Growing up in the UK as an 80’s kid, I didn’t really understand what hijab was. The word hijab didn't even register with me back then, as it is so frequently used now.
As a kid growing up, when I saw people that wore a veil, it meant one of three things, they were either:
- Newly married
- Or were old
See living in the UK, we knew we were Muslim because we ate halal, we practiced the 5 pillars of Islam, knew the 10 major sins, but there was no where along that Islamic education, we learnt about hijab.
I just assumed you cover your hair, when you pray. Didn’t know we were supposed to be like that all the time!
When my maternal grandfather passed away (May Allah swt bless his Soul) there was a sudden religious shift.
Our family suddenly became a couple of degrees more practicing. I became more exposed to religion. And so at the age of 15 I was exposed to the verse in the Quran about women's modesty:
“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their head covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed”
Surah Al Nuh 24:31
From that moment on, I was like what?! How come I didn’t know this before? It was a coming of age moment! I suddenly had the urge to take control of my life.
In those days (1995 that is) we didn’t have Sheikh Google 🙂 . We had few pamphlets that were passed around, on how Muslims should dress and behave. After reading a few pages it dawned on me, that I should be covering my hair and body.
So consciously, I just decided one day that I would start wearing hijab, just like that. To my parents and extended families surprise, I carried on wearing the hijab, well after the mourning stage, of my grandfather had passed.
People started looking at me weird, this shy 16 year old girl, suddenly is becoming quietly fiesty and rebellious.
I became annoyed that as a culture, we pick and chose religion that suit, and we also pick and choose the part that we expose to our kids.
When I chose to wear the hijab
- I chose to without consulting anybody
- I silently chose to empower myself
- I chose not to listen to people’s fear-mongering of racist prejudices
- I rebelled against cultural traditions
- I rebelled against my parents wishes
- I was building my identity again
- I was reinforcing my character
- I put Allah in the forefront of my decisions and wore hijab for His Sake
- I chose to reject what society told me, that the more you reveal, the more beautiful you are
- I chose hijab because it was my symbol of strength in a woman
- I chose hijab because I finally understood that my body is my own, and I choose who I show it too.
- I chose hijab because I took ownership of my physical beauty.
- I chose hijab, because I rejected the fact, that my body shape, my hair, my arms, my legs, every part of me, is only beautiful, till someone else sees it.
- Hijab is for women who already know they are beautiful, they don’t need validation, they are beautiful because they are women
- Hijab is for women, who know that, beauty concealed, is power.
I wore the hijab for several years through my teens to early twenties. But I took it off also, for several years..
Alhamdulilah I am wearing the hijab again, but taking it off was a humbling experience.
What I learnt from wearing hijab
- That it doesn’t make you automatically religious
- That after wearing it you won’t suddenly become more practicing
- That you don’t need to be ready to wear it, but trust that it is right for you
- That you don’t need to be perfect to wear it.
- People unfairly put hijabis in a pedestal making them feel they can't put a foot wrong.
- Hijabis are not super human.
- They have the same flaws, weaknesses as everyone.
- Hijabis are not the spoke person for Islam, even if people may push you to be one since you are visibly Muslim
- That if you happen to wear hijab, don’t take it for granted
- Don’t think mighty of yourself, that you’ll never take it off, because you don’t how your iman can fluctuate
- That after wearing it, you won’t suddenly become more pious
- Don’t feel guilty for finding it hard , it’s ok, Allah sees your struggle that even though you don’t want to, you still do
- If you happen to take it off, don’t think you’re a failure, that you won’t be able to put it back on, you can and you will in sha Allah
- Choosing to wear the hijab takes constant inner work
- You are not above those who do not wear hijab, you were once them
- You may be following one commandment outwardly, but missing the mark on so many others
- Hijab doesn’t make you want to be less beautiful
- Hijab is not just a covering, it’s a way of life.
“And the garment of piety: that is the best garment”. (7:26)
What's your hijab story? Let me know your reasons in choosing to wear it.
Written by Ruksana Khalid