Hijab & Niqab Misconceptions Overcoming Hardships Reflections

The Secret Double Life of a Hijabi

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shakirfm/2330895884/By Yeasmines

Multiple hands rose in the air when the teacher asked the class to share our hijab story. I saw the eager and enthusiastic looks on each sister’s face as they held their hands up high. Subhan’Allah (glory be to God), I was amazed how each person had a unique story to share.

In particular, I enjoyed the story of a sister who educated her daughter about the hijab. She emphasized the meaning, the beauty, and the significance of the hijab in Islam. Moreover, she gave her daughter the choice to decide whether she wants to wear the hijab because it is an act of worship that must come from within oneself. Two days after 9/11, her 10 year old daughter became a hijabi because she wanted people to know that she is a Muslim.

Every sister who shared her story made the choice to wear the hijab. Everyone except me.

I sat in my seat, feeling insecure. My hijab story was nothing like their stories. As a matter of fact, it was the opposite. I initially hated and despised the hijab. Am I a bad Muslimah for not embracing the hijab right away? My hand started to shake as I raised it. A part of me was praying that the teacher wouldn’t notice my slim and petite hand in the air. But he looked directly at me and smiled. He called on me to speak.

I mentally scolded myself for being so zealous. I was paranoid and scared of being judged by so many eyes, especially my teacher’s. My voice trembled as I began to relate my story to the class.

I was 10 years old when I came here. When we got off the plane, my mom took me to the bathroom and wrapped a hijab around my head.  It was black with yellow polka dots. I had never worn it before. “Why am I wearing this?” I asked. “This is the US and you must wear the hijab from now on,” she said as she tightened the hijab with a safety pin. I decided not to ask any more questions.

I had to wear the hijab everywhere. I entered my 5th grade classroom and I noticed the odd expression on everyone’s face. “Why do you wear that on your head?” a boy asked. I didn’t have an answer. During recess, the class played kickball. It was very hot and muggy outside. “Can’t you take that thing off? You’re all sweaty and stinky!” my classmate Kathy said with an utter disgust in her voice. I could hear her telling all the other girls what a “sweaty monster” I was. From then on, the girls would stay away from me.

I went home. I was unusually quiet that day. “Ammu, why do I have to wear the hijab again?” I finally asked. My mom was silent for a moment. “You wear the hijab because Allah commanded it and it makes Him happy.” I didn’t understand how a piece of cloth can possibly make God happy. I mean, I was sweating like a pig after all.

“Can I take it off, ammu? I don’t want to wear the hijab anymore.” The tone of the conversation had drastically changed. “OF COURSE NOT! Do you want to go to Hell fire!? If you don’t follow Allah, you will go to hell!” my mom scolded. Of course I didn’t want to go to hellfire. But what does that even mean? Again, I decided not to ask any more questions.

So I started living a double life. At home, I presented myself as an obedient daughter. In school, however, I would take the hijab off. There were some days that I kept it on out of guilt. But mostly, I never liked wearing the hijab. I never understood what it meant. And I blamed all my problems on the hijab.

BOOOOOOOOM! An explosion? A leakage? A fire drill? What was that noise? I was in my Social Studies class when it happened. I could see the terror on my teacher’s face as he came back into the classroom. We could hear the urgency in his voice as he told us to pack our stuff. We formed a line and followed our teacher to the gym. The entire school was there. We didn’t know what was going on. “Two planes hit the twin towers. Even Washington has been attacked,” said a pale looking boy. “OH MY GOD! The Pentagon was hit! It is 10 minutes away from our school! My father works there!” squealed a red-haired girl.

The aftermath of September 11th was hard on the entire nation, including me.

Going to school felt frightening after September 11th. Wearing a hijab to school felt more out of the ordinary. I got nasty looks. I saw people pointing their fingers at me and whispering into each other’s ears. I was going to my next class when this boy purposely bumped into me. All my books fell to the ground. “You Muslim! It’s your fault. You’re Osama’s daughter!” he spat at me.

It didn’t get any better when the Iraq War began. “Saddam Hussein’s daughter! Go back to your country!” they all yelled. I knew it. It’s my hijab. That’s what set me apart from the rest. That’s what showed my Muslim-ness. I didn’t want to hear these painful things anymore. So I permanently stopped wearing the hijab to school without my parents knowing.

Word somehow got to my mom that I wasn’t wearing the hijab. My mom was furious. She had a steel rod in her hand and asked me if that was true. I denied instantly because I knew she would beat me with that steel rod if I admitted my double life to her.

Things at home got stricter. My mom asked the other girls in my school to make sure I was wearing my hijab. I had no choice. I had to wear the hijab until I graduated from high school. And every day I detested the image I saw in front of me in the mirror of an ugly, miserable, and upset girl.

I went to college and my double life followed me there. I sometimes took off the hijab to fit in. But I felt more and more conflicted about it. What is my identity? Who am I? Am I the girl with the hijab? Or am I the girl without the hijab? Or both? Finding the answer wasn’t so simple.

Second year had ended and summer began. I started to have these intense dreams. One night, I dreamt that I was ascending to the heavens and I was flying in the midst of many stars. I felt this incredible energy shaking my entire body. An energy that­ was so powerful, so magnified, and so supreme, that there are no words to describe it. I woke up sweaty and shaken.

It was late into the night and the moonlight penetrated my window. I went to the bathroom and I made wudu (ablutions). That night, for the very first time, I sincerely prayed 2 rakahs (rounds of prayer) to Allah and made a du`a’ (supplication). A du`a’ that I didn’t think would change my life forever. “If you truly exist as you claim, show me the way. If you truly are Compassionate and Merciful, then guide me. I know I have sinned and I will probably end up in hellfire. All my life, I have been told that I am a huge failure who deserves nothing but hellfire. But my soul keeps telling me that you do love me and I deserve something much greater than hell. Please guide me towards the truth. And guide my heart towards the very best decision. And help me get to know You better. Reveal Yourself to me because I don’t know who You really are. Please!” I pleaded. Tears flooded the prayer mat. I felt this energy caressing me gently. I had tasted the hope of Allah that night. I finally felt liberated.

The next day I opened the Qur’an. And Subhan’Allah, my soul got a wakeup call. My body shuddered as I randomly landed on a page. It read: O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” (Qur’an, 33:59)

 Allah is ever Forgiving, and ever Merciful. I read that over and over again and my heart was finally convinced. From that day onward, I wore the hijab. Not for my parents. Not for society. But for Allah. And because I loved Him. I felt beautiful and dignified. I stopped living a double life and I eventually discovered my true identity as a slave of Allah.

I finished sharing my story to the class. I was afraid my classmates would judge me. There was silence for a few seconds and my teacher finally asked, “Was it a difficult decision to wear the hijab and accept it as a part of your life?” “Yes. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made,” I said, still shaking. My teacher smiled at me and said, “I truly respect your honesty. Wearing the hijab can be a tough choice and I thank you for sharing your story.”

SubhanAllahi wa biHamdihi, Subhan-Allahi ‘l-`adheem (Glory be to God, and Praise, Glory be to God, the Supreme)! I praised my Lord once again. My body felt the warmth of His love and protection as I resumed taking notes.

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  • Assalamualaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh!

    Is this a true story?!!!! MashAllah!! couldnt hold back the tears! :’)

  • I’m a brother and that made me cry. I love these type of stories. I only wish my sister could experience the same as you did. She doesn’t live a double life. She straight rejects the hijab whenever me or my parents tell her. >>>PLEASE MAKE DUA THAT ALLAH GUIDES MY SISTER.<<< Really, we've tried everything with her but she just keeps getting worst. Only Allah can guide her and we need your dua'. Jazakhallah.

    • Brother, remember Hijab is not something to be forced, whether your sister wears it does not wear it is her choice, and her decision to make alone. You can kindly, tell her the benefits and importance of hijab, but that’s where your obligation ends, rest is her choice. Continually pestering her about it, will likely make her more rebellious or even if she wears, she’ll wear it with hate. I know this because my own sister was forced by my mother many years back, when my sister was around 13 years old. She is now 20, and she hates wearing it until this day, now she feels only compelled to wear it because if she takes it off she knows there will be “talks” among the local Muslim community. This practice of forcing on our women, is exactly what bigots and critics use to downgrade Muslims and Islam. Lets not help them to prove their point correct. I remember once in high school I wore a jubba, and Islamic skullcap to my high school, and this was before 9/11, and the looks and gazes I got were really bad, some called me terrorist from behind, some other names. My own school friends who sat with my at lunch everyday sat somewhere else, i ate lunch all by myself that day. This experience was only 1 day, imagine what a muslim sister has to go through every day specially nowadays. Lastly, Shaikh Hamza Yusuf once mentioned, we should not tie a woman’s emaan to just a hijab. We should appreciate if she willingly and happily chooses to wear it, but if she doesn’t we should not think of her as any less muslim, or a bad woman or anything.

      • Brother, but it is a command from Allah (SWT) in the Qur’an. And me and my parents will be questioned on the day of judgement because of the way we raised her. I know what you mean, but we’re not forcing it on her. We’re trying everything to persuade her in the best way we can. But she’s been exposed to the western society too much to change her now. Only Allah can change her heart now.

        • @sophia, that’s for non believers. Our children are our responsibility and we will be held accountable if they disobey Allah (swt).

        • that’s because you started with pressuring her on hijab. whereas it is just one thing out of many things in the Qur’an, and only a fruit of the tree and not the branch let alone the trunk or the root. this is the problem with most Muslim families when facing this challenge regarding their children.

          why not let it go, go to the branch. if the branch is not there either, then go to the trunk. if the trunk is not there either, then go to the root, if the root is not there either, then PLANT THE SEED of faith. when the seed is planted insya Allah the roots and the trunk and the branch and the leaves and the fruit will follow. she will herself ask God for guidance and eventually the tree will grow. this is the meaning of no compulsion in religion, and how it does not contradict a parent’s responsibility to bring up a child, nor does it contradict the person’s personal responsibility for their own souls such that even the parents must let go just as Prophet Noah had to let go (though insya Allah it does not come to that). you will NOT be held accountable if your child disobeys Allah if the child chooses to as an adult; this is totally not Qur’anic as you do not bear the sins of others. you *will* be held accountable if you had not raised the child with the right knowledge and tools to develop a strong faith for themselves – because this is regarding discharge of responsibility.

          the problem is that human beings are IMPATIENT just as God says in the Qur’an. we don’t want to wait for the seed sprout and grow. we are upset and discontented because we think the tree should be big and healthy by now so that we can relax. we would rather install a plastic tree with plastic leaves and force the person to stick a fake fruit on the fake branch. please don’t let your impatience help further impede your sister’s way to return to God.

          the way to God is heavily infused with patience, hope and love. even the fear really should be a consequence of the patience, hope and love. if you yourself do not display patience, hope and love, how do you expect the student to understand this path? alhamdulillah my parents were patient, hopeful and loving, and so i never went too far and my way back to my Rabb by His own hand has momentum and conviction. and today i myself have to muster enough faith to do the same for the sake of another.

    • Dear Alien brother – I agree with the other posters that you should not be forcing your sister. I chose to wear a scarf in North American society as for me it was liberating to not be constantly gawked at by men and it let people know by my outside that I am a spiritual/religious person by my inside. Had family or any other persons forced me I would have run away. Instead I face prejudice at times for this choice but I feel good because IT IS MY CHOICE. Still I adapt the clothes to be less conspicuous in the culture. The mother is this story holding a rod to beat her daughter and telling the classmates to spy on the daughter is a little disgusting to me. As brother Ahmed replied (re: wearing his kufi and thobe) – the situation for sisters being expected to be “Arabized” at all times in other societies puts ridiculous pressures on them that becomes like a “prison”. Let your sister be and let her breathe. Those who are pulling people to Islam are the ones showing a positive and welcoming behaviour, not those always thumping on others on what they should do and not do. It always amazes me that while our prophet was soft and kind to peoples as he drew them to Islam – modern Muslims want to “beat” Islam into those around them, and usually this ends up being women and children. Let us stop setting the bad example the Westerns assume about us and start being more like the prophet. Allah bless you and your family, and your sister.

  • This sounds similar to what I went through.. As a teenager I was forced to wear hijab and didnt get any answers to my questions as that would lead to abuse..it’s only 12 yrs later i decided to wear hijab..it’s been the hardest decision to make

  • Dear sister, JazakAllah khair for sharing your story with us. I know many of us will benefit from you having shared your heart and soul and some of your most intimate struggles with faith, hijab, family, etc. It is stories like yours that bring reality to the ummah, no one is ever always bright and shiny. I hope that we can all learn to stop judging each other and approach each other with compassion. Congratulations on sticking to your faith and having the courage to face all of these challenges. May ALLAH help you remain strong in your faith and let you be an example to all of us ameen! <3

  • I really believe sometimes the value of the deed is in the hardship we take to apply it. For some hijab is easy, and other aspect of worship is harder. MashyaAllah, thank you for sharing the story.

  • That is really something. I think it’s got to be one of the best stories.

    But then I’ve also also wondered whether women wearing hijab feel some discomfort,especially when it’s hot and humid or when they’re playing sport.

  • When I read this story and contemplate for a while, the very important matter that I notice is that obligations in Islam ( shariah) should come with the evidence( dalil) from al quran and as sunnah..this is just my opinions 🙂

  • This might be somewhat personal, but if you can, would you share how your relationship with your parents or mother changed as you grew older and started to form your identity around Islam and oneness with Allah or if it didn’t?

    I’m asking because other brother and sisters (including me) have similar experiences coming from an upbringing that emphasized rules and processes for the sake of avoiding punishment/ out of fear and eventually came into Islam with a more holistic/ spiritual understanding that emphasized love of Allah. I’m asking because sometimes these two are at odds and the parents may not accept your Islamic identity as legitimate.

    Anyways, without veering off the point too much, I was just wondering if you may have had a similar experience with your mother and how you dealed with it.


    • Wayakum. Alhamdullilah, my relationship with my parents, especially my mother, has improved. I truly believe that if you stick your neck out for Allah, Allah truly makes things easier for you. It was and still is difficult to maintain my ties with my family and establish my own identity. But at the end of the day, I have to keep reminding myself that I am here on this earth to please and love Allah and that even if I were to agree with my family on everything, I can never truly please them if it’s not for the sake of Allah. I hope that makes sense, insha Allah.

  • That was a great story, but I still feel like there’s something to be said about poor parenting. Parents should NOT threaten to beat their daughters with a STEEL ROD if they don’t wear hijab.

    I agree though with the message, religious acts should be done for the sake of God and to please oneself, not for parents, society, or other ulterior motives.

  • Wow! Masha’Allah… A beautiful story and nothing to be ashamed of!! This life is to learn and one learns through experience, mistakes, trials and tribulations. Your story represents a beautiful human journey. I respect you for your courage to share this beautiful and inspiring story. It must’ve been difficult to be judged constantly, and I had no idea it was that bad in the US. Thank you once again.

  • Jazakallah khair for sharing this story. I really respect your honesty by telling this story to all your friends in the class. MasyaAllah

  • Mash’Allah beautiful story, which just goes to show how everyone’s experience with something can be different. And Subhan’Allah hearing about your dream was intense!

  • May Allah guide us all to the right path like you. sister your story touch my heart ,and I pray we all one day wear the hijab and proud of it and please Allah .

  • Wow, amazing story, it is so hard at ties to wear the hijab if u live in the west. I know I have to wear it but I get scared so easily.

  • Subhan’Allah its awe-inspiring….I’ve started hijab an year ago with my own will and it changed my life totally Alhamdulillah. May Allah [swt] give us isteqamah till our last breath. Aameen Ya Rabbul Aalameen

  • lol, i had to read the phrase 5 times to get the meaning of “ammu”..lol

    Quite funny that parents force their kids to wear hijab because they are in western lands..at least it has a “happy End”

    But i do know of stories where it did not end happy..


    • Alhamdulillah we jezak Allah sister inshiAllah all our sisters will wear the hijab or as a matter of fact we all follow the region of Islam because we are slaves of Allah and that is the best o earth and for the here after

  • Living in western land and the same time have to ware hijab is really tough. Your surroundings surely your enemy to do the right thing according to the al Quran. ALhamdulillah, I’ll pray for your istiqamah(continuous act)towards al Jannah.

    I would like to share this story to others, insyaAllah I will translate it into my language.

    Jazaklillahu khairan kathira.

  • Alhamdulillah reading stories Like this reminds us to be so grateful to Allah swt for placing us in such a liberated country like SriLanka which is a multicultural society. It also reminds us To pray that he makes it easy for all you amazing women out there who wear hijab amidst all the bad looks and mean comments! Your love for Allah is true Alhamdulillah and you and other women like you seem to pass His tests on a daily basis. Masha Allah may Allah raise you all in ranks and increase us in our ikhlaas and Taqwa in all that we do.
    Jazakallah khair

  • Sister, thank you truly for sharing your story. I am a post-9/11 American convert, and I understand so deeply the idea – and crisis – of leading this double life. What a relief to me to read your story! You brought me to tears, sister, and you brought comfort to my crisis. May Allah bless you and guide you to continue to be a light to Muslimahs everywhere.

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