On September 19 2017, I came to a realisation that my faith and spirituality should not be something I would like strangers to identify me with, and consequently I took off my Hijab.
Questioning my Identification with the headscarf was something I have never thought about before. Actuality, it’s something that terrified me altogether because I thought I was so secure in my “choice” to wear it. But my understanding of that choice was changing as I was digging deeper into it. As I was looking more in-depth into the reasons that made me wear it on the almost three years prior to taking it off, I found that that choice was heavily based on fear. I was conditioned to believe that there is only one way to be a good Muslim woman and that is to be covered.
That narrative was constantly amplified by people around me and the lectures I listened to on YouTube and in my 18-year-old understanding of religion, I was convinced that if I didn’t’ wear the hijab I will most definitely be sent to hell when I die.
During that time, it was also evident to me that wearing it will enable me to hide. I hated the way I looked so much that covering up seemed like the best option for me. Soon enough, hiding and shrinking away from dealing with my insecurities were my coping skills.
For nearly three years, I have been very comfortable and too scared to dare to look beyond that veil I was wearing to rediscover what it meant to me. At the same time, I managed to uphold IT as a doubtless “choice”, but it was never that…
Because you see how much of a choice can I really call it when I did not really have much to say; I was presented with a singular understanding of faith that at that time, I passively accepted. The thing about growing up in a communal society is that people have more power in defining who you are and, as a consequence, Standards and values are placed upon you, in which your autonomy to choose how to identify yourself is very restricted.
Choosing to take off my headscarf was a mean of restoring that authority and power back from society and, for once, take things in my own hands.
I ultimately figured that, my relationship with God should never be up for everyone’s assessment and that a scarf does not necessarily equate to a strong faith. Actually, it does not equate to anything but the fact that someone decided to be more close to God and chose to express their identity as a Muslim through it and now I am just choosing to express myself differently. I am living my choice mindfully and I am allowing myself to seek discomfort by opening my mind and heart to everything different and challenging.
What I learnt from this whole self-discovery journey is that I cannot place all of my expectations on an article of clothing to make my faith grow stronger because that is a constant battle with the self. That is okay to be confused because trusting that you cannot know all the truths and embracing ambiguity often leads you to something great, for me that meant evolving and growing in the most unexpected ways.
I still love and appreciate the reasons why women choose to wear the Hijab, as long as it is done with knowledge and understanding of the full context and meaning of it. For now, my understanding of it as a spiritual practice will remain a private matter between me and God.