married), and they remained married to their non-Muslim husbands. However, this is very controversial, and I would be wary of inserting this type of controversy into a children’s book.

    In your first question, you stated that the character’s name is Jasmine Siddiqi, so a question also arises regarding the origin of the name “Siddiqi.” If Jasmine’s father is not a Muslim, where did she get this name from?

    Regarding the hijab, I like Fatima’s idea of a “sporty” headscarf. Also, if she is maintaining her prayers, as you indicated she might be in your previous question, she would need to wear a hijab when praying.

    Amel – MWC Admin
    Amel recently posted…WANTED: Sensitivity Reader for Children’s Book with Muslim CharacterMy Profile

  4. Thank you for your comments. What would a sporty headscarf look like? Often, the internet uses hijab, head scarf and head covering interchangeably. Would it be worrisome if she did not wear a headscarf? Or can she wear it irregularly, as she’s getting used to the idea? I can definitely put a hijab in her prayer kit. Good to know she doesn’t need a rug.

    Follow-up: If she were to pray on the run (meaning in the middle of a forest after being chased there by the villains goons,) how would she go about it? She’s with her friend (non-muslim boy). He knows she prays, but I assume she might excuse herself around a rock for privacy? Are prayers said out loud? If so, might she murmur them? (The villains are still in the forest looking for them, so they need to be quiet.)

    This is wonderfully helpful. Thank you.

  5. Hi Jami,

    Sorry for late reply. A sporty hijab can be anything which covers the head, neck and bosom (  even a Nike sport scarf would sound adventurous).

    She doesn’t have to go behind a rock for privacy of praying, she can pray in the jungle by just keeping some stick or stone to act as her minbar( pillar).

    Do you want to incorporate a part in your story were jasmine prays on a mission? If yes can you please elobrate the plot.

  6. Hi Jami,

    To me, “sporty” would look like Fatima described. Here are some pictures of coverings marketed as “sports” hijabs:

    https://www.capsters.com/sports-hijab-outdoor.jsp

    https://www.capsters.com/football.jsp

    There are certain units of prayer that are typically recited aloud, but it is not obligatory. Murmuring or saying these prayers silently, perhaps moving the lips as the words are “spoken,” is okay. Dhuhr and Asr prayers (both of which take place in the afternoon) are already silent.

    Note that we can’t really tell you whether your character “should” wear the hijab, if she can just wear it irregularly, or if she can wear a bandana. Each scenario has different implications that may or may not fit into your story and what you are trying to convey about your character.

    Amel – MWC Admin
    Amel recently posted…Q&A: Muslim Character Missing PrayersMy Profile

  7. Thank you all. And Amel, yes. Your note was a very good one. Since talking with this group, I feel I may need to re-evaluate Jasmine’s role/character arc. I had assumed since she was a few years from puberty, she would not yet be wearing a headscarf. My original thought was that like some American Muslim girls I’d read about, her parents would be encouraging her to wear hijab at puberty, but leaving the decision up to her, allowing her to come to her faith when she was ready. But it sounds as if, while this does sometimes happen here, this is not very common for Muslim girls in America.

    If she does wear a hijab, this visible sign that she’s Muslim does make her more of a target for the villain and his goons. Which also ups the conflict. Thank you for all of your patience with me as I work through this… 🙂

  8. Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu.

    Each family is different and it is good that you recognize that. I will give you my perspective which is that of a Mother with a 10 year old daughter in America. I am a revert so that also plays a role in my decisions. I allow my daughter freedom to choose, HOWEVER…bold however lol…I strongly encourage modesty and I try to make her strong. The strength is because yes, the bad goons may target us (giggle) so she must be strong enough to wear hijab when she enters puberty without fearing those goons. She will be in hijab before 12 inshallah, I can tell the changes have already begun in her so it is probably a year if that before it becomes fard. I would love to give her a story about a girl around her age that is strong and courageous.

    Now I have two concerns. First off, she is alone with a non-muslim boy you say? My daughter would give you an odd face right now and look at me waiting for my response. I am already encouraging her to segregate from the boys and stick with the girls , we do not engage with boys alone even little Mohamed and little Ahmed. They can play on the soccer field at the masjid, but they do not go anywhere alone. The next concern is that it is not permitted for a Muslim woman to be married to a Christian man. I recognize that this may happen, but I would be careful to show encouragement for what is haram.

    Just my humble thoughts. 🙂

    • Hello Monique:
      Thank you so much for your reply. Yes, LOL, the more responses I get (either here, or through other sources) the more I see how Muslim families vary in their ideas and practice of hijab.

      The same seems to hold true with spending unchaperoned time with boys. I was surprised when I read the middle grade adventure “The Gauntlet” by author Karuna Riazi. (A fun adventure, by the way!) In the book, the hijabi 13-year-old main character and her non-muslim friends (one girl, one boy) sneak away from a party and go up to her bedroom alone. They get sucked into an adventure there, and spend the rest of the book working together (with no adults). Perhaps it is made better because there are two girls and one boy?

      To answer your question about the marriage, the husband reverted before they married. They divorced when he left the faith.

      I feel grateful for all I am learning and for the willingness for you and others to share your opinions and experiences.
      Best — Jami

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