As a teenager growing up in Saudi Arabia, wearing a headscarf came naturally to me. Even then, when we flew back home to India, we would all get our hair cut and styled just before. I didn’t start hijab until almost a decade later.
January 2012. As a new year’s resolution. There was a bunch of stuff I wanted to work on, that year. One of them being hijab. I can’t even sort my reasons out for starting hijab. There’s too many or just one – I don’t even remember. All I know is that I wanted to. And though it sounds cliche, the fact of the matter is that it was.
After taking an exam in Houston, Texas, I decided it would be “amazing” if I went back home, in the middle east, wearing a scarf. For realsies this time ! And so I did. I boarded the plane at Houston without my scarf and landed in Bahrain with one. I did risk looking like one of those girls who only wear scarves to keep their parents happy, but the struggle I was going through in my heart was way more consuming than my fear of being judged by co passengers.
It didn’t seem like a very difficult thing to do, seeing as most women around me observed hijab. At least I didn’t feel singled out. No odd one out feelings. No OMG is everyone looking at me so far. It hit me a little when I attended a gathering of close friends and family, because that meant wearing a scarf in front of all these people who had seen you before without. I think that was the first time it sank in. Not as much, because most people were supportive and just treated it like it was one of those “goth” phases, but it helped anyway.
In all that struggle, I found out I had passed my exam and it was time for training which meant I had to go back to the other side of the Atlantic. And instead of studying for what came ahead, I took this time to learn a little more about Hijab.
With nobody to guide me as a hijabi, Mom and I went through all of the clothes I had and came to the conclusion that I needed a whole new bunch. And so we went out and did what every woman dreams of (with exceptions duh).
With all my clothes set just right and a whole new collection of scarves, I was finally ready to be a first time hijabi. There was nothing that could shake me. The world was my oyster yada yada yada. Being the unstoppable covered little penguin that I was, I waddled my way through an Arab airport, no questions asked. Even through my 14 hour long flight, things seemed magical. What were you even worried about girl ? This is God’s way. Of course things became easy the minute I put a cloth over my hair. God has blessed me Himself. This was all He was waiting for.
And then I saw a sign that would forever dictate fear in my life.
There has never been since, a time at an American airport that I did not get “randomly” selected. EVERY-DAMNED-TIME. But anywho. It all started in 2012, when I appeared as a hijabi at the immigration counter, with a Canadian passport that had a picture of me with no scarf. As you can imagine, a nervous me trying to explain to the most uninterested officer, how this was my new year’s resolution – to look exactly how ISIS wanted women to – just made things worse and I got sent to that other room you always see them pushing people into.
After a wait long enough for me to go through the regular 10 months of giving birth – 1 for trying and the other 9 self explanatory ; I was finally questioned. They let me go 2 questions in because they realized I was pretty incompetent and nobody in their right minds would trust me with a “mission”.
But I didn’t let this get to me. A tiny hurdle. A minor hiccup in this smooth transition. So I got a little cocky. Maybe this was just God’s way of reminding me to stay humble. And thus I walked onto American soil. For the first time as a Hijabi. And I hated it. I hated every bit of it. From the subtle racism, to the obvious glances to the casual whispering of people to each other while looking in my direction. Maybe it was in my head. Maybe I was just imagining it.
All of my imagination proved to be true when my cab driver asked me. “You muslim?” And that kids. Is how I met your father. LOL JK. That was when I realized this was going to be tough. I was now visibly a muslim. EVERY action of mine was under scrutiny and direct comparison with ISIS. I HAD to be careful now. A population of 1.8 billion people was already being judged by the actions of some 200,000 people in Iraq. And now through me as well. THAT is pressure.
It was only then that I learnt the ACTUAL meaning of my hijab. Then that I figured why people asked me before, if I was ready for this. All that excitement of being a new hijabi and representing islam in the world now just seemed like a HUGE responsibility. One I was not sure I wanted to take.
Over the next 4 years, I learnt how to be responsible. Responsible with the label I was carrying with me. Over my head. Responsible with how I behaved with people. Not going to lie, it did get tough, still does. Even today, I have people asking me why I cover my hair. How I respond to them usually depends on my mood, though I try and keep it positive for the most time.
The point is, if you are a hijabi , the world is watching you and judging 1.8 billion muslims based on your actions. Is that fair ? Nope. Does that happen ? Yup. So make it count. Make it worth the effort. This will help you, both today and in the hereafter.
Read what more Hijabis have to say :-
World Hijab Day & Giveaway By Madhiya Qureshi.
That Thing On Your HeadBy Aminat O OdunEwu-Seese.
World Hijab Day celebrating Muslimahs By Rashdah Hameed.
Understanding psychological implications of Hijab By Zainab Farrukh.
What Does my Hijab Mean to Me By Mona Ismaeil.
Hijab Doesn’t Make Us Different By Abidha Basheer.
My Hijab Story – Tag By Ramshaa Rose.
My Hijab Story By Humeira Ahmad.
The Freedom to Wear Hijab By Diah Dwi Arti.
My Hijab is Hot Charcoal By Sussu Leclerc.
My Hijab Story. By Maheen Nusrat.