The forerunners of the Nike hijab

Social media is awash these days with talk of Nike’s sports hijab, from both those in favour and those against. Personally I’m all for global brands increasing opportunities for Muslim women involved in sport. We wear their trainers, tracksuits and sports bras, so why not what we wear on our head? The only reservation I have is that they will begin to eat into the market of smaller brands, that have already worked hard to bring modest sportswear to market.

It is encouraging then, that many in the Muslim community have been willing to champion and support these pioneers, at a time when a brand with global reach is getting all the attention. Businesses such as Friniggi and Nashata are rightfully receiving the attention they deserve as the forerunners to Nike’s efforts.

All businesses are motivated by profits. The Nike sports hijab was initially developed in response to requests from a Muslim athlete, and they clearly recognised a gap in the market. Surely it is positive that they recognise the drive towards equality in sports: we should commend their efforts. But we should still recognise that they are also benefiting from the hard work of the smaller brands that preceded them, most of whom did not have the vast capital reserves of the likes of Nike to invest in research and development. Instead they invested in the product from their own time and money, investigating breathable fabrics, testing different styles and designs for comfort and safety… and then went to work attempting to market their products to a global audience, without the benefit of vast advertising budgets.

Most small businesses can really only rely on word of mouth recommendations, and reputation. Perhaps some will be able to advertise in relatively small-scale Muslim publications, but few will run on TV or in the mainstream sports press. A viral social media campaign is perhaps the best they can hope for. Even Muslim charities which send their supporters out to run marathons in branded kit, lack the foresight to strike a sponsorship deal with these manufacturers of modest sportswear. Too often it is every man for himself.

I, for one, hope that the Muslim community will begin to better value those small brands working to make participation in sport easier and more comfortable for Muslim women. Buy their products, recommend them to friends, flag them up on social media, blog about them — in the same way you would for a brand like Nike. Recognise that smaller brands may have higher overheads, less access to the supply chains which promise us cheaper products delivered at minimal cost: be prepared to give them a leg up, and help them establish themselves. In short, just do it!

How to Choose the Right Sports Hijab

Fitness requires the utmost comfort and what that means is being comfortable in your fitness attire. If you are a hijabi, comfort and safety in sports are equally important. To get the best fitness experience in a hijab, there are a 3 key areas you need to remember :  Fabric, Safety, Design

1. Fabric

Choose the right fabric.

  • Choose fabric that moisture wicks
    What it means is that the fabric is able to dry fast by  evaporating moisture and sweat away from skin. Most wicking fabrics are made of polyester mix. Typical cotton absorbs moisture and sweat and does not facilitate evaporation well. Therefore, moisture tends to hold onto it and due to that, the fabric becomes heavier and may cause discomfort and chafing. There is moisture wicking cotton designed for sports, but expensive.
  • Breathablility
    Mesh, Pattern Texture or Interlock or mix? Mesh is more breathable as it has small holes to allow ventilation.
    There are some fabric with different types of pattern texture as pique, waffle and stripe pique. They are not smooth but adds flattering element onto your sportswear. Interlock, on the other hand is smooth and soft, but as not breathable as mesh.
    Wafer Pique
    .
    Mesh and Interlock Fabric
  • Thickness & Weight
    Depending on temperature and humidity, you would want to choose the right thickness so that you don’t get too hot or too cold with hijab on. Thickness comes with extra weight. If you are looking for performance sports hijab, choose the ones that are lightweight and fast drying.  If you prefer heavier fabric for personal reasons,  it is ok too. Some prefer heavier fabric as it is not easily blown by the wind, hence does not flip easily.
  • Wet or Dry, or Both
    Find out if fabric is suitable for swimming and water sports. Some polyester and nylon fabric are fast drying and elastic that they are versatile for both dry and wet.

2. Safety features

  • Easily Detachable
    Depending on the level of intensity and ruggedness of your activity, you would want to get sports hijab that is secure but removable easily so that your head or neck does not get snagged. Accidents can happen when your hijab gets stuck or pulled while working out. 
    No pins or brooch

    Avoid wearing pins or brooches on hijab for sporting activities. Be it safety pins, sewing pins or scarf pins, you may not only cause danger to yourself but others who are exercising with you. Brooches with sharp edges and pins may cause unnecessary injuries.
    Wrapsarounds? Maybe not.
    Long scarfs that require wrapping around your neck are not safe as it my cause injuries if the scarf gets stuck or snagged while moving around.

Neck-scarf
Possible injury if scarf wrapped around neck for Sports

  • Reflectors (nice to have)
    Invest a little bit more for additional safety feature like reflectors on your hijab. You would find such feature useful for caving, hiking, trailing and even for running and cycling at night or before the sun comes out.Sports Hijab Reflector

3. Designs

  • Sporty
    Sporty designs typically make use of vivid lines around the head and front. However, if you are not comfortable having such look, you could wear simple and conventional designs. Some sports hijab designs are suitable for both wet and dry activities.Short Sporty Design
  • Length & Width
    Depending on your dressing preference and comfort, you can either choose short or long hijab. Short sports hijab gives better hand movement and lesser obstruction around chest area. Some finds good comfort  tucking in short sports hijabs into their shirts .
    If you prefer long sports hijab for better chest coverage, make sure the sides do not obstruct hand and shoulder movement.Long Sports Hijab
  • Colors
    Black, white and grey are the common and most universal colors. Do remember however, that black absorbs heat and it does affect sporting experience, especially outdoor and during daytime. Avoid using dark colors and try wearing hints of bright colors on your sports hijab as it adds more vibrant onto your look.Hints of Bright Colors
  • Design for the right Sporting Activity
    Jumping & Inversion friendly

    If you are looking for sports hijab for obstacle run, yoga or any sporting activities that require jumping or rolling like netball or volleyball, you may want to look for hijab that does not flip (unflippable) or invert, or you may want to tuck in your hijab.
  • Competitive or Training
    If you are an athlete looking for performance sports hijab, you need to get the ones made oflightweight and super breathable fabric.
    It is also important that the hijab is comfortable and practical that it does not cause obstruction when you compete. You would want to compete with a clear and free mind. It may be pricier. You can spend a little bit lesser for sports hijab you use for training. It can be longer and heavier and not designed for performance.
    Competitive Sports Hijab

So weigh your options and choose the right sports hijab for a swift and comfortable sporting experience. Check the fabric, make sure the hijab is safe for sports, pick design that flatters you and suits your sporting activity.

Established in May 2013, Nashata designs and produces affordable modest ActiveWear. The philosophy behind Nashata designs revolves around giving comfort, choice and confidence to women taking part in sport and active lifestyles. To find out more, please visit our website Nashata.com, or visit our blog.

Keeping Fit Without Compromising Modesty

AM Active by Greg Goodale_93-EditIt seems that hardly any of us are as fit as we should be, these days. Islam encourages a healthy approach to all aspects of life spiritual, mental and physical so it’s entirely permissible for women to exercise; the problem is that many Muslim women feel uncomfortable exercising in public. Western sportswear is often quite revealing, and some sporting activities can feel like a threat to modesty.

Not so long ago, I went to a gym and saw a woman trying to work out in a full Sawar Kamez. While I could sympathize, and knew exactly why she was doing it–she wanted to get fit, without compromising her religion–I could also see how dangerous what she was doing was. What if some of the loose fabric caught in the mechanisms of the machines she was using? She could have had a terrible accident. It got me to thinking about how Muslim ladies could stay healthy without worrying about either exposing themselves, or injuring themselves.

Four Ways of Keep Fit without Compromising Modesty

1. Ask at your local gym if they have any ladies only sessions. Most will.  There’s a big market for all female exercise classes, whether swimming, aerobics, spin classes, or simply using the gym equipment. If your local gym doesn’t offer anything, why not get a group of friends together and suggest that they do? Most businesses are keen to attract new customers, so you could be helping them out too.

2. Try exercising outdoors. You don’t necessarily need to go to a gym to get fit; a good walk or a jog can be a brilliant way to get your heart beating and your muscles working. If you have kids, pushing a pram up a hill is almost as good a gym session!

AM Active by Greg Goodale_100-Edit3. Find some modest sportswear. I had great difficulty doing this, so I made my own! OK, so not everyone can just go out and produce their own line of active clothing; it was something that I’m passionate about, so I spent a lot of time working on the design and it’s finally now gone into production. Anah Maria Active currently offers tracksuits, hijabs and a sports coat, but we’ll soon be launching outdoor kit and swimwear. The trick is to deliver loose-fitting garments that are still comfortable to wear and don’t get in the way of your activities.

4. Try exercising at home. If you’re really uncomfortable exercising in front of others, you could try investing in some home exercise equipment. It’s nowhere near as expensive to buy an exercise bike as it used to be, and you can pick up a balance ball for as little as £10. Anything you can do is better than nothing, so why not just give it a try?

Imam Ali once said, “Better than abundance of wealth is the health of the body.” I agree with that completely. Sure, you can do a lot of things if you’ve got the cash to splash; but you can’t buy good health: that’s something that you have to do for yourself, and trust that Allah will help you.

Checkout the new modest active range from Anah Maria at Anahmaria.com.

The hijabi adventurer

This post isn’t about the importance of hijab, for we are all more than capable of making our own choices and decisions. Rather, it is aimed at those sisters who ordinarily wear hijab, who may think they face a dilemma when it comes to entering an obstacle course race or mud run. Whether due to incorrect guidance on the part of event organisers, poor advice from team mates or simply fear of how they might be perceived by others, some sisters choose to jettison their headscarves when they set out on their adventure. Either that, or they give up on taking part altogether. It is my contention that such compromises are unwarranted.

There has long been an ongoing debate between sports authorities and individual sporty Muslimahs as to whether the hijab may be worn on the playing field. The football federation, FIFA, for example, banned the hijab on the pitch in 2007 on the grounds that they posed too great a risk of injury to the head or neck. This ban was lifted in 2014 when a two-year period of trials concluded that there was no evidence to support this assertion. In other sports such as basketball, however, bans on players wearing hijab in professional tournaments remain.

Tough Mudder North Carolina

It may be against this background that some obstacle course race organisers advise participants against wearing the hijab. However this advice should be challenged, because many hijab-wearing sisters have successfully completed even the most fearsome of challenges without incident, including Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and the Viper Challenge. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to see participants wearing ludicrous fancy-dress on many a mud run course, from formal dresses to animal costumes: if these are acceptable, why not modest head gear? In reality, few event organisers when pressed would seriously countenance preventing a woman from dressing as she pleased.

I suspect that the real worry of some adventurous sisters is fear of the perception of others on the running track. Much is made nowadays of the rising tide of Islamophobia in our midst, whether real or imagined. There may well be a fear that in a running event made up predominantly of non-Muslims, a hostile atmosphere might prevail. Once more, I believe that this fear is largely unfounded, for if anything is true of mud run events in general, it is that they tend to be made up of extremely friendly, fun-loving folk who are always ready to lend a hand to a fellow runner struggling with an obstacle. Strangers are often struck by the fraternal environment evident on the obstacle course, where everyone is in it together.

In fact, far from experiencing hostility while taking part in such events, many sisters report being treated with utmost respect and lauded for taking part. True, we may object to those patronising stereotypes which lead to those attitudes: that nauseous idea that we are delicate pearls, too weak to compete. But I say enjoy the ride and break down those barriers, those stereotypes, those visions of otherness. Drink up the atmosphere and be prepared to be treated as an equal on the obstacle course as you should be. In short, don’t go changing who you are for fear of the perceptions of others, for in many cases our perceptions are severely flawed.

fabrunners

Finally, there may be some sisters simply convinced that their hijab is an inconvenience in the midst of a race. In fact, the opposite could be true, for there are some very practical reasons for wearing it beyond pure religious duty or piety. If you are taking part in the winter, early spring or late autumn, it will protect you from wind chill. In the summer, it will protect your head and neck from the sun, and cool your head. It also keeps your hair out of your face and mud out of your hair, which is one reason many mud runners wear a bandana. Indeed some mud run organisers sell head gear which looks suspiciously like hijab for precisely this reason. When you think about it, there are more reasons to wear hijab while running than not to.

Right now is a good time to be a hijabi Muslimah taking part in sports, because there are so many options available. Numerous small businesses have sprung up catering for this no-longer niche market, selling sports hijabs and modest running clothes. Even mainstream stores such as House of Fraser have begun selling them. Furthermore, gone are the days when the only option was the “alien head” look; now you can buy elegant, comfortable and still modest hijabs made of light-weight, breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics. My personal favourites are Nashata and Friniggi sports hijabs; both businesses are based overseas, but will willingly deliver to Europe for a small handling fee.

mudrunners

Whether it is in fact necessary to purchase a dedicated sports hijab is a moot point, however, for many sisters manage perfectly well without one. For many runners, a one or two piece polyester Amira hijab proves a suitable solution: they are comfortable and hassle-free, while still providing modest coverage. All manner of designs, sizes and styles are available, not to mention various derivatives such as the Kuwaiti hijab and instant shawls. It’s one way to continue wearing hijab while running or taking on obstacles without worrying about it unravelling or falling out of shape. But of course it’s far from the only option.

mudrun-ditchy

Call me old-school, but I still like the good old-fashioned square hijab, of the kind you fold in half diagonally to form a triangle and pin under your chin. For many sisters, this works just as well even whilst running or taking on an obstacle course. Some sisters choose to tie the ends back around their neck or tuck them into their running top; others prefer to use the extra fabric to cover their chest. The only thing to be careful about is to ensure that you have tightly fastening pins that will not come undone midway through the race.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and what you are most comfortable wearing. The important thing to recognise is that wearing hijab should not prevent you from taking part in an adventure of this kind. You have as much right to take part as anyone else: you’ll probably just do it in much more style. If in doubt, take inspiration from those who have gone before you. Hijabi adventurers are here to stay.

Sporty Muslimah

This article was originally published on the Islamic Design House blog in July as a post titled, Modest Clothing & Sport

Staying healthy is important for everyone, Muslimahs included. Allah (SWT) has blessed us with bodies that we have to take care of — and besides healthy eating — sport or exercise is one of the main ways to do it. Most things that are worth doing require getting out of bed — so you probably want to be fit enough to! But when you want to stay modest, it can add some barriers to being active. When looking for modest clothing for sport or exercise, what do you look for?

What are the challenges of wearing modest clothing for sport?

There are a couple of challenges but none that can’t be overcome! The most common thought that pops in the mind of sisters is staying cool and dry. How can we avoid overheating when we’re covered from head to toe?

Then there is the often forgotten about idea of health and safety. Modesty isn’t the only thing that matters. You can’t be active if you’re in cast or a stretcher can you?! If your jilbab or abaya is too long it can become a hazard in itself or just impractical.

And what about style? You may like sports wear that’s feminine and fun but most aren’t modest — the sports bras, yoga pants or itty bitty shorts aren’t very hijab friendly. As a Muslimah, you want the modest silhouettes but with a sporty flair. At Islamic Design House, we have a whole range of sporty chic jilbabs, two-pieces and hijabs that are perfect for the young energetic Muslim woman.

Gather round sisters — we’re about to give you some great advice!

Stay Comfy, Stay Safe

Do! DO!                      Don't! DON’T!

As a modest sister, you’re going to be covered in far more fabric than the average lady you may see on the football pitch or on the tennis court — that’s a good thing. You just have to keep a few things in mind.

If you wear a hijab, make sure you wrap it in a way that doesn’t have too many loose or hanging ends.Try tucking them under your jilbab or hoodie if you have any and keep it securely pinned to your head. You don’t want the end of your scarf to fly in your face while running track or getting tangled in gym equipment. Not only is that so embarrassing but also quite dangerous. Forget about intricate hijab styling when it’s time for exercise.

For your outfit, there are tons of options. You can wear a jilbab, loose trousers or a long top and skirt. It may be best to wear a jilbab or skirt that’s a few inches shorter than your normal size so it doesn’t skim the floor, so you can avoid, you know, tripping and falling flat on your face. If you like, you can wear a pair of thin leggings underneath so you don’t reveal more than you’d like.

Fun with Fabric

The key to keeping modest and cool is not necessarily wearing less fabric but the right fabric. As a modest lady, you probably already know that but here’s a deeper look into how to pull this off…

When it comes to fabrics to exercise in, most things that come from nature work well… cotton, linen and silk for example. It’s because these materials are breathable — even though you’re covered up, they’ll let the air in and out. Jersey, which is also made out of natural materials, are a safe bet too. Watch out for linen though! It creases very easily, so be careful when throwing it in your gym bag. And as for silk, avoid wearing silk tops as they allow moisture to gather under your armpits. Eww. Instead, try wearing a silk hijab.

There are also many synthetic fabrics that are great for exercise like hybrid fabrics and materials including Taslon, Viscose, Lyrca and more. The possibilities are endless.

Style Inspiration

To all our sporty or active sisters out there: how do you dress modestly when you’re on the move?

You don’t have to bare your midriff or your figure to express your sporty side. Here are some ideas of fun and fashionable ways to dress as an active sister.

Getting the most out of your Mud Run

This is a guest post by Yatie Nadzli , sharing 20 helpful tips on getting the most out of your Mud Run. Earlier this year, Yatie took part in the Viper Challenge, Asia’s biggest obstacle course event.

1. Form a team of fabulous teammates and prepare to have fun!

viper2

2. Ensure you get the nutrition you need before, during and after your Mud Run challenge. Eat healthy, nutritious foods and stay hydrated. Don’t skip breakfast.

3. Do consistent strength and cardio training in the run up to your challenge. Try to work up to running 5km without interruption. Mud Runs are a test of endurance, not a walk in the park. Be prepared.

4. Work out upper body. This is important if you’re taking part in a Mud Run with lots of obstacles. They’re not applicable to all runs, but are increasingly common.

5.  Teamwork is everything in a Mud Run challenge. Help each other in your team and even people not in your team. Somebody else might return the favour when you need help later on!

6. Take a lot of photos whenever you can because this might be your one and only Mud Run challenge.

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7. Have a good rest the night before the challenge and don’t forget carb- loading!

8. Wear shoes that fit.  Avoid ill-fitting shoes, as Mud Runs involve a lot of mud and water. Poorly fitting shoes will easily slip off. I recommend rubber shoes or hiking shoes that grip. Don’t wear shoes you’re particularly attached to as they’re going to get covered in mud!

9. Wear long sleeves or a thin inner layer, as there are often obstacles which require you to crawl on the ground.

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10. I strongly encourage you to wear gloves as many challenges feature hard, rough surfaces.

11. Bring protein/energy bars, a banana or high protein foods you can easily eat during the challenge. Seriously, we need lots of energy to get across the finish line.

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12. Wear long trousers with a reasonable thickness or wear good leggings underneath, as sometimes trousers get torn or perforated,  especially in the nether regions! Ouch!!

13. Travel light. Don’t carry water as there are usually waters stations along the way. Carry protein bars and small waterproof camera. Leave valuables such as mobile phones behind or locked in your car.

14. Leave nobody behind. Remember the Mud Run challenge is not a race: you just have to finish it together. If someone in your team is struggling, walk with them; there’s nothing to rush for.

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15. Do not drink so much water before the challenge that you’re uncomfortable and need the the toilet. It may be okay if you’re a man, but going toilet in the overgrowth is not much fun. Just drink what you need and can retain along the way.

16. First aid is always available, but carrying a spray for muscle cramp and plasters can be handy in case of injury in the woods.

17.  Help and motivate each other along the way. Honestly I don’t think I could finish a Mud Run challenge without support from my team mates. That’s why my number one rule is to find fabulous team mates! Yeahhh!!

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18. Go into it with 100% mindset to take on all the challenges and prepare to have loads of fun.

19. Enjoy the moment and be happy. Commit to do the best for every obstacle; it will give you true satisfaction.

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20. Don’t give up! You are so much stronger than you know!

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