With this “A Day in the Life of a Hijabi” series on Why Islam, we are taking back the mic for Muslim women who cover. No one knows the experiences of being a hijabi quite like a hijabi. To shed light on their day-to-day lives, we turn to the American Muslim women themselves.
We previously heard from Raabia Khan, a graduate student based in the greater Philadelphia area, and Tehmina Tirmizi, a social worker in New York about their hijab stories. Today, we speak with former fashion student and social media extraordinaire, Sobia Masood. From working in Manhattan with many millennials to taking a job with people of all ages out in Eastern Long Island, Masood has tackled much of her adult life in a hijab. She shares her #OOTD looks with her over 48,000 followers on Instagram and gives people a glimpse of what it is actually like being a young Muslim American woman in hijab today.
Can you provide a little background about your school/workplace?
I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology, and I studied International Trade and Marketing. As soon as I got out of college, I took up a job at TJ Maxx working at an international buying office, and now I still work in sales of some sort, but I’m more on the medical devices and distributor side.
When/why did you start wearing hijab?
I started wearing hijab in the summer of 2013. I wore it coming out of high school and going into college. I thought that would be a good, fresh start. I had wanted to wear it while I was in high school, but I was still very hesitant. I needed a final push to go into a new phase of my life doing something quite large and with a lot of responsibility to it. I felt like it was the right thing to do.
Obviously, it’s a commandment that really spoke to me personally and that I wanted to fulfill as a Muslim woman. I saw it as another stepping stone to gaining that closeness and building my faith. I really liked the symbolism behind it, and I really appreciate what it means especially as I grow older. It means something different to me every step of the way. At the time [I started], I felt as though I was so ready to be identified as a Muslim.
What has your general experience with hijab been like?
Thankfully, I’ve had pretty positive experiences. I do get the occasional stares or looks, but I’m rather blessed living in an area where people are exposed to other Muslims. I have noticed if I dress more casual, like I’m running out to the store in sweatpants, people are not as perceptive to me as opposed to when I’m very put together. I think I’ve gotten used to the staring and questionable looks here and there, and I’ve come to a point where I overlook them.
How has hijab impacted your school/work life?
I went to the Fashion Institute in the heart of Manhattan, so it was a super diverse school. It wasn’t unusual to see people of all different backgrounds. I actually felt very comfortable at school. I did feel like hijab played into my favor a lot because my class sizes were rather small. Most of the time, I was the only hijabi. I was able to develop those relationships with my professors better because they knew who I was since I had such a large marker on me. It definitely worked to my advantage in college—I’m very appreciative of that.
In work, it’s been interesting. At my old job, I was working with a lot of people that were my age. Even though we were in Manhattan and very open, it felt as though I wasn’t as accepted until people saw what my status or platform was on social media.
What is your favorite part of being a hijabi?
One of my favorite parts is being able to break down barriers with people, their misinterpretations and viewpoints and thoughts about Muslims. It’s kind of a tough role because you’re that one token Muslim most of the time that people know at work or school. You have to be on your best behavior. Hijab would open a lot of productive conversations. People were very open to learning more about why I wore hijab or what the meaning of it was or certain practices that I would follow. Most people would end the conversation with, “Oh wow! I didn’t know that!” I really like that aspect of being able to connect with people on a different level.
What is one thing you would like people to know about the hijab?
As much as it is a physical aspect, there is so much more of a personal, inner endeavor within one’s own self, behavior, and character. It’s important for people to realize even though I may cover and this other person may cover as well, we’re two different people, have two different viewpoints on things, and we have different ways of life. We’re very individualized.