Hijab: A Love StoryPosted: March 21, 2013
I wrap layers upon layers of dense black cotton around my head, reveling in the warm ritual of it; throw a splash of crimson lipstick onto my lips, frustrated at how little of a canvas I have to work with, and stop when I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror.
My eyes scan from the top of my head down to my covered neck. I look absolutely beautiful. This is not an ego thing, it’s a spiritual thing.
I cannot deny it – the moments I feel the most feminine, the most powerful, and the most beautiful are when I am covered.
Hijab and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship over the years. It’s one of those relationships where no matter how hard things get, no matter how many times you break up, you still remember why you fell in love in the first place, and you keep coming back to that love.
When I take it off, I eventually go back to it—I just never know when, for how long, or if it will ever be permanent. I’ve learned to go with what feels best for me and to respect that.
The fluctuating appearance of my head may be confusing to some, which is fine, because because this is my own path. The idea of faith as an individual journey resonates deeply with me. I know that my decisions are coming from the right place when I do them only to please the Creator and myself. If I am the star of this show, His review is the only one that matters.
When it comes to faith, there are days of strength and days of weakness. Covered or not, the faith remains, even when it’s barely a flicker.
Our Prophet (pbuh) said: “Those who make things hard for themselves will be destroyed” (Muslim). He said it three times. My God is merciful and understanding of where I’m at. If my spiritual state is so precarious that hijab becomes a burden, I risk ruining the love I have for it – and, more importantly, for Him – by forcing myself to wear it.
When I do wear hijab, I do it for God, fulfilling a command that I cannot know the deepest meaning of. I do it to fulfill God’s command of modesty, His wisdom in the veiling of beauty- both internal and external – and as a reminder that, as a Muslim, there is a particular – albeit flexible – spiritual lifestyle that I aspire to.
I have taken off my hijab for all of the same reasons I have put it on. In the past, I have looked at other women in their periods of spiritual self-discovery, judging them for removing their hijabs, only to find myself in the exact same position. There is no cause for judgment, as periods of fluctuation in faith are part of being human.
I am a woman, daughter, sister, aunt, lover, student, Muslim. I am all of these things, and more. As such, I have a duty to be honest with myself. I am human – at best, a very average human. I am not a leader. I am not a religious figure. I deal with my own issues in a world where women are told to be beautiful, instead of being able to just be.
It is not an easy thing to remove hijab. It feels like I am removing a visible aspect of who I am, and hiding an essential part of myself. Ultimately, though, I am not defined by a piece of cloth. Whether others can see my faith visibly or not, my ultimate goal is to let it show through my actions.
I want the opportunity to continue to nurture this love for myself, on my own terms, as a woman who is answerable only to God.
Sara O’Connell is a freelance writer and contributor to Hijabulous: Seeing the Veil Through the Eyes of Muslim Women and Illume Magazine. She is a West Coast nomad, currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can visit her blog, here.
Interested in contributing to the Hijabulous anthology? Check out their call for stories, here!