Before I tell you this story, I would like to start off with a disclaimer: I don’t think a Muslim woman, or any woman for that matter, should be reduced to merely what she wears or what she doesn’t wear. I think we should perceive people beyond how they appear and look at their potential. So whenever I see a Muslim woman who is not wearing a hijab, I don’t see her as “less Muslim” than another Muslim woman who is wearing a hijab.
Having said that, I still believe wholeheartedly that it is an obligation for a Muslim woman to cover herself properly, as it is also an obligation for a Muslim man to cover himself properly. I am not saying that I accept the act of not wearing the hijab. What I am saying is that I accept the person who is not wearing the hijab, as my sister in Islam and a part of the Muslim Ummah. I would treat her just like any other Muslim woman that I know – hijab or no hijab.
Keep that in mind as I tell you this story.
This is a short story about how one particular Muslim woman decided to wear the hijab and how she went about actually wearing the hijab. She told me this story herself and she gave me her permission for me to tell you her story.
Contrary to popular belief, she was not forced by any man in her life to wear the hijab. It was her personal choice. But how did this choice came about?
She was born and raised in Malaysia. She started to wear the hijab when she was 17 but it didn’t stick, probably because she only did it because someone asked her to wear it. The desire to change didn’t come from within.
So after a while, she took off the hijab.
She was a bright student and got herself a scholarship to further her studies in one of the universities in the United States. Having been in Malaysia all her life, the journey to another country was very new and exciting for her.
After the first few months of living in the United States, she started to notice something. She looked around and she realized that she was not that different from all the non-Muslims that she saw around her, in terms of appearance.
So she started to question her Muslim identity: “If I am a Muslim, then what distinguishes me from someone who is not a Muslim?”
Shortly after, she started attending Islamic study circles that were held around where she lived. Among other things that she learned in those circles, she learned about how Muslims should dress themselves and why it is important to dress appropriately.
She realized that she has a responsibility over her body to take care of it according to the commands of Allah, the One who gave her the body in the first place. We all have this responsibility over our own bodies. The men have this responsibility and the women have this responsibility.
A part of that responsibility is to dress appropriately.
That’s one thing. But that wasn’t the part that hit her the hardest. She learned that parents are accountable before Allah for how they raised their children. That makes sense since parents are responsible for their children. Knowing this, she was concerned that her parents would be held accountable for her not wearing the hijab.
Realizing that she is responsible for her body and out of the love for her parents, she decided to start wearing the hijab. This time, she actually wanted to change. This time, it was her choice to change.
But change wasn’t easy for her and that is true for any of us as well. Changing something about yourself takes time and effort. So she started slowly. She took baby steps.
She started with wearing appropriate clothes; no more tight and revealing clothes, and she wore a scarf to cover her head. Not a full hijab yet, but she progressed slowly. As time passed, she covered more and more of the parts of her body that should be covered.
Of course, the journey she took was more difficult than how I just described it. Change is a struggle and it is hard to achieve. But, it is not impossible.
Today, she enjoyed the fruits of her hard work; wearing the hijab became second nature to her. Not wearing the hijab would feel wrong to her. She would feel incomplete. Every time she goes outside, she will cover herself up properly even if she’s just going out to water the garden in front of her house.
Change can occur through many means and this is just one of them. Change can also be inspired through many means and this is just one of them.
She said to me that if she hadn’t gone to the United States to further her studies, it is very possible that she wouldn’t be wearing the hijab today.