“I personally refuse to hold someone’s idealistic image against them as long as they have achieved it via healthy means. If a woman is naturally slender with attractive proportions I will not loath her as long as she is gracious with her beauty and at rest with it. As I read in the book Captivating, beauty needs to be at rest and inviting. When a woman is forcing herself to obtain beauty she creates much anxiety associated with her image; I find her anxiety contagious. Others around her may begin to feel uncomfortable, threatened or competitive. I believe that women need to invite others to be comfortable with themselves rather than bring tension to others.” — Lauren Arno
I came across this quote in a discussion about body image in the blogosphere. What I think really got me thinking was what she said about being gracious with beauty. That phrase embodied one of the meanings that is meant to be reflected in wearing the hijab.
I had to immediately ask myself: How, if at all, is the Muslim female blogging community different? Is the focus on looking cute and posting photos of ourselves? Is it on sharing recipes or grooming tips?
None of these things are inherently wrong per se, but like everything there’s a proper manner for going about it. What started as a tide of bloggers trying to get images of hijab-wearing women looking trendy and fashionable into the mainstream has turned into a full-time job for some.
At first it was about showing that we’re still individuals: Muslim women don’t wear all black and don’t all cover their faces, we have distinct styles and trends, and are actually just as attractive as our non-hijab wearing counterparts. The last part about being equally attractive shows that we’ve now started weighing our value on the wrong terms. The definition of beauty has shifted to the external one being used by the consumerist culture we’re immersed in.
The cooking and grooming is less so much an issue as it is a distraction. How big is the mind of a woman who’s only preoccupied with making good food and keeping herself in good condition? With Google giving us access to anything we need to know in a matter of seconds, recipes and grooming tips included, how can the Muslim female bloggers of the world give something unique to their readers and followers?
That’s the question. It’s not about criticism; it’s about the best use of skills and talents for something with a bigger purpose and meaning. Why does it matter what everyone is writing about?
Because it’s an indication of what the productive minds are occupied with. Bloggers are writers, producers, artists and creatives, they represent the cultural and literary products of our community. So when you look at the entire Muslim blogosphere and their collective body of work, how does it look? Unfortunately, not as good as it could. Instead of working on fixing the problems facing our community from the inside or externally, we’re preoccupied with fashion tips, hijab wrapping styles and shoes.
We’ve imitated the fashion bloggers in every way, down to the stomach crunched poses with pouty lips, hunched shoulders, and protruding elbows. Just look at Facebook: we’re slowly turning into superficial, self-obsessed, narcissistic, mindless, individuals that base our value on the number of likes, comments, re-tweets, shares and re-blogs we get.
Some of the finest minds of our generation are wasting their time on things that hardly bring any benefit and could be causing harm.
Look at it like this: if you started feeling dizzy an hour from now, and felt shortness of breath and fell down on the ground, gasping for air, and realized these might be your last moments, tell me: Would you feel proud of what you left behind? What’s your legacy? Are people going to re-tweet and re-blog your beautiful outfit photos after you’re gone? Will they remember how pretty you were?
Think about it. Our time is so limited—it’s something I struggle with everyday. Using my time wisely is a constant struggle, and I ask Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) to bless my efforts and help me to be sincere and productive in doing something that benefits the world when I’m gone.
Allah (swt) clearly puts this to us in Surat Al-Mulk’s verse 2: “[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving –” (Qur’an 67:2)
Not only is He reminding us to compete, in the time we have, to do good, but He ends the verse with reminding us of His forgiveness. It’s as though He is reassuring us, because our next thought would be for us to worry about how we spent our time in the past, and He’s letting us know it’s okay.
There’s still time. Allah Kareem (God is Generous).