No Ordinary Plain Jane


It’s a fear some of us have, that we’re not good enough Muslimahs to start wearing the hijab. Is that fear founded?

Memories have a funny way of transporting us through time. Some memories are more potent in their recollection and others fade as the days and weeks roll by. Memories linger in the air of places we’ve been and just the voice of someone may trigger a flashflood of emotions. When I want to recall a memory, I usually close my eyes to help my mind grasp every color and inkling of the moment – and it is a particular memory that I want to tell you about today. Even in this moment, I close my eyes and I can hear her infectious laughter, the way her eyes sparkled when she learned something new about Islam, and the tears in her eyes each time she would rise from sujood.

Different than a motionless picture, my memory of her is vivid, and I still remember the day we met. Her cheeks blushed as she extended her arm to shake my hand.  “Assalamu alaikum,” she’d said in what was almost a whisper. “Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,” I returned as a smile stretched across my face. She told me she had only been a Muslimah for ten months and I reached to hug her. She hugged me tight and motioned for us to sit. We spoke for what seemed like hours, but I didn’t want it to end. We exchanged life stories, things we’d recently learned about Islam, and even our favorite ice cream flavors.  One topic that she desperately wanted to discuss was the subject of hijab. She confided that she hadn’t had the courage to wear it and that she needed more time.

All of our conversations thereafter would turn to hijab. She wanted to know what it felt like and how I had come to wear it. She wanted to know if my relationships with people were different and if I ever regretted my choice to wear it. I always did my best to give her the same heartfelt answer. I loved it and my Lord had given me the strength. I would tell her to pray to Allah to help her unleash the strength that was within. She always blushed when I said that, as if her cheeks were signaling words she couldn’t express.

It was on one occasion that I remember her sitting across the table from me with a stern gaze. She traced her fingers along the rim of her mug as she spoke, “I’m just a plain Jane, you know? I don’t think I’m Muslim enough to wear hijab”. Muslim enough, I thought. “I don’t get what you mean,” I glanced at her as I tilted my head, puzzled. “I mean, I’m not worthy enough and that I’m not practicing enough…” she replied. I paused to formulate a precise response but all I could say was, “You’re no ordinary plain Jane.” She smiled her signature smile of humility and shook her head, so I continued, “You’re a Muslimah, and that already makes you extraordinary! There isn’t an underground secret society for sisters who wear hijab and there isn’t a special initiation. Hijab is your fulfillment of Allah’s command. Your Lord wants nothing less than the best for you. He wants to see you meet Him on that final day having obeyed His commands. He wants Jannah for you, so why, then, do you not want Him to grant you it? An extraordinary reward for a not so ordinary plain Jane.” Her eyes shifted from mine back to her mug as she firmly whispered, “You’re right.”

It would be three weeks till I saw her again, and in between that time, we exchanged almost daily emails and our conversations were the same playful and spiritually geared messages. It was on a cloudy summer day that I received an email from her stating that she wanted us to meet and I happily agreed. We set a time and place, and I eagerly waited to see her again. When the day arrived, I laced up my shoes, put on my favorite hijab, and took the two buses to where we were meeting at. I entered and glanced left and right for her familiar face, only to find a white hijab wrapped around her head. My mind shuffled between words to say but all I could come up with was, “Why didn’t you tell me?” as I walked towards her. “I wanted to surprise you!” she said as she stood up to hug me. As we sat, she smiled a smile I’ll never forget, a smile of pure happiness, a smile of a heart at ease. A smile of an extraordinary, not so ordinary plain Jane.