Five women open up to Afia R Fitriati about their experiences of wearing the hijab for the first time. They share their tips and advice for new and experienced hijabis alike.
This article originally appeared in the September 2012 Luxe issue of Aquila Style magazine. You can read the entire issue free of charge on your iPad or iPhone at the Apple Newsstand, or on your Android tablet at Google Play.
The donning of a hijab is an act of great commitment for a Muslim woman. The moral responsibilities, societal expectations and controversies often associated with wearing the Islamic headwear can all contribute to the reasons why some Muslim women refrain from veiling.
Aquila Style spoke with five women whose journeys towards the hijab are peppered with emotions that range from the bittersweet to the profound.
There is one constant however, that they all share. And that is the peace they now possess deep in their hearts, now that they have embraced the hijab for good.
Camila Gil, USA
For Camila, wearing the hijab encompasses much more than just putting on a few extra layers of fabric. “When I became a Muslim three years ago, I believed that in order for me to really understand and get closer to my religion, I had to not only be a Muslim in my heart, but also act like a Muslim and look like a Muslim,” says Camila, adding that in her personal opinion, acting and looking like a Muslim entail wearing hijab. “I wanted to make hijab the element that would remind me daily of how my actions need to go and to be the reminder of what I believe in at every moment.”
That was how Camila decided to wear the hijab permanently, a decision that she describes as a “new adventure”. “I had a lot of mixed emotions,” she shares. “I felt insecure at first because I needed to get used to wearing it, but with time, I got used to it and it was just excitement; no longer a nervous feeling.”
Living in a country where Muslims are a minority, Camila had to deal with a variety of reactions to her decision. “When I decided to start wearing [hijab] permanently, I was at the university and I wanted to show a friend how I looked with it. She told me I looked pretty and that was encouraging.” But not everyone was as supportive. “My family hated it at first; friends were curious and had a lot of questions,” recalls Camila. “I felt like it was now my responsibility to represent my religion and hijab well.”
Remember that you’ve done it because you chose to please Allah
To those who are considering adopting the hijab permanently or are new hijabis, Camila offers some tips. “Learn to love it and be strong,” she advises. “Remember that you’ve done it because you chose to please Allah. Learn how to wear it to feel most comfortable and that will help you to be strong when wearing it.”
For those with a loved one who has just begun to adopt the hijab, Camila stresses the importance of being supportive. “Keep in mind that this is a personal decision that makes their loved one happy. Whether they agree to it or not, like it or not, they should just remember that the hijab brings happiness to that person,” she says. “To learn more about it and get acquainted to the idea of it would be ideal. Learning is a great path to tolerance and understanding.”
NurMarjan Soriano, the Philippines
NurMarjan began to consider wearing the hijab after her conversion to Islam a few years ago. When she finally made up her mind, she felt some trepidation looming over her decision. “I felt quite nervous about putting it on at first, wondering what people would think,” she says. But NurMarjan, a nurse, felt that it was the right thing to do and that her conversion would feel incomplete without the ideal Islamic attire. “I told myself that I had made a commitment and that this was the visual sign of it,” she explains. “Now I know where I belong.”
The change in her outer appearance was received with mixed reactions. “When it comes to my family, there’s no problem at all,” says NurMarjan. But others were not supportive. “I’ve been through a lot from my circle of friends and some of my colleagues. People who I used to speak to hardly talk to me anymore.” To cope, NurMarjan chooses to focus on the positive side of things. “At least I know who my true friends are,” says the 34-year-old.
For sisters who are on their journeys of hijab discovery, NurMarjan offers some advice. “You have to wear it for the right reasons. Please develop your iman, pray, read the Qur’an and its translation.”
“Then when you wear it, you will never take it off for anyone.”
Rosilawati Binte Haji Saad, Singapore
Get yourself ready spiritually and feel the feeling of ikhlas within you
It is never too late to make a positive life change. At age 48, the thought of wearing the hijab had never crossed Rosilawati’s mind, until one evening when she was having dinner with her son at a restaurant. “Putera asked me to look at my surroundings,” she recalls. She describes what she saw as a “wake-up call”. “I was really shocked and embarrassed. I didn’t even realise that I was the only Muslim lady without the hijab!”
Rosilawati counts herself lucky because her family and friends were all positive about her decision to wear the hijab for good. Their support made her even more confident with her choice. She says that the important key in making the commitment is to “get yourself ready spiritually and feel the feeling of ikhlas (unconditional sincerity) within you. Never don the hijab if you just want to show off to others.”
Rosilawati also shares some practical tips to ease the transition to wearing the hijab. “Besides getting ready with your tudung (hijab) collections, you may consider trimming your hair short and neat,” she says, adding that the tip is especially useful for women living in hot climates. On styling and storage, Rosilawati offers a few nuggets of advice, “For those new to the hijab, you can always log on to YouTube for simple and practical demonstrations on how to don the hijab for daily use and special occasions. Don’t overstock, start with one colour each and before you realise it, you already have it all.”
Yasmine Soraya Bashir, Australia
Yasmine also considers herself fortunate because even though she lives in Australia, she is surrounded by hijab-wearing family and friends. So when she felt ready, she had no qualms about covering up. “At school it wasn’t hard or anything to wear the hijab because my school is really multicultural with around 40 percent of its students being Muslim. So people already knew why I wore a hijab and they supported my decision.”
Finding the right style can be a challenge for new hijabis, to whom Yasmine shares a few tips. “Don’t get frustrated when it looks ‘wrong’ because you’ll get the hang of it.”
Don’t get frustrated when it looks “wrong” because you’ll get the hang of it
“Start off with wearing simple styles. I find that by looking around at people who are already wearing hijabs and taking notes of their styles as well as choices of fabrics and patterns, I can choose hijab styles that suit me best.” Finally, Yasmine recommends tying your hair in a ponytail and choosing hijabs made of light materials “so you don’t feel too hot under it.”
Endar Rachmawaty, Indonesia
For some women who choose to don the hijab as a part of their lifestyle, the commitment may require some great sacrifices. Endar is one of those women. “I was planning to wear the hijab once I got a job four years ago,” she shares. “Unfortunately, my position at work didn’t allow me to substitute my outfit to comply with Islamic dress code. The management said that wearing hijab at work was not acceptable because it was not in accordance with company regulations.”
Feeling torn between a job that she loved and her compliance of sharia, Endar resigned from her job last year. It was perhaps a risky move, but everything worked out in the end. “Finally, I was interviewed by one company that had no problem with me wearing the hijab, and I got a job that I like. I have been wearing it for nine months now,” she says gratefully.
Endar believes that her decision to wear the hijab was influenced by the blessing and prayers from her parents and family. “My parents are very supportive of me wearing the hijab. When we celebrated Eid ul-Fitr at my grandma’s house, my relatives told me that I looked more mature and beautiful in the hijab.”
To encourage others who feel that their decision of wearing the hijab is held back by societal expectations, Endar offers some words of advice. “You do not need to have perfect iman to wear the hijab. If perfection was required for the hijab, then who on Earth do you think could wear it? Once you make the decision to wear the hijab, set a day and just do it!”
Endar reminds “seasoned” hijabis to reach out to new hijabis with courtesy and love. “It is important to treat them nicely so that they will not regret wearing it and can feel the positivity of the hijab.”
What is sharia?
Sharia is a broad system of laws based on the Qur’an, hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), sunnah (teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh), as well as centuries of debate, precedents and interpretations by legal scholars in specific instances, drawing on the Qur’an and other reliable religious sources.
This article originally appeared in the September 2012 Luxe issue of Aquila Style magazine. You can read the entire issue free of charge on your iPad or iPhone via the Apple Newsstand, or on your Android tablet via Google Play