It Didn’t Really Matter


In a journey of ups and downs, guest writer Arshia tells how she came to truly understand hijab.

I was born in a community where black jilbab along with face covering  was a continued tradition dating back to God knows when. If you walked down the street where I grew up, you were not likely to find any Muslim woman even without the face cover, let alone the abaya. To a person in the West, they might think that the community is extreme. But being a part of the community I hardly thought it is so, because jilbab was a part of the culture and tradition. Every girl would grow up seeing her mother wearing it, and as soon as she reached high school, she took it up willingly. It was the same for me. It’s just like how a person might start wearing a tie when he starts going to working. As normal as that.

Although I was born in this community, I emigrated to the Middle East when I was ten. As a kid, I didn’t wear a scarf in the beginning. I remember some Muslim teachers telling me that I am a Muslim and I should wear a head scarf. During a part of my middle school years, I started wearing one, but loosely without pinning it, and my hair would come out from the sides. I really didn’t like the idea of pinning it. I would try it on in front of the mirror, and would think that I don’t look pretty. Then one day during the school assembly, a teacher came to check uniforms and said I should pin my scarf. I was a kid who could never take negative comments, and wanted to be in everyone’s good books, so I started pinning it. But after a few days, there was no pin again. There was even a time when I dropped the scarf off completely and then put it back on.

In eighth grade, I started wearing a abaya with a face cover, although my mom wanted me to wait a few years before covering my face. I was insistent on wearing it. Why? Well, because an aunt had whispered into my ears once when outing together that I should wear a face cover! Again, I was eager to please everyone.

We had separate wings in the school for girls and boys, so I used to wear my abaya in the morning and remove it after reaching my class, and then put it on again when coming back home. But there were still males present, so I used to have my scarf on, again with no pin. Time went on. There were times when I did stage performances, like dance and drama, without a scarf or dupatta (chest cover). I signed up for these things initially, but later regretted them and used to feel so ashamed in the sight of Allah. But I was too cowardly to withdraw my name after signing up.

Then in eleventh grade, we had a lot of males teaching us. But I was careless about the scarf as usual. My hair would come out, and I would adjust and readjust by removing it in the class, in front of these male teachers. It didn’t really matter to me, although subconsciously I knew this wasn’t right. Once during a break while  talking with friends, a friend of mine who used to pin the scarf was adjusting her scarf, and suddenly I said to her “Why bother covering your hair now and fixing it when there are no men around?” She fired back asking, “Why don’t you pin it in the math class,” taught by a male teacher,  “If you think hair shouldn’t be seen infront of men?” Obviously I couldn’t deny it, and I agreed with her.

The next day, it took me a lot of courage to pin my scarf. The thought that stopped me most was embarrassment that people might think I was pinning my scarf just because the girl had pointed it the day before. I had to deny all those thoughts and pin it, just because it was the right thing to do. The day went pretty normally except for some vague remarks I don’t remember.

A few days later, the same girl came to me and said she had been to the parent-teacher meeting. And that our Maths teacher mentioned me to her, complimenting me for pinning my scarf up. Obviously, I had gained some appreciation in his eyes. I was not just another student he had anymore. He started to give me some extra attention in the class. He would look into my book and correct me while passing, which he didn’t used to do much before. He also asked me about my health when I came back from a sick leave once.

Then there came a time called “farewell” in our school, a time when all girls wear saris, do their makeup and let out their hair. Well… I regret my farewell, too. Because I coudn’t defeat the shaytan within. Despite knowing that male teachers would be at the farewell,  I let my hair out, transgressing all boundaries of hijab just for that one day. Oh how I regret it…

And it was even more upsetting when the Maths teacher passed me, and I felt insulted by my own self. In just that one day, I felt I had lost all the appreciation I had gained in the eyes of my teacher over time. Although I wore proper hijab after that, I wanted to regain the respect and appreciation I had lost. But how could I? The only way I could think of was by perhaps excelling in his subject. Although I am a careless person, I can be hardworking and determined.

And alhamdulillah, I have always felt a closeness to Allah deep within  my heart. There are times when I sin and move away from the straight path, but there are also times when I strive to please Him. I would still pray five times a day and make lot of dua. Through dua, I could feel my closeness to Allah.

Exam day came, and I finished my twelvth grade Maths paper – an exam which took three hours – in just two hours. After the exam, the teacher asked me how it had been, and I said it was very good. I think it must have been a shock for him when the results came out that I was one of the top in the subject. When I went back to school to distribute chocolates as a celebration, it was amazing to see how happy and proud he was, just because among the three students who had topped the exam, I was the only one who had no extra tutoring in Maths. He proudly introduced me to the other tutors, telling them that I had only learned the subject from him. Alhamdulillah, it was all a blessing from Allah, that I was able to regain the respect I had lost by just one silly mistake as a teenager. Allah has always  been there for me .

Even after that, though, there have been times when I have  again and again failed in my hijab. No, I have not stopped wearing the abaya or pinning my scarf. But my abayas have changed from plain and simple to ones with shining stone work or ones with big sleeves to show off my bangles. Alhamdulillah, the “I Got It Covered” website was a real eye-opener to me. Although I knew everything about hijab, and knew how important it was, but again and again I used to lack the practice of that knowledge. I can imagine now that, if by that one day of no hijab I felt I had lost all respect infront of my teacher, and I had to strive so hard to gain his respect back… how much must I have fallen in the sight of Allah? But  a’oothubillah,  that thought never occurred to me before. And I wonder how hard I should be working to please Allah and to gain respect in His eyes.

Only after IGIC did I realized that my hijab is only for the sake of Allah. I was never taught the “why’s” Of hijab. Like a raincoat a person would wear if it’s raining, hijab was just something to put on while going out. And it didn’t really matter if I loosened it up. But alhamdulillah, now I stitched buttons on my sleeves even so they won’t show off my bangles, and I prefer to wear an abaya which is more modest.

Allah guides whomever He wills. May Allah Help us all steadfast. Thanks to you IGIC.