I started wearing hijab as a very small kid, following the example of my mother. She never forced me; I wanted to because I wanted to be like her.
Once when I was a small kid by myself on the playground, a woman was talking to me and encouraging to take off my scarf and let the sun touch my hair and be comfortable and free. She kept pushing and I felt this rebellious, superior feeling towards her. I recognized her as dangerous, a type of human devil, and I felt proud of the way I kept stubbornly refusing her. I’ve never forgotten her or the things she said or the way I felt about the situation. Maybe it’d be nice to let the sun touch and the wind play in my hair, but this was a matter of ideals, not of feeling nice.
Later, as I grew older and I began to feel the pressure of society, I started to resent the lack of freedom offered to me by the hijab.It wasn’t that I wanted to be the same as everyone else, because I’ve always had a sense of being different and happy with my difference.
It was that I wanted to do crazy things, and the hijab made people see me as a certain type of person – a person who didn’t do crazy things, a person who was quiet and modest and shy, a person who was different in all the ways I didn’t want to be different. I resented the way that the hijab inadvertently made me feel as if I had to fit a certain mold prescribed by the ignorance of society. Even then, the crazy things I wanted to do would not be right to do because I was a representation of Islam. The fact that I wore hijab made me a representative whether or not I wanted to be.
At this time I did not identify religiously with the hijab, in fact, I had been drifting away from religion for a long time because I had philosophical questions about the faith that nobody around me was able to answer to my satisfaction. However, I continued wearing hijab and aside from a few random thoughts, I never seriously entertained the idea of wanting to remove it. It was as if it was another article of clothing, and without it, I would feel naked in front of society. I actually went through a phase where I wore the headscarf constantly, even in the house, except when showering and sleeping. However, my personal hijab – the modesty of my other clothes – suffered. I would wear tight pants and shirts and not really be overly concerned. Sometimes I would wear makeup, but only because my father said he thought I looked unhealthy and when I wore makeup he didn’t make those comments. Of course, my level of modesty was higher than the norm. I wouldn’t wear tank tops or anything.
By the grace and mercy of Allah, when I was an adult, I went through a spiritual time and spent time reading the Qur’an and learning my religion for myself in a way that answered all my questions. Then I slowly began to correct my hijab, but nobody else’s comments ever helped me on this, even when they were critical. A person has their own journey and the only One who can truly guide them is God.
The most important thing about hijab is that it is a religious imperative. However, another important factor is the reactions of others. When I am in proper hijab, men don’t see me as a “possibility.” People watch their language around me. They recognize me as religious… and they also recognize me as different. Many people assume I’m stupider than I am in academia because the fad these days is to consider it intelligent to be an atheist. People think I’m oppressed, and some people think I hate them for being American or for being Jewish or Christian. I can’t disprove all their theories every day, but I try to act when I can in a way that will represent true Islam, because even when you’re tired or upset, when you wear the hijab you are a representative of Islam and it is a struggle for the sake of Allah.