When I think about the day I decided to wear hijab, I get misty-eyed. My heart pounds hard within my chest & my palms begin to sweat. My story isn’t unlike many others. Actually—I don’t really share my story with strangers, simply because that time of my life was such a crazy whirlwind. But, you won’t judge me right? I guess I’m trusting in that, so here goes!
I was your typical American teenage girl who loved to hit up the mall with my friends, blow-dry & style my long shiny hair & find the cutest outfit to wear to the next upcoming party. I was classic except for the fact that I attended an all girl Islamic School. I was average except that my upbringing was a blend of Palestinian slang and Italian cuisine. I was standard except for the friends I surrounded myself with—Muslim and hijab- wearing girls, many of whom were forced to wear the hijab at a young age.
Luckily I was never forced into hijab. Infact—my parents were more against me wearing it than with it. Despite attending an Islamic school and being from a tightly wound Muslim community, where everyone knew your name and where you got those looks and those comments from women in the community who thought they knew it all—I never thought that hijab was for me. Those very women who scolded me to “put on a hijab in the masjid parking lot” were the same women who I detested. They were the women who instilled in me a sense of rebellion over hijab. I felt that with every remark they made, the less I wanted to love hijab (which I really believed in), and the more I wanted to flaunt my locks about town.
It wasn’t until 9/11 that my feelings toward hijab began to take on a life of their own. I slowly began to envision myself wearing it. I’d daydream in class wondering, “what would my life be like?” Why did Americans think Muslims were so bad anyway? What’s so wrong with covering your hair? Shouldn’t these women be respected instead of cast away as backward people?
One Ramadan morning, after a sleepless night, I woke-up and decided—today is the day. I scuffled through my drawers only to find a black wrap hijab, threw it over my hair and took a deep breath. My mind was filled with thoughts of angst. How was I going to break this to my parents? They believed in hijab but didn’t necessarily support it. How was I going to approach my friends now covered?
The ride to school was a quiet one. My father didn’t think twice about me wearing a hijab; he was probably chalking it up to the fact that it was Ramadan and my school was encouraging us to wear hijab to and from school. I wanted so bad to say, “Hey Baba, I’m a Mit7ajiba now,” but how could I even call myself that so early in the game?
I decided to tell my friends first. To say they were shocked would be an understatement. “YOU? HIJAB? REALLY?” and “but you love your hair!” was the most I got out of them, and I could feel them thinking, “HAH! We will see how long that lasts…” Of course a few of them were genuinely happy for me, and together we began our never-ending journey toward making hijab fit us instead of us fitting hijab.
In no way have I been the perfect walking example of hijab. I’ve worked my way through every “hoe-jaby” cliché there is. I’ve been caught with my back showing, my neck showing, my hair falling from the back, my hair falling from the front, the too tight skirts and the too short shirts; you name it—I’ve done it. But I will tell you this—I am proud of my journey. I worked my way to where I am today.
Though my hijab still needs work—these days I gravitate more toward the dress section of shops where I can find dresses that I convert into “long shirts” for hijaby purposes. I buy every slit-less skirt and every long cardigan I find, regardless if it’s a designer piece or not. I am more conscious of what modesty really means for my wardrobe.
But I must admit, that I would have worn hijab sooner, if the community did not cast-out non-hijabys and make rude remarks to those who wandered the streets in t-shirts and tight jeans. If there were more positivity from within the community—so many girls would feel accepted and intrigued by hijab to see it in a greater light. For these reasons, I get so upset when I hear of girls criticizing others for the way they wear hijab. No one knows what stage these girls or women are in their self-discovery. Who are we to judge these young ladies who are making the brave switch to the world of cover-ups and hair slip-ups? We don’t even know how far they have come in transforming their closets into hijabified sanctuaries! So let’s encourage one another and support one another instead of tear each other down.
Lets create a weath of resources for girls out there who are genuinely interested in hijab. I might have even worn hijab sooner if I knew of stylish ways to wear it. I had to learn the hard way that being trendy in hijab was a true effort. I’ve learned how to wear hijab to suit my personality and that’s something that really resonates with many girls. We want to be us because being us can be so darn fabulous. We don’t want to loose the ME in MEt7ajba (corny? Maybe!) Lol. Anyway, I love you all, my beautiful sisters in Islam. I wish I could know you all and hear about your journey to hijab, or your struggles with it. Please feel free to share.
I just love you all.
Hugs and Kisses,