By Mira Khatib
My Hijab Journey
I looked in the mirror, I saw my reflection looking back at me, but was this really me? I stood there studying my covered hair, Yes, it was the same person but the image didn’t quite fit the character. Same eyes, with eye shadow, eyeliner and thick lashes, blusher touched my skin, and lipstick resting upon my lips. Can I really be that person, that Muslim? Do I have the courage to cover up day in and day out? I wanted to, but I knew I wasn’t ready.
I can’t say that I’m a non-Arab, I can’t say that I was born in a different religion. But my upbringing did indeed influence my outlook towards life and my faith. I was raised by a faithful Christian mother, and her beliefs never stood in the way of her marriage to a Muslim man. My parents loved each other and found ways to respect and overcome their differences. They brought us up to understand the guidelines of both religions. We would fast Ramadan and celebrate Christmas. It was a wonderful combination of love and faith. When I was around 12 years old, my mom on her own will decided to convert to Islam. But our teachings and beliefs were unchanged; religion was more of a small aspect of our lives not a way of life. When it came to prayer or being modest in our attire, it was more of a cultural influence than a religious one. Unfortunately my parents never encouraged me to pray or wear the hijab. I never felt or even comprehended the fact that by not doing so I am committing a sin. Our daily lives without prayer, or other religious rituals was what I thought is the norm, as never was I taught otherwise.
Months and years passed and I was content with who I am oblivious to my spiritual side, all until I had my own children and their curiosity about faith and our religion started to become evident. How could I answer their many questions when I myself didn’t know the answers? I felt ashamed and somewhat lost, I found myself asking what does it mean to be a Muslim? And from there my journey to discover my faith started. I admit I was a bit scared and unsure of the things I will find out, I knew I would be faced with new meanings and enlightenment that would influence me and most likely change my life. But I couldn’t allow my fear to hold me back my thirst for the truth was much more powerful than my fears.
After some thorough research I found the right teacher that I felt comfortable with, she spoke to me and other students with compassion never once making us feel guilty from losing our path from our faith and not following our duties. Her job was to teach not scold and punish but more of open our eyes to the true meanings and beauty of Islam. So like an obedient students I went to every class, gradually I started looking forward to listening to her lectures, and slowly starting to feel a need to hear more and learn more. I felt changes begin to happen to my heart, her words touched my soul slowly I began to see the light. Within a month I kneeled down for my prayers and took an oath upon myself to commit to praying my 5 daily prayers. I felt such relief and satisfaction, a sort of peace washed all over me, contentment that I never experienced before. I felt in my prayers I am home, I am safe.
The more I learned the more I realized how far from the truth I was. How many changes I need to adapt to if I was to truly become a practicing Muslim. I told myself baby steps, and although I heard of people of many nationalities convert so easily, yet every ones journey is different, I needed time.
I started to share my new found knowledge with my husband and family, and I started to see the change in them too, for once you open your heart and mind, and truly have the will to learn, one cannot help but change.
And I did change in many ways and many behaviors, yet one thing I struggled with was the idea to wear the Islamic veil. I loved clothes and shopping up to trend, make up, hair the works, i took pride in showing my good looks and figure, and never did I feel guilty about doing so. Yet the more religious I got the more I realized that the hijab is my greatest obstacle. I couldn’t let go of the notion that if I cover up my youth and beauty will diminish and that I wouldn’t know how to enjoy life wearing a simple head scarf.
So I prayed and prayed, everyday asking Allah to help me do what is right, to help me do what will please Him. Yet the struggle continued and with the one veil I had pushed back in my closet, I stood there in front of the mirror practicing how I would look covered. My brain was rejecting the image yet my soul was craving it. How I longed to be that reflection of a covered woman.
My husband walked in after Friday prayer and saw me with the veil; little did he know that I was just telling myself I could never do this. He smiled brightly and with open arms congratulated me on finally making the biggest change of all and putting on the hijab. I found that I was lost for words, I was praying for guidance and strength, wishing for a sign that would push me towards the right step, and although all the reasons in my head told me “don’t!” I found myself saying, “Yes I decided to wear the hijab.”
I took my first steps out of the door as a veiled woman, feeling excited yet terrified; I took a leap and was afraid that I won’t be able to reach the other side successfully. But I brushed aside any uncertainties and walked forward. I looked around me, and nothing seemed different. The same trees, same streets, faces looked at me and moved on, life seemed the same, but I knew my life would never be so again.
I didn’t have a single outfit for hijab just that one maxi skirt and long sleeved shirt that I coincidently wore that day. I started to shop and found out that I still can be dressy and modest. I struggled for hours watching many hijab tutorials on how to wear a scarf. And after many trials I mastered the scarf without falling out of place.
And every time I looked into the mirror I still didn’t see the image reflecting my personality. I was a certain person for over 30 years and within months I was being reborn into this new Muslim woman. I knew it would take time and I knew I would have my good days and other bad ones, yet I persevered.
And one day few months after, I woke up and put on my hijab before going out and as I looked at my reflection, I cried with relief, finally the image reflected the soul and person. I no longer longed for my hair to parade over my shoulders for all to see, nor did I feel the need to show off my figure. On the contrary I found my true beauty in my hijab, and felt a freedom that my simple scarf offered me like no other. I was covered and free, filled with content and satisfaction, an inner peace reached. I learned that my hijab was not an obstacle to enjoy life; on the contrary it offered me the reins to enjoy life to the fullest while pleasing Allah.
And although I do admit my hijab is not perfect and I still have some growing to do, but this is part of the journey to learn more and change for the better a little bit every day.