Let me start by saying, I love my hijab. I love covering my hair. I love the different coloured scarves. I love discovering new halal chic. I love that I am now part of the crew. I love that it protects my hair from wind and cold damage. I love that I don’t have to do my hair in the morning. I love that it keeps my ears warm. Most of all, I love that it labels me so bluntly: I am a Muslim woman, strong, independent and liberated. By writing my story, I hope to reach out to Muslimahs that are having trouble with commitment to covering and reassure them, that contrary to the popular saying, help is not on its way. In fact, it is there already waiting for you to take it. My inspiration didn’t come to me: it was always there, like a gift waiting for me to unwrap and embrace and use forever.
About 10 years ago, at the tender age of 11, I began to cover my hair as I followed in my sisters’ footsteps – my sister, who had been wearing hijab for a year before me. Being so young, this was not a huge transition. At this age, people were considerably less judgemental and I eased into wearing hijab without any difficulty. Forward a year later: high school begins. Bigger buildings, harder classes, more people. Naturally, this is a time where girls in particular, begin to change, physically and emotionally. We’re surrounded by people of new backgrounds and religions, we’re trying to deal with the new standards of fashion and appearance and maybe even have mixed feelings about that guy in science class. Even so, my first few years of high school were a breeze; I loved the work (I am a bit of a nerd) and I had a great group of friends – wearing hijab was not a challenge. In fact, I hardly noticed it.
The problem arose when I hit 15. I felt like such a woman; part of the oldest group of students in the school, mature (or so I thought!), studying for GCSEs and for the first time, thinking about university and careers. At this point, I tended to my appearance more than ever and my social networking profiles were full of pictures of me without hijab, trying to impress others and attract compliments. Although I was keen to learn about Islam, my indifference towards my hijab was incredibly normal to me and I carried on in this way for 2 years, failing to see how callously I was betraying the very essence and principal of hijab, may Allah forgive me for my wrongdoings inshaAllah.
In my final years of A Levels I had a slight change of heart. Looking back now, I can see that Allah subhana w Ta’ala had blessed me with good company and I failed to take advantage. I found myself amongst a crowd of beautiful, smart, funny women, most of whom were observing hijab. Subconsciously, I was in awe; this was the first time I had experienced being around practising women who clearly loved wearing the hijab. Their love for wearing it seemed to rub off on me and I began to feel more connected to it, manifesting also in the way I dressed. I was content but perhaps not informed enough, and unfortunately it wasn’t to last.
Before starting university, I was at an impasse. Even now, I am not sure why I took steps back. I still had some pictures on Facebook with and without hijab, I still attended weddings with my hair styled immaculately and sometimes the length of my top didn’t always match the modesty of hijab. Consequently, for the time first time in 9 years, I stopped wearing my hijab permanently. I started university in this way and did not feel unhappy about my decision. As soon as I removed my hijab, I got a haircut, styled it every morning and revelled in all of the new attention I was getting. My aunties loved the new look, as they felt the hijab warded off potential marriage proposals; old friends flattered me and new people always noticed and complimented me on voluminous my hair always looked (I thank Allah ‘aza w jal for blessing me with lovely hair!). Just as a hijab should, my hair defined me and riddled me with confidence as I exulted in all of the praise.
I will always believe that sixth form was the time irreplaceable friendships were made, and university was the time I fell in love. Alhamdulilah, my parents agreed for me to marry a man I had chosen and I spent the next two years planning the wedding, honeymoon and the future life that I was going to experience. I just couldn’t wait! Everything in my life was running according to my own arrogant plan. I felt like I was in control and almost magically, I was receiving, in abundance, all the things I had dreamed of. Why then, just as I felt that things were going perfectly, was there an irritating, constant, persistent feeling inside of me? Why did it keep repeating that this was not the right way and that I did not deserve the kindness my parents had shown towards me? Months went on, and I began to sense that none of my actions had any barakah, my relationship with my parents was crumbling for no obvious reason and my university work was immensely affected. My salah rarely had sincerity and I was apathetic towards my deen. This so-called faultless life I had built for myself in the past two years and all the plans that I had made for the future all came down to a deep unhappiness. If everything was going as I had hoped, why did I feel so depressed, hopeless and miserable? I had never experienced the feeling that nothing in my life was blessed.
The helplessness and emptiness I felt was inspiration I needed to wear hijab. I believed that wearing hijab would protect me, lead me to acquire the knowledge I needed to empower myself and bring barakah and the mercy of Allah ‘aza w jal back into my life. Now, every time I went out, I felt something was missing and it was at this time that my discontent was at its peak. Coincidentally, by Allah’s grace, it was also the same time that I saw my fiancé had rediscovered his religion, learning and reading with a thirst that I had never seen in him before. SubhanAllah how Allah subhana w Ta’ala has truly blessed me with good company alhamdulilah! He once read me an ayah from Surah Ar Ra’d which says “Truly, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran 13:11) SubhanAllah my golden ticket! It fit my situation so entirely! –
The lack of noor in my life would not change until I changed myself. I could not be successful in any of my endeavours if I wasn’t successful in my deen. I would not be truly content if I did not constantly remind myself of the Creator. I realised that my misery and sadness were a result of my own wrongdoings.
The first step in implementing this realisation was wearing the hijab. It meant that I starkly labelled myself again. But this once piece of cloth brought with it countless changes – my father was so proud (again!) my colleagues were confused and impressed, my salah had more khushoor, and most importantly, I felt haya. The routine of my life is extremely different to what it was six months ago but alhamdulilah, my university work is better, my parents are happier with me and we have planned to finally perform my nikah this year inshaAllah, instead of waiting around and procrastinating. Additionally, my amazing bond with my brother and sisters has improved, I am able to control my ill speech and anger and my taqwa and consciousness of Allah subhana w Ta’ala has increased, protecting me and guarding me from sin alhamdulilah. Just look at the abundance of benefit that comes from conviction and a small piece of cloth, alhamdulilah!
Living in non-Muslims countries, we are constantly surrounded by distractions and temptations that overwhelm our intention to wear hijab – we just have to remember that sacrificing fleeting desires will ultimately result in the biggest and best desire of all: the pleasure of Allah and the rewards of Jannah. If you are fearful or confused about hijab, just remember, only good can come from it. It is there as a gift to protect you and demand respect. It is part of the road to Jannah. My advice would be to set a date in the very near future and then just do it. Forget about whether you have read enough about the hijab or trying to figure out if you’re ready. The truth is, you are ready. Any doubts are just amplified by Shaitaan. Have faith and trust in Allah ‘aza w jal and take the plunge. You will see your life transform before your very eyes inshaAllah.
“Allah does not burden a soul except what it can bear. For it is what it has earned, and upon it is what it has made due.”
“Our Lord and Sustainer, do not condemn us if we forget or do wrong. Our Lord and Sustainer, do not put a burden on us like the burden You put on those who were before us. Our Lord and Sustainer, do not put a burden on us that we cannot endure. And blot out (our sins) and forgive us, and be gentle to us. You are our Protector. So help us against the rejectors.” (Surah al-Baqarah ayah 286)