Me, Myself and Hijab (Part II)
One of my biggest fears about wearing hijab was that people would judge me based on the negativity they had heard or read about Muslims before getting to know me for themselves. As I live in New Zealand most of the time I knew I would have to face non-Muslims all the time - at varsity, in supermarkets, on airplanes. It’s much easier to dress like the people around me and sort of blend in. I worried about what girls thought of me as much as I did guys . I had heard horror stories from my friends and had many pre-conceived ideas about people’s reactions and to be honest, I expected the worst.
I didn’t know that I was in for a big surprise.
Who would've thought that non-Muslims wouldn't treat me that much differently. I would have to say that it’s probably because I live in New Zealand where racism is quite uncommon and people are laid-back and open-minded.
Non-Muslim men are more respectful. When they talk to me I think they’re quite surprised to see that what I wear and most importantly, my faith, doesn’t stop me from being outgoing and creative. They’re still friendly but obviously they don’t flirt or try to be funny with me. That would be the only major difference I have noticed since I started wearing hijab. Guys don’t approach me as freely as before and half-drunk guys don’t make lewd comments at me when I walk past them (most students live on campus and getting drunk by 5 pm on weekends is not unusual around here). When my classmates talk to me, they look me in the eye and they take me seriously. They don’t do the whole ‘up and down look’ anymore. Some girls do but not guys.
So what about Muslim guys?
I had a similar response with Muslim men. I guess some of you would say they shouldn’t be responding at all since men should lower their gaze and what not! But the reality of it is Muslim men are just like any other men out there – they’re not perfect and they make mistakes. Most of them have been respectful. Many of the ones who knew me before my big change do treat me the same way because they’ve always been nice and respectful anyway but I do see a glint of respect in their eyes and a level of formality in the way they behave with me.
The funny thing is I think some Muslim guys notice me just a little bit more because I’m visibly a Muslim now. I think they have something called a ‘hijabi radar’ and the moment they see a hijabi they get curious! Amina’s younger brother actually texted and told her that he saw a new hijabi in town and she asked him to double check and make sure that it wasn’t me. Turns out it was me after all. He said I look completely different but in a good way. Ah, that boy’s always been a hoot. Some of them texted me to say they were proud of me for making this step and some even asked me about it in person because they just wanted to know more about my motivation behind it. But I have had Muslim male friends who said things like, “To me it doesn’t really make a difference”. Good thing I didn’t do it for the sake of pleasing men, or rather for the sake of pleasing people, because otherwise I would’ve been quite confused.
My experience as a hijabi in the last six months in New Zealand has been a very positive one, alhamdulillah. I think the only instance I've had someone say a rude remark to me was the time I went shopping with Lamya. Otherwise, people have been so nice to me, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I honestly can't ask for a better outcome or experience as a hijabi in a Western country. In Malaysia, it was a little hard, I have to admit. I think it was mainly because that's where I go for my holidays and to have fun, and dressing up and wearing relatively sexy clothes (operative word: relatively!) was part of that fun for me. Every woman wants to feel desired and beautiful but I'm not saying Islam is trying to make women feel less desired by 'hiding' their beauty.
In Islam, a woman's beauty is skin-deep. It is everything that makes her gentle yet resilient, humble yet dignified. Everything that makes her special.
In Islam, a woman's sensuality is not suppressed. It is sacred.
In Islam, a woman doesn't have to be 36-24-36 to be beautiful and valuable. She doesn't even have to be anything society deems to be 'so hot right now'. Shocking, I know.
The day I started wearing hijab was the day I slowly started to leave behind my old lifestyle and bad habits. It wasn't easy but I realised I had to start somewhere. The essence of modesty is how you feel and not just what you do. Modesty truly begins on the inside and it upsets me whenever I hear people saying things like,
"If you don't wear hijab, you're not a good Muslim woman."
"If you wear jeans and make up with hijab, you look like a clown." (Oh trust me readers, this has been said in a couple of khutbahs (sermons) in our masjid)
Saying that to people is just arrogant and ignorant. That's not how you educate people about Islam. You don't attack them by making them feel bad about themselves. You're suppose to inspire them so that they will take the steps that they need to understand why modesty is required in Islam. Surely when modesty is sown and nurtured in one's heart, it will blossom and branch out into actions that are beautiful in God's eyes.
Plus, it wasn't like I immediately made drastic changes. For example, I didn't start to wear loose tops until a couple of months ago and wearing make up was an everyday routine and a must (and while I still love make up today, I don't feel like it's a must anymore). I didn't go on Facebook and started deleting all my old photos. In fact, all of them were left there for a good six months. I think it was just before my birthday on September the 8th that I decided to delete my non-hijab profile pictures and even that I didn't have the heart to do. I got my trustworthy friend, Amina, to delete them for me. Shortly after that I had my old photo albums set to 'Only Me'. Again, I didn't have the heart to delete them. I felt like doing so would be like deleting my entire past and I didn't have a terrible past, I had a happy one. But there's always room to grow and I told myself to keep moving forward in life. Not go backwards or stay stagnant.
So I took a leap of faith and then moved a step forward. Today I am at peace with myself and I am grateful to God for making what I once thought was impossible, possible.
... stay tuned for Part III: Frequently Asked Questions!
P.S. Feel free to ask me about hijab and hijab-related questions. Write away in the comment box or via the contact form here.
good on u for doing it. Keep it up!!
Well said, Sha.
*gives you a I'm-so-proud-of-you hug*
btw, you forgot one important thing in your post - MARRIAGE PROPOSALS!!! :P ehhehe
Masha Allah, may Allah continue to guide you in your faith.
I hope I'll wear a hijab soon enough.
But I feel unready atm. But I definitely want to wear one day.
Keep inspiring girlies like me ok?
The militant working boy: Personally, whenever I'm out and I realise that I'm wearing the hijab it is like a reminder to me that God exists and He is watching us. It's so easy to be distracted by everyday life. We get complacent as human beings.
But wearing the hijab, especially in a Western country, is not only a strong reminder to me that I am Muslim, but people can see that I am Muslim too. So whatever I do is a representation of Islam.
Making my faith visible has enhanced my faith in many ways. I pray more regularly now, I read the Holy Qur'an not because I have to but because I want to. I'm more keen to learn more about Islam. In the past I was kind of rebellious but I realised that it was the type of rebellion that didn't benefit me.
There's a hadith qudsi that really touched me a few years ago and no matter what I do I always go back and refer to it whenever I feel like I'm struggling with my faith:
"I am as My servant thinks I am (1). I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assemble better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a fathom's length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed."
In regards to the hijab being symbolic.. I think it is in a way because it symbolises the values of a Muslim woman. But it's not so that God can recognise us, if anything it's so we can recognise and remember Him.
Is showing our faith equally important as having faith in our hearts? Yes. We are not only rewarded for possessing knowledge but we are also rewarded for our understanding this knowledge and by acting out on our knowledge.
In other words, it is important to practice what we preach too.
RS: For a very long time I felt I couldn't relate to hijabis or religious people much because I felt they were judgemental... but that all changed when I came to NZ and met such awesome Muslim girls who were open minded while staying true to their faith. If you were inspired by me it's because I was inspired them first! =) I think the fact that you want to wear it someday is a good sign. Find out why you feel this way and just focus on that, inshaAllah He will give you guidance and strength.
hijabi hippie hypo: I'm sure it's not boring, it's just different. Do share your story =)
Hanafedora: And I like like like you =)
Feda: I can tell that you are a bit of a rebel =) I never wanted to fit the stereotype of a Muslim and I still don't. But the difference between then and now is that I've learned that I don't have to compromise my personality while following the rules of Islam.
I like your point about the hijab being a religious statement in Western culture. It seems like your faith would not be of importance to anyone but yourself and Allah, but, unfortunately, our current cultural situation makes it necessary for everyone, perhaps Muslims especially, to prove their righteousness in the world. Maybe that too is something that reinforces our faiths and brings us together in understanding.
Dont worry about hitting the delete tab fast, its your decision and your past, take your time with it. You simply cant leap forward with these things.
Looking forward to part 3! :D
I notice Muslim guys are definitely like that, and I think it is so cute! Whenever there is a hijabi girl at school I can tell which guys are Muslim because they look just a little bit longer, lol. I know for my husband and I it feels comforting because it shows us we are not the only Muslims.
Anytime there is a new hijabi at work my husband comes home to tell me "hun there is a new Muslim girl, I think she might be Malaysian." LOL...
Truthfully, whenever I speak to a hijabi in my city, on the bus or at school, I try to be even more friendly and respectful, just because I think it takes a lot of courage for her to wear hijab in the current atmosphere in America since 9/11.
Nothing but respect and admiration coming from me :)
LOL, I'm not very sure myself about why Sikh men wear the turban actually. I know that they keep their hair long. You may want to check this out if you do want to know. It's quite detailed: http://fateh.sikhnet.com/s/WhyTurbans
Muslim men have a different dress code for modesty. They must cover from the belly button to the knee. But of course it would be better to cover more than that. Plus he is meant to lower his gaze when he sees a woman.
There's a very comprehensive article about Islamic male modesty here: http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/muslim_women_retired/61371/1
ana: Thanks Ana, that's so sweet of you. I became a very positive person after wearing the hijab actually. I just feel like life is finally working out and things are starting to make more sense.
Smiley: Oh no I didn't rush with deleting anything, that's for sure lol. I never did anything I wasn't ready to do and I guess that's why I'm a happy hijabi =D
Sarah: LOL @ how you can tell who are the Muslim guys! In the West hijabis definitely stand out more and it's not even intentionally (well for most cases lol. But the funny thing is I don't feel like I stand out, I'm just so comfortable with it now and I guess that's all that matters. I can't believe I used to be so apprehensive about hijab...
Glad that hijabis make you feel more secure cos you know you aren't the only Muslim in the room =)
Rahmah Ismail: Letting go isn't easy, isn't it? =)
This is one out of a million reasons why I LOVE your blog!
You write so beautifully! This post was incredible, wonderful, and all synonymous adjectives that I haven't said yet!
Keep istiqomah ya sister :)
I'm a 19 years old Singaporean Muslimah. I'm not a good Muslimah but I do pray, fast. I don't wear revealing clothes as my mother counseled me to dress modestly since I was a kid. Now the problem is that I do not wear hijab. I don't think wearing or not wearing a hijab makes people more devoted and conservative. But recently,I'm thinking alot about Hijab, but i don't have the courage to wear it. I'm afraid of being judged as an extremist, being a laughing stock of my relatives and friends and at the same time I don't know how to put a Hijab and I scared I will look funny and not pretty with it. I want to obey Allah but I am so self-conscious. I am now in a dilemma. :(
Quote 1-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.
Quote 2-Then I realised that rezeki / rizaq (provision) comes from Allah swt. I wasn't a very good Muslim but I realised that everything I had was because of Him and I thought, "What have I done to deserve all this? A loving family, the opportunity to pursue an education. That's all I ever needed, isn't it? I wonder how amazing my life would be if I actually tried to be a better Muslim?".
I feel the same way too. Every single thing that I have right now is because of Him. Syukur alhamdulillah...so this little gratitude such as covering my aurats for Him is nothing much compared to wht he had done for me in my life.
May Allah bless u always, Shahirah.
A lot of the girls who cover up from head to toe are only doing so cuz it's a tradition and a must in their families and in reality they are worse than sluts with black hearts. And a lot of my non hijabi friends and us whom we don't cover our faces and wear colourful abays are the nicest, pure hearted people I have ever met.
What a person wears is not a measurement of their faith.
i love you for sharing this. :)