Some 25 years ago, I was growing up as a teenager in Midwest America as most teenagers do. Although I was more conservative than other girls my age, I was accustomed to wearing jeans and T-shirts, and occasionally a nice dress. I lived in a small community, and although we were quite secluded from other cultures, we did follow movies with great interest. During high school, the need to be “cool” was very important to me and my friends, and we had to wear the clothes to fit the part. In the early 80’s, we tried our best to dress like the stars, and the “in” style was tight jeans, leg warmers, and short T-shirts, or silky pants with a revealing blouse and high heels.
As I got a bit older and went to college, I saw that styles differed from person to person, and began to see people from other cultures wearing clothing that I was unaccustomed to seeing. It was there when I saw my first muhajjabah (a woman wearing hijaab). Remembering back, I now faintly recall wearing a scarf on my head as a child, but have no recollection of why I did that or if I had seen something that provoked me to do that – all I remember is liking it. In college, I had no idea why this woman would cover her head; only thinking that it must have something to do with a strange religion.
As Allaah had planned for me, without my realization, I was to meet a Muslim man in one of my classes, who was later to introduce Islaam to me and then become my husband. As I learned about his country and this different religion, I became so impressed by the ideals and morals of Islaam that I was compelled to accept it as my own. I was intrigued by the love embodied in Islaam, both in social and family relationships, as well as by the care and protection it gives women. When I took the shahaadah and became a Muslim, I was suddenly given so many rights that many Western women still struggle to achieve today, including women in my own family.
After approximately three months of being a Muslim, I realized that as a follower of Islaam I was commanded to wear the hijaab. Although I felt very intrepid about the idea, I knew it was an order from Allaah that I must obey. One night, I decided that I would begin wearing the hijaab starting from the following day. I was frightened that someone might harm me, or laugh at me, or that I might get fired from my job. I worried about what my friends and classmates might say to me. I prayed to Allaah to make my way easy, and to assist me in this endeavor as I was doing it to please Him. I went to sleep hoping for Allaah’s mercy.
The next day, I prepared for my day, but in a slightly different way this time. Before leaving my home, I tied a small bit of cloth over my head, and went out to work and school. As soon as I arrived, I felt a sense of peace come over me. Rather than scornful remarks and laughing, I felt respect and interest. Rather than harm and hateful looks, I received admiration and reverence. When I asked Allaah to help me, He really did. The same people who I had been with yesterday as a normal American girl, were now asking me about my new religion. My boss seemed very relaxed about it, and when I told her I would need some time to pray every day she was very welcoming. Several people even told me that I looked more beautiful in hijaab! To top off my day, a man that I didn’t know opened the door for me. In the US , this is a sign of esteem – only gentlemen do such things and only for women that they view as respectable ladies. I was so amazed.
However, the blessings did not stop there. Over the next days and months, I saw a definite shift in the way other people treated me. Where they used to tell me crude jokes, they now only talked to me in the most respectable manner. Where men used to come and hug me, there was now an obvious barrier between me and them. Where I used to walk down the street and get whistled at by construction workers, now I was shown the utmost amount of respect – as if they suddenly realized that I was now a pious and conservative woman. I welcomed all of this with open arms, as the way I had been treated before was not in congruence with my conservative beliefs.
As time went on and my hijaab became longer, wider, and more covering, all the things that I had mentioned before became more prominent. I have received a few rude comments or gestures from people; however, I tend to ignore it as they usually come from ignorant people. On my last trip to visit my family, I wore a loose jilbaab with a large waist-length khimaar with a matching face cover. I worried that I would be harassed, or that I would be physically harmed, as my visit was less than one year after 9/11. Once again, I prayed to my Lord to make my path easy, and I was not bothered by a single person during my entire one-month stay.
I thank Allaah every day for my hijaab, and I see it as a freedom from the shackles of slavery that Western women live in. Yes, it can be hot sometimes, but I would never even consider trading it for Western clothing, because that type of dress invites crude speech, lust, and even unwanted touch. I feel sad when I see some of my Muslim sisters rushing to the call of “women’s liberation”, because I know the sad truth – they are not free, they are mere slaves to the media and those men who are pleased with their dress.
O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e.screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allaah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Al-Ahzaab, aayah 59
I pray that my sister will see this truth. I pray that she will realize the respect that Islaam has granted me and join me in this glorious religion. I also pray that my sisters in faith, my Muslim daughters and sisters, with hold onto their hijaab as if they are holding onto their lives. I pray that they realize what a blessing they have, and that Allaah’s command to wear hijaab is not a difficulty for them, but a benefit and ease for their lives. I pray that they realize this before it is too late . . .