I came to London ready. Ready to learn, to be exposed to whatever, to experiment. You know, when in Europe, do as the Europeans do. But, something else was in store for me, mashallah. I went out twice during the first month in London but quickly decided that drinking and partying with drunk, crazy Americans was not fulfilling in anyway. Furthermore, I knew that I would rather be making meaningful connections with interesting people that I could learn from and share with and feel blessed. This was not going to happen, most likely, observing gals and girls feast on each others’ vices.
And being in London, weeks later I saw so many Muslimahs (a Muslim woman) with their hijabs and felt so inspired. Their grace humbled me. After thoughts and discussions, about a week ago, alhamdulillah, I took Shahada and declared my desire to strengthen my Imaan.
Part of this rediscovery has been constant reading of the Qu’ran and other texts to strengthen my knowledge. As expected, I came across the decree for women [and men] to be modest and lower their gaze. To dress modestly and guard their private parts. And, for women, to cover all except what is apparent, thus, requiring the at least a hijab.
“24:30 Say to the believing men that they lower their gaze and restrain their sexual passions. That is purer for them. Surely Allah is Aware of what they do.
24:31 And say to the believing women that they lower their gaze and restrain their sexual passions and do not display their adornment except what appears thereof. And let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms. And they should not display their adornment except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or guileless male servants, or the children who know not women’s nakedness. And let them not strike their feet so that the adornment that they hide may be known. And turn to Allah all, O believers, so that you may be successful.” http://ahmadiyya.ws/text/hq/trans/ch24.shtml
My decision to wear wrap my first hijab and walk out into the world was one of understanding, excitement, honor, and fear.
Understanding that, like the same time last year, I have reach another stage in my development, alhamdulillah. And that, like my decision to “go natural” and release myself of the mental and physical chains of the white standard of beauty, people [friends, associates, everyone] will have their opinions.
Excited because of the different styles, colors, varieties of ways to express my own style while adhering to the word of God. J
Honored that I now join in solidarity the many women who wear their hijabs. Wearing them in protest to of anti-colonialism and rejection of Western hegemony. Wearing them as a symbol of their faith, modesty, and respect. Honored in the same way I felt when I wear my afro. It is also wore in protest, but I also wore it coming from love. Love for myself, my people, my struggle. Similarly, my hijab is for my love for Al-Islam and my womanhood, the blessing and the curse (take what you will).
But there was and still is a basic level of fear that, thank God, I have not let consumed me to any substantial degree. Fear because wearing my hijab, unlike anything else that I’ve done in my life, is a blatant way to communicate with the rest of the world that I subscribe to a certain set of beliefs and standards. That I am practicing, inshallah, a certain Deen, religion. A religion that much of the world now is as interested in as they are mis-educated upon.
Part of wearing my hijab also raises the question of oppression of women. A salient issue in the discussion of those who practice Islam and the cultures that have been associated with the faith. Yet, when I ride the bus, the tube, and see the Muslimahs, these women don’t look oppressed. Let me tell you, they are stylish, eyes exuding confidence. They are graceful, beautiful. Shoot, they even have swagger. Yes, I said it. I can’t think of any other word (the Jersey in me) but to describe it. They are rocking their beautiful hijabs, iPod in the ears, or shades framing the face. It is a great source of inspiration and strength.
Yet, I still get a little curious, wondering if gazing eyes fix on me and wonder of my story. But mostly I am self-conscious. Do other Muslims see me and know that this I am a baby-hijabi, lol. Showing up to class was also a bit tense, but I got through it rather smoothly. I was also thankful for the professor when she asked flat out about my decision and my faith. She was really interested and didn’t seem to mind that I had barely sat down and that the 15-odd classmates behind me probably didn’t give a cahoots.
Perhaps this quote best describes how I feel now comes from one sister who states:
“Before I decided to cover, I knew who I was not,” “After I covered, I finally knew who I was.”
And, I’ve found that it incites conversation. On the Tube this week, a young London guy of African descent talked to me:
He: “Are you muslim?”
Me: Yes. Are you?
He: “No, but I know a lil bit about it…So you always wear the scarf without fail?”
Me: “Yes.” (I did not feel compelled to give this stranger my life story on my way to work in the morning).
He: “You don’t drink.”
He: “Do you have arranged marriage.”
Me (holding back my laughter): “No.”
He continued to talk to me for a bit and again, I felt honored that he felt able to speak to me. It takes a lot of courage to ask a complete stranger about their practices and such.
I believe, like so many others, that the only way to increase people’s knowledge about Islam and to undo so much of the propaganda and such, will be to engage in dialogue when the opportunity presents itself. Definitely, it is important to be thankful when such opportunity does arrive.