Before becoming a Muslim, I would cover my hair from time to time with headscarves – mostly on bad hair days or when I thought it looked good with my outfit of the day. So, when we started the new semester in January 2020, it wasn’t really a shock for my classmates and friends to see me covering my hair cause I would tie the hijab the same way I did before becoming Muslim. Because of this, in the beginning, it looked like it would be a really smooth transition.
In March of the same year, the pandemic hit and we were mostly indoors for months on end so I didn’t need to cover my hair for a long while. In 2021, I wore a hijab almost every time I left the house up until graduation. And for the rest of the year, I never went back. The next year, I started my government internship and would mostly wear it to work. By May, I had taken it off again. And until mid-February this year, I would only wear it during salah.
If I could go back, I would definitely do it differently.
First, I would take time to understand what it really meant to wear a hijab. The wave of elation that came with converting left me wanting to do everything and play “catch up” with those who were brought up in Islam. In retrospect, I should have started wearing it a few days a week and slowly made progress. I wish I understood that Allah would have still appreciated my small efforts and acknowledged my intention.
I felt ready because my connection with Allah was very strong at that point, which truthfully happens in almost every kind of newness. I felt invincible and I was certain that I was going to have incredibly strong conviction for the rest of my days. I have now come to understand that everyone’s iman fluctuates. What we need to have is the desire for Allah to be pleased with us and wanting to be among those whose tongues and whose hearts are always connected to Him.
A very comforting aspect of Allah’s mercy I have since learnt is that when we turn back to Him in repentance, our hearts are polished, our sins are turned into good deeds and we ascend in ranks in His sight. You do not lose the love of Allah when you’re having trouble wearing the hijab. As long as we have taqwa (God consciousness) and we are sincere in our pursuit of going back to Allah, His love for us engulfs us.
On top of that, I began to understand that guidance from Allah is a spectrum. It’s not just being completely guided or completely lost and only the arrogant think they can achieve levels of iman at which they would not need Allah’s guidance. This lesson was affirmed by the Quran [19:76] which says “and Allah increases those who were guided, in guidance” – as long as someone is trying, Allah will help them get better at it. That’s why I really fail to understand people who are quick to judge non-hijabis or even hijabis who are “wearing it wrong.” We’re all at different levels of modesty – we have abayas, hijabs, jilbabs, niqabs and burqas – and each day we hope to continue to perfect our modesty.
If you see someone trying out the hijab, say mashAllah and encourage them even if it’s just during Ramadan. And if you see someone taking it off, make dua for them so that they may get hidaya from Allah.
There will be hard days – whether you’ve worn it for 10 years or 10 months – but remember we are told “so truly where there is hardship, there is also ease” [Quran 94:6]. And not just the big things. Small things will come with ease too. It’s been about three years and I genuinely don’t know how to tie a hijab that will stay in place for the whole day. I don’t know how to use pins or magnets and I don’t know where any of my undercaps are. I rarely wear it in my house or my mother’s house when guests, who shouldn’t see my hair, are visiting. Other times, you can see a bit of my hair. And, I really want to start gyming but I’m not sure if it’ll be easy showing up in modest gym clothes. Even getting modest swimwear is harder than it should be. But I remind myself that there is no ease except in that which Allah has made easy, we simply need to ask.
It was also hard to get used to people reacting to me being visibly Muslim, at first. They would bombard me with so many unnecessary questions. Is it because of a man? Is it because it’s Ramadan? Are you just having a bad hair day? On the other hand, some of them are genuinely curious about Islam which hopefully leads them down the path to guidance, making the hijab a powerful tool for dawah.
Some people, however, believe that Muslim women are being oppressed and forced to wear the hijab which politicises it. Hijabis are more visible than Muslim men, and so we can not talk about Islam without including these women and the hijab. At the end of the day, almost no one is listening to the Muslim women who have made a deliberate choice to wear the hijab. We also don’t talk about how most of the discrimination, safety concerns, misconceptions and stereotypes come from non-muslims who claim to be saving Muslim women from oppression.
Muslim women need to remember that wearing a hijab is an element of piety that we do for the sake of Allah. Society needs to understand that Muslim women are not a monolith – we are all at different levels in our faith and the most important thing is we are striving to become better with each day.