First off I am a Muslim. Not a very good one, but I am trying to be. Life is a struggle. Especially if you are a Muslim in a Western society. It’s filled with temptations, failure, disappointment and tests. But the thing is, it’s meant to be that way. It’s how we respond to challenges that let us keep on living with our lives. I have to admit, I went through a dark period where I felt very distant from God and so I felt lost. (However, if you don’t have a faith or have a different faith to me, it doesn’t mean that you are constantly lost in this world; you just live life differently and perhaps you know what you are doing). And I knew that I was distant and lost but I didn’t do anything about it for a while… Worst mistake.
I was imprisoned with self-doubt and the need of being wanted. It didn’t help that I just moved out from home and was independent for the first time in Dunedin while studying at Otago. During that time, strange things kept happening; guys would actually come up to me and ask me out and in one month, I went on twelve dates with five different guys. Am I proud of this? No, not at all because I ironically realised that dating a lot of people at the same time is not attractive. Why did I choose to date a lot of guys you ask? Well, my recent breakup tore me apart. It lead me to try and forget him and to try to find happiness from one guy to the next (and no I was not sleeping around or anything like that), but I was always left disappointed (as although these guys were gorgeous beings, there was no ‘spark’ with any of them). It came to a point where I had no morals left and I didn’t know who I was anymore. But once I reached that point, I realised how wrong I had been the whole time and so I asked for forgiveness from God and I made a vow to never go back to how I was. I also realised that people cannot always be your source of happiness. Rather, you need to seek happiness within yourself. So I also made a vow to achieve happiness by loving myself. This lead me to start wearing the headscarf also known as the hijab.
I had always been modest with the way I dressed, the majority of the time I would be covered down to my wrist and ankles and I would wear the hijab on most weekends- especially when my dad was around but I wasn’t wearing it full time. I knew that my dad had wanted me to wear it but I didn’t want to wear it to please my dad or other people in the Muslim community. If I were to wear it full time, I wanted to sincerely wear it for God and to please Him so that I wouldn’t have the urge to take it off or to rebel. Some of you may ask: why do Muslim women need to wear the hijab? For starters, it was ordained in our holy book, the Quran. However, there are reasons why it was ordained; to let us girls be modest and to protect our beauty and to only show our beauty to those who really matters in your life. Some may argue that Muslim girls who don’t wear a hijab aren’t as religious. But I beg to differ. Hoejabis (google it) do exist so never judge a book by its cover. Nonetheless, it wasn’t easy for me to decide to wear it.
Vain as it sounds, if there is something I love about myself, it would have to be my hair; it’s so long and beautiful and so it was difficult for me to start wearing it. Another reason why it was difficult for me to decide to wear it was how women wearing the hijab is portrayed and stereotyped in the media and how others might treat me differently once I wear it. Thirdly I was scared that I might not be committed enough and so there is a possibility of me taking it off in the future. But at the end, I told myself: ‘I don’t give a shit’. I should do this for myself and to be loyal towards God.’ Also, I didn’t want to be a hypocrite as I was reminded of the poem I wrote called ‘The Liberation of Wine’ (which have been published in a number of places (featured below)). From then on I felt emancipated. I was reminded again that I’m not here living in this world to please people. I’m here in the now to please God and to be closer to Him. What I want people to know is that wearing the hijab is not a ‘backwards’ thing to do. It’s an act of liberation. Well, it was for me. Now I am truly happy for the first time in forever because I finally love myself as I focus more on myself, which in turn makes me want to become a better person.
It’s been a while since I started wearing the hijab and it’s interesting to see how easy it has been so far- Alhamdulillah (thanks to God). I know that at one point, I will be harassed about it by some stranger (because harassment does happen (more often than it should)), or so I have been told by other hijabis who have experienced harassment. When that day comes, I don’t know how exactly I will respond. I hope that I will respond to defend myself and my faith rather than react. But then again why should I care about what a close-minded and disrespectful person have to say? I have other and better things to care about. Period.
Previously I stated that I love my hair but the thing is, I love God more. At the end, I decided that my love for my hair cannot compare to the love I have for God. And recently a very close friend had asked, why do you love God? I’ve actually never asked myself this question and I sat there not knowing how to answer beautifully. After some thought, this is my answer: although I can’t see Him, I can sense Him. It’s hard to explain but I know that He is always with me, guiding me. I love Him because he gave me life, knowing that I won’t be perfect and that I will always sin, and yet he still gives me so much mercy and compassion that He continues to provide me with all my needs and more. Most of all, I love God because believing in Him gives me hope. And in a world where unpleasant things happen, hope gives people, like me, a reason to live.
I also mentioned the fear of being stereotyped and being treated differently. I can tell you that if they were a good and accepting person, they wouldn’t treat you any differently. They might say that they loved your hair or say that it’s not fashionable or ask why you are wearing it but at the end, they will be understanding and even supportive and so they WILL treat you the same. Thirdly, I was worried that I wouldn’t be committed until the very end. To be honest, I’m not sure if I will be in the future. Only God knows. But I am trying and it is better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all. However, seeing how happy it makes me, I don’t think I will be taking it off anytime soon.
If I could advise something to my younger self I would say: stay true to yourself and your faith/morals because, with the combination, you will find true happiness that will last. What is true happiness you ask? Well for me, true happiness is to content with the truth; the real you.
Nonetheless, I’m not saying that wearing the hijab makes you a better person. It doesn’t have that power. It’s literally just a piece of cloth that sits on top of your head. Rather, it’s your intentions, your actions, what you say and what is in your heart that makes you a better person. Wearing the hijab just helped me become liberated. And with this liberation I had managed to find my true, happy self again.
The Liberation of Wine
*Growing up as a Muslim in a western society is tough. You get stereotyped where the girls or women are labelled as oppressed by the media. I wrote this poem in my English class where we had to write about one piece of clothing that we loved. So this lead me to writing the Liberation of Wine where I write about my favourite scarf which I normally use as a hijab.*
Pashmina blended with the softest silk,
It’s colour of wine so sweet
But so sinful,
Loyalty to God.
It dances in the wind so freely
But secured are
‘Modern’ is the society.
And ‘backwards’ is I,
In the silk pashmina,
Wine red scarf.
To know I can be
With just inner beauty
Wonderers of my outer beauty.
To say I am ‘oppressed’?
To ‘believe’ the media?
Don’t look at me.
Look into me;
For I am a girl
With her silk pashmina,
Wine red scarf.