FUCHSIA Stories aim to connect with people within our community. We all have stories worth telling. Some are passionate, some are uplifting, some are spiritual … some stories are a journey, and we are a part of them. This is such a story – Join us as we talk to someone who struggled to come to a decision about wearing the hijab … or NOT. This is her story.
‘The main factor that made me decide to take off the hijab was my appearance. I wanted to look nice. I felt I didn’t look nice enough. It’s also about your personality. I was the eldest of 4 sisters and I was always being compared to my younger sisters. There was a common conception in the family that they’re good looking and I’m not good looking. Whatever the reasons were, at that age, you want to look nice, you want people to give you attention. And I felt with the hijab, it was never going to happen. Somewhere inside, I might have been confident about my looks, but I felt that the hijab was the main reason that I was not able to look my best. So that sort of triggered the reason of not wearing it anymore.’
Have you stopped believing in it? (Wearing the hijab)
No. I don’t think I’ve stopped believing in the purpose of hijab or wearing it. But I feel I must be very close to Allah to understand why I’m wearing it. I felt that the purpose was not there. There might be a time in my life when I feel I will be at that point in my relationship with God that I might want to wear it again.
What was your biggest fear when you removed it?
My biggest fear? What would my father say! He didn’t know that I’d stopped wearing it. Because I would leave the house with the hijab, and then I would take it off once outside. So, it started off that way. I think my mother was a great support in my life at this point. She eased my way with my father. It started with moving from a co-ed to an ‘all girls’ college. She pleaded my case:
‘Look,’ She said. ‘There are no boys in the college, so she can go from the hijab, to the dupatta on her head.’
I was in a co-ed school till my O’ levels. I would wear a proper hijab. Then in college, I did not want to wear the hijab anymore, so I started wearing a dupatta. And then when it came to my Masters, I had taken it off completely. Sar se utaar dia tha. I would wear a dupatta of course. But not over the head anymore.
So, do you recall the first day you took it off?
Yes. I took it off when I sat in the car. I wanted to take it off but I just did not know when I would actually do it. I was at an age when you’re growing up and people start noticing you. You want to be noticed as a girl. You want to dress up. Till the time I was 14-15 years old, I couldn’t be bothered. But then in A’ levels I wanted to dress up.
And I said to myself: ‘Okay fine, now I WANT to take off the hijab.’
There was this function in college. That’s the first time I took it off. When I ACTUALLY took it off. And I was like: ‘Fine. That’s IT. This is the day that I take it off. I had thought about it. That I will not wear a hijab to that particular function. This function was actually a co–ed function and I had extra hijabs with me with the dupatta. And I thought, … I will not wear it. I will not wear it to that function. THAT’S IT!. I took the hijab off but I kept the dupatta on. But around my neck … not on my head.’
People did not actually ask me this question. Why I’m not wearing it? In retrospect, nobody asked me. Maybe I got a few awkward stares. I don’t remember. Nobody came to me or made me feel that I’m not wearing it.
And how did you feel?
‘Ufff…Sukoon ! You sometimes feel you’re being suppressed. I don’t know why. I was too childish? I couldn’t think of it in profound terms maybe. I didn’t WANT to wear it anymore. End of story. I didn’t want it!’
And you didn’t think about God then?
No no! (She answers with a smile). God was never in the picture. Because for me, I wasn’t making that connection with God and Hijab. I made the connection with my family. And the environment you come from. I was too young. Taking it off or wearing it was not about Allah. You have to understand that.
That was the only thing. The namaaz, Quran, all stayed there. Because that was something I wanted to do from my heart, and not to please somebody. I can’t be a hypocrite, willingly and knowingly. Especially when it comes to my religion. That’s how I feel.
I was too young when I started taking the hijab. It is that age when you want to please your parents. My father, most of all. I was the oldest child. My grandmother had passed away. My father had become extremely religious. My mother was the moderate person in the house. So, I don’t know what triggered it? But I felt that probably if my father is so religious, then we must follow through. They didn’t force me, but probably, I was too impressionable at that age and I felt that I had to take it. I was 12 when I started taking the hijab.
I stopped wearing it when I was 19. My father probably found out gradually. It started with; when we went out with him, we covered our heads, when we went to a friend’s house, we didn’t cover. So, he also became less rigid as we grew up. There was no confrontation or argument.
He would still say: ‘Okay, you’re going to such and such place, cover your head, but he would not be bothered so much gradually. He kind of relaxed. It was a very gradual acceptance.’
How did your life change once you decided not to wear the hijab?
I felt freer. I felt I didn’t need to hide. That I was more ME without a hijab. I felt truer to myself. Because basically, I think I stopped doing something I didn’t want to do.
Very honestly, I feel better about myself. And also, because I did not feel close to Allah by just wearing a hijab. Maybe I’ve seen people wearing it, and not always doing the best things. If I am not a very religious person and I’m wearing a hijab, then I’ll be wearing it for the world to see. Not for myself. So, if it’s not serving a purpose for me, why am I wearing it? I will feel like a hypocrite wearing it if I don’t feel strongly about it.
Wearing a hijab is a major step in your life. It significantly changes your physical appearance. Praying will not change your physical appearance. Keeping a beard will. So those who are advising, should think hard and fast. For me, there are other ways of being modest as well. I’ve seen women, you’ve seen women who are not covering their heads but still dressed modestly.
‘To those who are thinking of wearing it, you should only wear it when you feel very strongly about the hijab. You must ask yourself that question: Why are you wearing it? Is it your connection to God? To be more modest maybe? To tell the world you’re a Muslim? Probably you have that relationship with Allah where you want to say okay, I’ve to wear it because of my God, and I want to see it to the end.’
To those who are thinking of taking it off? Either you’re facing many difficulties because of it. Or your reasons for wearing it are not compelling enough for you. If your life feels miserable when you wear it, you should take it off. But you should not feel guilty about it then. You should have strong reasons. Your reasons should be so strong that once you’ve gone through with it then you should not feel guilty about it.
If my daughter decides to wear the hijab, I would support her, yes. But if she wanted to take it off…I will support her too because I’ve walked that path; wearing it, and taking it off…if she wants to.