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It is done.

October 11, 2015
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I knew the beliefs as to why I had to wear the hijab were limiting.

There was not anything wrong in my wearing the hijab, in itself. I wouldn’t take back a second I spent wearing it.

But why I believed I wore the hijab…that had been getting murkier and murkier. I had these moments before and I braved through them. I triumphantly continued to compare my hijab to a marriage, a marriage that just grew stronger with each phase of self-doubt.

It was worth the fight, it was worth hanging on for as long as I did, it was worth taking seriously. But the time came to change. It is almost as if the events of the past few months–only one of which was getting married–somehow shook my brain and set it down so it completely reassembled itself and started to operate differently.

Scarf in the wind

Image credit: RPatts

I feel relieved now, not because the hijab itself was a burden. It is because it no longer made sense to me to be a sort of paradox, to go to a yoga retreat or dance class while being a hijabi. Five years ago, I thought there was nothing more splendid than a hijabi girl who plays the saxophone. After trying to live that ideal, I now understand, fundamentally, that that it is not for me. It is not only the issue of explaining the paradox to others: it was having to live it, to reconcile things that (I feel) can never be reconciled, given my understanding and experience of religion.

There are things I still love about the hijab: being recognized, exchanging salaams, embodying and always depicting the importance of prayers, of fasting, of dhikr, even when I wasn’t doing those things. I loved being asked about Islam. I loved that I always depicted the things I always thought about, that I wore on my sleeve my specific interpretation of that fact that the world is truly only transitory.

A part of me will never really know if I did the right thing. But on that first day I stepped out without it I remember thinking that this is fate, and this was always meant to be, and the time had come to let it be.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Ahlem permalink
    October 12, 2015 5:22 am

    I can relate to the feeling of embodying -or seeming to embody- a paradox (in my case ‘the viola playing hijabi’), and I stopped wearing the hijab some two years ago for similar and other reasons. What components did you yourself think were irreconcilable though?

    • October 14, 2015 2:51 pm

      Thanks for your comment. It’s interesting to hear that you had a similar experience. I’ll shed further light on mine. I hope it answers your question as you posed it.

      When being in such circles (being musical, going to a yoga retreat, etc.) as a hijabi, I ended up inadvertently forming my own “brand,” my own visual identity. I think my nafs liked my standing out this way, and that component was troubling me for some time. At first, I didn’t remove the hijab right away since I thought: “Nafs being satiated or not, this doesn’t invalidate my other reasons for wearing it. Why throw out the baby with the bathwater?”

      Over time, though, I came to realize that this analogy didn’t apply. I was trying to reconcile things that aren’t accepted by the mainstream Muslim communities: music, other forms of spiritual inquiry, etc., with retaining the visible identifier of my hijab. I didn’t want to stop pursuing those things because I was already invested in them. They gave me purpose, confidence, joy. But I needed to be humbled by becoming just another brown woman who is doing these things. Not a special brown woman in a hijab, just a brown woman. In my case, it would be a more spiritually informed a choice to blend in with other people, to not be so aware of standing out all the time.

      Can you relate? I’d be very interested to hear how it was for you.

      • Ahlem permalink
        October 23, 2015 5:36 pm

        I apologize for my late response, I’ve been busy and would every time remember your comment too late (like when I was already in bed ). Well, I can relate to wanting to blend in, but the reason for wanting to do so was quite the opposite of yours: it made me feel even more self-conscious than I already am. It didn’t make me feel special, it made me uneasy. I was okay with making visible what I believed in despite the inconveniences when it felt important to me, but once that belief withered, or rather, transformed into less ‘mainstream Islam’, the inconveniences became too much to bear. The inconveniences here being both outside pressure (from Muslims and non-Muslim), and practical issues (clothing).

        It bothered me that people assumed so much on the basis of my hijab, or that I assumed people assumed much on the basis of it. Which for a long time I thought I shouldn’t view as my problem, prejudices people harbor are for a great part their own responsibility. I also thought that if more and more hijabed girls ventured into less mainstream Muslim endeavors, it would make it less of a paradox and easier for the next generation of adventurous girls. But that’s a big battle to fight, and not the one I felt motivated enough to fight, since the hijab as such had lost much of its meaning for me. This doesn’t mean I don’t support/feel proud of girls and women who do find it meaningful.

  2. roger poon permalink
    October 12, 2015 7:47 pm

    Good article .. there are many lessons to be learnt.. I sometimes wonder if anything is straightforward in life.. Many thanks..

  3. Anees permalink
    October 13, 2015 1:07 am

    Thank you for sharing. Though I don’t know the reasoning, I’m seeing several ladies I’ve known online making this change. I won’t pretend to imagine what it must be like or if I can relate in any way to be honest. I wish you happiness as far as your spiritual journey is concerned.

    Also, belated congrats on the marriage. Been off Facebook for awhile so missing out on happy events such as your union. Off screen, but not forgotten hehe. Wishing the best always.

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