Hello, and Salaam (peace)
I would like to let you in on a little something that I’m constantly questioned about.
This must be one the most difficult pieces I’ve ever written because as I sat down and attempted to write it, I realised how personal my hijab story actually is and how no amount of words can truly do justice to my thoughts, feelings and experience. And whether or not I should publish it because I was too afraid of what people would think of me. This story has been edited several times in attempt of assuring that I’m not misunderstood or cause any misguidance. It’s just my personal story and it changes as I change as a person.
I didn’t start wearing the headscarf until I was 16 years old and I was never forced to do it either, despite several years of attempts from my Aunty who undoubtedly takes way too much credit for my decision to start donning the hijab but I absolutely love her and I absolutely love wearing my hijab as a result and I feel incomplete without it. But as I ventured through my personal religious journey or transition (however you wish to view it), my friends and family were always supportive, whether I wore it or not. Simply because other aspects of the religion were more important than the hijab. None-the-less, it is clear that the headscarf is a visual symbol of Muslim woman around the world and majority of the time (in my experience) is made a large issue of because of ill-informed opinions.
No-one said that this search for “identity” would be easy, but it wasn’t until I left my own country that I started experiencing discrimination and I found myself crying a great deal because of unwanted looks and judgment. Life teaches us new lessons at every point but before you judge me, understand this, my hijab is about ME. I do not wear it to invite questions from strangers about why I wear it (or why I don’t) or to push my religious agenda down anyone’s throat. It’s probably unexplainable to many but it is an expression of my beliefs and something that gives me peace and serenity. I am not forced to wear it, it doesn’t discomfort me, it doesn’t impair my intellect and most certainly doesn’t make me an expert in Islam. All society can see are “my clothes” which gives me my identity and having an identity is so important because it is who I am, it is who I want to be accepted as and who I want to share with others. It’s definitely not about YOU.
I am an independent, free and fulfilled woman. My headscarf has never hindered any of my achievements (contrary to popular belief) but instead makes me feel a lot more comfortable about my appearance (especially on those bad hair days) but over and above that I am able to communicate and interact with more confidence. I dress modestly so people can see me for my personality, for who I really am, rather than how I look in a provocative sense. The beauty of the hijab is that it doesn’t restrict me from wearing whatever I want to at all. I am able to explore and play around with my own sense of style and dress according to how I feel. I believe that the right intention is all that really matters.
My headscarf has never been a barrier for me as much as it’s been a problem for other people. I think, the thing I want to say the most is, allow me the freedom to wear my hijab, just like any other girl is allowed to wear whatever she wants to wear, simply because it makes me happy.
As much as we would like to believe that we live in a free world, at some point we all fight for “freedom” and an important lesson taught to us by Nelson Mandela is that to be free is not merely to cast off the chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. That’s food for thought!
I am by no means a “hijabi” and I still haven’t completely embraced the true implementation of the Hijab and that’s my personal battle, but I firmly believe that with greater understanding of Islam and by the will of God, that will change and my hijab will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I applaud, with great admiration, all the women who dedicate and commit themselves to upholding what I’ve found to be one of the most challenging aspects of being a Muslim woman.
I welcome any comments and words of encouragement to help me stay firm to my faith and passion for my hijab.