Discovering the Meaning of Hijab: A Journey of Faith and Identity
I haven’t always worn the Hijab. Hijab is the covering(scarf) which Muslim women wear over their hair. It is one piece of the modest clothing described in the Quran for women to adhere to. In principal the hijab is the act of covering oneself from the opposite gender – this is done to shield women from unwanted advances and to distinguish oneself as a God-fearing person. In the Quran, God says,
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:59).
A Personal Journey
The hijab has been a journey for me. On a daily basis I am understanding and reminded what the hijab means for me. One of the challenges was to accept wearing it in the first place. I rebelled against it for a variety of reasons, (societal standards of beauty, not wanting to seem like an outcast, fear of being identified as Muslim, among others.)
I knew that I didn’t want to wear the hijab if I didn’t feel it in my heart. And for many years I struggled with the notion of hijab and the modern day value of it. Many years later at the age of 24, it suddenly clicked for me.
An Epiphany of Faith
God had put a spark in my heart and there was a desire to start practicing one of the tenants of my faith. The realization came to me when I was ready to pray and I had performed the ritual washing and pulled into the Mosque to go in to pray. As I reached back into my backseat I realized that I had forgotten my head scarf (I always used to keep one in the car.)
I felt crushed – the only reason I would be missing one of my five daily prayers was because I was not properly dressed. I vowed to myself that I would always be “prayer-ready”. I never wanted to feel disconnected from the prayer because I was not dressed properly.
The life of a Muslim is supposed to be connected to God in every way. There is not an act, which if performed with the correct intention, that cannot be incorporated into worship. I realized that wearing hijab was In fact an act of worship. It was submitting to God’s commandment. On a spiritual level you are moving closer to the commandments of Allah, and also your identity becomes very clear as a Muslim woman.
The Transformative Power of Wearing the Hijab
At first, the driving cause for wearing the Hijab was to be always “prayer-ready” but, as time passed, I realized that just a piece of clothing changed my attitude and made me more mindful about my duty as a servant of God. By identifying myself as a Muslim women I had become a spokesperson for my faith and I often found myself in situations in which I was not only being identified as Muslim but also being called on to explain my faith. Aside from the outward display of my Muslim identity – there were internal character changes happening. I was learning to be patient (wearing the hijab in summer is not easy). I saw myself trying to be more generous and courteous and was consciously aware of my behavior as I interacted with colleagues, friends and family. Although the hijab is only a physical piece of cloth, its effects can be felt in my heart.