May We Never Forget

21

When I first heard about the I Got It Covered project, I didn’t think I would have much of a hijaab story to share. Even though I grew up in the west, my struggle beginning to wear the hijaab was minimal to nonexistent. The struggle began, ironically, when I moved to an Islamic country, several years after that initial decision. And who on earth, I thought, could relate to my strange story? But here it is…

memoryI was born and raised in Texas. My family lived in a small, but tight-knit, Muslim community. Before I hit my teen years, I had a half dozen Muslim families I called neighbors. Naturally, with such a secure environment, my friends and I had no hesitation in donning the hijaab. It was simply a part of Islam, and therefore a part of us. As a matter of fact, our mothers occasionally told us not to wear it. “You’re only six!” they would cry. “It is not fardh [obligatory] on you yet!” So much was my love for hijaab then.

That all changed when I moved to Pakistan for several years. The move was a major culture shock for me. Instead of being greeted by the Islamic environment I had expected, my cousins and relatives all questioned why I covered. At twelve years old, they thought me too young to wear hijaab. And I, being the stubborn child I was, fought them…for a time. What about all of the adults, then, who so loosely threw chadars over their heads? How dare they criticize me when they themselves didn’t observe it well! If it was loved by Allah, why should I not wear it?

Those questions were easily forgotten over the course of the summer, when I had pressure from all sides of the family. Eighth grade was certainly the tipping point. In a class so large it had to be split into six or seven sections, I don’t recall one hijaabi. My head was filled with the insistent statement from my family over the summer: hijaab is not obligatory on you. And I succumbed.

And then, in ninth grade, I met two sisters that would change my decision forever. There was never much direct conversation between us over the few years I attended that school; most of what I learned from them was at a distance. From the moment I first saw them, I knew they were special. Two shy sisters, who sat in the back of the class together, kept to themselves for the most part, and were quiet and reserved.

Two hijaabis.

I watched them over the next few months at school. They didn’t talk to me much. Come to think of it – they never talked to anyone much. But they said so much to me. SubhaanAllah. I remember thinking so many times, when watching them, “They’re so beautiful, mashaaAllah! How are they not affected by the other twenty-odd girls who don’t wear hijaab? How are they not affected by their indifference? Or the cruel comments? How is it that they seem to resonate so much hayaa`?”

There was never a doubt in my mind that the right thing to do was wear hijaab. Never once. Then why had I left it? Because of pressure from my family? These two girls could do it – then why could I not? I, who proudly wore hijaab in a non-Muslim country. I, who always glanced away dismissively at the incredulous stares. I, who was stubborn and strong-willed. I, who always stuck to what I believed in.

So why had I ever, for a moment, abandoned it? And now, upon reflection, I know: I had a support system in the US. When I moved to Pakistan, I lost that system.

It was time for a renewal of my iman, and a time to reflect. I was reunited with my love that year: hijaab.
She was so dearly missed.

That year, at least six other girls in our class began wearing hijaab. In a few months’ time, almost half of our class was wearing hijaab – that was more people wearing hijab in one class than the entire school put together. And it all began a few weeks after I started. I will not flatter myself into thinking this change arose because of me.

I will always remember those two girls for bringing me back to the command of my Lord and reuniting me with what I loved. They made me remember why I put the hijaab on. They gave me the strength to stand up to all of my relatives who continued to badger me to remove it, long after I had hit adulthood. And that strength carried over when I returned to America. It remained when I returned to college without my tight group of friends. It stayed with me when I chose to wear my abaya. And it stayed with me in every decision that set me apart from the crowd.

I will never forget why I wear hijaab. Because of those two sisters, I will always remember. I will never forget. May we, the Muslimahs of the world, never forget.