My journey to wearing the Hijab was laced with tears, anger and fear.
I was blessed to come from a spiritually conscious home. My father was and he is still my Teacher. He taught my siblings and me about Allah, worshipping Him and the importance of earning HIs Pleasure.
My growing up years till the point I got married were ones filled with family congregational prayers, I grew up seeing my father’s relationship with the Quran, waking up for Tahajjud and partaking in voluntary fasts.
Leaving the house without a cap/scarf on your head is prohibited except you are in school uniform but my sisters and I were so used to covering our head that we were always on school beret. Wearing body revealing clothes was a capital NO NO.
While in secondary school, I met a sister who came for her Teaching practice program at my school, she was the only one wearing the hijab among all the other Muslim ladies that came. I admired her, how the hijab made her look beautiful, her confidence and her gait. I became close to her and we had conversations about the hijab. She encouraged me to start wearing it but I wasn’t ready because I didn’t have the courage.
In 2004, I received news that I had been eagerly waiting for; I had just been admitted into the University of Ilorin to study Law, the course of my dream. I was ecstatic and grateful. I shed tears of joy as I looked forward to another step in my life’s journey.
Few days after I started my registration process, my dad called a family meeting (our nuclear family) where he ordered that I should starting wearing the hijab. He said and I paraphrase “To protect you from the prying eyes of perverts, e.g., Lecturers and male students”
I felt my world came crumbling, I felt sweaty and really uncomfortable; but despite all of these feelings, I dare not disobey my father.
I resumed school fully and I felt so alone in the world, I had to go sit at the ladies ablution area in the masjid and shed tears of humiliation. I felt so ugly and wasn’t even willing to make friends.
A few weeks later I met some nice girls, they are really nice scarf/turban wearing ladies but for a new hijab-wearing girl like me, they were not the appropriate friends. Gradually, I began to rebel (though without the knowledge of my parents) may Allah forgive me for all I did wrong due to my ignorance.
My first year in school was really a tough one, I had low self-esteem issues prior to wearing the hijab but the little confidence I had then, simply pack up and go live at bottom of the ocean after I started wearing the hijab.
My academic performance was nothing to write home about, at the end of the day, I finished the first year with carryovers (failed papers) and that was the where I had to wake up.
There was this girl whom I knew when I was in secondary school, she does come to my school to do some extra lessons and visit her friends; her name is B. B came from a hijab-wearing family, so wearing it in the university was not new to her. When we met again at the University, I was envious of her confidence and I will watch her and her sisters wishing I could be that bold. In my second year at the University, B and I became closer and through her, I also met a new friend A.
Together the 3 of us became ‘aro metta’ (a tripod), though living in different hostels and studying different courses (B and I studied Law, while A studied Microbiology) we manage to build a strong and beautiful friendship. We will fast together on sunnah days, break our fast together; it was just the type of friendship my soul needed and it was a friendship that makes me smile even 10 years after.
Being friends with these Ladies made me embrace the hijab, and two years after I started wearing it reluctantly, I couldn’t imagine stepping out without one on me. I remember joining some friends to seek that we are allowed to wear our hijab for dinner during my days at the Nigerian Law School, unfortunately, we couldn’t do this for the call to the bar.
Years later in 2010 when I went to report at my place of primary assignment during NYSC, I was faced with a dilemma I never thought could come up again in my life. I had met with the Head of Chamber at the Law office where I was posted, she took one look at me and simply said; I have to agree not to wear that (she pointed at the hijab on my head) in the office before she can sign my letter of acceptance.
My heart sank, I asked her to give me a moment and I went into the library to give my father a call. His response was unexpected; he said; it is now okay to remove it and go back to wearing a cap since I am now a graduate, that is, wearing the hijab had served its purpose.
At that moment I realized that wearing the hijab has become my choice; I am the only who can decide, I only called my father hoping for vocal support. I cried quietly and alone that afternoon.
I went back inside to tell Madam Head Of Chamber that I agreed with her terms. She signed and I left to resume work in January after my call to the bar ceremony. But I never gave up, whenever I remember what awaits me, I made dua to Allah, cry to Him to save me from humiliation.
Fast forward to January 2011; I resumed at the office to receive the news that Madam Head of Chamber had been transferred to the Abuja branch of the office, and in her place is a man; a Muslim man! He gives me a prayer mat to say my Sallah in the office.
In recent years, I have asked myself consistently ‘will I have ever had the courage to wear the hijab if I wasn’t pushed to do so initially?’ The decision to keep it on is all mine for the sake of Allah, but I will forever be grateful for my father for that push, though, his intentions were totally different.
I understand that it doesn’t work like this for lots of us (those of us forced to wear the hijab); all I can say is that we all have those moments of doubts, moments of questions where we need to ask ourselves why we are doing this?
These days, the social media is flooded with stories of young Muslim girls removing their hijab because they were forced by their families (especially the male members) to adopt the hijab and in the wake of ‘Islamic feminism’ they decided to rebel. I pray and hope that these girls will realize that wearing the hijab and adopting the modest lifestyle is not for any man, it is for the sake of Allah (S) and that may Allah (S) guide them to see the truth the way He (S) has presented it.
The decision to obey the commandments of Allah (S) lies solely in our hands, we should never forget that we alone stand to bear the consequences of such decisions.
Allah (S) said;
“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers…” An-Nur 24:31
To become a better Muslim, we need to surround ourselves with good Muslim friends who have a better understanding of our struggles and are not JUDGEMENTAL. We also need to put efforts into learning about the deen, by studying the tafsir of the Quran, hadiths and read reliable books.
Parents also need to help nurture the love of the deen in their children’s heart. Don’t force your children to adopt an Islamic lifestyle, show them the benefits of living Islam through your own lifestyle; watch them fall in love and go through life unapologetically Muslims. Then PRAY PRAY PRAY for them; O Allah, fill our children’s heart with all that pleases You and expel from their heart all that which displeases You.The decision to obey the commandments of Allah (S) lies solely in our hands, we should however not forget that we alone stand to bear the consequences of such decisions. Click To Tweet
Being a Muslim is an everyday struggle, sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t. The consolation is to remember that Allah (S) is Al-Ghaffur (The one Who consistently forgives). He (S) doesn’t demand perfection from us, He (S) only asks us to strive and He understands all our struggles.
O Turner of hearts, keep my heart firm upon Your religion.
Umm SOM is a wife and a mother of two. A lover of books, nature, candles and teas. A student of life on a journey of self-development.