Memories Beneath the Veil


One of our guest writers Tehzeeb enlightens us with her feelings on the  first day of school –with hijab.

I remember perfectly that day as I anxiously walked down to the intimidating middle school I knew for years. I was in for my last year of middle school in eighth grade. I had entered with a new feeling that day; it wasn’t exactly terror, but a bold feeling as if I had defeated all of my fears with one simple choice. My insides churned with nervousness.

Warily, I entered the school and the whole world seemed to slow down as I walked closer and closer to the class doors, and approached the defining moment. The excitement rushed through my veins, while my heart pounded against my chest. Though I wouldn’t have been able to see my own change, it was about to be shown to my fellow classmates. It was difficult to guess what others would think of me when they would spot me, since there were so many possible responses. Nevertheless, I took one last brave step, and walked into the world of middle school –except this time it was with my head covered.

It was around mid-November when I started wearing the “scarf” or the hijab. Wearing hijab meant that I would have to wear it wherever I went in public. I would wear it in front of everyone except for women, close family members, and of course my husband.

When I first wore it, I would always get curious questions like: “Why do you wear the scarf? Was it your choice? Do you ever get to take it off?” Many more questions of interest would often come up. I soon came to realize that while some were keen to inquire about my hijab, others were scared. Nonetheless, I was honored to answer those who did bring their questions to me.

It was plain to me that I would get questions on my first day of wearing the hijab, but I never imagined I would get compliments on the first day of this new adventure. The fear that developed the moment I got to school that day was immediately wiped away when I saw my teachers and friends. The first thing my history teacher told me was, “That scarf looks beautiful. I love it!” She followed that with, “Are you wearing it permanently?” Bewildered, yet flattered I answered by saying, “Thank you! And yes.”

What my teacher said really helped boost my confidence. When I walked in the buzzing classroom, my friends immediately looked at me with amazement. They told me that I looked beautiful and different. I will never forget that moment and those very words. One of my Muslim friends who did not wear hijab even told me that I left an impression on her. What she said was the highlight of that inspiring day. Not only did I receive unexpected compliments on my new look, but also honesty and love.

As time passed, everything in my life changed. This new veil that protected me, not only reshaped my looks, but it had turned my heart in a new direction. My love for this new situation grew. It was a change that I molded with my very own hands. I also realized who my real friends were through this journey. They were those who didn’t care how I looked or what my decisions were. They were those who cared about my personality. Some friends said their goodbyes to friendships that I once thought were real. Some new friends came in to my life, bringing peace to this new rhythm I came to create.

This transformation also led me to become friends with someone who I still admire strongly and who will always be my best friend. She was also one of the people who encouraged me to wear hijab. This person, now married, taught me how to be a strong woman and how to be sincere. She taught me how to keep up with religion and life. The important goal was creating a good future and every woman has a right to make her own choices.

The ending of this journey was getting closer as the end of the year neared. The truth was out in the open. I came to know that this scarf not only bothered old friends I used to have, but even some of my own family. When I came face to face with a family member one day on a trip they laughed at the thought of wearing such a “disgusting” thing. “You live in America, you can’t wear that. You will be rejected by society,” they said. I wouldn’t really respond to them and mostly because I was too embarrassed to. My mind, however, swirled with replies. I often thought to myself, ‘Well of course! Don’t you think I would have thought of that when I first wore it?’

But why do I still wear it? The true reason is that it would be impossible to please everyone. If I were always caught up listening to what others think of me, how would I ever satisfy myself? How would I fulfill my dreams of success? How would I please Allah? These thoughts often came to mind even as I cried over the insults thrown at me and the embarrassment that I felt. These were the things I came to realize throughout that year.

These incidents entually led to even deeper questions:  “What is the purpose of hijab? Why do I still wear it even after all this trouble? How did I come to it?”  Honestly, every time someone asks me why I wear it, I wish to answer with a million statements. However, the ultimate reason that revolves around the purpose of hijab is modesty and obeying Allah.

And why do I want to attain modesty? One reason is that Islam encourages and promotes marriage between men and women, while dating is not allowed. So to protect her beauty and love for the one person that she will marry inshaAllah, a woman’s beauty and sanctity is fully guarded with the hijab. Further, in obeying Allah’s laws there are benefits and reasons we may not be aware of but it is ultimately for our own well-being.

How did I come to hijab? Well it was an enlightenment! As I finished my Maghrib prayer one evening, suddenly the idea of hijab popped into my mind. I thought of how it truly was a blessing from Allah. I was so happy with that inspiration that I suddenly got up and looked for all the scarves I had. I picked the one I wanted to wear the next day in school and that was it!

SubhanAllah, it was mainly a friend who always talked positively about hijab that influenced me very deeply. What I got out of wearing hijab was far beyond what my intentions were initially. I realized the importance of the impression you can leave on others hearts just by practicing yourself and making a difference in your life. I also learned that whatever actions you do to benefit yourself in this world is what really matters when you leave it. This is what my hijab means to me. It is the impressions that I’ve made on others’ hearts,  and mine, which I hope to take with me when I leave this world. It is like a hidden trace, a memory that will always be kept beneath the veil.