Muslim Girl: My Inner Struggle for Hijab

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starry-waterImage Credit: Celeste

As far back as I can remember, I always knew I had to wear the hijab and that one day, I eventually would.

But every time I thought about it, something would always hold me back from fulfilling this requirement that came with my religion. A queasy sort of feeling that started in my throat and made its way down to my stomach. My unease at the prospect of wearing the hijab would also always be accompanied by a single thought – it was the “but what will everyone think?” feeling.

I was a teenager caught up in all the revelry of high school life: friends, gossip, boys, drama, and the occasional party. If I was not even praying five times properly, let alone dressing as a Muslim woman should, hijab was bound to be the last thing on my mind.

When I had been younger, it had started off with, “Okay, I’ll wear it when I start middle school.” Middle school fast approached and went, and then it turned to “Okay, so now I’ll wear it in high school.” Yet here I was, smack dab in the middle of my high school years and as far away as I could be from taking such a big step forwards.

In fact, at that time it actually seemed like a step backwards! Why in the world would I throw away all the fun I was having for wearing something that would be (and I quote the Mean Girls movie) “social suicide”?

It was finally in the beginning of my junior year in high school that things began to slowly change. When I look back onto that part of my life now, it seems so surreal. It was just one big coincidence after another big coincidence that led me to transition into the person I am today.

Alhumdulillah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala had bigger plans for me than what I had for myself. I can still remember the day that the “reality-check” first came. I was feeling emotional and angry for some reason, and while talking to a friend online, I found out that one of their friend’s sister had died. She was fifteen years old; a year younger than myself at the time, and apparently, her heart had just stopped. The doctors could not understand why such a young and healthy person’s heart could stop beating so abruptly, but as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in the Quran:

“Wherever you are, death will find you out, even if ye are in towers built up strong and high!” (Al Quran, 4:78).

It was at that very moment, for some reason, that I started to cry. “What was I doing with my life?” I thought. “Why was I wasting my time?” I could have been that girl. It could have been my heart that stopped beating, and just like that, I would have failed in the test that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has given to every human that walks the earth. I would have failed miserably, and I would have never gotten another chance. That night, for the first time in a long time, I prayed Isha salah before going to bed.

Remarkably, I continued to pray the next day and the day after. Within weeks, I became a person of two characters. At school, I was still the fun-loving party girl who had to maintain her mantra in front of friends. But as soon as the school day came to an end, I forsake hanging out late and began coming home quicker in order to make it in time for Duhr prayers. I began to read the Qur’an and learn various du’aas. I even started testing the hijab out when going out with family.

It was not too long before the other side of me began changing as well. I felt guilty about my outfits – they were always too tight, too revealing. I felt guilty about my over-friendliness with the opposite gender – it was wrong on so many levels. And most of all, I began to despise hanging out with my supposed “friends,” whose only pastime consisted of making fun of other girls and indulging in gossip. It had only been a couple months, yet I had already changed into a person so vastly different from who I had been before.

On the last night of my two-week winter vacation, just three months after the reality-check, I sat down and opened an Islamic book on the hijab. I began to read all the Qur’anic ayahs and hadiths it used as attestation that the hijab was a fundamental aspect of Islam, and that it was mandatory upon Muslim women to wear. I was so scared. No one knew I was contemplating such an important decision – not even my parents. I did not know how my friends at school would react. “What would they say? Would they still talk to me? What if I chickened out half-way? Could I still take it off if I put it on?”

And then – like an epiphany – it hit me. Why did I care so much about what my friends thought? Shouldn’t I be caring about what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala thinks of me? I would ultimately be placed before Him for judgment, so I should strive to please Him more than anything or anyone else in the world. That night I went to sleep with the thought that, insha’Allah, tomorrow would be my first day wearing a hijab.

The next morning as I pulled on the door handle to enter my school building, I took a deep breath, trying to suppress that queasy feeling and remind myself that it would be okay, that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala was on my side. At first the stares weren’t noticeable, but as I walked into the third floor area where my friends usually hung out, I could see curious pairs of eyes look at me and glance away quickly.

People thought I was a new student.

They couldn’t connect that this girl who dressed like what to them was a nun, was actually one of the most well-known girls in school. Every class I went to, I had countless questions thrown at me, but I was eager to answer them. I wanted them to know why I was wearing the hijab. Even my teachers had to do double-takes; they did not recognize me as the same student until I went and sat down in my usual seat.

Needless to say, I felt relieved when coming home that afternoon. I had done it – I had finally worn the hijab and overcome my fears. I had defeated Shaytaan and all his whisperings that had held me back from accomplishing this deed for so many years.

It was the first time in my life where I truly felt happy on the inside.

Sure, I had been having fun before, but the pleasure that had come from those events had been empty: a mere illusion intent on deceiving me for the temporary rewards of this world. I had spent my whole life up till then chasing my desires and becoming blind to what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala asks of us, what Islam requires from us.

Yet I soon realized that my real reward would be in the end, insha’Allah, when my struggle in course of wearing the hijab and becoming a better Muslim would be recognized by Al-Wadud, The Loving One, and that there would be no greater happiness than in achieving that.

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Muslim Girl is a Management undergraduate at the University of Toronto. She enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends, and has recently joined the IGIC team as a writer. She also keeps her own personal blog, which can be visited at http://diaryofamuslimgirl.com.