Hijab: Friend or Foe?
Written by: Seada
All praise is due to God, most gracious, most merciful.
In the late evening on a cold and wintery December, a message from within me rung while reciting the Holy Qur’an after prayer: “Wear the hijab.” At first, I shrugged off the thought. I had no intentions of wearing the hijab until I was married. As I continued to read the Qur’an, I heard the message again. I felt overwhelmed; shivers rose up my spine. Still not convinced, I ignored it again. The third time was emphatic, “You’re going to wear the hijab.”
Without considering the seriousness of committing to the hijab, I made the decision almost immediately. I rushed downstairs to the living room where my parents were sitting. Joyfully, I announced “I am going to wear the hijab!” I caught a smile on my father’s face; his eyes gleamed with pride. Contrary to my father’s expression, my mother face appeared shocked. She stood silently. She assumed I was going through a transitory spiritual phase. Truthfully, wearing the hijab was out of character for me, because I would only wear it for religious holidays like Ramadan, Eid, and Friday prayers. Prior to my decision, shorts, skirts, tank tops, and halter-tops were the standard clothing items I chose. But overnight, I transitioned from shorts to wide leg pants and long skirts, and added a final accessory to my closet, the hijab. Without any of the necessary mental, spiritual, emotional, or psychological preparation, I created a new identity.
Days passed by, and I began to notice excessive stares from strangers and friends. I attempted to ignore their stares, but the consistent loud whispers tarnished my profound love for the hijab into worry.
“You’re ugly with that thing on your head.”
“Who will want to marry you?”
“Who does she think she is?”
“Wow, she must be wearing it for a guy!”
“Her father must have forced her to wear it”.
I fought tirelessly to dismiss the negativity, but we are all too familiar with the concept of exchanging courage for fear during hardship. I was mocked and ridiculed for years. My heart trembled with anxiety while my mind fought against me. My insecurities grew loud and turned into self-defeating thoughts.
Am I that ugly with it on?
Am I a hypocrite?
I feel unwanted by so many.
God help me, what is happening to the love I had for the hijab? I know you’re testing my patience, but am I supposed to feel this unhappy?
A decade ago, nice fashion options for hijabis were basically non-existent, so it was easy to believe I appeared ugly and unattractive. The more I stressed finding appropriate and beautiful clothing, the more unappealing the hijab became.
Months of wearing the hijab passed by; the gossip progressed. Friendships began to fall apart. I appeared too “religious” to some friends, which meant I was isolated from social gatherings. Starting a career was absolutely devastating; judgment was evident in the eyes that fell upon me. My relationship with God became fragile. You may fairly ask, “What’s the big deal if you lost some friends?” But the majority of young adults feel the need to be accepted by their peers. They rely on peer-oriented culture to fit in, to belong, and to exude confidence.
One evening, I was informed by a friend that, “People placed bets that you will take off your hijab.” That sentence haunted me and added the weight of a mountain to my negative dialogue.
I felt infuriated, my heart sank with despair, and I began to question my decision. I recalled my mother’s worrisome message: “Take it off, if it’s too difficult for you, my love.” But that would be the easy way out, I thought. I vowed before God I would cover myself. This hijab is more valuable to me than the rarest of jewels.
Years passed me by. My sadness was masked by anger. It seemed appropriate to remove something that burdened so many areas of my life. The irrational beliefs I held became reality. The negative thoughts suffocated my strength, and the demon dialogues ate at my biggest weakness, the desire to feel accepted.
I came to realize that, on that cold December day, I had jumped into the darkest and deepest ocean of hope without a life jacket, and I was desperately trying to keep my head above water.
All of the pain and hurt I endured was concealed with a smile. I used to believe the truth behind my struggles would deter women from wearing the hijab. The last thing I would ever desire is to set anyone up for failure. This is very ironic of me; my first priority was to save people from drowning, yet I drowned myself.
But God said, “He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me”
We are not alone, nor alone must we grieve.
It took a long time to understand my difficulties in the first five years of the wearing hijab. My insecurities screamed loudly because I lacked confidence and understanding in my commitment. It’s true that we choose to focus on eventually grows. If we solely focus on obstacles of negativity, they magnify. The change I made occurred overnight; it was drastic and thoughtless. Drastic changes have the potential to turn against our spirit because the “other side” is foreign. In times of fear or worry, the least taken path is not the first choice of certainty. Certainty lies is the path we’ve known the longest: comfort.
Loss can be a blessing in disguise. I wonder often, if I had kept the old friendships, would I have removed my hijab? If I held on to self-defeating beliefs, would I have the courage to disclose my pain today? We cannot help but wonder if our losses are worthy of the struggles. In 2017, with confidence I proclaim that my struggles were worth every tear.
I want to leave you with a profound message from Ibn al Qayyim:
“Had God lifted the veil for his slave and shown him how He handles his affairs for him, and how God is more keen for the benefit of the slave than his own self, his heart would have melted out of the love of God and would have been torn to pieces out of thankfulness to God. Therefore, if the pains of this world tire you, do not grieve. For it may be that God wishes to hear your voice by way of prayer. So pour out your desires in prostration and forget about it and know that verily God does not forget.”
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.