It is Who I Am

6

Our first guest submission ever! This story comes from Heba Alshareef, who we’re honored to have writing for us, and to be able to showcase her writing on our blog. And, so, without further ado…

nightmareThe nightmares were so real.  In them, I am walking around in broad daylight amongst the general public, when suddenly I realize something is wrong.  I run around, hiding behind big structures, thinking everyone is going to see me.  I make it to a deserted alleyway, and then run through the woods cautiously. I take cover behind the trees, my eyes darting about madly, trying to make sure there is no human life in the vicinity, only moving when I feel it is safe.  Finally, I reach the precipice of the field and know it’s a few blocks until I can feel safe because the area is open, and there is nothing to hide behind.  I’ll have to run as fast as I can and pray that no one sees me.  So, I put my hands over my head, trying desperately to cover my exposed hair, close my eyes, and race blindly through the streets to the house I know so well.  And then I wake up, feeling exposed, never knowing who may or may not have seen me without my hijab.

My dad, in trying to explain the meaning behind the nightmares, urged me to increase my worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Maybe the message was that I wasn’t being as good of a Muslim girl as I could be.  And I listened, because when it comes to my hijab story, my father always takes centre stage.

He’d been trying to convince me that I should wear it since I was nine years old.  He wasn’t pressuring, mind you… okay, well, maybe just a little.  But my mom always sought to convince him that I had to come to it on my own, that in order that the hijab be a permanent fixture inherit to my identity, I had to be the one to embrace it as such.

I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba at a time when Muslims were about as rare as not having snow in October — or April for that matter. The kids I went to school with were all, well, white as snow. I already stuck out, and if I were to don the hijab, then I knew I’d officially take the title of “the outcast”.  I was proud of my faith, yes, I loved it with all my heart – but was I ready to accept the challenges that wearing the hijab would mean?

The answer came in the form of the new boy in my seventh grade class.  He was Sikh, and I was no longer the darkest person in school.  He also wore a turban.  So, one day as my father is dropping me off, he sees said Sikh boy.

“Look at him, Heba, all proud of his faith.  But you worship Allah, and you aren’t proud of yours.”

I’ve been wearing the hijab ever since, and I can honestly say that I consider the hijab a mark of identity. It is who I am. I worship Allah and so I am proud.  Of course, from that day on there have been experiences that cement this reality (yes, I have a few stories to tell).

It is through those experiences that the role of the hijab in my life has become so much more than a piece of material I use to cover my head.  It is through those experiences that the nightmares that plagued me, where I was without my hijab, found shape.  You see, those nightmares happened after I started wearing hijab.

I needed to have them, not because I needed to increase my worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (although that’s always a good thing), but because I needed to embrace the hijab as my identity.  It is who I am.  And I don’t have those nightmares anymore.

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Heba Alshareef is the author of “Release Your Inner Queen of Sheba!” She lives with her family near Toronto, Canada.  To read more of her writing, please visit her online at www.iamsheba.com.

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