I never grew up with the concept of hijab. No one in my family wore it, including my mom. So when I met women or young girls who wore the hijab, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were practicing Muslims. I would watch my language around them and behave myself a little bit more. Of course, the hijab has become increasingly more popular over the last few years. It seems every other head in Toronto is now covered. But even then, it wasn’t until I met a few of my closer friends and started interacting with more and more hijabis that I learned you didn’t have to be a perfect Muslim to wear the hijab. By the end of highschool, I thought, “I want to wear the hijab one day, inshallah.”
So, when my husband and I planned to go to Umrah last March, I started preparing. I decided to start wearing the hijab, as I would have a fresh start after our pilgrimage. Also, I wanted to make my mom and my husband, who were encouraging me to wear it, proud. I then thought about the judgement I would receive after coming back from the holy city of Mecca with my hair out. I thought about the comments I would hear. “She just came back from Umrah?” I would know, I’ve heard them before. I went to Umrah in the summer of 2014 and still had not started wearing the hijab. The faces of aunties who looked me up in down with my new highlights and red lipstick on Eid ul Adha while my parents were away at Hajj will forever be etched in my brain.
I couldn’t face that again.
I began buying longer cardigans, and looking out for dresses and abayas that I could wear on a daily basis. Because the truth is, I love fashion. I have a very distinct sense of style and putting looks together to go with that has always been something I enjoyed. So I worked extra hard to make sure my ‘hijabi outfits’ catered towards this. I tried to make the experience less awkward and more ‘me’.
I quickly realized the hijab isn’t just about a wardrobe transition. Its a lifestyle change. Jumping in the lake on a hot day was no longer an option, and cute outfits to wear on a hike were no longer modest enough. And as someone who loves being out and about during the summer: It. Was. Hard.
Its been about six months since I began my journey as a hijabi. Since then, I’ve worked on fixing my intentions. My hijab is for God, and God only. I’m trying hard not to fear what other people will think, but what Allah SWT would think. And while it is getting easier, it still has its challenges. Now that its #sweaterweather, there are days where I just want to throw on a pair of tights and a sweater and walk out the door. Time slows down when you have to go through the checklist.
- Is everything covered?
- Will this be approved by the haram police?
- How appropriate is this on a scale of “MashAllah Sister, You’re So Pious” – “You Might As Well Take It Off”
Sigh. Unfortunately, the scrutiny that hijabis receive is part of the package. Its a different experience being on the other side for once. Because, I’ve had my fair share of being judgmental. I would raise my eyebrows at ankle flashing hijabis, and roll my eyes at girls in jilbabs posting pictures on social media snuggled in their boyfriend’s arms. Heck, I still do roll my eyes. But now, along with a eye roll, I make a conscious effort to pass on a prayer to make the journey easier for all of us. Because the jihad is real! And I continue to pray that we are all forgiven and rewarded for the challenges we face.
We’re all struggling. Let me live. Let everyone live.