I remember when I was ten. It was the morning of Eid Fitr and I was sitting on the edge of my bed, tears streaming down my cheeks, just as raindrops kissed the ground outside my home. My heart was seething with anger, anger aimed at a piece of cloth that now lay rejected on my feet, and anger at the person who was forcing me to wear it. I remember looking wistfully at the mirror, tugging my hair and thinking how donning that piece of cloth would ruin the pretty outfit that embraced my body.
I remember when I was fourteen. It was a hot Sunday afternoon and I was hiding at the staircase outside my home, my fingers working fast in unraveling the piece of cloth wrapped around my head; the same one which I had haphazardly worn just minutes before. Stuffing it in my haversack, I remember adjusting my hair which now flew in the wind. Bouncing down the stairs, I was happy that I was free. Free. Free from something that to me signified the strangling hold that my mum had on me. I was a rebel, I owned the world.
I remember when I was fifteen. It was a quiet weekday night, and I had just pierced it by slamming my room door shut, my face grim and my ego preventing angry tears from streaming down my face once again. I had found no point in donning the piece of cloth when my actions did not reflect one of a good Muslim, and I made sure that this idea of mine was made known to my mum. We had one of our biggest fights that night, the first of many times in the next few years during which I had made my mum cry, but I stubborn headedly stuck to my decision.From that day onwards, that piece of cloth occupied the depths of my cupboard, only taken out for religious occasions.
I remember when I was seventeen. It was a Sunday morning and I was seated at the salon, smiling to myself as the hairdresser blow dried my newly rebonded hair. I looked over at my then boyfriend for approval, to which I received a double thumbs up and a smile. I recall looking at the photos that we took together later on, happy with my decision of not allowing that piece of cloth to control me. A part of me began to whisper that I was wrong, but I pushed them away as I fed myself with compliments from those around me about my hair. They thought I was beautiful, and that was the only thing that mattered.
I remember when I was twenty. It was a peaceful Friday night, and I had my forehead on the ground, the first of the six times I would do so in the next few minutes as part of my Maghrib prayers. At the end of it, my prayer garment was peppered with tears that had escaped my eyes, as I sought God in trying to understand and cope with the pain that I was carrying in my heart due to a recent breakup. I remember the many nights just sitting at the back of the Masjid in silence, pouring through His words, hoping that something in it would make everything bearable. I now gave that piece of cloth a name – Hijab – and I subconsciously took baby steps in understanding it, in hopes of getting closer to the All-Creator.
I remember telling myself that henceforth began my journey to return to Allah s.w.t. and that I had enough of fooling around, wasting the allocated time given to me.
I remember three months ago, at age twenty one. It was a serene weekday night and I was having a conversation with myself. I begun to seriously question who I was, and my purpose of being on this earth. I remember telling myself that henceforth began my journey to return to Allah s.w.t. and that I had enough of fooling around, wasting the allocated time given to me. I walked away from things and relationships that would pull me back from my decision, something which was extremely hard to do (I think my tears dried up during those days), but Alhamdulillah, Allah gave me the strength to cope. I begun to develop the niat to wear the hijab.
I remember two months ago, when Allah reintroduced Shidah into my life. Subhanallah, I remember thinking how beautiful she was in character, how beautiful she looked in her hijab, and how beautiful Islam was through her actions and thoughts. I begun to think of ways in which I could get closer to her, in order to somehow soak in her good aura, just as the Prophet s.a.w. had deemed how befriending a perfume seller would be beneficial. As I spent more time with her, I begun to spend more time in more hijab friendly environments, and I remember thinking to myself how beautiful and confident these hijab women looked. How, without the help of revealing clothes or make up, MasyaAllah, their beauty still managed to shine through and touch my heart. Allah introduced some other women in my life who answered my questions without prejudice, and a voice in my heart began to whisper, telling me I was just about ready.
I remember a month ago. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and I was in Shidah’s room. We were laughing, as she demonstrated for the fifth time on how to don the hijab. I remember, as Shidah secured the last brooch on the hijab now embracing my head, I remember looking at myself in the mirror and feeling so close to Allah s.w.t. I remember smiling and holding back my tears, knowing that I was ready to take the next step in seeking to complete my iman. I remember standing still in the middle of the street on the way home, as the sun shone on my face and the breeze caressed my skin, I remember looking up into the skies and whispering my thanks to Allah for opening my heart.
I will remember today. It is a bright Friday morning, and it is the first day of my life that I am wearing the hijab out of my own niat. It is the first day that I can say I choose to wear the hijab for Allah s.w.t., and not because I was forced to. It is the first day that I can say that I no longer care if people might think of me as backwards or that I look funny, because it is enough for me to know that Allah s.w.t. approves of my actions, InsyaAllah.
I know I will have more responsibilities as a Muslim now that I am announcing it to the world. I know it will be a struggle for me to rid myself of my bad habits, and I know that the path I choose to walk on will not be easy. But I too now understand my purpose on earth, and I know that everything in life is but a test to gauge my iman. It has taken me 11 years to reach to an understanding about the hijab (and about Islam), so I am comforted that the hardest part has now passed and all that is left to do is continue moving forward, InsyaAllah.
Quoting from Leila Bekhti in the film Paris Je’taime, “When I wear this, I feel part of a faith, an identity. I feel good. That’s what beauty is.” Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakathu. My name is Nur Fadhilah Wahid, and I am a Hijabi, Alhamdulillah :)
(Written originally on January 1st, 2010)