It marks a Muslim woman beyond her appearance, guiding her conduct and defining her beliefs. With so much that it represents, some women struggle to keep the hijab on. As told to Afia R Fitriati.
For many Muslim women, wearing the hijab is an act of faith that brings solace and a sense of renewal into their lives. For some, however, the donning of the veil presents complications difficult for them to comprehend, much less permanently overcome. Aquila Style speaks with two women who share their predicaments surrounding the hijab. Though their stories may differ, they share a common message: before you judge me, please try to understand my struggles first.
Noraini Black, San Francisco
Thirty-six-year-old Noraini reveals that the reason why she put on the hijab two years ago was because she felt that her life was ‘in shambles’.
‘I was literally tired of what was going on in my life,’ she admits. ‘Nothing worked for me. I felt I was in a dead-end job. My fiancé and I broke off. This was my second broken engagement…’ Her voice trails away at the memory.
Turning to faith for solace, the fashion buyer started wearing a shawl to religious and family events. But she felt that her modest covering impeded her social life, and so avoided wearing it to work as well as social events. ‘I am not married and I get lonely sometimes,’ she confides. ‘I have lots of friends in various social groups that I join: dance class, gym and cooking.
‘I realise that the quality of my social interactions reduces when I have a veil on. People have reservations about coming to talk to me, to ask me anything. Maybe it is my age but I find it difficult to make new friends this way.’
Although she is still struggling with the idea of putting on the hijab permanently, Noraini doesn’t eschew the idea altogether and keeps trying to adopt it as part of her identity.
‘Sometimes I feel very strongly about it. Other times I feel like it wants me to be completely sure first. It is always a case of back and forth, me and my shawl,’ says Noraini. ‘Some days are worse than others when the indecisiveness makes me feel so helpless. But I haven’t given up on it yet because I don’t feel like it is wrong for me. It doesn’t feel like a “mistaken identity” on my part.’
Only Noraini’s family and closest friends know about the struggles she is going through. ‘They generally leave me alone,’ she says. ‘I suspect some of them hope I grow out of it one day. Some would want me to take it up more properly. At the end of the day, though, I do believe that they have my interests at heart.
‘If only I knew what I myself want.’
Noraini hopes that other sisters can give her more support and understanding with regards to her hijab struggles. ‘I sometimes think I am being scrutinised by women in proper Muslim gear,’ she shares. ‘But I am just an old, lonely woman who loves making new friends. Humour me and get to know me first. Talk to me, and then offer me some advice if I ask for it.’
Sharifah K, Kuala Lumpur
As a hijabi for 13 years now, 39-year-old Sharifah has been through her fair share of challenges. She recalls a particularly ‘down’ time when she took off the hijab as her way of expressing her outrage.
‘I felt angry and bitter for being the only one doing the right thing all the time,’ she confides. ‘I was exasperated with my family life.
‘My teenagers were rebellious and disrespectful to me. My husband was not pulling his weight as a father; he wasn’t doing what I expected him to do. I took off the hijab as a physical way to show how I, too, could be unreasonable.
‘If I could share with other mummies out there, life can really bring us down. We have so much to fight for, provide for, deliver, and attend to. Sometimes we have days when we might ask, “But who is doing all this for me?”’
Though her feelings may strike a chord with many, Sharifah doesn’t recommend her act of relinquishing the hijab. ‘I knew I was displaying my pain in a very stupid way,’ she admits. ‘But thank God and His endless blessings, with my family’s help, I could work things through, and in the next few weeks, life became more bearable.’
The stay-at-home mum underscores the importance of recognising and embracing one’s weaknesses in the ups and downs of life – hijab struggles included. ‘It is okay to falter. Humans are designed to err. With faith and love, all of us can return to the right way again.’
Sharifah requests that we include her advice about the fear of wearing the hijab, ‘Many girls and women have come to me sharing that they are afraid of what the hijab will cause them to become.
‘But wearing the hijab doesn’t change your personality in a negative, strange or awkward way. It doesn’t suddenly turn you into a boring or judgmental person, if you weren’t already like that before.
‘On the contrary, the hijab is an extension of all the good and pure that we have inside of us that we are happy to display outwardly.’
What our ustadz says
Aquila Style’s religious advisor, Ustadz Abdul Majeed, reminds us about several points that are critical to a healthy understanding of the hijab and modesty, as put forth in surah An-Nur verse 31:
The intention of wearing the hijab stems from pleasing Allah (SWT) alone
Understand what the hijab represents and realise that it is not something to signify how religious a person is or show that men have power over women. It is a personal and spiritual connection between the Lord and us.
Strive to constantly do better
Making mistakes is human, so do not fret if you have strayed from the Godly path along the way. Perhaps you have gone off course and realise you have done a good deed with the wrong intentions at heart. It is a good thing to realise your mistakes. Turn to Allah and ask Him for forgiveness, and ask for another chance to start over, this time with Him in mind.
Offer advice with kindness
As our Lord states in surah Al-Hujurat:
We are nothing but brothers and sisters to each other. We should advise each other towards good, but do it with a sound understanding of the legal basis of what we are calling to, as well as a sound understanding of the manners that befit our message.
After all, there are many sisters who came to the decision to wear the hijab after noticing the outward and inward beauty shown by others who wore it.
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 Empower issue of Aquila Style magazine. For a superior and interactive reading experience, you can get the entire issue, free of charge, on your iPad or iPhone at the Apple Newsstand, or on your Android tablet or smartphone at Google Play