My Hijab Story: the Struggles, and Ways I Overcame Them02 Nov 2021
As a child, I remember my mother explaining to me what the hijab is, and why wearing it is a religious obligation upon females. I was always inspired by my mum and the confident women around me who wore the hijab with pride! I was so excited to wear it and started my journey of wearing the hijab at the age of 12, when I hit puberty. When I first put it on I didn’t realise the struggles that I’d have to go through in order to preserve this obligation.
Back in the 90’s, when I went to secondary school, there wasn’t much awareness about Muslims, and especially Muslim women who wore the hijab. It was alien to everyone, and particularly to the older teachers who couldn’t quite understand why I had a long piece of cloth on my head and baggy clothes. Trying to practice your religion back then was very difficult to say the least. If I was to write a book about my experiences as a teenager and the racism I faced at school, there wouldn’t be enough pages to fill the traumatic and life changing events I had to go through in order to be talking about it today. Walking into school every morning, I had to constantly look over my shoulder. It felt as if I was walking into a battlefield not knowing how my day will end!
Fast forward to today, there is an immense difference to how I started my journey towards wearing the hijab, and how new hijabis will be starting theirs. There are a couple of points you need to understand when deciding to wear the hijab in this western society. The first question you need to ask yourself is, why am I wearing this and who am I wearing it for? There are a number of evidences in the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his Sunnah, that state that both men and women need to dress modestly and carry themselves respectfully, and in a shy manner. There are more than 6,000 verses in the Quran that talk about the modesty and dress of the believing women, and the clearest verse on the requirement of the modest dress is in the Quran in Surat Al Noor (24:31):
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allaah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful”
And in another verses it states:
O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed.
Surat Al Ahzaab (33:59)
The evidence in the Qur’an and sunnah is very clear and to the point. Before deciding to wear the hijab, one must have a basic understanding about Islam as a whole. Islam is a way of life. In every aspect of the religion, from when we wake up in the morning to when we go to sleep, we remember our Creator and worship Him alone, and we remember the purpose of life, and that life itself is a test. Being modest and observing this hijab is only a part of the religion, and apart from it looking physically “Muslim”, it’s a command from the Almighty (Allah). It’s a spiritual yet physical aspect of the religion and it is not a fashion statement or accessory, nor is it something you wear when you feel like it. Once you have decided to put it on, then the hijab has to become a part of your everyday clothing and life!
One must acknowledge that when you wear the hijab, you are a representative of your faith, and the way you conduct yourself has to befitting for the hijab that you are observing. There is no doubt that you might come across some difficulties and racism at times you least expect it, as there are still a lot of ignorant people who like to hurt others with their hate-filled rhetoric. I recall that there were a number of Muslim women who took their hijab off during the tragedies of 9/11 because of the abuse that many of them faced when Islamphobia was at its peak. But I also recall the brave Halima Aden, who made history as world first hijab-wearing super model and featured in campaigns for some of the biggest names in the fashion industry. In her interview on BBC with Tommy Hilfiger, she explained why she quit the industry because she was compelled to compromise, and it clashed with her muslim faith and modesty.
She announced on Instagram saying:
“WOW this is actually the most RELIEF I felt since I started in 2016. Keeping that in was literal POISON!
I have so much respect for Muslims women who wear hijab, who pursue the dreams yet never compromise when it comes to their faith and modesty.
I view the Hijab as a beautiful way of expressing your faith and humility. It is a form of your identity which should come with pride, as not only is it Ibadah (a form of worship), its also a refreshing position on women in society. People will appreciate the beauty of your mind and not the beauty of your form. Hijab is not meant to restrict you, but give you the confidence to strive without needing to use your sexuality as a woman to get far in life.
One must bare in mind, that it is not only Islam that commands women to cover up; many religions specifically Christianity and Judaism also have certain type of modest garments. The Nuns who vow to dedicate their lives to religious service in the surroundings of a monastery wear religious habits, and on the other hand, the devote married Jewish women wear a Tichel or Mitpahat (scarf) or sometimes a wig to show their religious obligations.
Delving into the subject of hijab is a very broad and long endeavour, which requires extensive research. I haven’t even covered the tip of the ice-berg. Whether you’re starting your journey to wear the hijab or are struggling with it in these unprecedented times, remember that any religion, trial or tribulation requires a level of commitment on your side and patience to get to your ultimate end goal. As Allah Almighty states in the verses of the Holy Quran:
“Oh you who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy. Vie in such perseverance, strengthen each other, and be pious, that you may prosper” (3:200).
Practising one’s religion will always be an inconvenience in this world, especially when you go against the “norm” in society. It will come with struggle and sacrifices in order to succeed. I am certain that if you asked any Muslims women if it was forced upon them they will probably answer NO! (and I’m one of them!).
To all those women who are considering wearing it for the sake of Allah, you are valued and honoured for who you are, so don’t procrastinate on your decision, wear it like a crown with confidence and devote yourself to God (Allah) and He will guide you to success!