Written by Khushboo Jamal
All dressed up, my friends and I cheerily chatted up as we waited at the crosswalk on our way to our middle school award ceremony. Just then, a group of guys in their late teens drove by screaming degrading remarks, “Towel heads!” My friends wore hijab while I didn’t at the time, yet they brushed it off. I was eleven years old and that stuck with me till this day.
At age 13, my high school girls’ basketball coach said I wouldn’t be able to join the team if I didn’t wear my hijab like a durag. It was a safety issue apparently. I walked away.
At age 18, I majored in computer science, a male dominant field at the time and was told as long as I wear hijab, no one would ever hire me. At this point, I persisted anyway.
With incidents like this on repeat, it would’ve been easy to resent the hijab especially with the incredible misrepresentation of us in the media and entertainment world. For years, society tried to persuade me into thinking my hijab was a hindrance when in reality it was society itself not wholly accepting me as I am. That is the true underlying problem.
Hijab is a constant reminder of who I am – a humble servant of God, not of man. Reflecting on the reason I started wearing hijab, it was for the very same reason we pray salah, fast, make dhikr, and so on – for the sake of obeying and connecting with Allah swt only, the Lord of the Worlds so why then would I give this up? Some say it’s such a burden to be a walking representation of the entire faith, being subject to judgement and scrutiny. We can flip that thinking around and realize that we may be the only exposure many people out there ever have to Islam and take it as an opportunity to better who we are, being God-conscious and therefore full of love, kindness, respect, empathy, generosity, intelligence and so on.
As the hadith goes, I trusted in God and tied my camel or in other words, I trusted that Allah is in control of all affairs so what is meant for me will come my way as long as I put in the effort. I graduated college with an incredible career in Information Technology in my hands and hijab on my head. If I had learned to be myself unapologetically earlier, who knows - perhaps I would have become a basketball star.
The moral of this is that if we spend life trying to please others, we will constantly be changing ourselves, losing our identity piece by piece and yet it still won’t be enough. But, if our actions, despite any struggles that come in the way, are to please Allah swt, the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth, that is when we’ll truly find peace and success in this world and the Hereafter.
Allah says in the Quran [33:59],
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.”
So hold your head high girl, persevere in your Lord’s worship and never think of your crown as a burden for it was given to you by the Lord of the Universe, to make it known who you are – a believer.