Reading Islam asked Muslim women to share their reflections about hijab. This is what they had to say.
“The first time I wore hijab, I felt conspicuous and odd. I knew wearing hijab was ordered though, and I have since realized that it protects me. My dignity, and self respect remain intact in hijab. I also feel purified and sacred (for my husband) in hijab. It is troublesome but it is an acceptable sacrifice for God. I just don’t go out as much. My beauty is for my husband and not the world.”
“The first time I wore hijab, I felt hot! But I enjoy the protection it provided. Men usually stared and pissed me off (making hissing sounds to try to get my attention), but with my hijab on, men don’t bother me anymore, they stare but they don’t say anything. I love the hijab. My body belongs to Allah first and my husband second and nobody else has the right to lust after me.”
US Virgin Islands
“At the masjid when I took Shahada, they gave me a black shayla (oblong scarf) . I tried to put it on my head and it kept slipping off. I asked my husband how to wear it but of course he didn’t know.
“I told the sisters at the masjid that I didn’t know how to wear it and they said “you’ll get used to it”. Maybe they didn’t understand that I had no idea what to do with it. So, I took it home and pinned it with hair pins. It looked like a mess!
“I wore it out like that to the Asian market with my husband. The guy in there asked if I was from Russia (because my scarf looked Russian). I thought what? I got upset, pouted and cried in the car. Needless to say I thought I was doomed. So, my husband bought me an “Al-Amira” scarf (a two piece scarf set).
“Then, one day I was watching CNN. It was a program following Muslim families (I am guessing in Iraq but not sure). I saw a woman on there wrapping a scarf around. And I watched carefully how she did it. Then, I looked on the guide for when the re-run would air and watched her again, I recorded it and watched it over and over. I practiced until I got it! So, CNN taught me how to wear a shayla!
“Hijab makes me feel honored, respected, beautiful and important.
“Hijab is as much inner as outward. Modesty and confidence start from the inside and manifests themselves in the outer covering, hijab.”
– Umm Yusuf, stay at home mom and part-time bookeeper
“I’ve been wearing hijab since the age of 6. My sisters and I always wore long clothing, even during the summertime. Shorts were not allowed. We did everything in our hijabs, went to amusement parks, school, play dates with non-Muslims, the park, stores…wherever.
“As an American girl, this has been a true jihad for me since I started over 23 years ago. I remember having the kids at my public elementary school laugh at me, point at me, pull of my scarf and call me names like “witch” and “weirdo,” it made me feel really self-conscious. Even to this day, whenever I enter a room full of non-Muslims, I know they are all looking at me and wondering why I have this, as my grandmother used to call it, “rag on my head.”
“I’ve been called towel-head before too. Oh, so many names, dirty looks, prejudicial stares, but never once did I remove my scarf.
“It got worse after 9/11, suddenly people who didn’t care that I was Muslim realized that I am Muslim and wondered about my scarf and why I didn’t stop wearing it to protect myself from the prejudice. My argument is always the same, my justice from you will come on the Day of Judgment. I do this for Allah and my Iman. Never once did I stop covering.
“I knew that this isn’t just for me, but for Allah. Surprisingly, my first husband did not want me to cover. He thought that I should wear my scarf occasionally or like the women in his country (Senegal) wear it, with their neck uncovered and their breasts uncovered. I said, no way! It upset him and I think he resented having to walk around with this very covered up woman all the time.
“Needless to say, we are no longer together. People who don’t support the cause of hijab tend to fall away from those who do, they can’t stand being forced to deal with someone in hijab all day; the weight of our covering seems like a burden to them. Oh boy! Or, perhaps it reminds them of a responsibility to Allah and their Iman, they are either not implementing or fulfilling themselves.
“Surprisingly, my covering has not been a burden in my occupation as far as I know. Of course, no one ever tells you outright you’re not getting a job because you wear hijab. But, I have never been told that I can’t do a job as well or at all because I cover. I love it, the scarves are gorgeous and the covering is a protection and a display of modesty unlike any other. I feel fortunate that I get to cover.
– Ayana, attorney
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
“Well, I will share my little story with you. I converted almost 6 years ago, when my first son was born.
“The first time I wore hijab was last year when I went with my husband and children to the Mosque for `eid prayer. Yes, last year.
“It took me 5 years to put the hijab on. I don’t know why. My husband never made me wear it or told me to put it on. This is something that I had to do by myself.
“And I finally did. It was hard at first I have to admit. I wasn’t sure how people were going to react, specially, since they have never seen me with the Hijab on before or what my family might think.
“Well, everyone thought I looked really nice wearing it (my friends). My husband’s family was excited that I finally wore the hijab.
“As for myself, I am glad that I did it. I know how important it is for us (women) to cover up. Each day I feel stronger and feel great that I did cover up.
“I am not worried about what the rest of the world has to say about it. I did it for the right reasons and those reasons are good enough for me.
“I still don’t know how to wear the scarf hijab, so I wear the two piece ones, easier to put on and quicker.”
– Candice, stay at home mom
“I’m a convert or better a revert from Peru, but I have been living in New York for about 15 years, mother of two girls (21, 10) community health educator (just volunteering, not working).
“It took me a long time to start wearing hijab and more to wear Jilbab. I come from a very strict catholic family, where I remember everything was haram, so imagine how I felt when I was in the transition of changing my religion.
“Sometimes I used to feel guilty and a traitor to my grandma who raised me, but the more I read about Islam, the closer I got to it and the more I liked it. In other words the Bible led me to Islam with all the mistakes and fantasies in it (talking about the bible that was edited so many times by men.)
“That was the first step. The next step was to fulfill all the requirements to be a good Muslim (hijab, jilbab, halal food). My husband bought me a book about hijab with citations of verses from the Qur’an which I read with much attention. Still I was not convinced, I didn’t feel ready and I didn’t feel it in my heart, but I was thinking about it .
“One day I went to the mosque to say my shahada and I wrapped around my head and neck a black scarf that was big enough for hijab, my husband felt very happy I remember, he told me to take the lipstick from my lips and I did.
“I took my shahada and went to try and pray with all the other sisters. I thought I will be looked at as a stranger by them, but no, they welcomed me, hugged me and one sister fixed my “hijab” and put a pin on it.
“Then a little sister told me, that I should not wear make up or nail polish in the mosque and other things. I felt so happy that night, and so welcomed more than any place I have ever been to. That was my first time of wearing hijab and since then my life changed completely.
“I started wearing Jilbab later on after I was placed a dialysis catheter can’t get what she wants to say…
“Of course it was not easy to wear hijab, we are the only Muslims in the building and all the eyes are over us, but I don’t mind the comments any more.
“I have been wearing hijab for about 4 years now, still suffering to fix it, sometimes I rather use the two piece cotton hijab, and not suffer fixing the scarf, but scarves are more colorful and I like them too.
“And since I’m always wearing my white two piece hijab, three sisters from the mosque where I go for classes gave me scarves, because they thought I don’t have any, what they do not know is, that after 4 years I still suffer to fix them in place.”
New York City, USA
“My favorite quote about hijab is taken from a friend of mine, another revert:
The Hijab is not just the Veil, it affects the whole person. Hijab is dressing modestly by covering what is prescribed, be it with a veil, or a hat, and it is the way you act. You must be modest in your actions, and thoughts also.
“My experience: I am a revert and have only recently started wearing hijab. I take it day by day, as in I have not put it on “Full time”, I started to wear it for specific outings, and built these up over time.
“I first wore it when I visited one of my Muslim sisters. This was routinely, once a week. Then I started to attend a weekly halaqah at the mosque.
“Now I long to wear it all the time, and feel I am missing something when I do not wear a veil. If I am not wearing a hijab, I wear a hat, and a scarf , which is not the same, but it is a stepping stone, insha’Allah.
“But because of my family, and circumstances I feel I am not able to yet, insha’ Allah this will change soon.
“When I wear my Hijab, I feel proud. If I see other sisters in the street, I greet them with a smile and say “Asslamu `alikom”.
“I am treated with respect by Muslims, and non Muslims when I wear it.
“I enjoy being instantly recognized as a Muslim. Surprisingly, people are friendlier to me.
“There are the other moments too though, even in Ireland.
“How many times have I gone into a shop, and I am treated as though I cannot speak English!
“Some people stare as though you have 2 heads. I try to return with a smile.
“I find, and other sisters have remarked, that I get stared at more than they do, probably as there is no mistaken that I am from Ireland. I have a noticeable Cork (City in Ireland) accent, and I have typical Irish features, Alhamdu lillah.
“Also I am always aware that I should look extra happy when I wear it, just in case someone may think I am oppressed.
“So I think I do draw a lot of attention, also because I am not married, and do not have a mahram, I am always in shopping, etc. on my own, or with other sisters, which maybe they see as “different”?
“Even though I found it very hard at the beginning to wear hijab, I am so happy Allah gave me the strength, and support to do it, I would never change my decision. The respect, and genuine kindness I receive, from Muslims and non Muslims alike, when I wear the Hijab is rewarding. And it has also made me stronger in my deen, Alhamdu lillah.
“My advice to any sister who is battling about the Hijab is, do it for YOU!
“It is easier if there is another Hijabi with you I find, to settle your nerves, and hold your hand so to speak.
“Set a day when to wear it, and do it.
“Take it day by day. Prepare yourself by finding the “perfect” scarf/ hijab, one that complements you, and your outfit, and more importantly is comfortable.
“There is nothing worse than a hijab that will not “Sit” right, or is too warm..
“It will become easier , believe me, I thought I would never feel comfortable in it, now I feel strange without it!”
“Though I was born a Muslim, I didn’t wear a scarf properly because I didn’t understand the beauty of it and the high importance of wearing hijab.
But alhamdu lillah when I turned 19, I read a lot about Islam and it helped me understand the high importance of wearing hijab, and so I started wearing the scarf I previously had each time in the presence of strange men and when going outside and then I ordered some from an Islamic online store; I couldn’t wait for my first hijabs to arrive, I was so excited and the day I received them was the happiest day ever for me and I couldn’t wait for an occasion to go out wearing My new hijab.
“I can’t imagine going outside my home or being in the presence of strange men without my hijab; it is my symbol of being a Muslim woman and I feel proud and secure when I wear it and I feel no worries about people staring at me or what they say behind my back because It is Allah who ordered Muslim women to wear and it is a duty on all Muslim women to obey the almighty Allah. And I pray that Allah will keep me straight and never go astray insha’ Allah and pray that all Muslim women who don’t wear hijab, Allah gives them the strength and iman to wear it because it is the Muslim woman’s symbol.”
– Hawa Toure
Memphis, TN, USA