The Biggest Change

14

This piece comes from an Anonymous sister, whose story we found on the internet along with the request to spread it far and wide (“please forward this to all the people you know, I want everyone to read my story”). We share it here (with edits for readability and flow) in the hopes that her words will touch you, too.

I am a twenty year old Muslim girl from the Arabian Gulf, “the original place of Islam.” And I want to talk to you about my life before and after hijab.

I used to believe that hijab wasn’t an important issue. That it limited my freedom. So I decided I would never wear hijab as long as I lived. Although my mother wears hijab, she never forced my sisters or I to wear it. She felt that we had to believe in hijab in order to practice it, or else we would take it off as soon as we were away from her. And that might be true in some ways.

Or maybe not having your daughters wear hijab when they are younger just makes it more difficult for them to wear it when they are older. It’s hard, when you’ve been used to something your whole life, to get up and change it all at once. It can take a long time to change your mind.

Anyway, I used to love making a “show” of myself, especially since I wasn’t at all bad looking. And that was the most difficult part. I used to love dressing up and buying expensive clothes, and I loved it when everyone was looking and pointing at me. I loved it when people would say, “Wow! She’s beautiful!”

After finishing high school, I decided to go to the United States to get my degree. There, I saw  something I had never seen before: a Muslim community. It felt like I’d come across an amazing society, with these wonderful Muslims. There they were, practicing Islam differently from the cultural practices we’d grown used to.

You see, Muslims in the Gulf area are born Muslim. Arabs sometimes feel like they don’t have to ask questions because everything is obvious. We don’t have to think about faith or believing in God, because we were raised “with Islam” and everyone around us is Muslim. Yet often, the case is that we don’t really know what Islam is, nor do we know how it feels to live amongst all these different religions and a people.

I realized for the first time that people in the Gulf didn’t always practice a pure version of Islam; much of it was a mix between religion and culture. So many things I thought were Islamic turned out to be cultural beliefs; some of them even turned out to be absolutely against Islam. I learned that Islam was not the beliefs and practices full of nonsense that we’d been raised on, that we’d had in our culture for so, so long. The real Islam, I learned, is only the Qur’an and Sunnah. Nothing more, nothing less.

When people in the States found out I was Muslim, they would ask so many questions about Islam; and most of the time, I didn’t have an answer. So I started searching and looking in Islamic books and on the internet about Islam, researching “the real thing.” I felt like I was someone who had never heard anything about Islam before. I learned so many things I never knew.

I started going to the masjid and sitting down with brothers and sisters talking and discussing Islamic matters. Until then, I had never gone to a single masjid in my country or even thought about it, although we had thousands of masajid back home. All the sisters in the masjid were wearing hijab except for me; and they were all American except for me.  And they were all so proud to wear it, I respected them so much for that. I started to think about  hijab all the time.

And I started to have so many dreams about wearing the hijab. I began developing these strange feelings about myself. Whereas before, like I said, I loved being the center of attention, now I hated it when someone was looking at me. It made me feel like I was only a picture, an image without a heart or a brain. So I finally decided to go for it and wear the hijab.

It was the best choice I had ever made. For the first time in my life, I felt like a strong person. Because I could stand up for what I believed in, and didn’t care what people thought or how they would look at me.

The first day of hijab was the best. I had never felt so good, so proud of myself, in all of my life as I did on that day. My friends and relatives didn’t believe I could do it. And everyone said I wouldn’t keep it up for long. That maybe one of the things that pushed me to keep it on until this day.

I had to go through a fight with my self. A self which had always loved this life and tried to enjoy it as much as it could. Now was the time for me to say “Stop,” and I did. After a while, everyone started to respect me; no one had treated me like that before. Everyone respected me so much because they now felt like I was a religious person. And what gave them that perception? The hijab.

I can go anywhere now, and no one will look at me like I’m an image or a mannequin on display. And despite that, I still dress up and put makeup when I’m with my sisters, and it turns out it’s much more fun that way.

I believe that Allah commands hijab to help us and to make our lives easier. It builds respect between men and women. It’s a matter of  keeping your body to your self, and to whoever Allah allows you to show it to (your mahram). And for women, I feel like it’s a way for us to show that we’re Muslim. Jewish men wear the yarmulke on  their heads, and Christians wear a cross. They’re not ashamed to show it to public, no one would think badly about them.

A woman wearing hijab reminds herself that she’s Muslim. Hijab helps us stay away from mistakes or falling into sins. If we can wear hijab, then we’re strong enough to do any thing, to go through any problems we might face in life. People around will trust us because we’re confident, because we trust and respect ourselves.

Don’t you think your body is important? Don’t you think your body is valuable?  You don’t need anyone to tell you that you’re beautiful, because you already know it. And you don’t need someone to look at you as if you’re a stunning image, because you’re a wonderful human being.

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Please note: As with most of our “Internet Finds,” we are not in touch with the writers, and copyrights belong to their respective sources.

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