Reflections on My Journey With and Without the Headscarf

I need to think out loud. I’ve found blogging my thoughts helps me work through them. Most of the time I receive very helpful comments on the things I blog about. These comments are read and much appreciated even if I don’t always reply to them. Sometimes I don’t reply because I’m mulling over the things that people have said. Of course, other times I receive quite hurtful and judgmental comments. But even these are helpful. It’s good to know where societies stand on certain issues. It’s good to know where work needs to be done to create positive change.

I had a long conversation last night with a very good friend of mine. It was about the hijab; that piece of cloth that covers a woman’s hair. Many of you will recall the blog post I wrote in which I admitted that I had experimented with taking my hijab off during a trip to Europe. That post received more than 68,000 views since it went online and more than 450 comments. Clearly this is a topic that many people find important, whatever their reasons.

Since I wrote that post, I will now admit that I have continued to experiment. My experimentation the first time was mainly to try to see if complete strangers, in a European country, dealt with me differently with and without the hijab. I was raised to believe that the hijab protected women from the evil stares of men. The hijab allowed people to deal with me not because of my beauty but because of my personality and what was in my head. I wanted to know if this was true. The result of my European experiment was that there was no difference. People did not look at me or treat me any differently because I was wearing the hijab or because I had exposed my hair. The treatment in both cases was almost exactly the same. Since then, whenever I’ve been to Europe and when I’m not in the presence of people I know who I feel may be judgmental of me, I continue to not wear the hijab. This time though, I’m experimenting with my own feelings about this. I know that people in a European country could care less whether I cover my hair or not. But do I care? How do I feel? And what are my feelings about doing the same thing in an Arab country? Or in the midst of people I know?

This is what I’ve learned about myself so far:

When in Europe and when I’m in the midst of people I do not know, I am completely comfortable not wearing my hijab. I do not in any way feel that people are looking at me as if I’m some sort of a sex object. I’m just a person passing by. I feel the same way when I’m walking around in Europe with the hijab. Exactly the same. The difference is, perhaps, that it’s nice for me to be able to let my hair go free for once. It’s less constricting. After a long day wearing the hijab out of the house, I always come home wanting to take it off immediately. I need to air my head and my neck. When I’m not wearing the hijab in Europe, I don’t have that feeling of being constricted. I’ve also discovered that the hijab is an added benefit when it gets cold. It keeps my head warm. I hadn’t realized how cold one’s ears can get when exposed.

I’ve also worn and not worn the hijab with European friends who know me. This has been strange for me. When I am not wearing the hijab among people I know, I feel as if I’ve lost part of my identity. I have been wearing the hijab for 26 years now. That is a long time. Regardless of why I wear the hijab, it has become a part of who I am. When I’m not wearing it, I struggle a little bit with my European friends. It’s an internal struggle. It cannot be seen. But it’s there inside of me.

A European female friend of mine has pictures of me with and without the hijab. When I began feeling that she preferred the ones without the hijab over the ones with it (only a perceived feeling on my part and nothing that she had expressed in any way), I felt that my identity was being attacked. Even though I sometimes did not wear the hijab in the presence of people, in my head I was still the woman who wears the hijab and was proud of it. Just because I did not always wear the hijab did not mean that I was not that person anymore. This led me to become defensive and to wear the hijab more often in her presence in order to assert my identity.

This whole issue of having pictures of me taken without the hijab has been a big thing for me. What if these pictures get published on the Internet? What if someone puts a picture on Facebook and tags me? What will my friends think of me? Am I comfortable with some of my Arab friends seeing my hair? If not, why? What is the big deal?

One reason this is a big deal is because many Arabs/Muslims really do make a big fuss out of it. A simple example is that when a group of girls who wear the hijab get together in a party and take off their hijab, they all eye each other’s hair and make positive and negative comments. It is an extremely uncomfortable experience. You suddenly turn into your hair. Your hair becomes a very big deal. It is for this reason that I never take off my hijab during these girls-only parties. Ever. I have a very good friend who traveled with me once. She kept talking about wanting to come to my hotel room specifically so she could see my hair. I completely refused. I was not going to model myself for anyone. I am not my hair. I also have some Arab male friends who I’d be extremely uncomfortable appearing hijab-less in front of for the same exact reason. The amount of curiosity they have shown over the years in what is under that piece of cloth can be stifling at times.

What I’m seeing in this experience is that as long as a woman normally exposes her hair, most if not all people will deal with her as a whole individual and not as the woman with the hair. But the fact that some women cover their hair creates an aura of mystery to some people about what exists beneath the cloth that can sometimes border on obsession, in which case the woman turns into the woman with the covered hair.

I’ve had another issue that I found myself expressing to my friend last night during our conversation. “I’m uncomfortable taking off my hijab in Egypt because I feel the hijab gives me a certain status here and a certain amount of respect,” I told my friend. I was shocked hearing myself say this. But I know it to be true. A woman in a hijab in Egypt and in most of the Islamic world has a status of respect in society. She is pure. She is almost holy. She is an observing Muslim woman, as is evident by the mere fact that she covers the hair on her head. This demands respect.

I am very uncomfortable with myself feeling this way. I do not want respect from people and a certain status in society because of what I put on my head. Just as I do not want people to look at Nadia and see her hair, I do not want people to look at Nadia and see her scarf. I want people to respect me for who I am and what I do and not for anything else. And trust me, the scarf does not make me holy or pure.

I’ve discovered that I don’t want to lose “status” or “respect” among my peers, among my neighbors, or with my doorman for that matter. I’ve been telling myself for the past few months that one of the reasons I continue to wear the hijab in Egypt is that I feel a need to respect my culture. It would be insulting for so many people to see me without my hijab. They would literally feel offended. But the real reason, if I dig deep inside of me, that I do not want people in Egypt to see me without my hijab is that I don’t want to be looked down on. I truly believe in my head that a main reason for the respect I am given is the cloth that covers my hair. A small part of me knows this may be wrong. But the biggest part of me believes it to be true. And that is just sad.

This blog post will get many comments about hijab in Islam, verses from the Quran will be quoted and Prophetic sayings will be noted. Feel free to have discussions among yourselves here about faith and observance of faith and how I’m going down a slippery slope towards hell.

The one thing I have confidence and trust in is my relationship with God. Not for one minute have I worried throughout all this about God judging me as a bad person. I know that God gave me a brain to use. I know God supports my struggle and my journey trying to figure things out for myself. Tell me otherwise as much as you want. No matter what you say to me, this is the one thing I know to be true.

I am confident in God. I have trust in God. I am not worried about God being judgmental of me. But I have no confidence in people. I have no trust in people. I do worry about people being judgmental of me. I am very upset with myself for feeling this way. I feel small. And this is something I need to work on with myself. I want to reach a stage where I do things because I feel they are the right thing for me to do and not because they are the right thing for other people to do. The journey is long and hard. I am happy that I have the strength to go on it. I know that I will stumble a lot along the way. But I know that I need to go on this journey to find the true me and not the image of me that is in the minds of others.

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36 comments

  1. Very interesting read as always. I can see how you are dealing with the issue and I really respect the courage you have in sharing it here.

    It’s a struggle, I’m afraid, that has no real, concrete, one-size-fits-all outcome. It’s a personal journey that every girl/woman should, in my opinion, endure on and make sense of why she wears the hijab and accept that – in the end – there is a good chance she might keep it and a good chance she might take it off.

    Sadly, the issue that I think holds most people from experimenting is like you said that the societal pressure is very high. Many women are afraid to take the hijab off because of all the people involved in her life and because or society is sickeningly judgmental. And it is not just that wearing the hijab gives you a certain status, but the fact that you wore it THEN took it off, rubs much away so there is much at risk.

    Sad really. I wish people would be more open-minded to these choices and understand you can’t really judge because you will never have the full picture like the person involved.

  2. When my family moved back to England (I was 16) I seriously considered removing my hijjab. A hijjab that even my salafi relatives had argued I was too young to wear (at age 12) but it became my greatest teenage rebellion, a symbol of my independence and ability to choose for my self. Also I wore it originally not a little because of peer pressure and trying to get away from sexual harassment.

    I never believed the hijjab was a fard. When I first put it on it was a status thing, a look now I am a grown up. But over the years I have come to believe it is a tool that I personally need to help me. I struggle with peer pressure have always had difficulty saying no and I believed (correctly as it turns out) the hijjab gives me the support and weight needed to end arguments.

    A rabbi once told me that orthodox Jews (even tiny kids) are always dressed formally because it helps keep them from getting carried away by the crowd. THat is not precisely what I mean, it is not like I want to do things but rather instead of having to explain a million times that no I really don’t want to do drugs “even if a tiny little bit just this one time” “wouldn’t hurt me really” or “you can’t get addicted from the first go” ditto alcohol and several other things. All I have had to do in 90% of cases is say no thanks and subtly adjust my hijjab. or at most no I would rather have a lemonade thanks, most Muslims don’t drink.

    I pray that one day I will have the strength of character to no longer need it, until then I’ll take the easy way out.

  3. A most interesting blog which offers a perspective that many non Muslims do not even begin to understand. I believe that the really interesting part is in the two final paragraphs about your relationship with your God, I am sure that you are right.

    From the perspective of a non Muslim who struggles to make sense of ANY religion but who respects peoples individual beliefs I see it as important that women who wear any form of religious dress or emblem do so of their own choice and not under duress.

  4. I think you’d better settle down first if you want to continue wearing hijab for good or taking it off for good. You can sit with an open minded scholar or sheikh if u want to be sure is it obligatory or not. Or better to talk with yourself to know if you want to take it off anyways even if it is obligatory.

    I know it’s a challenge for a strong woman like you who have taken very tough decisions all over her life to be helpless at an issue like this.

    But may be it’s a transitional period, I myself paased by when you want to be exactly the opposite of what you were when you were on the other extreme of being very ‘conservative’.

    In my opinion, by time, you will reach a midway point in which you are not very conservative and you’re still wearing the hijab.

  5. Hi Nadia,
    your post is really really interesting. I deeply respect your feeling about hijab and I’m really interested on understand it. I can understand that you don’t want to offend anyone. What sounds really strange for a european mentality is to read that it’s necessary an indument to have respect. In a perfect world, wherever it is, I think that the respect for others should be unconnected with what I’m dressing, the colour of my hair or other exeterior caratheristic.
    Thank you so much for your post and have a good trip
    beatrice

  6. I think you were taught wrong about hijab and i think you wish you could take it off without bring judged.. You worry about ppl more than allah in reality which is sad.. Dont try to justify it to yourself.. I’d think deeper about hijab if i were u.. Its not about men.. Find the stronger reasons that will make more sense to u n forget about ppl.. Good luck

    1. Exactly, Nadia. Are Muslim women supposed to wear the hijab to please people, attain a certain status, or be protected from harassment? or as a form of adherence to God’s orders, one of the types of ta3at? We may never know in our lives the exact wisdom behind many acts of worship and the suchlike anyway.

  7. ليه مش بتقومى بالتجارب دى فى مصر ليه فى اوروبا لو جاوبتى على السؤال ده جايز تعرفى انتى صح ولا لأ

  8. firstly i want to say that i truly admire your courage of expressing your thoughts . and about the hjab, girls should wear it after puberty it is Islam rules, for me when i wore the hjab, i wore it to obey Allah and after that i felt so comfortable . it became a part of me it is about my nature to be covered and safe that feeling you have when you wear loose cloths and scarf .you feel comfortable ,safe ,somehow protected and i think you should think about hjab as a god’s rule it is not an experiment
    good luck

  9. One of those wonderful honest Nadia blogposts that are so rare to read in a world where people shy away from trying to find out who they really are. Courageous, inspiring, deep. Much respect. The journey to ourselves is the only one that is worth travelling. And there’s a light at the end of the tunnel if we do. :) Wishing you good luck!

  10. I’m struggling with how to give a thumbs-up from afar without being dismissably generic about it. I just appreciate these posts. Between your own thoughtful grappling with circumstance and choice, and the sometimes-enlightening and sometimes-horrifying words of your commenters, they’re like a few small windows in a very tall wall.

  11. That is a good post in terms of its honesty and transparency.

    The religion of Islam as I personally understand it encourages people to become true believers, meanwhile it pays less appreciation to those who have the choice to have their faith tested but rather prefer to go the easy way instead and mimic what their communities are used to do until the day they die.

    Let me put it this way.. sometimes, according to my humble understanding of Islam and based on my own personal journey with the religion, you have to just do what is commonly believed even if it doesn’t fit within our own sense.

    I am saying that because if we thought about it this way, we’ll find that religion, any religion, implies lots of metaphysical matters that are not measurable nor sensible by our own human minds, nor our logic.

    Yes! Let’s face it. The believer and the follower of -any- religion must be willingly accepting the fact that ‘faith’ means believing in the unseen, the intangible, and things that they may not be able to grasp by their ordinary limited logic.

    In another way, trying to find logic in every single religious matter is contradicting with the spiritual essence of faith, whether that faith was Islamic, Jewish or even be it was Buddhism.

    To conclude; picking a specific religion to embrace always requires the believer to compromise their logic in some matters as long as they witnessed and admitted a miraculous side of that faith.

    If it’s not like that, so why would you focus that much on Hijab while there are a lot of other rituals and Islamic practices that you may question the same way, such as: Why are you required to travel all the way to Mecca to revolve around a cubic building that has nothing so special about it at all? … etc?

    If I were you, I’d rather start (and stop) by questioning why I chose Islam out of all those faiths around us, and what makes me really believe that it is coming from the Creator of the universe.

    If you find the answer for that, then you might take the religion as a whole – and for granted – without bothering yourself by questioning every single action it requires you to take to become an obedient believer.

    As you know, and when it comes to the Islamic case in specific, many religious obligations made sense hundreds of years later after the death of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

    May God guide you and us to what He sees best,

  12. Allah will not judge you? Says who? I really want to know how you came up with this thought. Have you ever heard of the day of judgement?
    You don’t feel like a hypocrite taking hijab off in Europe then coming back to Masr with Hijab on?
    يَا حَسْرَةً عَلَى الْعِبَادِ

  13. All I have to say is thank you for your honesty and candor. This is a much needed insight into the only protagonist that really matters: the wearer of the hijab. I wish we had a European counterpart to your work here.

  14. I think Andy Mackleud said it all
    I like what he wrote the most
    last 3 lines were beautiful touch comes from a believer

    Mr ALi, i think u take the issue ltl bit with Superficial point of view
    and sorry to say that you understand NON of what lies behind nadia’s post !!

  15. The hijab is cultural contextualized and always has been. And being the “best” Muslim is being your best self — with or without the hijab. It is your gift to decide how you should use it! Great blog post!

  16. You are such a courageous lady I admire your ability to face your inner feelings and your quest to come closer to the truth and to the real you. I totally understand your feelings as I have been there once. I used to wear the head scarf for 19 years. I wore it when I was a teenager only 16 years old and decided to take it off on the age of 35 where I am now a wife and a mother. It took me 19 years of reading, observation and experience to come to the belief that the head scarf is not a religious requirement, yet this is my own belief and my own search…my own quest. I believe that Customs and tradition are stronger than religion in our societies…that is why it is hard for you… my advice to you if you wish would be to stop worrying about what other people might say no matter how hard it is, for it is Allah whom we should fear not the people. And read more about the issue… read specifically in the history of different Islamic schools. May Allah give you piece of mind and serenity.

  17. I couldn’t resist not to reply.

    I have always had greater respect for an atheist/agnostic who reflects on their beliefs – regardless of my perspective on the matter – than a theist who just is plain oblivious to the fact the their mind was the most valuable gift they were given.

    Your experiment/struggle is very interesting and deserves much respect. I can relate to what you said about giving value to people’s opinions and how our looks may give us instant social status. About 3 years ago, I spent quite some time (1+ yrs) challenging that issue within myself. My rule was -as long as it’s something personal- I would do whatever *I* wanted/liked, and to hell with people’s opinions. And, in an experiment that was somewhat similar to yours, I deliberately did not let myself be seen doing any “religious” acts or rituals, I was actively hiding/destroying anything that would give someone a chance to stereotype me, whether positively or otherwise. Needless to say that was the best year of my life so far. But I’ve fallen back into dealing with a few of these issues once again. I have never publicly spoken about this though, so really props for you for openly discussing this like that.

    Going back to your story, I don’t know the least bit about what’s right. And whether you should take your hijab off in Egypt or not. But I have always believed that as long as you are *sincerely* and continuously searching for the truth, you have nothing else to worry about. It’s when we stop the search that we should really panic.

    That’s my humble view on your experiment, and many thanks for sharing this with us!

  18. I admire your courage and honesty. I know it must be very hard going through such an internal conflict about something you have grown used to for 26 years. I would say, continue doing what you set out to do; that is, take as much as time as it takes to figure this out without pressure from anyone. After all, you said it, it’s your decision and your relationship with God, and it should be no body else’s business. Best of luck!

  19. Assallam Alaikum sister,
    I saw your blog through a twitter link. My friend said it was honest & thought provoking. She was quite right. Although my online name is opinionated hijabi… I am opinionated about life issues like women’s rights, environmentalism, and not throwing garbage in the streets. Which are all problems I see here in Egypt (I’m currently relocating to your country).
    The hijab is such a powerful symbol to many of us Muslims. I admit I experimented with it as a new Muslim 12 years ago when I was trying to decide to wear it or not. Contrary to the opinions of many Muslims I do not believe it is required, but rather modesty of clothing and action. However! Modesty changes according to the standard of where as are… The culture, history, time of year etc (a bikini in winter in NY would seem crazy and immodest while on the street in Miami in summer quite normal).
    I wear hijab because of many reasons: modesty of my own standards, it was a good reminder particularly at first to act as a devout Muslim, as a rejection of western cosmopolitan society which over sexualizes women, and for personal identity. I’m an American Muslim, and proud of it.
    I can understand your feelings… Both in the West & in Egypt that people treat you or may look to you one way with or without it. I side with you, that a piece of cloth should not determine people’s respect of you.
    I just wanted to tell you I agree with all if those things, even if my experience led me to feel better in the hijab… Where yours is different… But you are a piece of all of your history & culture so these things affect us all in different ways. I support you in any choice you have… And please remember many of us are NOT out to judge you but to love the spirit of who you are. Some say that us what hijab is about… But if it is a restriction for you… Then as you choose. But, as my beloved Shaykh Taner Ansari says, “why do you treat hijab as if it is all or nothing? If you feel like wearing it then do. If you don’t one day, then don’t. Allah cares about our intentions and what is in our hearts.”

  20. hijab is not about comfort or about how men look at us. it is about being a “woman of God”
    that’s it. People who dedicate themselves to a life that is lived for God Alone have always been identified in society in some ways – their presence being marked by physical identifiers. Priests, nuns, Rabbis, Ulema, AyatAllah, Shaykhs, etc. – it’s always been that way. think of the robes of scholars, that even graduates wear today. Why clothing is used to identify us is another whole topic.
    But the fact is that throughout history, those who dedicated themselves to God covered in long and loose clothing, and often covered the head.
    In Islam, covering the head is what the very religious do, both men and women. Look for example at the descendents of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam in Tarim, Yemen. The men – the actual descendents who are also scholars, are always covered in long robes and turbans.
    Muslim women were given this honoring by God- to be able to “be known” as Allah says in Quran, when describing how the wives of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam should dress.
    My hijab signifies that i am of those women, inshaAllah – a daughter of the Mothers of the Believers, and a daughter, inshaAllah, of Sayyidna Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wasalam.

    1. life is all about making a free choice..its a bless Allah granted the human kind…life is your show..experience everything..come up with conclusions..live your belives..make a great performance..and bare in mind that your only audience and critique is Allah

  21. Your thought-provoking and courageous post reminded me of a piece that NPR ran about a year ago: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/21/135413427/lifting-the-veil

    It left me feeling a twinge of sadness and threw me down a path of questioning that I haven’t quite reached the end of. Yes, this is a very personal issue. Yes, we each have views on it that are colored by our own personal experiences.

    But on one level this whole discussion just highlights the struggles of Muslim women…damned if we wear hijab, damned if we don’t. I guess it’s a sad reflection of the reality that we live in. A reality where we are continuously judged by our appearance. And not only that, but also that we somehow have to hide being Muslim (if you’re living in a non-Muslim country, that is). I think at the root of it a lot of Muslim women who choose to not wear hijab or choose to take it off are concerned by how they are judged by others; quite a few of those who wear it are concerned by how they are judged by others too. It’s not easy, but I personally feel that if I take it off just to appease others, not only would I not respect myself, but I would feel like I’m not helping to dispel misconceptions about Muslim women; yes we can be friendly, outgoing, successful, smart, stylish all while wearing the hijab! And that’s exactly what you’ve proven yourself Nadia! I’m not in any way downplaying the personal/ identity struggles that the women in the article and that we all go through being “publicly Muslim”. I was spat on when I was in high school for wearing hijab. I’ve had a couple of random crazy people in the street yell at me “go back to your country”. Mostly, my experience has been neutral. And I use it as an opportunity to just be myself: A Muslim American woman. If other’s are going to judge, that’s their problem, but I’m not going to hide and perpetuate their misunderstanding. I dunno, I’m kind of rambling, but I just pray for a day where humanity looks beyond superficialities and cares more about substance.

    On another level this discussion leaves me feeling uneasy and confused. What exactly is God’s view on this? Does he, as scholars over the past 14 centuries have claimed, demand that we wear it?
    Your experimentation is only testing whether or not the justification that you were fed as a child (the purpose of hijab is to cover a woman’s femininity and prevent any unwanted attention) hold true. While your experimentation may lead you to a conclusion about that, it will not answer the most fundamental question does God want us to wear it? Is it a religious requirement? I would like to find a straight answer to that question that is not influenced by “what people think if I do/ don’t wear it”

    PS: I couldn’t figure out from your post any insight into the root of your dis-satisfaction with hijab. In the spirit of this online discussion, I would be interested in hearing more about your reasons for questioning it.

  22. I have a point also ya Nadia that I want to add. As it feels more challenging to wear ur hejab and also keep enjoying life than taking it off which is the shortest way to give it up.

    What I mean is; I have always loved the idea about getting two things together that are nearly the opposite to each others (or at least to ppl who don’t know ISlam) which is being head-covered and stay outgoing with exquisite personality. I wanted to prove it is something can be achieved. It will be much easier to show off your personality while taking off your Hejab but more challenging while keeping it on. I would personally love to disappoint ppl and keep wearing it and still be ME the funny, the outgoing, the adventurous etc etc.

  23. Nadia – your post was indeed very thoughtful, but I cannot move beyond the fact that the Higab encapsulates the notion that women are to be judged (or not judged) based on their appearance and not their actions. If it is, in-fact, a means of protection from the stares and hands of men, then something is wrong with these men and the society in which they live and covering one’s hair will do nothing to address deeply rooted cultural misogyny. To me, higab is a form of imprisonment, of retreating into one’s own reconstructed world where one feels safer. It is the most visible symbol of a culture and society (and dare I say a religion) gone astray. I say this as an Egyptian and a Muslim. Nora

  24. Salam.

    Your comments about the headscarf could be discussed about virtually every other action deemed obligatory in the Islamic faith for example praying or fasting.

    You could experiment too whether the 5 daily prayers achieve what you believe they do or should do….. But such experiments are only the consequence of a lack of understanding.

    Islam is in two parts…… There are the things we have to believe and the things we have to do.

    The belief part is simple enough being la ilaha illallah and muhammadar rasulullah.

    The actions part is the requirement to unconditionally obey whatever Allah (God) says.

    If your belief part is satisfied and you are also satisfied that Allah has made it obligatory to wear the headscarf then you should wear it even if you think it is a meaningless act in itself because it derives its meaning and value from it being a symbol of your worship.

    If you do not believe it to be obligatory, then do your research or contact me and we can discuss it further if you wish.

    If you believe it to be obligatory but still experiment and will ultimately decide whether to wear it based on how you feel and how people respond to you, then it is not worth it as even if you wear it, it no longer becomes in obedience to God but rather than obedience to your intellect.

    If in doubt about issues you believe to be obligatory or forbidden, it is better to continue practising the law of the religion while trying to find answers rather than experimenting. Otherwise your actions are not those of a worshipper of God but rather those of someone whose faith is constantly open to be removed.

    I wish you well in your journey through life and hope you find what you are looking for.

    Peace.

    Mustafa

  25. First and foremost, I commend you on your courage. The courage it takes to look deep inside yourself and find something that you may be ashamed of or disappointed by but being strong enough to admit and be honest to yourself. Not many people can be that strong, including myself.

    I’ve had struggles with hijab too and took it off completely and publicly when i was sixteen. i wanted people to just deal with who i was and i didnt want to hurt my parents by hiding it and then having them find out from someone else. But at the age of nineteen, i put it back on. i realized how many situations i got into that i wouldn’t have if i wore the scarf and it’s proved me right in this past year. But i still struggle and the temptations are always there. and i go back to the exact frame of mind from when i was sixteen thinking…what difference does it make? there’s really no point to this post, just my own ranting i guess haha. But again, i really admire and respect your honesty and i look forward to reading more :) Good luck with all your endeavors (oh and no i don’t think your on the path to hell ;))

  26. You’re so courageous to write that post! I truly respect you!

    I wore the hijab only a few months ago after a long struggle for years. I’ve always been wearing modestly, as a woman, i truly believe in that and feel more comfortable and more practical that way in any society i’m in. Then, a few years ago I thought ok i’ll prepare myself for hijab so I dont feel like suddenly i have to change my style and everything. So I did wear long sleeves and loose clothing for about 2-3 years then one day I decided it’s time for hijab, it seemed it’s only a matter of covering my hair then! But it was not. It’s more than that! It’s more restricting and judgmental from others than i thought! I truly am too warm in the summer, no matter what i do, i need more air in. Did Allah wanted us to feel that way? Were we supposed to stay home on hot days? should i always feel like i need to be home to get some air in? i really don’t know!

    Last thing i’d like is to look absurd in any society i live in, it’s a awkward feeling when people turn their heads to look at you, maybe some people would enjoy that but not me. I’ve lived in the US for a few years and never experienced that feeling, until i wore the hijab, yes i feel some people turn their heads to look at me or watch me, check how i treat my kids maybe, i dont know what they think, but i know they’re not sure if i’m just an just like any other person.

    Main reason for putting hijab was thinking it’ll drive me closer to Allah, but heck, it does not! I’m the same me! not surprised! I just pray as i used to, and read quran every now and then, just me! I treat people so well as i always did (which truly counts ) If you want to be a better muslim, there’re tons of other ways to do it. there’s not that inner peace i was seeking from hijab.

    Second reason, was seeking acceptance from the muslim society particularly my own family, and yes most people congratulated me and were really happy and got all the comments of “it was about time” but also many others were like “why would u do so when u have the freedom by living in the US not to”.
    I got to think it’s a good idea to show my identity, to show people we’re different but we’re good. I always looked at other nationalities who still dress in their national dress no matter where they are. And why we don’t have this. Why did we get so disconnected with our own identity, it’s not just about covering our heads, how about having a jilbab (oriental dress) on, aren;t we too westernized now? A jilbab seems closer to what a modest woman should wear not really the hijab, for me, it’s our body features that need to be covered more than the hair.

    That part about facebook pics, i have the same issue but quite the opposite! I don’t want people posting pics of me with hijab, too many people out there who i can;t face with hijab, i can’t face their questions, don’t have enough answers which leaves me to questioning myself why did i do that if i’m shy and don’t really believe it’s obligatory, I still say that if it was as crucial as the society makes us think then I think it’d have been stated more time and more clearly in the Quran as prayers for example are.

    I do feel more comfortable with it in most settings! I put it very simply and lightly, that i still dont call it hijab, i call it hair covering. But other times i simply hate it! You said it became a part of you but for me my hair is the part of me, it’s my personality, i’m wearing a new person now, a person i wished to be but not sure anymore.

    I dont know about you or others, but had the hijab in any way lead you to the opposite of the true reason behind hijab, HIjab apparently (aside from the spiritual side) means women should look less attractive or sexy so as not to attract men, as mentioned in the quran that women should not display their beauty except to their husbands, fathers…an so on. But…..as i witnessed with others and myself, it actually leads you to think more about your looks everyday, i was that type of person who dresses very practically, a t-shirt and some loose pants, put my hair in a pony tail or a braid and go! Now i feel more pale with the scarf, i tend to look in the mirror and think i need some make up on or i need a little tighter t-shirt or to look cooler! I never thought about that before! some poeple would say that’s evil making you think this way, no it’s me! I’m only being me trying to look like me.

    As for society, as you said it depends on where, when, with whom! which is not very comfortable, to dress as a different person depending on the setting and always feeling uncomfortable with pictures taken or with new people joining, do u review the list of people before an outing with friends to know what ur supposed to wear? I’ve been there myself without hijab, i wore differently (loosely or less revealing) with some people than others and it never really felt good. So how do you plan on handling it if you were at a supermarket in europe without hijab and bumped into an egyptian relative or friend?

    I still don’t know if this debate will ever come to a conclusion in my lifetime. Putting or not putting hijab is a really hard decision, how i wish it wasn’t!
    I believe being a muslim or a believer has more to do with one’s inner self and deeds in his life. If Allah really wanted us to wear it that way, we would have known, just like prayers or fasting. There’re no debates on them, We know they’re mandatory. I have not reached a certain decision yet, no matter what the decision is I wish to feel like being myself no matter where I am.

    Sorry for the long post. I needed to put my thoughts in words. Thanks again for your blog.

  27. hi, ive been wearing a hijab like when i was 6 and now im 15 and i really respect my hijab .. but now ive changed my mind i want to take it off due to confidence when i wear a hijab i dont have that much confidence so i want to take it off so i can get confidence in myself i knw its not right to take it off but i want to for me and only me but am not sure what other ppl will say or will judge and am really scared that they might judge alot what shall i do

  28. It pains me to see someone (not just you by the way other people I know) struggling with what I think of as the ‘wrong problem’. I don’t mean it in a judgemental way at all.
    Hijab issues and religious issues in general to me are sometimes a struggle but a straight forward one: either I believe or I don’t! If I believe I have to practice for my own peace of mind, if I don’t believe I won’t practice. Full stop!!
    What people think, what people want, what people feel, did concern me at the very beginning of my journey – as a teenager that is.
    But now it is my belief that forms me and gives me grounds to entirely ignore those people!
    For in my life I rule! But in order to rule I need to understand what my ruling is about. And when I understand I can explain to people and stand my grounds! and its up to them to accept it or not for I’m ruling my life anyway.
    So my whole life and my whole struggle (that comes and goes like any other human being) is whether or not I should believe, and if I believe then in what should I believe and why?! Once I reached that I’ve reached my answers, and I only feel at peace practicing what I believe. No matter how hard and challenging it can be.
    (I still tend to challenge myself every now and then with new questions, as you say our minds are there for us to use them! but I don’t take any actions until I’ve reached my answers and thankfully I haven’t had to make any drastic changes just yet and hope that I won’t have to).
    So it doesn’t matter for me what people think, what my hair looks like, what effect a head scarf has on people, whether it keeps me safe or not, whether it gives me status or not. I simply care about one thing: did God, my God ask me to cover my hair or not? Do I believe that? Why do i believe that? do i have a solid ground? If yes I’m doing it regardless of all the fuss, all the explanations, all the sympathetic or admiring looks, I’m doing it for my peace of mind! For I can only act as I feel and if my actions and beliefs contradict I am in agony!
    If I don’t believe that it’s a requirement, or I don’t believe in God or in Islam then I won’t put it on regardless of the judgements, the gossip or whatever.
    In all cases people will have to accommodate themselves to my choices. And in all cases God (according to my belief) will judge me and me alone for those choices!
    I am the same person in Egypt, England, Eu, US or Saudi. And I take my beliefs and practices with me wherever I go! If my beliefs don’t enable me to fit in one place then I would question them. But they do! It’s usually people who like to disable us and I don’t think we should give them a chance!
    I might take care of the cultural and weather differences for sure for a belief is meant to be flexible that way. But letting go of my beliefs entirely isn’t part of that flexibility for me.

    I’m no body to give you advice, but I’m still inclined to say: don’t waste your time researching and experimenting feelings and reactions, for your valued time might give you more results if you spent it researching the rule per se, then you can make a decision once and for all and stand by it…

    1. Sue , I just have one comment , why claimed that ” I don’t believe in God or in Islam then I won’t put it on” ?? sry that don’t make who are n’t wearing it non-believers !! what you said hurts

      1. Sorry Salwa I was talking about myself and not anybody else! Sorry if you misunderstood that!
        I know that people can get judgemental like that but I am not judging others at all I’m simply talking about myself!
        I’m saying that for me, if I believe I practice, if I don’t believe I don’t practice! It should be that simple.
        The head scarf is just the example in the article but I really mean every practice!
        Like if I manage to find reasons to believe in God and in Islam then I’ll take it ALL and it’ll only make sense to me to practice what I believe in (praying, fasting, manners wise, relations wise, head cover wise just Islam as a whole).
        If I don’t believe in Islam or in God I wouldn’t practice for it doesn’t make sense to me to practice for people’s sake and not for an internal conviction! (Again that covers all religious practices including head cover).
        That’s how I personally view it!
        I can’t talk about other people or judge them for I am not in their shoes and other people’s choices aren’t really my business.
        I just think it makes sense to me to either practice all or not practice all depending on what I believe. So all my effort I put in “whether or not Islam is the faith for me” and if I manage to get convinced with that then I won’t have trouble taking it all.
        When I don’t feel able to practice what I believe I feel terrible, and if I had to practice what I don’t believe under other peoples pressure I would still feel terrible.
        That’s what I meant!
        So I prefer to research the core issue and not the feelings around it: faith or no faith? Islam or no Islam? Then answering that makes everything else fall in place. (For me!)
        But of course I understand perfectly that we all have weaknesses and make mistakes whether we intend it or not, and that’s just part of being human and people can still be believers and not practice for many various reasons.
        I am not perfect either :)

    2. Salam Sue, I wanted to reply on you second comment but that’s technically not possible. Just wanted to point out, and I feel that was also Sawlwa’s point is that your reasoning, i.e. making it an issue of faith or no faith only works if you believe that Hijab is fard to begin with. However, there are many Muslims (including scholars, you just likely won’t find them at the forefront) who do not support the view that Hijab is fard. In that case it’s clearly not an issue of faith – Allahu 3lem :)

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