Graphic by Dorothy Lam/The Gazelle

Hijab: personal choice

When I first started wearing the hijab, I didn’t understand what it really was. Only, I saw my mother and older sister wearing it, and I wanted to wear ...

Oct 5, 2013

Graphic by Dorothy Lam/The Gazelle
When I first started wearing the hijab, I didn’t understand what it really was. Only, I saw my mother and older sister wearing it, and I wanted to wear it too. I had the privilege of making this decision myself — I wasn’t forced into it by anyone. Now that I'm older, I couldn't imagine my life without it. It's a part of me.
I've learned to adapt my life to fit it. I love fashion and I love clothes, and my hijab doesn't stop me from expressing myself. I'll wear my superhero shirts and clomp around in my creepers. Although sometimes I think about not wearing my hijab and just walking out of my flat like everyone else, I can't imagine interacting with people. I'd feel naked without it.
I reserve the opinion that the hijab is more than just a cloth on the head. It is so much more than that. Physically, it's concealing one's hair and body from members of the opposite sex; however, it's not as simple as that. A girl who wears modest clothing, even without concealing her hair, can be said to be wearing the hijab. More importantly, the hijab has a hidden counterpart: it's about how you carry yourself as a person, whether you’re around others or just on your own. Both aspects of the hijab — internal modesty and external modesty — are significant. You cannot look at a Muslim girl who chooses not to wear a scarf and question her faith just as you cannot look at a Muslim girl who does and assume she's unhappy or that it wasn't her decision. After all, what do we know? A person's faith is between them and God. What they may appear to be does not define who they are.
I think it is absolutely fundamental that the decision to wear the hijab be made by the person who will wear it — not her mother, not her father, not her brother, not her husband. I am aware that there are situations in which this is not the case. She begins to resent the scarf, seeing it as a jail and blaming it for all her problems. It becomes no big deal if a male sees her without her scarf, no big deal if it falls off in the middle of the street.
The conviction and the belief that wearing a scarf is the right thing to do needs to be present in the woman’s heart. Unfortunately, many cultures influence this decision. A girl may feel the pressure and thus never get the opportunity to think of wearing the hijab because she truly wants to, and this changes her perspective on what the hijab really is.
I understand how difficult it is to wear a scarf, especially in this day and age and in the Western world, where being Muslim has its complications. And sometimes you want to be able to do things like prance around in a bikini, hair flowing in the wind. But I see it as a sacrifice that I'm willing to make — also, there are ladies-only beaches here in the UAE.
Just like human beings, the hijab is highly individual. Even in terms of the style that it's worn, but mainly in what it means to the wearer. Building up the courage to wear it is a feat in itself, if only for a while. A hijab is not meant to define anyone; rather, the wearer should define her hijab. I personally don’t think the hijab should just be seen as a cloth worn on the head. The hijab is a symbol of worship and servitude to God. It is a symbol of modesty, not solely in one’s attire but also in one’s whole demeanor.
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