My Journey

4 Jul

Bismillah Rahmanir Rahim [ In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful]
I remember when I started wearing the hijab, just over a year ago, during Ramadhan. As this years Ramadhan approaches, it makes me excited to renew my commitment.

I’m African, born and raised in a Nigerian Muslim society. The veil is part of my culture, normally and mostly just draped on the head, especially by young single women. The older married women show more commitment and carry bigger veils. So I, like all the other young singles carried a veil, how securely it was draped was totally dependent on what state my hair was in. When my hair was nicely made, well, it just hung there.  It would fall off sometimes and I may bring it back up or “forget” to. However when my hair was a mess, it was tightly wrapped. There are hijabis of course in my society and niqabis too, they are the “Uztaz” (our equivalent of the “holy”). I wasn’t one of them.

I remember when I first got into uni and my brother was in his final year. He said “when you start I’ll introduce you to the MSS (Muslim student society) and you’ll start wearing a hijab.” I was so annoyed. I was not interested in the MSS or wearing a hijab. We had a “mini-row” and I told him to mind his business and that if I wanted to wear the hijab it was my choice and not his. I was so upset I told our mother to tell him to mind his business. We had several arguments about my head covering, my elder sister would argue that I was still young.
Anyway, my first year at university, I made it very clear that I didn’t want to be associated with the MSS, the responsibility to me, was too great. I didn’t want to be turned into an “Uztaz”. I wanted to have fun. My prayers were not always regular and I knew I was doing something wrong. I used to fix my hair, weaves and stuff- I was always doing something new. One day a friend started reading a hadith about women and fixing hair and I cut her short, I REALLY didn’t want to know. To me- ignorance was BLISS- the less I knew, the less the obligation and guilt. After all, when I got married, I’d change, I’d be a better muslimah- even though that was also part of my every New Year’s resolution!
Then came an event that changed my life. I was upset about something that had happened, and as the tears flowed, I felt so empty. I got up and performed ablution and prayed. I started reading the Qur’an and other Islamic books, the same things I was avoiding were bringing comfort to me and soothing my heart. I went onto Facebook and joined several Islamic groups and forums. I learned more and was in touch with Muslimahs, when I decided to start wearing the hijab some of these sisters were so helpful. They made me feel like I was not alone. I did some online research and also found some really good hijab blogs which also helped. Then I actually wore a hijab. At first people thought I was just being me, crazy Rahma, it was a “phase”. Then after the first week people got concerned, and the rumours started to flow- I was engaged and getting married, some even had dates! Some people came out straight and asked me. I didn’t really mind, I’d try to explain but they wouldn’t get it, I’d become “religious” and therefore “extreme”.
My friends were concerned about our friendship and I tried to reassure them that I was still me, and we could still hang out, so sometimes we’d dress up and go out, my clothes were different though and my hair was covered, long sleeves and all that. When we’d go out, I wasnt happy, I didn’t feel I was being true to myself. And so at some point, I cut off my friends. We were still cool but I had to protect myself and had to somehow establish myself. The hijab was not just changing my look, it was more than that.
Wearing the hijab has become easier for me with time Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah). I had battles with acceptance, what will people think? But with every wrap of my hijab, I become more confident. Of course it’s not always smooth sailing but it gets better, every day makes me stronger. Now when I go on my no-tight-clothes-and-hijab crusade, I remember how I started and I smile. I take a “chill pill”. We all have our journeys and we are all at different stages, what is important is taking the first step.
Wearing my hijab has given me a new kind of confidence and grace. It makes me happy knowing that at least I’m doing something right. I still have my WHOLE self to work on, I haven’t  miraculously wiped away my problems but I’m certainly stronger. And somehow people are more respectful. Even my friends seem to “mind their manners”. Of course there are still people in our societies who don’t understand, but while I am moving forward, they are the ones who are not going anywhere…

~ Rahma Aliyu

Read more about Rahma here


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