Drop-Top Convertible Hijab

Before I converted to Islam, I tried out some interesting and unorthodox (to say the least) hijab styles to see what it would be like if I converted. I did not wear hijab immediately after I converted, I was (and still am) in a process of learning and unlike wudu and salaah, which I began practicing immediately the same day because I saw them as absolutely obligatory, hijab outwardly and inwardly took time for me to believe and accept as part of my life.

I remember when I became convinced of hijab reflecting on some verses in the Quran, so that same day I began to observe hijab and viewed it as a continuation of my spiritual growth and learning process. I observe hijab because I believe it is a command from Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and is obligatory, period.

I don’t observe hijab because any of the supposed wisdoms or benefits, or to be respected, or as a political statement, or because some people might want me to, or because men are weak, or whatever. For me it’s quite simple, I believe it’s a religious obligation and failure to do so is blameworthy.

My non-Muslim sister came down over Thanksgiving break and asked if she could accompany me to Friday prayers and I said, of course. She seemed genuinely interested and mentioned that while she was in Greece over the summer she was not allowed to enter any Greek Orthodox churches because she wasn’t Greek Orthodox.

She asked me if she had to cover her hair and I said no but that she might want to so as to avoid unwanted stares. So she wore her regular clothes, jeans, sweater, and a bandanna and off we went to the masjid. She got a couple stares mostly from young girls but everyone else was friendly.

Muslim and Non-Muslim women that do not observe hijab come to the masjid all the time without covering their hair seemingly without much problem although I’m sure they encounter occasional harrassment. So the phenomenon of drop-top convertible hijabis is somewhat of a mystery to me. I don’t understand why a person that goes about her daily life without hijab would then come the masjid in some semblance of hijab but wear it in such a lackadaisical manner such that if someone were so much as to look or breathe on her it might fall off.

I can understand that there is a communal pressure to wear hijab and not wearing it will often attract unwanted attention and so perhaps wearing a drop-top is a way to strike a balance between this pressure as well as asserting that if she had her way she wouldn’t wear it at all.

It seems to me that a woman that believes hijab is obligatory and observes it is being honest and sincere about her belief, at least outwardly. And it seems to me that a woman who does not believe hijab is obligatory and does not observe it at all is also being honest and sincere about her belief, at least outwardly. So I find it strange that a person that does not observe hijab away from Muslims and the masjid, will then put it on at Muslim functions or at the time of prayer but do so in such an irreverent manner as to negate the very meaning of hijab.

I find it hard to understand that mindset, unless like my sister they just wanted to avoid the pressure, the stares or the comments that might be directed their way. But even my sister who is not a Muslim was able to fasten her bandanna in such a way that it actually covered most of her hair and was not about to fall off with the slightest movement.

I don’t know why any woman that is known not to wear hijab would want to put on that sliding drop-top, half of the hair exposed hijab or maybe they don’t want to wear it and that is the whole point something akin to a child pouting and offering a weak sorry after being forced by someone else to apologize. Perhaps it is a reflection of their understanding of hijab, or to avoid being harassed, or is a protest to show that she can’t stand hijab and doesn’t feel it’s obligatory. I freely admit that I do not understand it as well as I would like to.

I’m not judging anyone’s intentions because I cannot see into the hearts and I know many good drop-top hijabis some seemingly better outwardly than full niqaabis or your run-of-the-mill hijabi but to me as a hijabi that believes it’s obligatory that sort of drop-top convertible hijab is (vaguely) offensive, perhaps more offensive than if she didn’t even try to pretend to be respectful or to cave into the expectation of others and makes me feel as though I as a hijabi and belief in hijab are being mocked.

I tried but could not watch (not even with my gaze lowered or on fast-forward) that movie by Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali because it was so offensive. For those that don’t know, the film is ridiculously melodramatic and features a naked woman wearing a see through cloth that is supposed to resemble a burka, which is also completely absurd with verses of the Quran written all over her body and is only delightful to those with no hayya or modesty and a sickness in their hearts. It’s complete and utter nonsense.

There are many Muslims I know personally and many prominent Muslim women that do not observe hijab but when they go to a masjid, Muslim functions, Makkah or meet with Muslim leaders they wear drop-top convertible hijabs but I don’t get it. If you don’t feel that hijab is obligatory, why wear it at all? And at the very least if you are going to wear it, while still feeling it is not obligatory, can’t it be done with ihsan or excellence?

Drop-top convertible hijab is not hijab and it’s not respectful. I support a woman’s right to be able to decide for herself what she wants to wear and if she wants to wear the drop-top I cannot force her to wear an underscarf or to wrap it a bit more tightly and I’m not going to pester her about how much of her hair is showing but please don’t think that you are doing anyone any favors by wearing your drop-top convertible hijab because I find it (vaguely) insulting.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

24 thoughts on “Drop-Top Convertible Hijab”

  1. Asalaam Alaikum Wa’Rahmat Allah Wabarakatu Dear Sister,

    This was a very interesting post. Every week at Jummuah that I am able to go, I too notice various types of hijab. Niqaab all in black…to skin tight jeans with 3/4 sleeve top and a tiny scarf. We know that Allah judges according to what is in the heart, and no matter what these women are wearing at the very least…if they attend Jummuah to please Allah by learning a thing or two then insha’Allah with Him is the Reward. My hijab story started with a quick scarf wrap 10 years ago, and now I am at the point of contemplating niqab. Faith practiced blindly is why I think maybe some women throw a hijab as see through as saran wrap, and as short as a piece of tissue it seems-perhaps they know it is the right thing to do…especially in the House of Allah (any mosque) but aren’t ready to go full-force with the correct application of it.

    But I have to say, as ridiculous as it seems for those wearing the ‘drop-top convertible’ hijabs, it’s better than not wearing anything at all. I have seen women reporters walk into the masjid and have pulled them aside to kindly ask them to cover-up. Recently, I had 2 pieces to my hijab and took one off and offered it to a student who sat in for a khutba and they had no problem with that. As we would ask them to take their shoes off when entering the masjid, all women should be required to dress modestly in a place designed to worship Allah. Even more, because it is Fard for men to be there, and not fard on women..there is a higher risk of fitna happening there when a woman’s beauty is put on display. There is a certain respect for the masjid that must be kept…and rather than looking at it as hypocricy (by the women who decide to take it off once they leave) maybe we should look at it as a sign of encouragement for those who fear to wear it at all, at least they will feel safe doing so in the masjid..and perhaps a little bit more confident and comfortable..Another thing, although we wear hijab only for Allah…people are affected by this whether we believe that or not..and in a masjid..Al-Mala’ikka (Angels) surround us…

    What bothers me more, is when the lack of adab in the masjid at the time of the khutba being delivered…or a halaqa is being presented. A masjid should always appear as such, and it would appear as such if all women would not be allowed to commit the sin of revealing their charms be it hair or figure..And for the record, wouldn’t that make a stronger impression on those non-Muslims the value of modesty..and remind all Muslims of the hadith where Rasullilah(as) taught us that the character of Islam is al-haya (modesty).
    SubhanAllah..

    JazakAllah kheir Muslim Apple, I admire your writings..please don’t be offended by what I’ve said.
    ..and may Allah forgive me if I have said anything in error..
    your sis, suhaa

  2. Why is “drop-top hijab” offensive/insulting to you? Could you perhaps think that a nonhijabi woman doesn’t have the skill to wear hijab tightly? Or maybe she really doesn’t believe it’s obligatory – which belief exists, and isn’t the same as bad faith or poor practice.

    I know that the other day I experienced a splitting headache while wearing a tight hijab at the mosque. I get those when I wear fitted hijabs. So, if you can make excuses about your nonMuslim sisters, could you make excuses about women who wear loose hijabs?

    And btw, you might support a woman’s right to not wear hijab, but not everyone does. So there are plenty of women who wear it under duress. I know some who have.

  3. Asalamu alaykum wa Rahmatullah,

    I didn’t mean to accuse anyone of hypocrisy, that was never my intention, and I know some sisters who quite honestly cannot wear underscarfs or are allergic to hijab in a medical sense, I just have never understood why a person who seemingly could resist the pressure to wear hijab in public would wear it haphazardly in a masjid.

    When I didn’t wear hijab, I never wore it. And as I grew into hijab, I hated to not wear it. I remember in one article, Asra Nomani who doesn’t believe it is obligatory said she wears a hoodie when she goes to her local masjid sort of as a protest against them wanting her to cover and I can appreciate that sentiment. If I didn’t believe hijab was obligatory, I don’t think I would wear it, not in public, not in Muslim gatherings, and not in salaah or I might do like Nomani and wear a protest hoodie or bandanna.

    Suhaa, nothing you’ve said offended me and I agree that lack of adab is by far the biggest source of fitna in the masajid. I remember one year on the first day of Ramadan, a brother tried to drive into the masjid’s parking lot, which was HOV-3 even though he was the only person in the car and starting cursing and looked like he was about to fight the parking and security brothers to me bad manners is a bigger fitna than a few strands of hair showing. And koonj brings up a good point that I can appreciate that not all women have the same skills in shaping their hijab.

    I used the word vaguely offensive/insulting because the emotion or thought is not well-defined in my mind and that is one reason I write, to help me sort through my thoughts and emotions. I tried to write this post several times, trying to encapsulate my thoughts but I found it difficult to do so, perhaps I should have just deleted this post.

    It just seems to me that if I were to imitate a nun for instance, I would try to wear the habit correctly, so it would not be sliding off this way and that way out of respect. And in the same way, I used to work at a place where we wore uniforms and I disliked to see other employees wearing their uniform loose, wrinkled, or sloppily because it seemed unprofessional and reflected negatively on us as a group. And on a number of occasions I’ve encountered people making fun of hijab/niqab and often they do so by imitating usually through a drop-top style hijab.

    My sincerest apologies if I have offended anyone. Eid Mubarak in sha Allah.

  4. I’ve sat here and thought about this a good few minutes and I’ve come to the realisation that I don’t actually have an opinion about this.

    I do wonder if it might be a cultural thing. Many Indian/Pakistanis I know will wear the half cover scarf as opposed to full head covering. I don’t think they do it to be disrespectful or hypocritical. I think for them, either they don’t believe the covering is obligatory and/or they feel the scarf they use is enough.

    Eid Mubarak to you, by the way.

  5. I’m with Tasmiya, I don’t care too much one way or the other. But what does bother me is this: when people think their hair needs to be covered while listening to the Quran or athan (what is the source of this, anyone know?), so the athan starts going and they grab their purse or a napkin or some other rediculous thing and hold it up over their heads. That is utter nonsense. I usually can’t hold in the laughs.

    And Eid Mubarak. House hopping, Apple?

  6. Eid Mubarak Ladies,

    Some very beautiful things have happened since I posted this and I’ve come to realize that I don’t find drop-tops insulting. I would share them but that would probably take another post albeit much shorter than this one.

    Tas, I agree and think most sisters with a drop-top even though it doesn’t accord to my understanding of hijab (and then again who am I? nobody.) are actually trying to be quite sincere and respectful and I think that is very sweet of them.

    Z, I’ve missed you and have been looking forward to your return for more than a week now. Yes, I’ve heard that especially the napkin on the head when reciting Quran. It seems strange but incredibly sweet, at least to me.

  7. I don’t know if insulting is the right word for me. Maybe I feel somewhat embarrassed for them. I mean, even non-Muslims become “hijabi” during cold winter days, so I just don’t get the “drop top” sisters. I love that terminology by the way. I have come to realize that for the most part it is a cultural phenomenon and I don’t look down on them for it. I just feel embarrassed, as I said. I remember once I was at an Eid prayer and this sister just could not keep her scarf from slipping off. I mean seriously. It got to be sort of comical, and it definitely broke my concentration watching this sister struggle to keep some semblance of dignity, while every move she made caused her hijab to fall. I mean, there’s always those two piece al-Amirah numbers. Why not wear those?? Or a well placed safety pin can do the trick….

  8. Amani: I like your characterization of the feeling better than my own, I guess I do feel a slight embarrassment for sisters that can’t seem to keep their hijab from sliding off.

    I can’t claim any credit for the terminology, I heard it first used by another non-drop top sister.

  9. I’ve been reading your blog for a few days now and figured I should comment. I guess I’m one of those women who wears a “drop-top” hijab.

    I don’t cover in my every day life, but yesterday at the Eid Salaat I was covered in an overgarmet and a hijab that I wore in the wrap style. While it did stay put and didn’t fall off, you could see some of my bangs.

    I wear the hijab in the masjid because you are supposed to. But after my family and I left the masjid, I removed my scarf. I waited until we got into the car to do this, but many women present took off their scarfs as soon as the salat was over.

    I do have to agree with Koonj in her suggestion that some women who wear their scarves in this fashion don’t have the skill to put on a scarf tightly. I do not pin my hijab because I find it uncomfortable, but while at the masjid yesterday I looked with wonder at how different women wore their scarves – pinned up, two layers, etc.

    I guess it’s different for everyone.

  10. Welcome Chickpea, thank-you for adding your perspective to the discussion, I too am often amazed at the many different styles of hijab. I’m not sure if you qualify as a drop-topper if you pinned it and the it stayed in place even if your bangs were showing.

    I think it’s incredibly sweet of sisters that don’t wear hijab regularly in their daily lives to do so at Muslim functions I gather out of respect for the belief of others that it is obligatory or that “you are supposed to”.

  11. … but have you noticed that most women who wear this “drop-top convertible hijab” are Pakistani? I wonder why.

    Anyway, I pray that Allah will guide all Muslim women to wear hijab the correct way. It’s just a matter of growth and understanding. I also believe that the drop-top style is somewhat hypocritical.

  12. I don’t think it’s hypocritical. I think it’s cultural. And we don’t know that the cultural- Arab-tight-style is ‘the correct way.’ You’ll see some Syrians and Egyptians wearing loose scarves especially if they are not from urban areas. Most Pakistanis cover their heads with a long scarf called a ‘dupatta’ and that is their culture. Indonesians wear white hijabs, Saudis wear black. It’s to do with culture and not what ‘should be the colour.’ Most non-hijabi women cover their heads during salah to respect the act of worship and not because they are confused in their heads. I don’t wear hijab and I don’t cover my head when I’m reciting the Quran but I have special prayer clothes (much like a printed khimar) which are clean and loose that I wear only for Allah. When I’m communicating with Him alone I don’t want to be wearing what I wear for anyone or everyone. Is that hypocritical? I don’t think I need to be hypocritical in the confines of my home when no one can see or judge me except for Allah.

    I always thought that early Muslim women wore full niqabs so as to be identified as Muslim women until I read that Jewish women in the 6th and 7th centuries covered their faces completely and left only the left eye uncovered to see. If Jewish women were covered from head-to-toe and Muslim women were covered too like them then how were Muslim women identified as Muslim? The bottom line is, we don’t know what women wore in the Prophet’s (pbuh) time to be able to say “this is the kind of hijab that had his stamp of approval.” I like Samaha’s words, “let every woman’s heart be her veil.” Allah knows the true intention. Allah chose to grant an otherwise worldly and sinning woman for offering water to a thirsty dog – He works in mysterious ways.

    In the Gulf in mosques there are khimars available for non-hijabi women to wear and pray although I choose not to use them because I don’t pray in mosques. The idea is that it is expected that a woman be covered while praying. Therefore if if a woman covers her hair in a masjid because she must or because of peer pressure, she is pleasing fellow Muslims and fulfilling huqooq al ibaad. I suppose Allah sees that as virtue. True Islamic growth and understanding comes from accepting all types of people rather than trying to squeeze fit them in preconceived religious boxes which mirror our behaviour.

    Excellent post, Muslim Apple, as always. It is thought provoking and I’m sure we all have learnt something from each other. Thank you!

  13. Suroor, you’ve added a lovely dimension to the conversation. I really like the idea of wearing clothes just for Allah, one of our teachers was telling us that when we wake up for fajr, we shouldn’t pray in our pajamas because we would never want to go in front of people like that so how much more deserving is Allah of us wearing our best clothes when we have our private audience with Him in prayer.

    I don’t like that saying from Samaha even though I think I understand where she is coming from because it sounds too much like people who say they don’t need to pray or fast in Ramadan because their belief and faith is in their heart.

    I do think there is much virtue in being considerate of the feelings of others even if you disagree. Differences of opinion aside, faith without actions and knowledge without manners is a lie.

  14. Salaam HajjiWK, welcome to Muslim Apple.

    Hijab is so often talked about in such a limiting way as though the only proper or correct hijab would resemble something out of early Arabia. Yet, hijab can be so diverse and beautiful in that diversity that I think different styles are overlooked or denigrated as not being “real hijab”.

  15. Assalamu Alaikoum,
    Something that frustrates me is the assumption that the bigger your hijab, the more sturdy your faith. I know that you are not saying this. I used to wonder about women who wear see-through hijabs and think what’s the point but then i realised that maybe some wear them as a symbol of being muslim without actually believing they have to hide their hair. I have worn all kinds of hijab, from decorative little scarves to full niqab. different types serve different functions for me at different times. but this attitude of more is better means that in some peoples eyes i fluctuate from pious to not pious and back and forwards. i think the ‘drop-tops’ a bit like this

  16. Thanks MP! You always write such thought provoking posts. This one really got me thinking. I have a cousin who has knee length hair. Now she wears niqaab but when she had started doing hijab she used to wear it outside only and remain without one in front of cousins and freinds. She used to confuse me but now I think it was just another step towards niqaab. May Allah reward her, ameen.

    Most of my comment was directed towards HajjiWK but I’m happy something came out of it 🙂

    I love yummy red appples!

  17. You said:

    “Drop-top convertible hijab is not hijab and it’s not respectful. I support a woman’s right to be able to decide for herself what she wants to wear and if she wants to wear the drop-top I cannot force her to wear an underscarf or to wrap it a bit more tightly and I’m not going to pester her about how much of her hair is showing but please don’t think that you are doing anyone any favors by wearing your drop-top convertible hijab because I find it (vaguely) insulting.”

    I couldn’t have saidf it better. you are so right. I have no respect for that kind of mockery of hijaab. great post MA! I cand definately understand where you’re coming from. See it all the time…take care.

  18. salams

    You can watch the whole “drop top hijab” on YouTube. It is really funny. this is where it started. great post sis MA!

    When sisters protest wearing hijab at the masjid, it isnt against the masjid members but Allah swt. astagfirallah! only HE commanded you to wear it so dont do it to please man but to please your Creator. so for those women out there who think they are spiting the sheiks or people at the masjid think about it you are really disobeying Allah swt
    advice to a sis just starting to cover is?
    you need at least 1 pin.

    i remember growing up and going to religious gatherings and the old auntie would look like they have a doialy on their head with 3 quarter skirts on or low cut shirts lol. that always use to crack me up.

  19. if that link doest work try searching; that not hijab on youtube. sis MA if you dont want a link to youtube you can delete it if you want. (cause i read on another blog when someone posted a link on his comment) salams

  20. asalamu alaikum sisters,
    may allah make the hijab easy for us but it so beautiful when we wear it , iam 15 and i wear nikab and i have been living in america all my life.

  21. Asalamu alaykum,

    Jamila, no doubt about bigger does not mean better, not by a long stretch.

    Suroor, are you calling me a member of Parliament or was that a typo, it took me a bit to envision what knee-length hair is like.

    Sheryza, mocking hijab is offensive but if someone is sincerely trying to observe it not out of personal conviction but to appease the views of others there is a certain sweetness in that. And wonder if I didn’t believe in hijab if I would wear it at all since I tend to be a bit of rebel.

  22. Asalamu alaykum,

    MuslimUnity, nah a sister I know was using the term drop-top hijab years ago before this film came out. I fixed the link and don’t mind people putting up relevant links, I just don’t like copy-pasting entire articles into the comments section.

    That advice is key, at lease one pin unless you have the shayla style and it’s non-slip type fabric. In Nigeria, when we would go to church everyone had to cover their hair, it was not even an option to do otherwise.

    Aishah, welcome to Muslim Apple. Ameen. One thing I love about hijab is when I go to a Muslim gathering for the first time and am a bit lost, I just look for some hijabis or guys with beards and then I know I’m in right vicinity. So hijab is also like having GPS on the dashboard.

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