Faith Fluctuates: A Reflection on Hijab

It’s been around seven months since I put on the hijab. I cannot tell you how weird it is to type that. Seven months!! Already! It’s crazy how fast time flies. It feels like just yesterday I was praying that God would accept the fact that I would never be able to wear it.

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This photo is from summer 2016, when I first tried to put the hijab on. I wore it for one week before deciding it wasn’t the right time.

Since putting it on, I have learned a lot about myself and others. I have come to know that my strength and confidence, which allow me to wear the hijab, ultimately derive from God. If I didn’t have such fierce belief or trust in Him, I know that I would not be able to wear it. Regardless, it definitely wasn’t an easy decision.

I used to think that putting on the hijab would make me a different person, that I wouldn’t be the same as I was before (I’m laughing as I write this because I have remained largely the same). Now that my hijab and I have moved from the “just dating phase” and into a committed relationship, I feel better able to reflect on my hijab journey.

I sometimes wonder if we exaggerate the idea of hijab so much so that the addition of it to our lives seems much more dramatic and life altering than it really is (my next post about hijab will cover this topic). We – read Muslims – make the hijab seem like a pinnacle – a peak of iman that Muslim women should always be striving to reach. While this may be true for some, this notion is dangerous for so many reasons. It makes women, men, Muslims, and non-Muslims see the hijab as a sign of a woman’s level of faith.

If a woman does not wear the hijab, we don’t think she can be as religious as someone who does wear the hijab, and if a woman does wear the hijab, we automatically assume that she is more pious, consciously or subconsciously. While clothes or garments may allow you to identify what faith someone ascribes to, you can never determine a person’s level of faith by their outward appearance. Never. To assume you can would be to assume you have Godly knowledge, for only God can rightly understand one’s religiosity. I know that there have been times where I have found my iman – while wearing the hijab – to be comparable or even less “strong” than when I wasn’t wearing it largely because there are so many factors that can impact one’s iman outside of the hijab.

This idea that hijab can tell us about a woman’s “level” of iman also makes it seem as though there is an end goal in Islam and that that end goal is hijab. It’s not like I went from a level 6 Muslim to level 10 Muslim when I put on the hijab (lol). It is true that there may be a peak in faith when a woman decides to put on the hijab, but it is also true that there will undoubtedly be a low point. Faith is not static, and there is no beginning or end. It strengthens and weakens over time, no matter what you happen to wear. Just because a woman chooses to wear a hijab doesn’t mean that she is immune to the natural waves of faith.

Lastly, this idea that a scarf can tell us how religious a woman is views the hijab only as piece of clothing, when, in reality, it’s a lifestyle. Choosing to be modest should impact one’s actions, thoughts, and words – it should not manifest itself only in clothing. When the idea of hijab is solely linked to a physical scarf, it allows us to forget or diminish other aspects of modesty, aspects that all Muslims should follow no matter their gender.

My journey with hijab started long before I decided to cover my hair. It began with filtering what I watched, said, and heard years before I purchased my first scarf, and I feel no more “Muslim” now than I did without my scarf. I didn’t decide to wear it because I felt more religious, I did it because I felt ready, and that point is different for every person who chooses to wear the hijab.

You can also read this post on The PhDream, which is a blog started by my dear friend Zuni. She started this blog in order to encourage others to pursue career paths that may be not traditional, start up conversations that are much needed in the Muslim community, and to document her own journey to obtaining her PhD. She also bakes and posts incredible recipes and shares others’ stories (like mine). You can read more about her here.

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