Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hijab vs. Exercise: Round 1

Alright, I have a confession to make to the world. When I exercise or play sports, I don't wear my hijab. I used to. Honestly I did. When I first starting wearing hijab it was wintertime and in the wintertime, I tend to hibernate, doing very little physical activity except yoga, and consuming mass quantities of food. Mainly my hijab kept me warm. However, spring came and although it was a bit warm, I could handle it. Then came summer in eastern Kansas. For anyone who has spent anytime in eastern Kansas from about mid-April until early October, you know how humid it is. Then the heat sets in.

The first summer that I wore my hijab I was pregnant and on very light bed rest for the first trimester. I only went from my office to home so the heat didn't seem that oppressive. Then, most of the next summer I was working from noon to nine and staying home with Noah in the morning so no real exercise regimen last summer and thus, no problems. However, this year I wanted to get really active. Clearly, age and pregnancy have affected my metabolism because I weigh more now than I ever have (I am fortunate because my BMI is still very good, but I don't want to take that for granted).

When my co-workers formed a softball team, I was happy to sign up. However, I didn't know what to do about wearing my hijab because I didn't want to be a heat-stroke victim. So I wore a bandana. I was still covered, right? However, about 10 minutes into practice, the bandana fell off. I tried to put it back on, but as soon as I went up to hit, it fell off again. "Screw it," I grumbled and threw it to the side. I haven't worn it to a softball game since. I keep waiting for a big bus of Muslims that I know to drive up and say, "Danielle, I thought you wore hijab; I guess you're going to burn in hell. (Not too mention that I play in a coed league and my husband doesn't go to the games, double hell). The funny thing is, that no one knows the difference. I am tall, pale, an adopted blonde,and I have blue eyes. Nobody knows the difference. Even though it is essentially a beer league, I absolutely do not drink any alcohol, an occasional root beer maybe, but not anything else.

I had essentially the same thing happen at Dog Days. For non-Lawrencians, Dog Days is an intense conditioning led by a retired police officer who was tired of high school athletes getting injured because they didn't condition properly during the summer. It meets two to three times a day twice a week depending on the month and has two runs on Saturday. There are approximately consistently 400-500 crazy people ranging in age from infant to elderly, fat people, skinny people, old, young, KU track stars, and people like me, etc. who meet at these times at Memorial Stadium to be tortured by Red Dog. The only real rules are that you do as much as you are capable, no less, no more, and you absolutely cannot laugh at anyone else. I am totally addicted. However, the workouts are very intense and if I were to wear a hijab I am convinced that I would drop dead. Once again, nobody knows the difference and everybody who is there is there to workout, not gawk at the opposite sex.

The point of hijab is to be modest. I can assure you that I am at my most modest when I am working out. Greasy hair, beads of sweat dripping down my eggplant purple face, and big, sweaty stains under my arms and on my back. Most Muslims argue that the point of hijab, other than being symbolic, is to not draw attention to oneself and blend in as best you can. Therefore, it begs the question: If a hijab makes you conspicuous in various situations, should you wear it? Passing out from heat would definitely make me stand out in a crowd. I think working out is a very good thing and I feel so much better after I do it. As a Muslim (as in most other religions), you are supposed to take very good care of your body. I think working out would fall into that category. However, does wearing hijab trump taking care of your body? Is hijab taking care of your body?

In all fairness, I should point out that if I were in an Islamic country, I would abide by and participate in exercise activities that were deemed appropriate by the local population. It is very much a cultural issue. For that matter, is hijab a cultural issue? I suppose I could delve into the Samuel Huntington "clash of civilizations" theory in terms of hijab and women's exercise, but I have already wrote a much longer post than I intended. In closing, is not wearing hijab while exercising my Western cultural baggage and an insult to the Islamic faith, or a pragmatic approach to a religion that is, Qu'ranically speaking, supposed to be practical?

I don't mean to run the hijab issue into the ground, but it was in the forefront of my mind since I went to Dog Days tonight. Also, it has been a slow couple of days news-wise. Well, except for Americans still having freedom of speech since the flag burning amendment didn't pass. Yeah! However, that is another post. Cheers!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

assalam alaikum sister,
i just wanted to add that i too exercise a great deal here in colorado where it gets very very hot and dry in the summer. i wear my hijab when doing so. it's something you just get used too and then you dont even notice the difference. i wear a long baggy sweatshirt or long big longsleeved t-shirt or jacket, sweat pants and my scarf. i even bought a burquini and i swim in it every few days (it covers and is easy to swim in) i actually prefer it to a regular swimsuit when we have women's only swim days(: I appreciate your struggle because it is my own, but i just want to encourage you to wear the hijab. Allah is the one who created the hijab guidelines which includes covering our bodies and hair and Allah is the only one we need to please. I hike, swim, run(currently training for a marathon) all in my hijab. Inshallah i hope you give it a try and the awkwardness you feel at first will go away when you just concentrate on pleasing Allah and only Allah(: