One day at Target, between attempting to pay with one arm and carrying a screaming child in the other (typical day of shopping with a toddler), the cashier bluntly asked me, “if you don’t mind me asking, why do you wear th .. that .. er.. thing on your head?”
I wish I had more time on my hands, literally, to thoroughly explain it to her, but I did what I could with the time I had. I couldn’t stop thinking about it after that. I personally think, that my hijab story is special, as probably most do and am excited to formally share it.
I attended elementary and middle school at an Islamic School in Saint Louis, MO. There, I was taught the ins and outs of Islam and was literally the ideal Muslim girl every parent dreamed of. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I would wear the hijab, immediately after I graduated 8th grade.
However, I was not expecting what high school would throw at me. The peer pressure. The “cool” kids I wanted to be just like. The curious looks. Being laughed at. The comments and the questions. It was all so overwhelming. Islamic school, is great, but it didn’t prepare me for, well, being a Muslim girl in America. It more so, sheltered me from it.
I struggled with the idea of wishing I never wore the hijab in the first place. I began to lie to people when they asked me why I wore the hijab. I [regretfully] told them that I was forced. All I knew about the hijab was that God ordained us women to wear it and therefore, we don’t question God. Although, it is true, there really is much more beauty to it than that.
After 5 years of wearing the hijab, I made the [brave] decision to take it off. It was much harder than I thought. even harder than when I put it on. It confused people, both Muslims and non-Muslims. But I was tired of being a hypocrite. Wearing it, without understanding why, or wishing I had never even worn the thing in the first place.
Fast forward, to a couple years later when I met my husband. He was so charming, mysterious and best of all, spiritual. I have always had an idea of who I wanted to marry, and stupidly, being religious was not one of my requirements, which should have been the top of my list.
Inspired by him, I began to yearn for religion, my religion: Islam. All these years, I have lost my faith and was just living, day by day with out a God presence in my life. Yet, I always remembered him when something was going wrong in my life. I was unhappy in my life, before my now husband, before he inspired me to re-practice my religion.
Every Friday prayer, I would wear a hijab and head to the mosque with my husband. And every time, he would look at me, smile and tell me that I look beautiful. That look, was unlike any other look he gave me. There I was, covered head to toe, and that is when my husband found me to be the most beautiful and that is when he respected me the most.
It got me thinking; why was wearing the hijab, or being modestly dressed, so hard for me and other women like me? That’s when I decided that I would wear the hijab the day my daughter was born. Symbolically, for me, I wanted my daughter to understand that my actions and all I do, is first and foremost for God and secondly for her. And if I want her to become a strong, independent, respectful woman, I would have to demonstrate those same exact qualities. I want her to know that the hijab has not only made me feel more beautiful, but makes me feel respected and happy.
Being happy; that’s all one really yearns in life, isn’t it?
See, Muslim women who wear the hijab aren’t oppressed. It’s the complete opposite I feel liberated. The hijab is an expression of modesty. I finally get it now. I’ve never been so liberated in my entire life.
Quick story: I was six months pregnant, wobbling my way through the mall when all of a sudden I hear, “Ay, ay, ay you!” I look back and see a group of men, then I looked around to see where the woman they were harassing was. “What’s your name? You cute.” Me? They were talking to big and pregnant me? I was disgusted, and responded, “Pregnant. My name is Pregnant!” I was angry, and felt worthless. How dare they holler at me like i’m some kind of dog.
What’s the reason for the story? Men, not all men, initially look at women as an object of sexuality. After wearing the hijab, I have not been hollered at like that again. However, I have been respectfully told I was beautiful or that my eyes were pretty. Or that my scarf looked pretty, from both men and woman.
Watching my daughter grab one of my scarves from my closet, put it on and smile, makes me feel as if I had made the right decision, for the both of us. I know she is still young, but I can’t help but feel as if she wants to be just like momma; modest, beautiful and honored.
*Note: I understand that a form of modesty is also not wearing makeup. I can only speak for myself when I explain why I still choose to wear makeup, and the hijab. I am taking baby steps. I hope and pray that one day my faith will be strong enough, and my insecurities will be no more. That’s a struggle for God and I to resolve.*