By a Contented Muslim sister
Wearing the hijaab for me was a process that I gradually discovered. Alhamdulilah, Allah put it in my heart to dress the way I do.
I was eighteen years old, two days before I turned eighteen to be exact and I had this sudden urge of covering my head. My mother covered her hair so it wasn’t something that I wasn’t used to. However, the task was a bit more complicated than I had anticipated.
I would always cover my lower body with loose hanging clothes, but I would say that I dressed fairly “modern”. I now wore a headscarf that would simply match with the outfit of the day. The funny thing was though, that I still had to go through this process of getting used to seeing myself in the headscarf, I thought I didn’t look nice, so it wasn’t so easy for me to wear.
This went on for a few years, I would wear “normal western” clothing with my headscarf, and the scarf unfortunately, was not always worn correctly. When I think of it now, I laugh at how a little piece of my hair would be out; I thought that way at least I looked prettier. Even my clothing, was weird, I would wear a skouser, (you know those fashionable trousers with the short skirt that was attached to it) with a top, and I thought that would suffice.
Four years later, I found myself at another turning point, I felt in my heart that I should cover up and wear an abayya. Now if I can recall correctly, I always thought it was weird that when it came to Friday, Muslim sisters would always wear an abayya. I now found myself doing the same thing. It was pretty though, because I had a lot of beautiful abaayas, and I somehow felt like a beautiful princess when wore them.
I was studying during this time and I was always the type of person who could make friends easily, they wouldn’t be close friends but people were comfortable speaking to me. This meant that I had to answer many questions to a vast race of people about my dress, I didn’t mind, I was getting used to the idea of dressing this way, and truthfully, I loved it.
I now began my teaching career, and although I wore an abayya, it was a kind of an on and off thing. A few months into teaching, I made the decision, Alhamdulilah, to wear the abayya, full time. This time around it was something that I knew would be better for me as I now found myself dealing with a lot of strange men and I felt more comfortable being covered properly.
The sad thing about this was that I worked once, again with a very mixed racial group. And again people would ask me questions about the way I dress, if I could only wear black, even though, I had beautiful abyayys of all colours and styles. They would ask if men had to cover themselves and to what extent, and Alhamdulillah, I could answer them positively and insha Allah correctly.
What was sad was that amongst the Muslim women, there had always been a certain amount of negativity. I was still young, older Muslim women felt that I was too young to dress that way, and they would openly ask me if I didn’t think I was too young to dress this way. Unfortunately some Muslim women look at you differently when you decide to cover up. They immediately assume that you think you’re better, that you think you are holier. I always said that one cannot be judged by the way she dresses. And Alhamdulillah I don’t think that I can say I ever thought that I was a better Muslim or person. I always remember the hadith or quraan ayaat that says something to the effect that one Muslim is only better than another Muslim in terms of piety and this is something that only Allah knows. Sadly for me though, many Muslim sisters would make the assumption that I thought I was better.
Alhamdulillah, it didn’t deter me, I continued dressing the way I felt comfortable, I found that people would have respect for me and the way I felt about certain things. Men would think twice before they put out their hand to be shaken, people would suddenly feel that they cannot speak vulgar in front of me, generally there was a lot of respect from people. They would stay on their place if I could put it that way.
The nicest thing about this was that I could explain to non Muslims, the beauty of covering up and the beauty of my religion. People immediately make the assumption that men don’t have dress limitations; they assume that women have less choice. I could now explain my religion to people in the hope that they would understand and learn to accept Islam and the beauty thereof.
I loved that the little Muslim girls were comfortable to wear their headscarf and see that covering up didn’t make one feel less beautiful but more beautiful. It didn’t make one feel small and humiliated but enriched and enlightened.
I make dua that Allah blesses our hearts with beauty and understanding for our religion, and that our inner beauty is as beautiful as our outer beauty.
May Allah also reward the sisters who are trying so hard in spreading the beauty of Islam; it is just an example of how things can be used for good.