My Journey with Hijab

(Before I begin: A special thank you to one of my dearest friends, Sumaiya Zama. I am blessed with many women who have supported me and guided me in my hijab journey, but Sumaiya has truly been my rock. She is the one who always reminds me to be focused on my intentions, on my unlearning, and on the ways in which I need not center my existence on oppression. I could not have done all of this learning without her by my side. Thank you for being who you are.)

To honor re-launching and re-orienting my blog, I wanted to reflect on one of the biggest changes in my life this year: the beginning of my journey with wearing hijab. I put it on full-time mid-July.

I have been wanting to wear the hijab since the 2016 elections - a very reactionary motivation. Over the past couple years, I would try it out here and there and still couldn’t bring myself to do it. I started slowly preparing myself for it: for instance, I began building a wardrobe that fully covered my arms and legs. I began giving up habits that I felt hindered my spirituality and thus made me feel less worthy of the hijab (an internalized bias, as women who wear the hijab cannot be and must not be held to higher standards than other Muslims). 

My relationship with the practice of wearing the scarf full-time is an ever-changing one. It is constantly about renewing and re-evaluating my intentions. I’ve been finding reasons that worked before no longer serve me when I wake up every day and have to choose to put it on my head. I want to log where I struggle, where my intentions are in the moment, and so on as I carry on. 

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Nothing I am saying is particularly profound or different from what a lot of different hijab-wearing women say or experience. It’s important to note that as a Non-Black Muslim woman with light skin that my experiences with it are very specific and privileged. This blog post is less about searching for the most profound reasons for wearing hijab or making statements about the right ways or reasons for it, and more about me expressing where I currently am. I hope my honest reflections are helpful - and if they aren’t for you, know that they certainly are for me.

I realized recently when I posted (and archived soon after) a picture of my hair showing on Instagram that despite what I told myself, I do show my hair for validation from the western world and I do use it as a way to distance myself from my identity. And it’s okay to want that validation at times. It just…isn’t sustainable. That validation isn’t conducive to true, lasting happiness. I had a moment the other day when I met a man I (for once) found attractive and had the thought, “If only he saw me while I wasn’t wearing this.” And that thought forced me to acknowledge the internal biases and self-hatred that I still carry, almost 6 months into wearing the hijab. 

What does it mean to think that a man is more likely to want me if I’m not wearing a hijab? That I need to tone down my reality and who I am to make the world love me? How is that love if I have to conceal who I am?

Since wearing hijab, I have felt my most centered and present. I feel most in touch with myself, the truth of my faith, and my reality. I feel most in tune with the world and with God and with sisterhood. I am more careful and intentional and honestly, I feel less consumed with reactionary behaviors and ideas that used to rule my life. I feel less like I’m constantly raging against patriarchy and white supremacy and more like I am existing and thriving outside those systems. I have learned more nuance about the world. I have gained access to secrets and moments of sisterhood privy only to those who carry their Muslim identity on the outside.

I have also gained access to the true hatred this world contains, both overt and subtle. My hijab has unlocked many truths about the people around me, the ultimate truth being that Islamophobia is woven into the fabric of the world as we know it. Me trying to run from that “burden” at times is from cowardice and I know that. I often talk myself into leaving my new healthy relationship with myself and the world and going back to old patterns that I know will much more easily take over without hijab. But I have to choose to be heathy every day. I have to choose to be my better and happier self every day and break that pattern.

When I wear hijab, who I am finally feels at the forefront. 

Hijab releases me from my past, who I have always been - for me, it offers me a space to recreate myself. I CAN be the woman I want to be. Some of that comes with the territory of having to be more careful because a lot more is at stake when you wear a hijab. People are automatically critiquing you more and in different ways. People are scared and anxious around you. I notice the ways people I have known for ages act differently around me. I notice how the men who once found me attractive no longer do, and how the new kinds of men who fetishize me and interact with me behave. Hijab has unveiled the truth of those around me, and that in turn has unveiled my own truths.

I said this to a close friend of mine who has been wearing hijab for over 10 years - I told her, “It wasn’t until I began wearing hijab that I finally felt free.” She told me she felt the same way.

Here is to my freedom. My private revolution. Inshallah I continue down this path that has been so healing, centering, and rewarding for me.