Hijab: A Love Story

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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!


14 Comments on “Hijab: A Love Story”

  1. Iram Ramzan says:

    if you cannot take your hijab off without meeting disapproval then it ceases to become a choice

    • Sandy says:

      But sometimes disapproval is a good thing. If people care about you, they will want what’s best for you. What matters most is the kind of disapproval I think – most of the time it comes off disrespectful, but if someone knew what I was doing was wrong, and respectfully told me, in a caring manner, I would appreciate that.

    • SjD-NJ says:

      It is only disapproval when it matters to you. If you take it on or keep it off and keep it mind it’s between you and your creator. There is no such thing as disapproval of others only the approval of your own self.

      I agree the moment you feel that fleeting feeling of “disapproval” means you are keeping it on for the wrong reasons. OR are you?

      Is it that you think others disapprove or is it that it reminds you of your choice and deep down inside you also disapprove of yourself taking it off?

      Maybe a bit of both.

      It takes strength to drown out the screaming amongst the crowds of modesty and immodesty and follow your own path for your own purpose.

      I can not speak for those who are forced to, nor can I speak for those that when taking it off are punished by their choice. This sadly does happen and those being condemned for taking it off or leaving it on, my prayers are with them always.

      But the feeling of disapproval surely lies within your own self and the realization and reminder it is going against something that meant something to you or that you feel deep down is wrong. Because if it meant nothing to you then the disapproval would not matter.

  2. your words are mine. thank you.

  3. lolomomosa says:

    Reblogged this on At the Foot of the Mountain and commented:
    Amazing love story

  4. nasiau says:

    Resonated with me at so many levels. Its just perfect!

  5. Guðrið says:

    How come you wear the hijab for the sake of religion, if you don’t wear it as the religion says?

    In the following text the Qu’ran says, that you shall not display your beauty and the decoration (ornaments) you have, because you have to guard your modesty.
    Please woman, if you want to wear a hijab for the religion, lose the piercing and your makeup before I can take you seriously.

    “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof”

    • Iram Ramzan says:

      “Please woman, if you want to wear a hijab for the religion, lose the piercing and your makeup before I can take you seriously.”

      and who said she wants your approval??

      • Guðrið says:

        Well, she necessarily doesn’t need my approval, I just shared my opinion on the text she released.
        And I thought I was being helpful to get her to realize what the Qu’ran actually.says, so she can obey it the right way. (and therefore get approval from the Qu’ran – not me:) )
        Thank you for your reply.

      • Z says:

        “and who said she wants your approval??”

        That is such a lame and ignorant reply. Allah (swt) says she needs our approval (the ‘People of knowledge’). Clearly she doesn’t know the rules of Islam. Therefore she is not in a position to make judgement or rulings for her self.

        Ask People of Knowledge if you do not know
        —————————————————————

        Allah (s) says in the Holy Qur’an:

        “And, ask the People of Knowledge if you do not know.” (Qur’an 16:43)

        Since she (and you) clearly do not know how to dress Islamically, she needs the approval of those who have knowledge. It is her duty to ask those who know.

        If you fear Allah, you will accept the reminder
        ————————————————————–

        Allah (s) says in the Holy Qur’an:

        ”So admonish/remind them that maybe the reminder will be of benefit. And as for him who fears Allah, he will be reminded, but as for the wretched one he will turn away” (Quran 87:9-11)

        Do not follow own desires
        ———————————–
        “And do not follow your desires for it will lead you astray from the path of Allah.” (Qur’an 11:26)

        If you see something against Islam, change it with hand or tongue (words)
        ————————————-
        Narrated by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri: I heard the Messenger of Allah (saws) as saying: ‘He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do that, then he should do it with his tongue; and if he has not strength enough to do even that, then he should (at least abhor it) from his heart; and that is the least of faith.” (Sahih Muslim)

        Muslims command others what is good and forbid what is wrong
        ———————————————-
        “You are the best nation amongst mankind because you command the good (Islam), you forbid evil (sins), and you believe in Allah (Surat Al ‘Imran, 110)

        So do not reject a reminder when someone tries to guide you in Islam by saying “who are you to judge” or “who said she wants your approval”. They are not judging or approving you. They are saving you from hell fire by guiding you.

    • That would be like me asking you: how can you speak of a religion that you don’t embody with your character? But I wouldn’t ask you that, because that is rude and not my place. It’s important for one to pass through those two filters before speaking- or writing for that matter.

      The author is sharing her personal, human experience, and not issuing a religious ruling for all people to follow. I find it interesting when some people dehumanize others in the name of religion.
      But since we brought up religion, the Beloved Prophet SAW, who had all of the Islamic knowledge that any person could have, who was a walking Qur’an (as Aisha RA reported), NEVER walked around like the Deen police tossing around Qur’anic ayat as citations. He SAW never judged people and told them they had to change so that he could take them seriously. Because such a gesture is not about religion at all, but is about a self-serving, rejecting, uneducated, poor character exhibiting ego. RECOGNIZE

      That said, LOVELY piece Sara! May The One keep your path blessed and lit.

      Peace&Blessings

      • Guðrið says:

        I am an atheist, and trying to understand why people believe.
        I just don’t understand why some people choose to believe something from the Qu’ran, and choose to ignore something else. She wears the hijab, but wears make-up and has piercings, which are contradictions.
        I DON’T think it’s rude talking about religion or commenting on other’s belief. I don’t know why religion has become such a “taboo”.

        ” I find it interesting when some people dehumanize others in the name of religion.”
        Tha’ts pretty interesting comment there, because she’s all in to religion but when I quote the Qu’ran it’s ‘dehumanizing’. That’s almost saying that the Qu’ran is dehumanizing since it was the words of Qu’ran.

        Peace out

  6. “This is not an ego thing, it’s a spiritual thing”

    Do you have a special brand of spiritual lipstick?