A Love Letter to the Hijab I Removed
To My Hijab —
I adored you, but I had to let you go.
Once upon a time, you made me feel like a better woman. I’d wrap you around me and feel safer, more confident, purposeful… holy. Without you I’m vulnerable to prying eyes; I feel open to judgement, up for debate, here for grabs. But I have to live with that, because I wasn’t ready to give up the things I’d need to in order to be worthy of you.
I knew it the day a man I didn’t know chased me down the street. It was alarming, watching him chase after me shouting “Sister!” as if we really shared a mother, as if I was obligated to stop for him, as if I was not supposed to be alarmed. When he told me to stop smoking, I reached for you and realised the connection that I hadn’t considered to be anyone else’s business. I was with a group of women who were also smoking and also followed Islam – even if they didn’t display it through you – so they hadn’t been chased down the street and chastised for their behaviour by a strange man.
I remember the first time I embraced you and felt myself change into a better person. I remember the internal revolution and the feeling of liberation, how it felt to discover a culture I’d ignored my entire life, how it felt to be home.
Draping you around me sheltered me from objectification; it removed me from the debates of men who enjoy rating women based on their curves without their permission. I walked with my head higher knowing if he’d have no choice but to look me in the eyes if he wanted to gain a more intimate insight into who I am.
I remember the internal revolution and the feeling of liberation, how it felt to discover a culture I’d ignored my entire life, how it felt to be home.
I also became a part of something I’d never been in before – a community. Despite my complaints about a man chasing me down the street while calling me “sister,” I became a sister to women who had never seen me before, and it made me feel whole. I loved them so much. We had each other’s backs; we learned from one another, we relied on one another. I had no home before I found Islam.
But I knew if I was to keep you, I had to exercise more discipline. You had bestowed on me the great honour of being a public representative for a community. I felt guilty because I was too full of desires that I felt like I shouldn’t want to live out, but couldn’t stop thinking of – like dancing in clubs, and smoking cigarettes, and swearing. I wanted to be allowed to be wild in the worst ways, and I wanted to be modest, and I still don’t know how to find the balance.
In the end, I removed you from my life after four years of enjoying your safety and warmth – and then poof, my protection was gone. I felt bare, exposed, uncomfortable, scared how to stand upright in public. It was horrible, but it felt like the right decision. I wasn’t ready for you. One day inshallah, I will be, and I’ll wear you with no guilt, no conflictions – just a more pious mind.