The people began to walk in large circles around her people whispered, some stared, and I watched on in curiosity. I urged my mom to specific places to get closer just to see better who this woman was. She wore a long blue dress like a night gown with sleeves and a white scarf wrapped around her head like it was winter and not 114 degrees outside. I was 15 and a much more religious child than most others. I was beginning to feel the frustration of having my questions diverted by preachers as beyond our knowledge and being told not to question that which is beyond the human capacity like the first sin. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I had began reading about other religions, but Islam was far from my knowledge. As I watched this mother do her grocery shopping, I became curious. A few weeks went by and this woman showed up everywhere, or perhaps I tried to be near her. I found we had once lived near each other, her daughter went to my school and worked at the snow cone stand. After a while I would see the woman there at the little red snow cone stand and I would go and stand inline right behind her. Something! Something grew. Later I became sick and couldn’t go to school for a while. I played on a little chat game and a kid began to tell me about Islam while another tried to warn me away, telling me christians have no need for such lies. But what he said was true. For the entire week I studied. I continued until one day I texted my mom, out of fear to tell her in person, that I wanted to convert to Islam. That night I nearly lost my home. I was slapped for the first time ever by my mom and was hit with a bible. She took all my scarves and my computer. Twice she caught me until she promised to kick me out if I didn’t stop. I hid for five years. I studied the bible thinking maybe my mom was right and I was only a young woman looking for an adventure, but I grew more and more frustrated. Too many questions grew from these five years, and the only time I felt joy was when I snuck onto an islamic website at school and read a small piece of the Quran. In my junior year, I signed up for the military, and four days after graduation I left for basic training. Still fearful my mom would retaliate, I avoided going to the mosque that was offered to us. Later though when I went to tech school in California, I met a Muslim girl. That’s when I knew for sure I was a Muslim. Another girl randomly had an English Quran and gave it to me. Also my job studied about religion some. I struggled for a little while with fear of losing all my family.
Then I met my husband. I was on class break and walking through the town. I decided to grab a bite to eat at the crepe place, but you see I had decided to out on the hijab to try it. My friend, and non-muslim who was supporting me, joined me in my adventure. I had worn it a few times before and loved it. That day I walked in and he saw me and asked if I spoke Arabic; unfortunately I did not. The very next day I got dressed up a little fixed my hair as my mom would have told me and went back. He didn’t recognize me but we spoke for hours about Islam and life. I finally told him who I was and he was shocked. When he told me I looked more respectable in the hijab but still beautiful I felt so surprised. Then he took me to meet his family. It was the strongest feeling. I sat and watched as people cared for one another and ME! They weren’t what others had said they would be. I loved them. Just before that Ramadan I converted, and Issam, my husband, and I got married. I recently told my mom about my religion and my feelings. Now I am still in the military. In civilian clothes I wear hijab, but in uniform I can’t. I am now petitioning my commander for the right to wear the hijab at all times. I will never forget that woman in my home town. She showed me Islam through her hijab. She taught me and still doesn’t know. Inshaallah paradise will be rich for her. What Muslim women who wear or don’t wear hijab may not realize is that you are giving knowledge. Every smile people see of a woman in hijab, every happy Muslim they see could be what introduces them to Islam. It was for me. I love the hijab. It is purity and dua all in one. Imagine that you were that woman and you learned that simply by practicing your religion you saved me. Or imagine me desperately grateful to her and Allah for this. I am sad in uniform because every person that sees me could be a missed dua. Not only to help me but for those teetering.
I will fight to wear the hijab while I defend the United States. Allah help me and bless all those you sent to guide me. And thank you to all women who wear hijab. You could be the start of something more for others. So smile, pray, and share.