Me, Myself and Hijab (Part I)

Over six months ago I made one of the best decisions of my life.

I started wearing the hijab.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for an incredibly long time, however, the words didn’t seem to flow. There is so much to be said but at the same time I didn’t want to turn my story into something overrated. Words are powerful. They can take something meaningless and translate it into something more meaningful. They can also do the complete opposite.

In many ways, my hijab is the same. It’s a piece of material that covers my hair and neck.

Or is it?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It was noon on a summer’s day in March. I had just arrived in Auckland from my summer holiday in Malaysia and I was exhausted and jetlagged due to the ten hour flight from Kuala Lumpur. Despite that I decided to meet up with my friend Shaymaa who lives in Auckland before I would fly to Dunedin the next day. During the holiday I had been talking to Shaymaa about wanting to wear the hijab full-time someday. Yes, “someday” I would always say but I was never sure when. I wore it a couple of times while I was back home, you could say I went for a test run, but would feel self-conscious and awkward in it. However, that particular day I felt confident and determined. I carefully picked a bright blue hijab to match my colourful dress, wrapped it carefully around my head and took one good look at myself before stepping out. I was happy and no longer felt anxious for looking “so Muslim”. Amazingly, I also didn’t feel out of place and the irony of that is the day I decided to don the hijab full-time was the day I returned to a Muslim-minority Western country. I couldn’t have picked a tougher challenge for myself but I wanted to do it. I felt ready and it felt right.

I met Shaymaa at the front steps of her home and we both squealed with excitement. Shaymaa has been wearing hijab almost all her life and it must’ve made her feel happy to see a friend make the same choice she makes everyday. That’s right, for women like Shaymaa and myself, wearing the hijab is a choice we make every single day. She complimented me and assured me that I looked nice. As we spent the day together she assured me this many times and I think if it weren’t for supportive friends like Shaymaa my transition into becoming a hijabi wouldn’t have been as easy. There were days when I would catch a glimpse of my reflection in a mirror or glass window and I would look twice because I almost couldn’t believe that it was me. I wondered where the girl in the short dress, tights and high heeled boots had gone. There were times when I would miss styling my hair before heading out into town.

But those days and times faded away. I always reminded myself that I was doing it for all the right reasons. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone nor did I have any intention of getting married thus felt obliged to start covering up to please my future husband as some people had assumed.

I did it to show my gratitude towards God. I did it because life is precious but it is unpredictable and short. I did it because I knew nothing else mattered as much as my relationship with my Creator.

I did it for me.

The next few months of my transition were really about me adjusting with my new ‘fashion statement’. I learned that embracing the hijab isn’t just a physical endeavour but also a psychological and spiritual jihad (struggle). In the beginning I would always wear earrings to go along with my hijab simply because I felt I looked too plain without them. I also wore my hijab in various styles because I wanted to show my non-Muslim friends at my university that there are all sorts of hijab styles and that my decision to wear hijab didn’t mean I had to compromise my love of and taste in fashion. I had a lot of fun shopping for hijabs as well and probably went overboard a few times but hey, a fashionista hijabi can never have too many scarves! As my friend Zahra once told me, you can’t change your hair colour everyday but you can change your hijab colour. That’s the fun part about being a hijabi. The best part, however, is feeling closer to God. There is no substitute for this feeling. Knowing that what I am doing is what He wants me to do because it is what's best for me makes me feel like I am going towards the right direction in my life and that I am growing as a person and as a Muslim.

Now, the interesting aspect about wearing hijab or being a new hijabi is the reactions I get from people. When Muslim women find out that I’ve decided to wear hijab they would congratulate and hug me.

“Mabrouk! You look beautiful, mashaAllah!”

“Really??? Oh congratulations my dear, it really suits you!”

“Sha! I’m so proud of you!”

It was as though I had accomplished something difficult or went through a rites of passage. As I walked into shops or bumped into friends, both Muslim and non-Muslim women would stop to compliment me, be it on my hijab or my clothes. Again it would always amaze me because women have never been nicer to me in my entire life! A Brazilian friend of mine, Marcela, always and I mean always as in literally every time we see each other, tells me how beautiful I look after I started wearing hijab. She doesn’t have to but she does it anyway because I think she knows it was a huge leap of faith for me. Sure, there were also women who didn't quite approve as much but for the most part they were very understanding. 

Men, however, well that’s another interesting observation.

… to be continued.


Mona Zenhom said…
MashaAllah, what a beautifully written post.
shea said…
Alhamdulillah Sha, for having such supporting friends in times you needed them the most.
Wearing a hijab feels liberating, somehow, right?
That's how I feel now :)
mari said…
ahh, sis, you practically wrote what i went through! lol. can't wait for the post to be continued! ;)

PS: glad i stumbled on ur blog cos i lovesss it!
Hanafedora said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hanafedora said…
Nice one sha :)

Most importantly we did it for our faith in our most beautiful religion :)

“The most excellent Jihad is that for the conquest of self.” - Prophet Muhammad
Like you, I also have that one day I would want to use the hijab. My time will come insyallah.
I like knowing about someone who went from being a non-hijabi to a hijabi when they are in their 20's. Because that's the "ripe" age.
Selamat Hari Raya to you, sorry a bit late. :D
RS said…

This is very inspiring. InsyaAllah, I'll wear the hijab soon enough?
Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing your personal journey, those are always my favorite :) Looking forward to reading how men's reactions towards you changed.

Anonymous said…
This is inspirational! Wearing hijab is a huge step, especially in this day and age. When you wear hijab you visibly display your faith something that can be hard at times. Although it can be hard we have to remember that this life is composed of tribulations and trials, and those that remain resilient and overcome them pass. InshAllah may Allah continously bless you and make things easy for you :).
*Farah Pop* said…
...awww mash'Allah...i really enjoyed reading that...i think having someone there to support you in your decision makes so much of a difference...may Allah keep your faith strong....farah xoxo <3
Muslim Girl said…
Beautiful story, m'A. I love reading hijab stories, you should consider submitting yours in to!
This is beautiful, Shahirah! very inspiring. I think its all about understanding why you're doing it and for whom. May He be with you always, ameen.

PS: I was gonna suggest, like MG, that you submit your story at igotitcovered, would be awesome! :)
-Amina said…
I remember when i was told about your hijab, i got a call from Z instructing me to check your blog, but your text came before i saw the post.
You are the same gorgeous Shahirah we knew before hijab, and we all love you, the hijab just adds one more point of similarity hehe
I really enjoyed reading the post Sha =)
Aisha said…
this is way inspirational, you wrote about your experience so beautifully masha'Allah!

i first stumbled across your blog when you'd started out with hijab. i automatically remembered which post you were referring to when you were talking about matching your hijab to a blue dress!! =D
Shahirah Elaiza said…
Mona: Shukran ya ahla =)

shea: Alhamdulillah for good friends. Yes hijab is liberating when one chooses to wear it for all the right reasons!

mari: Aww glad you could relate and welcome to 'Colours of My Life'!

Love and Sugar: We seem to have a lot of things in common lol. Yeah Allah swt is very Merciful and He opens up people's hearts when the time is just right. Part 2 is comin ;)

Hanafedora: Conquering oneself is no easy task! But if we're determined to better ourselves then inshaAllah He will make it easy.

oops did I just say that?: LOL @ ripe age. I guess a lot of things in life start to click when we're in our 20s. My teenage years was so confusing! I hope you wear hijab when it feels most right to you =)

RS: InshaAllah you'll wear hijab when you truly believe in why Allah swt wants women to be modest =) Don't ever wear it when you're not ready... you can go for a test run like I did, see how it makes you feel then make your decision.

unsettledsoul: Always happy to share, Sara =)

Yasmin: InshaAllah, ameen! Nothing is easy or hard unless He makes it so... there's always a lesson behind blessings and trials.

*Farah Pop*: Yes being surrounded with very very supportive and understanding people makes a world of a difference. When my sister first started wearing it she said her friends weren't as supportive and that made it harder on her. I think sometimes people forget the role that they play in their friends' lives.

Muslim Girl: Ooh I'll check out the link! Thanks hun =)

Smiley: Thank you, it requires an understanding of who we are and who our Creator is as and His Greatness.

Amina: Awwwww AMINA!! What would I do without you? Love you!

Ashi: You know, ever since I started wearing hijab I've made lotsa friends. I'm so happy blogging has allowed me to be friends with lovely, amazing people like you =D
K said…
mashaAllah, love this post! good concept, continue please!
I can't wait for Part 2 now! ! Love a good story :)
Very inspirational post! Its posts like this that influenced me to start up my own blog =) beautifully written account, I think it serves as a comforting story for sisters who are still wondering whether to wear it or not =)
LaLeendan said…
hye sha..i love reading your blog. i too have faced what you faced too.before this i didn't wear the hijab.i knew someday i would but i never expected 'someday' to be so soon. somehow on one special day i suddenly felt like wearing the hijab and felt very confident with my deicision.

at first i had mixed feelings.i was unsure with how i look, i was 'afraid & shy' of what people may say about me. i tried it on for 3 days to see people's respond and try to get use it. and

alhamdullilah i have enjoyed wearing the hijab ever family and friends were super supportive and the praises that i've been receiving from my friends made me feel even more confident wearing the hijab. ;)
Shahirah Elaiza said…
K: Thanks, will definitely continue to write about hijab =) There's so much that needs to be said.

Random Hijabie: Part II is up, hope you like it.

Mrs. Handbag Addict: First of all, love your blog username haha. Secondly, it was posts like this that helped me to wear hijab so I'm kind of paying it forward if you know what I mean.

azleen: Thanks for sharing your hijab story =) I know in my heart that there are girls out there who went through the same thing... and there are girls who are currently experiencing the same feelings we did before wearing hijab. By sharing our stories we're helping people in ways we can't even imagine!
Smart CoOKie said…
I have been wanting to read this post ever since you wrote it but I was SO BUSY!
Now that I did, I'm so proud of you. May you always be close to Allah <3

Now let's hope I get to read part 2 and 3.