In honour of World Hijab Day, I’m sharing my personal hijab story. I’ve written about hijab before in a blog post titled Why I Wear Hijab. In that, I went into brief detail about the circumstances behind my decision to begin observing the hijab as well as my attitude towards religion in general when I was younger and how that evolved as time went by and I matured.
I have a policy on my blog of not removing or altering old posts to better them as I’ve always believed they should be preserved to reflect what (if any) progress has been made in both my writing style and personal perspective. As such, I’ve chosen to write an entirely new post and I’ve also linked my original post above so you can check that out if you’d like.
When I was a very young girl, I attended an Islamic school and practicing Muslims surrounded me. As children tend to do, I emulated them. When I grew older, due to a combination of angry teachers who abused their authority, a badly run school, and bullying, I moved to a non-Muslim school. I was much happier there, but of course, I learned little about Islam. My after-school studies continued for a while, but eventually – for a multitude of reasons – they stopped, and Islam remained then only in my home.
I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my faith for a long time. Salaah was a chore, to be completed and ticked off a to do list so I could move on to doing something else. Eventually, it moved from an everyday chore to one I performed only on Fridays. I slowly began to lose the surahs I had memorized and the most routine my Islam had was listening to the adhaan as it blared through the neighbourhood.
I would go through cycles of beginning the habit of performing salaah regularly and then eventually be derailed and become discouraged enough by the missing prayers and the gap they’d created that I would simply stop trying.
Ramadan was usually a high time. The fasting tended to help keep me on track. I’d also indulge in prayer frequently in times of need. In that stage of my life, exams were the most stressful thing I had the misfortune of experiencing and so, during exam time, I was never too far from donning an abaya and hijab and performing salaah or reciting duas.
I began observing the hijab regularly in my first year of university, due to final exams. I was stressed out of my mind – I had never had to deal with such challenging tests before and that year was the first time I’d failed tests that I truly believed I would pass. I was terrified that I wasn’t going to do well enough and so, as I always did when fear overwhelmed me, I turned to Allah.
The praying calmed me and helped me keep my head above water. I’d brought exactly one abaya to university with me and, as was my normal habit, I’d pull it over my clothes when I was praying and hang it on a hook for easy access when I was done.
I’d love to have this beautiful, momentous moment to share where in salaah, I was struck with the realization that I needed to obey my Creator and my life was forever changed. The truth is that I began observing the hijab because I was annoyed by having to put two or three extra pieces of clothing on whenever I needed to pray.
And then, when exams were over? I kept dressing the same way because it was comfortable. I felt good and it made my life easier. And somehow, it no longer mattered that I couldn’t wear a pretty dress without layering it up or that my earrings and necklaces would never show.
My priorities changed, swiftly, and I began a new chapter of my life. Not with a great fanfare and something to mark the occasion, but softly, gently, and as though I’d been doing it all along.
During the times in my life when I did make dua to one day begin observing hijab and fulfilling that duty, I prayed that it would be easy and that I would never feel a loss. Alhamdulilah, when the day finally came, it was so easy that it snuck up on even me.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have problems when wearing the hijab, but those problems were never internal. Rather they came from being forced to entertain the opinions of some loud individuals who believed they had a right to comment on my personal choices for my own body.
That, however, is a story for another time. Today’s post is meant to be a source of positivity and sharing – and dealing with trolls is never anything more than frustrating, sometimes with a side of pity stirred in.
My hijab story is fairly boring and mundane when you take into consideration the lengths some women are forced to go to in order to exercise their right to personal choice. There are women who’ve had acid thrown in their faces, women who’ve been targeted and attacked, women who’ve had to make the heartbreaking decision to remove their hijab – not for themselves, but out of fear that they’ll be violated in some way.
Those women are being deprived of choice. They aren’t being liberated, they’re being threatened and they deserve to choose for themselves how they dress their bodies, whether that may be by swathing themselves in cloth from head to foot or walking around in a bikini. The principle applies both ways.
Today is International World Hijab Day. Today, I look back at my hijab journey and I feel privileged and grateful for it. If you have a hijab story, I’d love to hear it. If you’re considering donning the hijab, I pray that you find it easy and comfortable, and if you’re just here seeking to understand the reasoning of a woman who chooses to cover herself, I hope that you can take away from this that choice is what we need to be fighting for. Whether or not we personally agree with the choices people make, they need to be afforded the freedom to make them for themselves.