I have wanted to write about my Hijab story for a long. Since it’s been spread over the years and I couldn’t figure out what fits in and what didn’t, I didn’t know where to start. But here goes.
I had a love-hate relationship with hijab for a long time.
I knew as a Muslim woman I had an obligation to observe it. But I couldn’t ever find an answer to all the how’s and why’s in my head. Besides, there weren’t any good examples around. Most of my cousins didn’t observe it. The one cousin who did, did it out of much resentment and I am sure her dilemma was similar to mine. Well, there was this one aunt who did full burqa while some aunts took chaddar. But they were all just ordinary housewives. I wanted to break all the stereotypes and conquer the world. And the hijab just didn’t fit in the picture. Please note, back then (in my ignorance) I didn’t see the value in all the extraordinary things mothers/homemakers do for the sake of their families. It took me a long time to come to this understanding.
Anyhow, back to the story…
Sometimes there were arguments and some snide remarks from some family about how I was being sinful by not choosing to put a piece of clothing on my head.
But I didn’t care.
I was young, good-looking with beautiful hair, and a fashion enthusiast. What good was it all if I didn’t flaunt it (Astaghfirullah)?
I would dress up with my dupatta draped around my neck trodding away to college as if I didn’t have a care in the world. I liked how I could get on some of the family’s nerves for not keeping up with the chaddar tradition. But what weighed more heavily on my nerves was the pressure to keep up. The pressure to do well in studies, be in a good record of teachers and have a lot of friends.
Especially the popular ones.
Which meant I had to make sure my wardrobe was up to date with the latest trends in clothing and other accessories. I was buying all sorts of crappy stuff out there to make sure my skin remained blemish-free and hair in good order. There were times I enjoyed it all. But at others, it took a toll on my mental health.
Sometimes I would skip college just because I was having a bad hair day or I thought I didn’t have anything good to wear. Oh, the vanity!
Then there came a time when horrible anorexia set in…
I quit eating anything for the fear of gaining an extra pound or an inch. The problem got so worse that having just a few morsels of food would make me sick and give me severe cramps. Sometimes the slightest aroma of food would make me nauseous. In those days, I didn’t want to do anything with food. As a result, terrible weakness set in. I became anemic and lost most of my hair. Because of this all, I lost my focus, wasn’t able to concentrate and my studies suffered.
And then the terrible depression set in.
I was a mess.
It took a long time to gain myself back, physically as well as psychologically. But…
Through it all, I came to the realization…..
The people I was trying to please and keep up with didn’t really care. They didn’t care to listen to or understand my pain.
I desperately searched around for anyone who would sit with me, listen to me, understand me and feel my pain. All felt all alone sinking in my own despair…
Until I found someone…
But it wasn’t any friend or family or a teacher.
He was the One who is always there when there is no one.
The One who is The Most Kind, Most Near, The All-Hearing and All-Seeing, The One and Only Lord Allah.
Alhamdulillah, my parents had taught me how to pray. When I found nobody really cared, I found my solace in prayer. I cried my heart out there seeking help and asking for an end to my physical and emotional ordeal. It was the only thing that pulled me out of all the hollowness and hopelessness which had become a pain.
The comfort and the answers I had been seeking all along, I found them all in returning to my Lord whom I had been rebelling against all along.
Then I found real inspiration…
It was during this time I had a chance to attend a workshop on the how’s and why’s of purdah. In this event, I found many girls to be wearing these beautiful scarves and abayas. While I was in one of my finest suits, strutting around with high heels and a dupatta casually put on my head. However, through the whole event, I didn’t feel the slightest bit of judgment or holier-than-thy vibes from anyone as I had from some abaya/chaddar/hijab-clad people in the past.
Beneath all those abayas and niqabs, they were very ordinary people in ordinary but stylish attire. Yet there was something very extraordinary about them all. You could feel the spark of it in the air.
I found myself drawn to this weird bunch of people wanting to be like them in their pursuits and in general how they carried themselves.
Then there was this beautiful abaya and hijab display at the event which I found so attractive. I couldn’t bring myself to buy one back then but did make a promise to buy myself one when I reached that stage (and I did reach that milestone and I did buy an abaya couple of years down the lane from the same shop! Their abayas are my favorite btw ;)).
From then on, I started to change…
That event was very enlightening and kind of life-changing too. Instead of making the non-hijabis feel they were going to be doomed in hell for not taking the hijab, the focus was to educate and start moving towards the desired change one step at a time.
And that’s how I started, first by just casually draping the dupatta.
Even that wasn’t easy I tell you.
From where I was coming from, this wasn’t a small step.
I would spend hour after hour trying to style it in ways so it looked more acceptable and stylish in the fashion sense. Still, after hours of standing in front of the mirror, I rarely liked what I saw. And then all the questions and comments! “When did you start wearing dupatta on your head?”, “Bari islami ho gai ho/You have become very Islamic!”, “Are you having some mental issues?”, etc, etc. These things hurt and made me falter.
But I persisted. Until…
I finally did it!
I still wasn’t ready to drape the hijab around my head till I got married. That’s when I made the decision to take the leap after moving to Australia.
Wearing a hijab in a Western/ non-Muslim country was a whole new experience. There were no family, cousins, and friends to mock or question why I was doing it or why I wasn’t doing it properly.
Being away from all the noise, I eased into it all in my own way, in my own time.
The best part of it all was when we were out and about and fellow Muslims recognized us (based on the hijab) and passed on their salaams.
And then I found my tribe!
They were strange bunch yet beautiful women who were all at different stages in their journey. But we were all strangers together and that was the best part of it all.
Living in Australia, there were not-so-pleasant moments as well with people passing on islamophobic comments and all. But there was my tribe I could always fall back on and find the support.
Then there were the questions……
“Why do Muslim women need to cover their hair?”
“Don’t you find it oppressive?”
“How do you deal with the heat?”
“You have beautiful hair, why do you cover it?”
“Did your father/brother/husband force you to do it?”
With all these questions and not a reasonable answer to give, that’s when I decided to find out what was this hijab thing really about!
I took on a journey with the Qur’an…
….and what a journey it has been!
It has been a journey of many revelations, of awe, of hope and fear, of self-discovery. Most of all it has been a journey of finding love, a love that which found, transcends everything. Over the years I was given this image of God being this sadistic and super angry being (Nauzubillah) always on the lookout for an opportunity to punish.
What I actually came to know was quite opposite…
I found that Allah is the Most Wise and all Knowing. What He has commanded for us, He has done it His utmost Mercy. With my limited knowledge and insight I will never be able to encompass the depth and vastness of what He has ordained for us. Ever! He being The Creator knows best.
There are times when some people misinterpret, misrepresent, and even misuse Quranic guidance either out of their sheer ignorance or some ulterior motives. Such elements have always been there and will always be there. Our job as true Muslims is not to be put down by such fallacies and challenge them right there with us rooted in true knowledge.
A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step!
In my Hijab journey, I have given myself the grace to slowly evolve over the years. I took it very small by the year and adopted one tiny step at a time. I have reached a point in my journey where I never thought I would be one day.
It all started with a workshop and just putting a dupatta on my head. And now I have finally taken the leap to take the niqab.
There are many times when people judge, mock, make fun or even ignore me for my appearance.
It hurts, it hurts a lot.
But in the face of it all, I have to keep reminding myself it wasn’t about people anyways. To the world I am strange but who knows what awaits the strangers.
With that said, I also try my best to not let anyone’s appreciative remarks get to my head as well. At the end of the day, my hijab/niqab in no way makes me better than anyone. For anyone reading this, if there’s any point I want you to take away, I want you to take away this that my hijab/niqab doesn’t represent perfection and definitely doesn’t equate me to being sinless.
Remember, Hijab/niqab is just one of the acts of getting closer to Allah. It’s not all of Islam.
No matter how I appear outwardly, inside I am still an imperfect human being capable of many mistakes. Don’t put me (or the likes of me) on a pedestal and don’t shun or mock me either.
You shouldn’t be the judge of me or anyone based on how they choose to dress.
And remember, if we do choose to correct anyone, it should be done with gentleness and kindness. In this day and age, it’s done best with setting a good example. A good example of good character, good manners, and morals. After all, when beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ set the standard for the best of people, he didn’t do it based on how well someone did purdah, or how long was someone’s beard. He set the standard of it based on a person’s manners and character as he said:
The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.Sahih al-Bukhari 3559
So if we find ourselves slightly judging someone or get this urge to correct someone, we should stop and introspect have we met the bar of having the eligibility to do that?
Anyhow, that was my hijab story with many twists and turns and all the challenges I faced along the way.
Share this away with family and friends or with anyone who is struggling or on the fence and needs that push.
If you have a story that you care to share, type away in the comments below or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org