Exactly What Happened and More


Guest writer Safiyyah Surtee describes what happened when she decided to practice hijab. As with anything we do for the sake of Allah, the results are not only what we expect, but so much more.

Image courtesy of Deltasly

A lot has been said about hijab, but rarely are the women actually involved in practicing hijab heard. This in an injustice to the scores of Muslim women out there in the real world who are working hard, making a difference in all fields. I am one of those women: a student, writer, activist and Muhajiba. Here is my story.

While I cannot pretend to know everything about hijab, I write this based on my experience, of practicing hijab for over seven years. And I say practicing instead of wearing, because I believe hijab is not something you just wear, it is a code of living, a sub-category of Islam, another protocol of life.

Day in day and day out for twelve years, I wore hijab to my Muslim school, only to throw it off when I got into the car going home. I used to wear hijab for the entire month of Ramadan, only to show off my coiffure to the world on Eid day. I would religiously wear hijab on Fridays, it being the day of Jumuah, but not hesitate to don the latest fashion in hip hugging jeans, skimpy t-shirts and the like on a Saturday night out.

The inconsistency and hypocrisy of it all rang too loudly in my ears. So one day, all those years ago, I took the giant leap, and put on the hijab — for keeps this time, insha’Allah.

I remember those first few months, struggling to keep going, being embarrassed in front of family and friends, questioning my decision. I wondered, then, if maybe I was too young for this, if I would ever find a husband and if I could still achieve my dream of being a great writer and traveler.

However, I also remember the respect and awe shown to me, the feelings of confidence at having taken a giant leap, the power of choice, the alteration in the people I kept company with, the questions from strangers, and the opportunity to represent my religion.

Islamophobia does exist, and sometimes people do react strangely to me being covered. But I like that I am different, that I belong to a world people are so intrigued by. I like that it gives me the opportunity to explain myself, who I am and what I believe in, over and over again. This is my struggle, my little bit that I will give to Islam.

I donned the hijab with the hope that the outer expression of my faith would lead to inner reform of my soul, and this is exactly what happened and more, alhamdulillah! Through hijab:

… I met like-minded sisters, with whom I can share thoughts on everything from fashion to spirituality, with ease and without fear of being judged in any way.

… It brought to my doorstep a man who loves and respects me all the more and is ever-grateful for my hijab, even though he knows I don’t do it for him (he is the obvious benefactor as one of the few beholders of my femininity).

… It is a safety net against all those insecurities, faced by women globally, about appearance, beauty and image. Hijab brings a sense of tranquility to the body, and sharpness to the mind. It a bold statement, that screams, “I will not conform to anyone’s standards but God’s, for who is man to measure me?”

Crucial to the success of hijab, really, is strong sense of self-confidence. Practicing hijab is laying my cards out openly. I am telling the world who I am and what I stand for. I practice hijab so that my appeal as a woman is shared only with those closest and therefore most trusted to me, especially with my dear husband. This promotes a flourishing marriage, leading in turn to a healthy family structure and eventually, a thriving, moral society.

But most of all, I practice hijab for my Lord, Al Mu’iz, the Giver of Honour. It is a symbol of my obedience to Him, He who created me, and Who asked me in kind and generous terms, to don modesty, so that I would be marked as a believing women, and would not be troubled. The One who fashioned me, gave life to me, nurtures me, loves me, is there for me at all times. He forgives me when I err, runs toward me when I step toward Him, nurses my wounds and is closer to me than my jugular vein.

So when He asks me to do something for my own benefit, how can I but happily comply?

I can write thousands of words about the logic and rationale of it all which are true and motivating reasons, but at its core, hijab is submission to the will of a Lord Most High, a submission which humbles yet raises me to lofty heights.

However, one thing Muslims should realize is that hijab does not equal perfection. Just because someone wears hijab does not mean they are the ideal muslimah. We all struggle with our nafs (ego), with temptations, challenges and bad moods. We all make a slip here and there.

We Muhajibas should also not be lulled into the mindset that putting on the hijab is all that is expected of us from Allah. It is but a stepping stone to more important and pressing issues, as it forces us to look beyond the world of materialism, into the reality of poverty and oppression, because hijab sets one apart from the former world and turns the attention to other marginalized people in the latter.

Hijab was, in fact, only the beginning for me. From there, I was lead to so many meaningful encounters and became involved in worthy causes, from social and political activism, to humanitarian work. There are not limits as to what a woman can achieve. I would go as far as to say, that practicing hijab forces me to be out there in the world, striving to make a difference.

I walk out of my home everyday, proud to wear my faith on my person.


Safiyyah Surtee is an aspiring journalist, currently completing a B.A in Arabic and Islamic Studies. She is an avid traveller with a passion for learning about people and cultures. She is passionate about philosophy, languages and women’s rights. She currently works for Islam Online and Muslimah Media Watch. Safiyyah is married, manages her own blogs (http://safiyyahsblog.blogspot.com and http://southafricanmuslimah.wordpress.com) and has a keen interest in social issues. She hopes to contribute positively to the world through her writings.