Halima Aden is an American fashion model and was thrust into national acclaim after becoming the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. Following the success of her making it into the semi-finals of that beauty pageant, she was then signed on to IMG Models at only 19 years old, increasing her success to the international level, as well as becoming the first hijabi model to be signed to that agency. Since becoming an official IMG Model in 2017, Halima has walked runways and participated in New York Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, and London Modest Fashion Week, and served as a preliminary and telecast judge for the Miss USA 2017 pageant. She has posed for American Eagle and British Glamour, as well as been on the cover of prestigious magazines such as Vogue Arabia, Allure, British Vogue, and Essence magazine. She has also had features in Teen Vogue and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, as well as becoming a UNICEF ambassador. Halima Aden became the first hijab-wearing model to ever be included in these magazines and to walk those runways, proving just how much change one person can cause once given the right tools to succeed.
Halima is at the height of her career and was predicted to continue climbing higher and higher, until a series of Instagram stories she posted on November 24, 2020. Within these stories, she expressed great regret for allowing herself to change up the way she wore the hijab in order to book more modeling jobs. Within the Islamic faith, believers have a choice to wear head coverings, as well as dress modestly, in order to have a closer relationship to God, practice humility, and focus on internal beauty rather than external. The hijab, when worn correctly, covers all of a woman's hair, as well as her neck, and should flow down far enough to cover her chest. Through a series of different photos and storytelling, Halima showed examples of shoots where she would cover just enough, but it would not be with a hijab in order to look more "modern." She went so far as to share photos from photoshoots where stylists and photographers allowed her to wear the hijab the way she chose to, and shed light on how much happier she looked in those particular photos. You can check out her posts through her Instagram highlights here: https://www.instagram.com/halima/?hl=en.
The common thread through these posts was the mention of her mother, and the life-changing advice Halima received from her. Halima accounts multiple instances over the years of her mother pleading with her to return back to who she is, and let this career not made for Muslims go. Aden then goes on to thank the break from life that the COVID-19 global pandemic has granted her, since she has, for the first time since her modeling career sky-rocketed 4 years ago, been able to look within herself and open her eyes to better see how unhappy she was in her work. A repetitive phrase Halima Aden's mother would use to justify her being against Halima's career path is "Deen over Dunya." In Islam, our Deen is our belief in our religion, and our ability to carry ourselves with grace because of it. Whereas, our Dunya refers to the temporary materials life on this Earth has to offer that will not follow us into the afterlife. To put our Deen over our Dunya is to live our life fully, but to also have the consistency of our religion and what we believe in on our minds and shown with our actions at all times. Halima further discusses her mother always saying "Deen over Dunya" and how she can now happily say she totally understands that importance.
As a hijab-wearing Muslim woman myself, this story pierces my heart in ways I cannot fully express. I remember coming across one of Halima's magazine covers some time ago and being frustrated with her conforming to the false, Western mindset surrounding the "modern" hijab. As someone who is also in entertainment and plans to continue my dreams as a future filmmaker, I have been wishing for years for there to be someone like me I can look up to, in order to feel less alone in a career not originally made for us to be a part of. To take a stand, and choose what makes you comfortable is the light at the end of the longest, darkest tunnels. The strength Halima has to proudly, publicly denounce a career aimed to make her seem like less of a Muslim is inspiring, and may Allah grant her Jennah InshaAllah for being that light and the epitome of strength in one's faith for many Muslims around the world.