I remember well the cold winter day my middle son stood slouching in the grocery aisle with big, sad eyes slowly looking back and forth between myself and something in the frozen foods case. Could it be ice cream? Does he really want ice cream on this nearly sub zero day? I pushed my cart closer to him, peeking over his shoulder – confetti “Birthday” ice cream was what he was longing for. “Is it haram?” he quietly asked me. “No it’s not,” I smiled, dumping two cartons into our shopping cart. “And we can eat it any day of the year too, except your birthday,” I teased.
That moment helped me to remember to always seek out halal alternatives instead of simply saying “No” to all the haram things my children may feel excluded from. When I later heard about a woman in Jordan throwing a “hijab party” for her daughter, I immediately appreciated the significance of the idea of celebrating – saying an optimistic “Yes!”to hijab instead of agonising over it. I mentally added hijab party to my list of parties-to-have.
These hijab parties are also called takleef (to make one responsible) or buloogh (to reach, attain) celebrations, and are thrown by Muslims all over the world to mark young women’s commitment to wearing hijab. In some communities, hijab parties are held on or around a girl’s ninth birthday, as to prepare her for regularly wearing hijab and praying by the time she turns ten years old. In other families, the celebration is thrown when a girl is older and/or has made her own commitment to wearing the covering. While some of these events may be more ceremonial than celebration, many Muslims are recognising this great opportunity to foster support for young hijabis, some with a full-on blow-out, even renting halls and bringing in catering crews.
The main event
Hijabs and other new clothes are standard and great gifts for the young hijabi, but Jazmin Begum Kennedy, author of Mercy Like the Raindrops, took her daughter Fatimah-Zahra’s baligh party to the next level by providing generous gift packs for all the young friends who attended. The packs included hijabs, pretty prayer mats and other related goodies. Jazmin also took advantage of the party to extend a teachable moment, reminding attendees of the criteria for hijab and also the rulings on mahrams. In addition to not knowing much about mahrams, Jazmin found that the girls had many misconceptions about hijab. Jazmin explained that a hijab does not need to be black and it is not meant to make them look “ugly”, as some of the girls assumed. She demonstrated how hijab and accessories can be coordinated with ensembles. She also showed the girls examples of successful hijabis to quell their concerns that hijab is only for housewives or similar ideas. Though Jazmin is from an Asian background, she found her daughter’s peers in the UK from several different backgrounds all having similar misconceptions about hijab, which she was relieved to help clarify at the party.
Emma Hdr of Path of Light Designs on Etsy, began selling takleef party decorations when she saw the void in the online Muslim market. Growing up in Canada, Emma attended hijab parties, including one for her little sister. Emma says of hijab parties, “I think it’s very important to make a big deal about this, as it is a major life step for young girls. Living in the West, it is not “normal” to go from not wearing a hijab to being covered when you might be one of the few in the community to take that step. These parties get girls excited to start this new chapter in their lives and help them understand how brave they are for taking this step.” Some Islamic schools in Western countries also help young women mark their hijab milestone by acknowledging their commitment with special awards.
It’s a community affair
At her Islamic school in Michigan, Kelly Alsharif’s daughter was given a “hijab reward” when she started covering full-time. Her pack included candy, hijabs and accessories. As an Islamic school, Alsharif says that “Of course they would encourage girls to wear hijab. In fact, I know a couple of families where the daughter put on the scarf and the mum doesn’t wear it.” The school has so many girls wearing hijab now that not everyone gets a hijab reward, only some girls who have been nominated for one when it is known that they are covering full-time. Rather than a dreadful duty, hijab should be treated as positive milestone for young women transitioning into adulthood.
When Jazmin posted her baligh party photos on Facebook, she had such a great response from other mums wanting to encourage and reward their daughters with parties that she wrote up a PDF of “How to Throw a Hijab Party” which includes discussion prompts to use with the young hijabis and would-be-hijabis. After all hijab is not just a physical “screen” as Jazmin reminds, “Complete hijab, besides the six criteria of clothing, also includes the moral conduct, behaviour, attitude and intention of the individual.” While our daughters are doing the often hard work of taking on the physical hijab, it is a good time to discuss the etiquettes of hijab for both sexes with our sons. Jazmin explains that the baligh party was to celebrate her daughter’s entry into womanhood and “to show her friends and my family that now Fatimah-Zahra will be wearing the hijab all the time around non-mahram men,” which is an effective way to present the issue rather than having to explain it multiple times to various friends and family.
Hijab Party Ideas:
Food, of course! – Bring out all the girls’ favourites – this is a once in a lifetime event, so splurge a little. Include plenty of chocolate and finger foods. Offer fancy mature mocktails, such as homemade Italian sodas or Bubble teas. Now is the time to raid your best Pinterest finds. Don’t forget a fabulous centrepiece cake complete with a hijab wearing topper.
Gift Bags – This is a ‘maturing’ party, so in there next to the bubble wands and rubber bracelet kits include some appropriate gifts for both the party goers and the hijabi of the hour. Hijabs are obviously good, but as Jazmin has pointed out, if you include pretty prayer mats for the young ladies you will get a share of rewards each time they use them. In her gift packs, Jazmin included laminated print-outs she found online which explain the rules of hijab and mahrams – you could do something similar with du’a or positive affirmations cards. Personally, I like the idea of giving thoughtful books. Your young guests will be well beyond those classic colourful picture books about the sahaba and seerah, so it is time to give them something lovely and a little more grown up. For the hijabday girl, perhaps a series about inspiring Muslimahs or her first volumes of hadith. Maybe a ‘rainbow’ Qur’an or perhaps one in a zippered leather case?
Decorations – Again, this is her day so make it pretty! Some Muslim retailers carry Fula or similar hijabi decorations, which may be appreciated by younger girls. In addition to store-bought decorations or do-it-yourself paper-decorating ideas, several Muslim retailers are now providing takleef or buloogh specific party items. For banners, cupcake toppers and more, check out Emma’s shop: www.etsy.com/shop/PathOfLightDesigns
How to Throw a Hijab Party – Jazmin’s explain-all PDF is posted on her daughter Fatimah-Zahra’s Facebook author page, that’s right, the young sister is also an author just like her mum! www.facebook.com/MyGrannyFZK
When you do throw a hijab party, please don’t forget to tag SISTERS on Instagram: @sistermag and on Facebook: /SistersMagazine. You can also get some amazing party ideas from our Pinterest page: www.pinterest.com/sistersmag/celebrations-eid-parties/
Brooke Benoit is the Content Director for SISTERS magazine, designer of gemstone jewellery and mama to seven unschooled little Muslims. She’s been meaning to throw herself an ‘aqiqah and now may add a belated hijab party to her bucket list, after she does her four girls’ parties, of course.