Sitting with a cup of tea in my hand, I look back at a year that completely changed my life, I look back at an extremely difficult decision that I took exactly a year ago - I started taking hijab.
Disclaimer: I am in no way indicating that women are not oppressed in this day and age. They are, almost every single woman has felt objectified at some point in her life. This is a different side of a different story. Hopefully at the end of it, you will find answers to some questions and you may have an open mind towards different perspectives.
I name it as, "No I am not oppressed", because people assume I did this [taking hijab] because I was forced to do it. Before you judge this by its name, I would suggest you give it a read.
As I wipe the tears glistening in my eyes at this very moment, I feel a sense of relief, I feel proud of myself. Over the course of this one year, I have seen life through the lens of a person who was extremely vulnerable (still is at times), a person who discovered a completely new version of life. Over the course of this one year, I have realized that people will show their true colors, if you plan on doing something different, if you plan on stepping away from the realm of what they think is normal and appropriate, according to their perspective of life. Over the course of this year, I have realized how much easier it is for others to judge, mock and belittle you.
I have never felt oppressed by this decision and I will never feel oppressed because this is my choice. It liberates me in ways that leave me in awe almost every single day. And I am sorry to burst your bubble but I've rather felt oppressed with the way you have mocked me. I've rather felt oppressed with the way you have given me sly judgmental looks, I rather felt oppressed when I saw you staring at me from head to toe and then saying, "Omg, what the hell is she wearing!", "Omg, is she oppressed or what!". This hijab has nothing to do with me being oppressed, it’s rather your mindset.
To be honest, there have been people who have been extremely nice and supportive, I think these two words would not do justice to how thankful I am to these people. If you're reading this and if you were there for me, for even a minute, I would like to thank you. These tears that are sliding down my cheeks right now are a proof that my heart goes out to thank your amazing kindhearted soul. I know you'll know who you people are, I would just like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for accepting me as I am.
If you are a person who thinks Allah never answers our prayers, If you are a person who is not ungrateful but still feels hopeless and dissatisfied with this life, then this might be of help. I was exactly where you might be right now. I remember telling one of my friends, "Prayers never get answered, you can try finding hope in prayers, but they never get answered."
I can not believe I said this.
Here's the punch line, Taking hijab was a dua that was answered.
Whenever I used to think about tying my hair into a ponytail or a bun, I would feel extremely insecure about how my big squared face would be the center of attention and I would not look good. So tying my hair was off the mark, and then whenever for literally, even a minute, I would think about wearing a scarf around my hair, I would immediately brush the thought away, because I thought I would not look good. And that is something we are primed to think about.
It all started when I would cry myself to sleep, with no 'peace' in my baggage, I would cry in front of Allah and ask Him, "Why can't I find peace?". I felt like my life had no meaning.
By this time you would be thinking that I prayed about gathering up the courage to start taking hijab. Well, I would like to correct you that, this was not the case. Taking hijab was not on my list ever. I would think about it for a minute and then erase it off my mind, because how could I start covering my head now? Already so many people had seen my hair, what was the point now? My second semester was about to end and people knew me by my hair in my university, so how could I? I used to feel that it was too late now, so then again I would never even think about it.
I'll be really honest, I have always liked finding a friend in Allah. I wholeheartedly believe in the idea that He never betrays us, He gives us the shoulder to cry on, He knows everything. If you know you are right, and nobody trusts you, He will trust you, because He is in your heart, and He knows everything. This was way before hijab. So hijab was not the first step (as some people would assume) towards Allah. Way before hijab, I remember I would avoid the small little things that I would think may not make Allah happy. But I still believed that prayers are never answered... I don't know why, I find this extremely funny, in regards to what happened next.
Anyway, then came the day when I woke up for tahajjud prayer, and that was the turning point in my life. I cried the night before, and pleaded in front of Allah to make me capable enough of just getting up at 4 in the morning and praying tahajjud. I woke up and thought of going back to sleep, "I'll wake up for fajr (prayer before dawn)". This is what I thought, and I don't know what happened, I got up and thought to myself, "I should give pray tahajjud and see what happens". I washed my face, stared at my sunken eyes from last nights flood of unknown emotions, and rolled the prayer mat to pray.
I stared at my shaking hands and started praying. I remember how precise my prayer was, "Allah please give me peace." And that was it. I lay on the mat and cried for a couple of minutes, thinking about this being answered. Notice how I never mentioned about taking hijab, because I never gave it enough thought, to ask it directly in my prayers. It was the morning of an April, Thursday 5th April, I remember.
Fast forward to the Sunday night of 8th April; I went to a family dinner and wore a really decent shirt, straightened my hair, applied some makeup, and I felt satisfied with my outfit. I pulled a small net cream colored dupatta (a shawl like scarf) around my neck. And I was ready to go.
While moving towards my car to leave for the dinner, from my gate till the car, something weird came to my mind, I stopped and thought, "What would it feel like to cover my head?", and then just as I sat in my car, I said to myself, "Anusha, Shut up."
Then when we stopped at a signal, I thought about it again, this time I thought about what would be the reaction of my family, it scared me. So yet again, I rubbed this thought away.
My parents asked me to come along with them to sit with my aunt for some time in the coffee shop, I just felt tired and asked them to drop me home first. I still remember how sad I felt all of a sudden, everything started moving in slow motion. I am not kidding, I just felt exhausted. I came back home around 8 or 9, I don't remember exactly. I shut my phone down and locked my room, I wrapped that same small net dupatta around my head, looking in the mirror felt like a huge mountain that needed to be crossed, with tears in my eyes I sat on the chair resting next to the door of my room, and cried for 3 hours straight.
Yes, I felt like a huge weight of unwanted burdens was being pulled out of me, I felt as if I could see properly now. I put my hands on my lap, and burst out crying. Tear after tear, I felt like my blurred vision was going away. I could see hope, I could see the meaning of my life. I felt 'at peace'. When I thought about wrapping it around my head for the rest of my life, it gave me peace. My whole body was numb, I felt like I was not sitting in my room, but when this net dupatta would slip off as I cried. I would fix it, smile and continue crying. I remember, looking up at the ceiling of my room and asking Allah, if He would forgive me, if He would give me strength, if He would support me.
I had a beautiful conversation with Him that night. I felt like He heard me, He answered me. "Peace came." And I was nothing but a lost wandering soul before realizing the power in my choice. I was finally at peace. It was my choice and nobody forced me.
This is when I started falling in love with myself, I now appreciate my pores, my nose, my face - because now I know I am perfect the way I am. Back in my A-levels, I was extremely insecure, I knew I was not good enough. Hearing, "I guess there are some people who are not really photogenic.", from people my own age, affected me in ways that I can not even comprehend at times. I used to come back home from school, look myself in the mirror and tell myself, "you're disgusting."
Now, only because of hijab I feel confident every single day, I feel the need to thank Him for all I have, I feel empowered. I smile when ever I think about getting ready and going out. This decision made me closer to Allah, closer to myself. It made me aware of my own potential as a person who is learning and will make mistakes too. With every passing day, I explored myself, I gathered the strength to appreciate myself.
So then, it was about 1 a.m. when I messaged my best friend, Mahnoor. She is the person who might be the reason why I planned on sticking to this decision. I remember sending her a message on Instagram, about how weirdly satisfied I felt when I thought about hijab. I told her that I had been crying for hours and just thinking about hijab was making me happy. I asked her, what should I do? After reading my message, she immediately replied, and what she said was exactly what I needed in that moment. She said, "Do it, Anusha", and this small word gave me all the strength I needed. So, Thank you Mahnoor... God knows what would have happened if she had said something else...
I woke up and messaged two of my beautiful hijabi friends, Sephora - who found time from her extremely busy life to send me a long voice note on Whatsapp, saying words full of such kindness that I never thought anybody would ever say. And then I messaged Hiba - she told me what motivated her every single day to wrap a scarf around her head, and that left me in awe. I told her nothing, just asked a bunch of questions and she knew it. That is what Allah does, He lets you have conversations with people who are silent. I was silent, but she knew it.
These two people gave me exactly same answers - I wonder how two people who do not even know each other had the same answers about making Allah happy. This was something that made me more determined, my belief in Him strengthened, and I just hope it strengthens everyday. I can not thank you guys enough for doing that.
Over the course of this one year, I have had days where random people have asked me to take it off, because I am young, I should show my beauty to the world, I should not try to be an old soul, I should try to take this 'thing', off of my head.
Then the day came when I took hijab for the very first time in my university, 16th April - an extremely sunny Monday. I thought, "It's gonna be a difficult day." I still remember how anxious and scared I was. I knew what would be the basic response of people, so I tried preparing myself for a really long day ahead. My walk from the bus stop till the main ground of my university felt so long, every step forced me to look around at people who were staring at me, every pair of staring eyes forced me to look down while walking.
My class fellows saw me walking alone, they started walking with me and talking about normal things. That helped a lot. We sat on a bench and to my surprise they complimented me. And that very first compliment, is something I will never forget.
After a while, one of my close friends came, she walked her way to the bench with a wide smile on her face, she saw me and hugged me for a minute, what she said next has helped me through so much till this day, she looked me in my eyes and said, "Anusha, you look the same."
Thank you Ramsha, this made me believe in the fact that God exists and looks after us almost all the time. I realized, I was the same person. Nothing changed but I just got to know more about myself. And in the process of knowing myself I got to know more about people around me as well. My friends in my university are extremely supportive, Tooba and Abdul Qadir, I know you know I am talking about you guys. I hope you all find happiness, because you guys made me appreciate this decision and never felt ashamed of me. Thank you for standing beside me.
Khushbakht and Manahil, we have had our fights regarding this at times, but I have always felt the need to thank you two when you would understand my perspective and support me. Whenever you guys tell me salty remarks that I should give to aunties as a response, that makes me really happy..
I can never forget mentioning what Aimen says to me almost all the time, she is a person extremely dear to me, when ever I feel low or sad. She says "If you come in front of me with niqab, you will still be Anusha for me". I cannot explain in words how this sentence makes me feel. She understands how empowered I feel because of hijab and she supports me wholeheartedly. So thanks girl.
I am thanking these people because they do not think that my hijab oppresses me. I study in a place where I do feel alienated at times, standing between a bunch of people and still feeling alone is something that has come along with hijab. I have realized there are very few people who I can relate to.
I can not stress over how many weird belittling remarks I have heard about me taking hijab over the course of this one year. I can not stop and give a lecture to every single person who plans on judging me. I believe that you should try to make those understand who want to understand.
I now plan on ignoring those who just want to argue with me and taunt me for no apparent reason. I now plan on not wasting my time on all those who think that I am oppressed and even if I tell them I am not, they would never understand. Because changing their bigoted perception about what they perceive it to be right, might be difficult for them, and that is okay.
I'll give you the space to think and discern and you give me my space to think and discern.
So let’s not assume the other side of the story, rather sit and talk. And if you can't, then that's okay. You try to respect me and my decision , and I respect you. It's that simple.
As I take a deep breath after finishing this write up, I feel like I have shared too much. But that's okay, because I want you all to know that I feel extremely empowered by this decision, and I can not stress this enough.
This whole write up is in no way trying to say that there are no girls who are forced to do hijab, yes there are people who force their daughters, and that is not Islam.
Learn to be like my parents.
And life will be easier for you and for your children as well.
Currently doing my Bachelors in Applied Psychology, I would describe myself as a person who likes being poetic, I think this is that one thing that makes us human. Reading a lot of books and trying to scribble words that help me in understanding my self has helped me in focusing on things that I like, writing being one of them. I started writing a personal blog about a year ago, since then I have realized the true power of simple yet accurate words in creating a difference. I plan on becoming a Clinical Psychologist one day, and help people in need, help those yearning for a ray of hope to heal the open wounds embedded on their souls. I have also been considering writing a novel side by side; as I complete my studies. It helps me in understanding the intricately tangled relationship of this life with our soul.
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