Monday, December 5, 2011

Reflections on wearing the Hijab

It's been 4 years since I've been wearing the scarf, alH. I feel like I don't even wear it. I forget that I wear it, and I forget that I have it on, while others are constantly reminded of it every time they see me. I don't feel any differently from another typical American girl. I love to shop, love makeup (I buy more than I wear), to put together stylish outfits, & I LOVE jewelry. If you know me, you'd know my obsession with earrings.

I put it on in college. I had always wanted to wear it, but I would see these hijabi girls, who were so "perfect." It made me feel like I couldn't wear it. I always felt like "I have to improve myself before I put it on, I'm not good enough to represent Islam." Then in college, I met some girls who were so "normal." They wore a scarf but they made mistakes, they were human, and they made it seem "doable." So at this point, I came to realize, that hijab was just 'effort.' There was no point in trying to become "perfect" before putting it on, because that point of perfection was never going to happen. After all, the mission in life is to just TRY. God doesn't ask us to be perfect, but He asks us to not give up on always, constantly trying, to become a better person. So the hijab was just a mere piece of effort from my part to become a better person.

Plus, I love to dance. I figured if I put it on, it was my way of preventing myself from going to a club and dancing with random guys, which is part of the "modesty code" in Islam. And sometimes, there are things that I don't go to for the mere reason that it would look dumb to be there with a scarf on. Maybe that's not the best of reasons to not go somewhere, and I should have genuine reason to not be there because it would displease God, but I'm just not that strong all the time.

I was strongest when I first put it on, surrounded by people who also wore it or other Muslims who understood it. Many of my friends in undergrad were Muslim, and the ones who weren't understood Islam well enough to not judge me when I put it on. But now I feel like it's really difficult sometimes, and I can get weak, just like everyone else. Especially when people judge me in one way or the other. Sometimes people judge me for being "good," for being very "religious" and "pious." I mean, I wish, and yes that's what I'm going for, but to assume I'm like that just because I wear it makes me feel bad that I'm not. I make so many mistakes and am definitely not as religious as some girls I know who don't wear it. I don't think hijab is any means of measuring how religious someone is. And then there's the bad judgments. Like, I'm an extremist, an oppressed woman, have no voice. Let me tell you some random things:

* I am the loudest in my family. My voice is loud, and I don't shut up. I say whatever is on my mind. Sometimes too much. And it's okay lol. They're used to me and they secretly love it lol

* My dad never once told me to wear the scarf. My mom doesn't wear it. My mom didn't once tell me to wear the scarf either. However, through example, she always taught me to dress modestly. To save your beauty for your husband. She would wear pretty flowery dresses on weekends, when no guests came over, and when nothing special was happening. When she would go out, she would throw a scarf around her, or wear a longer shirt to cover her shape. She said she felt more comfortable that way, not having to worry about anything showing or anyone looking.

* I would never in my life marry someone who told me that I "have" to do something. Whether it's I have to stay home, I have to work, I have to wear a scarf, I have to take it off. I'm too much of a control freak and too independent to be told what to do. And I don't think I'll have a problem finding a Muslim person who would be okay with that.

* In many Muslim marriages, the woman is in control way more than we realize. It's hilarious actually. It's like that saying from "The Big Fat Greek Wedding" - "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. She can turn the head whichever way she wants to." This is an accurate summary of the advice my mom has been giving me throughout the years lol. Muslim marriages are often seen to be where the husband doesn't respect the wife, etc. Mash'Allah my parents have an amazing relationship, and they're not an exception, there are many relationships like theirs and I hope one day mine is too. My dad would go hiking with my mom when he'd much rather be watching TV lol. He barely spends money on himself but has no boundaries when it comes to spending it on his wife and kids. My mom also respects my dad obviously in return, and does things out of love and appreciation for him. My dad has never once told my mom to do something, down to what food to make. It's always been her choice. She's pretty independent-minded and he let her stay that way with no problem.

Anyways, in these four years, I have gotten mixed reactions:

- I was told a few times by random people (both Muslim and non-Muslim) that they respect the courage it takes to wear it, especially in this day and age. This I appreciate, and it inspires me to keep going. I forget these obvious things.

- I was told by my grandpa when visiting London to not wear it. "People hate Muslims here right now, they'll look at you weird," he said. That made me want to wear it more. I wore it and I was fine. Even if one person looked at me and realized that I am indeed a normal human being lol, then that would be great. Less ignorance & hatred, one person at a time.

- I was told by a couple friends that it would be hard getting married because many moms specifically wanted a non-hijabi, girl who doesn't wear a scarf, for their sons. LOL I didn't realize wearing a scarf makes that much of a difference, but okay. I would be terrified of having a mother-in-law who was that controlling or psycho anyway, so good riddance there.

But most of all, it's the small bits and pieces of encouragement. Honestly, when a guy says they respect when women wears hijab, that means a lot to us women. When a guy says hijabis are beautiful, that means a lot too. Why? Because we're women and we like guys too, and we want to look beautiful too. When my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents say something like "good job," that encourages me a LOT. My dadi (paternal grandma) has always encouraged me and told me that it's great that I'm wearing it and she's proud of me. It really keeps me going. Small things mean a lot, and they're not to be underestimated.

Anyways, it's hard sometimes, to be honest. Yes every outfit does look better with hair. Yes I feel like a have a nice body and wanna show it off sometimes lol. But among friends, with girls, I can wear whatever, and in front of my husband I can wear whatever and show off my body and wear my hair in different ways every day. So it's fine. I just hope that for every time I feel like doing my hair or wearing something Islamically-inappropriate, I get good rewards (insha'Allah/God-willing) for wearing it. Because yes it does get hard sometimes. But I love it. I love being different and unique in my own way, in this world where everyone's trying to be 'different' anyway. I love that professors remember me and networking is easier for me lol. I love that people see me and are shocked when I do something "normal" or have a normal American accent that doesn't meet their expectations. I love when black women ask me how I tie my scarf, and to show them. I love when people look at me and change their minds about what Muslims are like. I love matching different scarves to my outfits, and playing around with colors and styles. And I know I'm not perfect, but that's okay because I'm not trying to show that I am.

My hijab rack:


  1. Lovely post mash'Allah.
    I also struggled with being modest. It has been easy for me to wear hijab but harder to accept that I have to hide my figure and be more reserved with guys because I am naturally very friendly.

    Its got easier over time, because I can see the amount of respect people treat you with and the fact that they see you as competetent before they consider the way you look.

    I especially liked you point about not waiting till you are perfect as I think this is something a lot of sisters struggle with.

  2. Thanks for reading & for your input =)

    Umm Salihah: I know exactly what you mean. I treat guys like I would treat women, and am naturally outgoing. But I've seen the same thing - that being appreciated for being competent means so much more. & the thing about not waiting until you're perfect - it took me about 5 years to accept and realize that. It's a very difficult concept to grasp & hold.

  3. Amazing blog post, you really managed to put into words the way a lot of us hijabis think! I think that some of us tend to feel like we have to compensate for more cos we fee like we have to assert ourselves or push ourselves more out there, and it really is a case of just doing what you feel your level of iman is.
    I think it's very easy for (hijabis and non, muslims and non!) people to judge when they don't put themselves in your shoes, and when they only tend to think in one fixed way.
    So nice to know that there's people like you there doing good to rep us out there! x

  4. aww thank you! that means a lot & encouragement like that keeps me going :)

  5. Have you ever been to a pool or a beach since you began wearing the hijab? I'm curious how you would handle it if it were a hot day and you wanted to go for a swim . . .