This week, we continue our series on “A Day in the Life of a Hijabi” highlighting American Muslim women who wear the hijab. We continuously hear from those who don the headscarf for a few hours on a single day, attempting to gather what life is like for a person who wears it daily. But we need not turn to them when we have amazing hijabi Muslim women willing to share the experience they live everyday. They are the experts on this topic—and it is finally time they are passed the mic!
We heard from Raabia Khan last week, a graduate student based in the greater Philadelphia area about her hijab story. Today, we speak with social worker Tehmina Tirmizi from Long Island, New York. A mother of three boys, Tirmizi began wearing hijab in her adult years when she was already working full-time. She mustered up the courage to put on the headscarf nearly ten years ago now and has not looked back ever since. Read on below for her experience beginning hijab and how it affects her daily life today through graduate school, new job, interfaith events, and even a near death experience.
Can you provide a little background about your school/workplace?
I’m a social worker, and I work for a domestic violence agency called Domestic Harmony Foundation. It is a non-profit that stems out of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, New York. The agency mostly caters to Muslim, South Asian, and Middle Eastern women and families who need support through any family violence or domestic violence issues.
When/why did you start wearing hijab?
I started in November of 2009. I thought about it for years, but didn’t have the courage to actually apply it because I already had gone through school without it. I was working full time (at a different job than Domestic Harmony Foundation), so I felt really awkward about starting hijab in the middle of a place where people already knew me for a few years without it. I took vacation days, and I baby-stepped my way to it. I would check the mail in hijab. I went to the mall in it just to get over that awkwardness.
When my vacation was over, I ended up going to work super early so no one could see me walk in. That day, coincidentally, we had an emergency meeting and everyone ended up seeing me my first day in hijab—and everyone was okay with it. It was just me being paranoid. Everyone was like, “Oh my God, you look so nice!” and “Your scarf is so pretty.” I kept it on after that.
What has your general experience with hijab been like? How has it impacted your school/work life?
Whenever I deal with non-Muslims, especially women, they’ll always compliment my hijab. When I was in school these past couple years working toward my Master’s degree in Social Work, I wore mostly black. Whenever I changed the color of my hijab, people would pick up on it right away.
I know Islamophobia is everywhere but Alhamdulillah (all praise to God), I’ve never been mistreated by anyone. You never know what is inside people’s hearts, but I’m in a lot of good company even with non-Muslims. I get a lot of respect. Hijab makes you stand out as a Muslim. When the Muslim ban happened last year, I had professors come and ask me if everything was okay. When anything goes on in the news, my non-Muslim friends always check up on me. So far, it’s been a great experience.
Right after I started hijab, I did have a near death experience. I feel like it had saved my life. It was almost like an insurance policy!
What is your favorite part of being a hijabi?
As a hijabi, I feel like I can just stand up and pray wherever I need to pray. I don’t have to rush to the car to get my hijab. I don’t have to prepare anything when I’m going out. I feel like I can go anywhere and pray when I need to pray. I don’t need to pack my bag for it.
What is one thing you would like people to know about the hijab?
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Everyone has their own level of Islam. Sometimes when people see me, they see me as really, really conservative even though I’m not. I feel like if you don’t judge a book by its cover and you just have a conversation with someone, you can actually get to know that person at a different level.