It is usually presumed that if one is born in a Muslim family in an Islamic country, adopting Islamic values is as easy as drinking a glass of water. But, I can tell you that it is an assumption, a wild guess. It is true in many cases, but that is not the case all the time.
I was born in an Islamic country in a practicing Muslim family. But, following Islamic values did not come to me so naturally. I was lost for a long time until I woke up a few years ago when I was 19. This is a very sensitive topic to me, but, at the same time, I feel that I have to convey this message because I am sure that I am not the only one who went through this and certainly not the last. So, I hope it will be a journey where many of my kind can relate to. It is the journey I had to go through to love the Hijab.
As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in a Muslim family. Since we were children, my siblings and I were exposed to the basic teachings of Islam. I remember that when I was 9 years old my mother started tying my head in a scarf wherever we went. But, she never told me why at that time, being a kid, I guess I didn’t even bother to ask since we did everything our parents asked us to do and we never questioned them. So, I wore the hijab without protesting. However, when I was 11, I started disliking the idea of wearing hijab especially in school because I used to feel like an outcast as I was the only girl in class wearing a head scarf and long pants under my uniform (since the uniform was knee-length) and I didn’t like it. I really thought that I looked ugly so, I started rebelling against it.
I knew that if I told my parents that I didn’t want to wear it they would never ever approve. So, I didn’t even bother telling them – I took my own initiative. I turned my head scarf into a ‘shoulder wrap’. I used to wear it on my shoulders in school but wear it on my head when I was about to reach home. However, when I was 13, I completely abandoned the head scarf, not even wearing it on my shoulders. I even went too far and I stopped wearing my pants under my school uniform. I was a new version of myself – the ‘cooler’ version as I thought. I remember that my dad scolded me several times and even threatened me, but I didn’t care. I never paid attention to him.
The years passed by and I went on without hijab. I did not only abandon the head scarf, I also dressed very inappropriately. My parents were disappointed in me. Even my Islamic teacher was so disappointed in me to such an extent that she had scolded me several times for abandoning the hijab. I didn’t understand why they made such a big deal out of it, and I think the reason was simply because I was never told why it was so important to cover up. I never even tried to find out why, since all my Muslim friends were on the same page as I was. I was simply told that I had to wear it because I am a Muslim, and I couldn’t digest that!
However, there is a turning point in every journey, and my journey took a turn when I was 16. It was one of those days when we were asked to come in wearing whatever we wanted. As usual, I wore what I wanted without my head scarf. Coincidentally, it also happened to be the Inter-School Qur’an Competition, and all students were asked to attend. During the competition, the boy who won the first place was reciting. His recitation was so beautiful, that I almost cried. I felt emptiness inside of me and I was so sick by the way I looked – I had the audacity to attend such an auspicious event and I wasn’t even covered up. I was disgusted with myself. That was when I vowed that I will try to wear the head scarf. I started wearing it 4 months from that day. But, my journey had just begun – I still didn’t know why it was so important – and I still didn’t find out why.
However, I finally did my research when I was 19. I finally found out why Muslim women should wear the hijab. I was taken aback and impressed. I suddenly felt proud to be a Muslimah and it was a relief to know that Allah The Almighty has honored women to such an extent. So, I adorned the perfect hijab completely when I was 19 and since then I feel proud to go around in it. I must say, it was not an easy journey but what was important was that I got the answer to my question and knowing the answer makes it much easier. I love the hijab as it has changed my life. Over the years of abandoning the hijab, I used to feel empty because I knew that I wasn’t doing something right by choice. I don’t get the looks I used to get from males before and I am respected wherever I go. Moreover, I feel amazing when I get recognized as a Muslimah – that feeling is priceless. Loving the hijab has changed my life. Alhamdulillah!
Before I wrap up my story I would like to point out a very important fact if you hadn’t noticed it. The main reason why I lost my way was because I was made to wear the hijab without being told why and I think that is a problem faced by many people who were born Muslims. Being born in Islamic families, some of our parents expect us to do everything and anything prescribed by our deen simply because we are already Muslims and people around us are doing it. Although we should do things because we are Muslims, I strongly believe that it is an approach that should be changed because we need to be told why so that stories like mine can be prevented. Isn’t it the right of a patient to know the benefits of a medicine as well as its side-effects? Similarly, it is our right to know why Allah has commanded us to do something; otherwise there would be no meaning to what we do.
Dear sisters, hijab is not a sunnah. It is an obligation upon us, just as performing salah is an obligation. It is a commandment from our Lord. Know that Allah doesn’t command us to do anything that’s not good for us. He knows what’s best for us. We as Muslim women, should wear the hijab to obey and please our Creator. At the same time, hijab serves as a source of protection, preserves our beauty and enables us to be judged for our worth and not for our appearance. So, we need to take pride in this honor the Almighty has bestowed upon us.
By Khadija Mansaray.