FARMINGTON HILLS, MI–Rahaf Khatib, is a wife, a mother of three, and a marathon runner who is changing the Western image of what a Muslim female is.
32-year-old Khatib has been an avid runner for four years. She is the founder of ‘Run Like a Hijabi,’ a social media group seeking to gain support and awareness for fitness and diversity. The Muslim Observer first interviewed her in the spring of last year, when she was competing to become the first Muslim woman in hijab, the head scarf, on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine. Marathon after marathon, Khatib came across an ad while reading the magazine. They were looking for one male and one female runner to be featured on the cover of their December 2015 issue. Never before has a scarf-donning woman been on the cover, so Khatib thought to herself, ‘why can’t it be me?’ As the contest and voting went on throughout the year, Khatib ended up making it to the top 10 finalists, though did not make the cover.
Last year, she told us at the Muslim Observer she began running when her son’s school was participating in a local race that she thought it would be the perfect way to challenge herself. The kids were competing in a 1-mile, so she signed up for the 10K. Khatib said she was immediately hooked after experiencing that euphoria and first runner’s high, so she chose to do that same race the following year, completing the half marathon. Afterwards, she felt she was ready for the Detroit Free Press Marathon. During that race, she noticed a lack of diversity in the runners, specifically, a lack of other women in hijab. This pushed Khatib to take part in more races, such as the Le Marathon De Paris, in France, a race that draws in crowds from all over the world.
“It was still a dream of mine to see, not just me, but any hijabi on the cover of a fitness magazine,” Khatib said.
So she left a comment under a post by another fitness magazine, Women’s Running Magazine, saying how she enjoys the diversity they choose to express with the women on their cover from Hispanic, Asian and transgender, etc., and it would be great to see her Muslim community represented as well. Khatib said they quickly responded to her thanking her for the comment and that they wanted to discuss this further. So after a few e-mails back and forth, Women’s Running Magazine later asked Khatib to be their model for their October 2016 issue.
“Whenever you leave a comment on a company, you never except them to reach out like this … and so quickly,” said Khatib.
Women’s Running Magazine asked her the type of clothes she would run in and what the clothing details of the hijab requires. As the day of her photo shoot came closer and closer, they sent her shipments of clothes to choose from to wear.
“Women’s Running Magazine is more of a down to earth magazine. They try to have more diversity on their covers and within their magazines because it’s targeted to women,” Khatib says.
Since the cover issue with Khatib has been released, she says she has received a lot of positive comments, more than she had expected, and from Muslim and non-Muslim communities. As far as any negative comments, she has received a few but says it’s to be expected when doing anything outside of the box.
“You have to ignore the negative comments and focus on what an achievement this is and how hard I’ve worked to get here,” Khatib said.
Several different news channels and papers have interviewed her, including the national news show The Today Show. Khatib’s large media attention is mostly for being the first hijabi on the cover of any fitness magazine as well as this avid marathon runner representing the Muslim community. Though Khatib has raised another call to action that most all athletics in hijab agree with, she is hoping to reach out to fitness brands to design a more hijabi appropriate clothing line, that is comfortable, workout appropriate, and in line with Islamic guidelines.
Rahaf Khatib is on the cover of our October issue, on newsstands now.