I originally had no intention of dedicating a post to explaining “My ‘Hijab’ Story,” but when I got to thinking about it, I realized I would have appreciated reading people’s “hijab” stories growing up. Maybe it would have inspired me, cleared my confusion, or given me courage and strength to wear “hijab”. I hope this post does that for someone or simply gives someone a better understanding about the “hijab”.
﷽ | In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
I want to start off by briefly explaining what the “hijab” is. It is most often used to refer to the scarf Muslim women wear on their heads. However, that is not what the term hijab means at all (that is why I keep referring to it with quotation marks). Hijab (pronounced: ḥijāb) is an arabic term that literally means: “barrier”, “partition”, or “curtain”. With that said, the idea of hijab is not limited to women in Islam, but also extends to men. Both men and women are encouraged to practice hijab by maintaining modesty in their actions. The term خِمَارٌ (pronounced: khimaar) is the actual term used in the Quran to describe the veil covering the head and chest, but for the purposes of this post I will refer to it as a headscarf. Islamically, it is encouraged for girls to start wearing the headscarf once they reach puberty or womanhood. It is to be worn in front of males that the woman can potentially marry. [So that is a very short explanation of what “hijab” is, if you have any specific questions about it, feel free to ask me or comment below! :)]
I started wearing the headscarf at the age of 12 right before 7th grade, around the time I hit puberty. My parents obviously thought it was the right thing to do based on the knowledge they had, so they told me to wear it. I don’t believe I was forced into wearing it, but I was only 12 and didn’t have a strong understanding about much, so I did as they asked me to do. I was the first one out of my friend group to reach puberty and wearing the headscarf was a very obvious mark of that, so it made me quite uncomfortable (as puberty is uncomfortable for most preteens/teens). But again, I was only 12 and not sure of who I was so I continued wearing the headscarf as my parents had asked. I also feel its important to mention that I was enrolled in Islamic school during this time where the uniform for middle school and high school girls included the headscarf, so having other girls around me wearing what I was wearing, made this transition a bit easier.
In 8th grade, I left to public school where I was amongst all kinds of people, many of whom looked quite different than me, and almost none wore the headscarf. As strange as it may seem (especially if you knew me in middle school/high school or saw pictures of me from then) I never felt ugly or less pretty wearing the headscarf. I was never judged or mistreated for it. I only remember one occasion of prejudice. I was walking through the 8th grade hallway packed with kids and heard a kid yell, “terrorist!” But no one reacted, so I didn’t really feel attacked by the comment. Sure I was looked at funny sometimes, but I mostly felt those looks were because I was the new kid in school.
Fast forward to high school and I finally start developing a personality and having my own thoughts and opinions. I feel like this is a good point in the story to mention that I am a stubborn person, and, I, especially became that way in high school. I have also always been quite emotional, but even moreso in high school which often times led me to react really irrationally.
In 11th grade I started questioning my headscarf a lot. I don’t even fully remember what enticed this questioning, after all I had been wearing the head scarf for about 4 years already. It may have had something to do with a Theory of Knowledge class we had to take as part of the IB Program that essentially taught us to question everything, or the fact that I didn’t really grow up with close muslim friends with strong Islamic practices, or just how my personality was evolving as I was going through being a teenager…probably a combination of all those factors and more. I remember a time in 11th grade where I came home and had done poorly on an exam and because of that I was in a rage and was ranting to my mom about how I suck at everything and how everything is pointless (you know, typical dramatic teenager stuff), to the point where I even said, “this scarf on my head is pointless, why do I even wear it, I don’t want to wear it!!” And to my surprise my mom said, “okay don’t wear it.” And I decided okay, you know what, I’m going to try not wearing it. My car was in the shop that day and my dad was supposed to pick me up from home and take me to go get it. So once he pulled up in front of the house, I walked out without a headscarf. I sat in the car and for a while my dad didn’t say anything. After a few minutes he said, “so, uh, when did this happen?” Referring to when did I decide to take my headscarf off. I explained what happened. Once we got to the car shop, I got out of the car to get my own car. I remember standing next to my car waiting for my dad to bring me my keys and seeing the workers there poke their head out of the shop and stare at me and smile. I remember feeling a certain level of discomfort from the smiling stares I received from the older men. Once my dad brought my car keys out he asked me to come home (I was planning on going to the mall) so him and my mom could talk to me. I was obviously annoyed, but agreed. Once I was home, my parents sat me down in their room and my dad explained how he thought I was making a huge decision while not being in the correct mindset because I made the decision while in a rage about something unrelated. He told me if I felt the same way in a month, then I could go ahead and take my headscarf off. I then put my headscarf on and went to the mall.
I’m not sure why or how, but I never took my headscarf off behind my parents back, and looking back at all the dumb, rash decisions I made as a teenager, I’m glad that wasn’t one of them.
For the rest of high school, I was focused on getting into a good university, so I didn’t spend much time contemplating taking my headscarf off, although I do remember talking to my friends about it every now and then. Right before I started my freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin, my family went for Umrah (shorter version of Hajj-pilgirmage-to Makkah). Taking my headscarf off had always been something on my mind, but once I did Umrah, I felt like it wasn’t really the right time to talk to my parents about taking it off.
My first year at UT, I lived in a dorm. That meant that I was basically wearing my headscarf 24/7, because no one really stayed in their dorm room unless it was to sleep. I started using headaches from keeping my headscarf on all day as another reason for not wanting to wear it, instead of looking for headscarf styles that weren’t so tight. In Spring break of my freshman year I decided I was going to stop wearing my headscarf once the semester was over. I told my parents who felt I was taking a step back in my faith, but I would tell them that I would wear it again when I felt like it was something I discovered for myself. Like I said, I was (still am) a stubborn person. So summer 2013, I stopped wearing my headscarf. My mom would tell me to watch lectures about the headscarf or just research it, but I would tell her that the more she tells me to look into it, the less I will be inclined to looking into it for myself (I know, I’m terrible). So she stopped bringing it up and no one else really talked to me about it.
It was only once I graduated university and quit my job that I had all this free time to finally be real with myself. I told my parents I wanted to wear the headscarf when I felt ready and I found its purpose for myself…yet I never looked into it…for 22 years. I was afraid that once I actually looked into it, I would discover that I have to wear it and then have to wear it because I now held that knowledge, and honestly that’s a terrible reason to not look into something. I also found myself declining in my relationship with God: getting caught up in worldly things that were not really benefitting me or bringing me long-term happiness. So I finally sat down about a week ago, and listened to those lectures my mom told me to watch 3 years ago. I did my own research. I looked at the verses from the Quran. I did all the things I was afraid to do. And I realized that wearing the headscarf is something Allah wants me to do, so I did it. I started wearing my headscarf (again) on August 14, 2016. I spent 6 years as a hijabi, 3 years as a nonhijabi, and now InshAllah (God willing) the rest of my life as a hijabi who is aware of the beauty and wisdom Allah has put forth about it.
I pray that Allah makes wearing the headscarf easy for me and for all those struggling with it.