“It is not the cloth that oppresses the woman, it is the illiterate mind”
I started wearing hijab on May 22, 2014 after the spring semester of my freshmen year at Stony Brook University. It has been about two and a half years from that day and it honestly feels like I’ve never lived life without donning a scarf as I walk outside of my house. Wearing a hijab has become so much a part of who I am as a person and what being a Muslim means to me, shaping my identity in ways that I could’ve never imagined. I want to say that my story and what led me to wearing hijab is ground-breaking and earth-shattering, but in all honesty, my decision stemmed from a feeling in my heart that I interpreted as a sense of something being missing in my life.
My freshmen year of college was not an easy one. Going into Stony Brook, I thought I was prepared for what was to come as I walked across my high school graduation stage but I had no idea that my life was really going to change (at least to an extent). I was used to studying minimally and still being able to do exceptionally in classes but when I got here, I realized that I didn’t know how to study properly and had to deal with setbacks that I never expected. Aside from academically (which alhamdulillah, I was able to turn around), I was even having personal problems ranging from friends all the way to family.
Needless to say, nothing made sense. I would wake up, go to school, go to work and continue to follow a routine that felt unfulfilling, boring, and stressful. I knew that something had to change in my life, and I’m not ashamed to say that the answer didn’t come to me right away. However, the first thing that I turned to when my heart felt uneasy was reading Quran and trying to pray all my Salah’s on time and properly. The more I did this, the more I realized that even though my problems weren’t disappearing right away, my worry about them and worry about figuring out how to deal with them WAS alleviated. I felt more content and at ease than ever before and it could only be attributed to turning my heart to Allah (swt).
I remember thinking one night that what I’m doing is giving me so much peace but maybe I could do more. Hijab was never something that was at the forefront of my mind. I would wear it when I went to the mosque or any other religious setting and always thought I’d wear it one day but never assumed that I’d be so “young” when I did so. I recently read a quote from Yasmin Mogahed that stated “there will come a time in your life when you hear an inner voice. Sometimes it will scream that something isn’t right. Call it your gut, call it intuition, call it insight. Whatever you call it, don’t ignore or suppress this. A purified, believing, guided heart is meant to be a compass. Ignoring a compass will get you lost…” This quote fits exactly into how I felt before I went to sleep that night. I had a feeling that I needed to somehow do more, for me and for Allah (swt), and hijab continuously came to mind.
I woke up that day, a week before May 22, feeling determined and hopeful. Thinking back now, I believe I made my decision as soon as I first thought about it but I didn’t realize it at the time. So, I spent the next few days talking to the people closest to me about what I was thinking about doing and their opinions/suggestions. I had a few mixed reactions but overall there was unanimous support across that gave me the last push that I needed.
And…the rest is history.
Since that day, hijab has come to mean so much to me in ways that I can’t accurately describe. It is a garment that not simply covers my hair but empowers me in ways that I never imagined before. To me, it gives a sense of identity that I didn’t have before. Hijab is not only defined by the scarf I wear, but rather it is a way of being and acting. I always thought that to wear hijab meant that you had to be a perfect Muslim but in these past years, I’ve realized that it means more about working to be a better Muslim every day. I take time to remember Allah (swt) whenever I put it on and that alone helps me improve my imaan and keep it strong because I am wearing this for His sake. Hijab has brought me closer to my deen and I will forever be thankful for that.
Though it isn’t easy being a hijabi in this political climate, the words of Linda Sarsour described it perfectly when she said she’s “unapologetically Muslim”. I refuse to apologize for something that I consider to be a symbol of modesty, humility, beauty and above all, peace.
So, to all my sisters, whether you wear hijab, are thinking about it, or don’t: May Allah (swt) reward us for all the big and small steps we take to get closer to Him, and purify our intentions always. Happy World Hijab Day! ❤