Wearing my hijaab: Understanding, appreciation, action

28 Sep

Wearing the hijab for me was a choice and an eventual process rather than a sudden change. Like many young Muslim women, hijab can be very challenging to take on at first. The first thing that would go through one’s mind would be: “How will I be perceived? What would people say? What would people think?” Then followed closely, with something like: “Am I ready for the hijab? It’s a big commitment. Is it even necessary?” A couple more thoughts would perhaps follow, accompanied essentially with doubts, minuscule fears, apprehensions and confusion.

Growing up as a Muslim, born and raised in West London, I’ve always understood the vague concept of a ‘hijab’. I knew it formed part of the ‘Muslim’ identity. I knew some Muslim women wore it, whilst others didn’t. And I knew that some people were not shy to hold prejudices or judgements of Muslim women wearing it. Of course, I was never against hijab; in fact I’ve always felt a great amount of respect and admiration for the genuine modest Muslim, who was funny, bubbly, intelligent but the only difference to her and the girl on the other side of the room, was that she was wearing a ‘hijab’.

My religion undoubtedly is a key part in my life. Because culture did not play a very important and influential concept in my life as my religion, my identity above all was that first and foremost I was a Muslim. Growing up, my parents would teach me the importance of prayer, reciting the Quran, the five pillars of Islam and some general rules of modesty. I also went to an Arabic school briefly, and my mother also hired an Arabic/Quran teacher who would come to our house once a week. Islam set a solid a foundation in our household and I always understood fundamental aspects of my religion, one of these aspects being ‘modesty’.

Despite my general and vague understanding of the physical hijab, I never thought it was a necessary part of Islam and I was never forced to wear the hijab. Throughout my early and late teens, I became more fixated on my physical appearance, from donning the skinniest jeans and tops to changing hairstyles. I spent ages in the morning, deciding whether to straighten or curl my hair; and without knowing I fell into a spiral of repetition, time-waste, and confusion and to some extent a loss of my unique identity.  Yet, the inevitable truth is that we are always judged on our appearance. I remember at my first job interview in retail (prior to wearing the hijab) my interviewer repeatedly complimented my appearance, telling me that, this was what they were looking for and that she liked my ‘look’ and ‘attitude’. The interview went very well (alhamdulilah) and we were casually talking when she added that every now and again all employees get together to go drinking and that she’ll expect to see me there.  I laughed it off but then I began thinking to myself that I was not upholding to my responsibility as a Muslim. Firstly as a Muslim, I do not drink, but most importantly that I had a somewhat a lazy attitude and I was not ‘practicing’, displaying and teaching the beauty of my religion to the best of my ability.

After several episodes of thought, research, appreciation and influence from close friends I began wearing my hijab on my 20th birthday. This was entirely my choice, in fact after several months of wearing it; I still get those random stares, shocked faces (from people I know) and the ignorant comment here and there. But for me hijab is more than a cloth on my head. It’s a symbol of honesty, commitment, truth and identity. Hijab is not a symbol of oppression, but on the contrary I believe, as do many Muslims, that it is a symbol of freedom from exploitation, immoral and immodest behaviour.  My friend told me that: “hijab is the weapon of the Muslim woman.”

I strongly hold the view that in no case should in no case be forced upon someone. But regardless of people’s interpretations and opinions, I do believe that the physical hijab is a commandment from Allah (God) but what we need to remember is that wearing it does not particularly make you better than those not wearing it. As, Sheikh Mohammed Hilli said profoundly: “We need to have hijab of the thoughts, Hijab of the hearts and Hijab of the actions.”

On a daily basis, we are bombarded with images, image-makers, advertisements and designers all defining ‘beauty’, ‘style’ and ‘perfection’ for us. Unfortunately for some, this can have adverse effects on one’s self esteem and identity. I believe that we should appreciate these definitions of beauty and style, but it’s important to know who you are, and what you stand for!

“We spend so long beautifying our face. Imagine if we took that time to beautify our character.”

~Tamanna Ali

To read more about Tamanna, click here

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