Choosing a Different Path: Hijab and Self-Esteem

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Pre-Hijab Self Esteem

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Original image courtesy of (c) Michelle Dennis 2008

Before I wore hijab, I remember never feeling fully content. My self esteem was like the British weather: subjective to so many external factors, and never consistent. Then there was always that sense of competition with other girls (however unintentional) to stand out and look the best.

I’ll never forget my University canteen. There was a pathway that ran down the middle, and it felt like a cat walk. Even getting a quick lunch meant eyes would be on me, or whoever else was on that pathway. And it was an uncomfortable path to walk, every time.

It’s hard, you know. Looking good and keeping up to date with the latest trends is a job in itself. It’s a routine of straightening hair until there are no kinks in sight, wearing a flawless-carefully-made-up-yet-natural look on your face, and putting a new outfit on every day.

And all for what? The delusion of confidence.

How many times do we hear, “I’m doing it for myself”? That’s what I used to think. Strangely enough, it would take just one negative comment to ruin my day and cause a serious dip in my self-esteem!

We are so fragile, as women, and by exposing what Allah tells us to keep hidden, we reveal our vulnerability to the world. Allah’s protection is lost and our defenses weakened.

The world is a cruel place. Allah has placed us in a position of high respect and honour. In order to receive this, we have to abide by His laws, and wearing hijab is an essential part of our hayaa’ (modesty) and protection. Allah clearly states in the Quran:

O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their outergarments (jilbabs) close around themselves; that is better that they will be recognized and not be annoyed. And Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.

[Surat al-Ahzab: 59]

When we don’t cover up the beauty we are blessed with, we become easy targets, a prey to the ugliness of shaytan that exists within some of the men around us. And whether we like it or not, at some point: yes, we will be annoyed!

Post Hijab Self Esteem

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Recently, I had to park my car near a construction site. The workers in the area seemed to be whistling and leering at every woman they saw. But when I walked past, they hardly glanced. I felt invisible, like Allah had placed an invisibility cloak over me and shielded me from that annoying behaviour. I felt safe and confident. The hijab gave me the protection to get on with my daily affairs without any interruptions: a true blessing, indeed.

I can honestly say, wearing the hijab has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. It has given me a sense of contentment that no amount of makeup could ever give. The feeling of security and peace is overwhelming. And now I really know that the hijab I wear is for myself, and of course for Allah.

Subsequently, my self esteem is sky high. I feel like a precious, rare diamond hidden in a luxurious velvet case, free from prying eyes.

Wearing the hijab has given me a new sense of freedom, to be treated as a human being rather then an object of desire. I walk with a sense of purpose and dignity, and people are more interested in what I am saying rather than what I am wearing. The hijab has given me the confidence to be my true self.

Even more, my hijab is my badge. It allows me to be recognised by other Muslimahs, and now I understand the true beauty of sisterhood. The hijab removes any feeling of competitiveness and fills the heart with love, as there is a deeper understanding no longer based on materialistic values.

So do I miss the days of dressing up? Wearing the hijab doesn’t mean I’ve lost my interest in fashion or that I still don’t pretty up to impress the hubby! However, I am free from any sense of obligation to look a certain way. I am free from the unwanted stares of strange men,  and most of all, I am free from being judged on my appearance. My self-esteem is always in check.

Since wearing the hijab, I can feel Allah’s protection. And by adhering to Allah’s path, in return I have His protection, and He has opened doors for me in my life that I never imagined possible. What could be better then having Allah pleased with me?

Aliza Qureshi is a high school English Lit teacher and a freelance writer based in the UK. Currently she is working on a fiction novel and blogs at www.motheringpen.wordpress.com.