My First Month in a Hijab

A 4th year medical student at Imperial on why she started wearing one, what it’s like, and how everyone’s reacted

My decision to put on a headscarf (or a hijab) was easy. I knew that it would eventually happen one day but I struggled with when it would actually happen.

salaemun hijabis

I’m the one on the right

The idea came into my head when people would ask me why I didn’t wear a hijab. It’s quite a bold question to ask and I never really had an answer for them. I was even flattered that they thought I was at that stage of my religion where I could put one on. At the time I didn’t think I was ready.

But the more I thought about it, the more it hit me. Why wasn’t I wearing a hijab? I prayed, I fasted and I practiced Islam the same way a girl wearing a hijab would. I always knew I wanted to become more religious but I always thought it’d happen later in life. I’m young and thought a hijab would restrict me from living my life to the fullest.

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“What do you mean Dominos is going to take an hour?! Iftar is in like 20 minutes and me and Barrack are mad hungry, man”

The literal meaning of hijab is to veil, to cover, or to screen. To put on a hijab is more than just covering your hair. It is a different way of living. You don’t just place a scarf on your head. You commit yourself to living a modest life, behaving with dignity and in a respectable manner.

By putting on a hijab, I am showing the world that I am a Muslim woman. In recent years, this has become a very important symbol for Islam. I am now an ambassador of Islam and people should be able to learn about Islam through the way I am and how I live my life.

For that reason, the decision to put on a hijab is something that requires careful consideration.

One of the best influences on my decision was my female Muslim friends. I have many friends who wear a hijab, including my best friend. The main thing I noticed was how they did the same things I did, acted the same way I acted and lived completely normal lives. The only difference was that they were wearing a scarf and I wasn’t.

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I had always believed that wearing a hijab meant you had to be a certain kind of person. You had to be quiet and reserved and you could never speak your mind. I had been brainwashed to think that it was a sign of oppression, that it was limiting and restricting.

But these girls showed me that I was completely wrong. They all love their hijabs just as much as I love my religion. There was never a moment that they regretted wearing it or found it inconvenient. They were happy to show the world that they were Muslim. They showed me the beauty of hiding one’s beauty.

I was also scared that I wasn’t good enough to put on a hijab. I didn’t have enough knowledge, I didn’t act the way I was meant to (and by this I mean, I’m loud and pretty crazy). How could I become a model of Islam if I wasn’t at the peak of my religion?

But the truth is that every Muslim is constantly striving to become a better Muslim. There is no ‘peak’ in time where I could say that I was good enough to put on a hijab. I realised that it was about taking things a step at a time, putting on a hijab just being one of those steps.

I realised that I could put on a hijab and continue to better myself. I learnt that by putting on the hijab, it made me even more motivated to become a better Muslim. I know that I can still improve and now I feel I am even more committed to my religion than I was before.

A hijab is not a tool of repression, and it never has been. It is a modest, pure and beautiful concept. The Quran clearly states that there is no compulsion in religion (Sura  2:256). Therefore it is a woman’s decision if she decides to put on a headscarf and, at the same time, no one can judge her if she doesn’t wear one.

The ultimate reason why Muslim women but on a hijab is because we believe that God has commanded us to do so (Sura 24:30-31). Our duty as Muslims is to submit to God and we do so with pleasure. We believe that God knows what is best for us, even if we do not understand it ourselves and so we follow His commands without hesitation.

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After putting on my hijab, I have noticed subtle changes in the way people act towards me. It’s nothing too major. It just shows how people view a woman in a headscarf.

My Muslim girl friends were so happy and supportive. They have been amazing in my transition from non-hijabi to hijabi. I can even see how they are freer around me and more willing to share their knowledge, because they know I am eager to learn.

Muslim boys are different when it comes to how they treat a girl in a headscarf. I’ve noticed a bigger change in the way they act towards me. Guys are now more respectful around me. They are more aware of the boundaries that Islam has placed between men and women when a hijab is involved.

Because they know that I am covered to hide my hair from them and that the only person who will ever see it will be the man that I marry. Only my husband will be able to see and appreciate the beauty underneath. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of the hijab.

For most, if not all, non-Muslim girls, they will continue on as normal and treat me the same since my hijab does not change the dynamic of our relationship and underneath this scarf, I am still the same person.

My non-Muslims guy friend’s reactions to my hijab are a bit hit-and-miss. I’ll have guy friends who will still try and hug me and then I have guy friends who will be a bit more reserved and are not quite sure how to act around me. By acting like my usual self, they understand that they can still be normal around me just not as close.

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The rest of the world views me differently. I am now ‘one of them’. It’s a difficult climate for Muslims in the West. It is even more difficult to boldly state that you are Muslim.  You have to be strong to handle any negativity that may be thrown towards you. You have to be ready to explain why you wear one and you have to realise that some people may associate you to things they see in the media, things that you wouldn’t want to be associated to.

But all people are different. Some will see me as more trustworthy and reliable. They’ll stop and ask me for directions or ask me to take a photo, because they know I won’t run away with their camera.

Unfortunately there are those people that will keep their distance. I’m not offended by this at all. People are scared of what they don’t know and I can understand their innate reaction is to avoid me altogether. I can only hope that one day they’ll approach me and ask questions so I can answer to the best of my ability.

The biggest change I’ve noticed is in me. I am happier, more optimistic and freer. I feel more liberated when I am covered up because I am showing the world who I truly am. I can proudly step out the house in my hijab, knowing that I am on the path of becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be.

Aemun is raising money to go do some charity fundraising work in South America, donations can be made here.

  • Anonymous

    enjoyed this

  • Jo

    Nothing like a little bit of sexism and discrimination in the name of islam from brain-dead religious fanatics.

    • Anonymous

      Shut up you bigoted moron. She’s chosen to wear the hijab. No one’s forced her.

      • Jo 2

        Someone doesn’t have to force her to wear it for her to have been forced to wear it. Its like the patriarchy – sure and steady socialisation to make you feel you should shut yourself off from other people and yet feel good about it.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, but most women in the world wearing the hijab have no choice. So to give the impression that it’s all about choice is just ridiculous. This woman here is privileged.

      • Bob

        Except For Muslim women from the time they’re born they’re told they’re a slut or a whore for showing the smallest about of skin in extreme cases of course (still millions of People). Any women who think she actually has rights in lslam is truly brainwashed.

        • Bobby

          if you think every woman who wears a hijab is forced to do so then you’re as stupid as you are bigoted

        • Bobby

          Bob your comment is exactly the same as saying that every girl who shows any skin is oppressed because the idea that she needs to show skin to be attractive is perpetuated and reenforced from an early age by pop culture, the fashion industry and people around her.

          Deciding to show a lot of skin or wear a hijab are both legitimate options a woman can opt for

    • Anon

      >hurr durr i didn’t read the article

    • Anon

      Way to lay waste to intersectional feminism but still call others sexist you moron.

  • Anonymous

    ‘The Quran clearly states that there is no compulsion in religion (Sura 2:256). Therefore it is a woman’s decision if she decides to put on a headscarf and, at the same time, no one can judge her if she doesn’t wear one.
    The ultimate reason why Muslim women but on a hijab is because we believe that God has commanded us to do so (Sura 24:30-31).’

    You kind of contradict yourself within two paragraphs. But its your decision at the end of the day. No-one should judge you for it. It’s an extra piece of clothing.

  • confused

    The only difference was that they were wearing a scarf and I wasn’t.

    Well why wear a scarf then?

    Also, why be reserved and less loud and crazy?

    ‘they can still be normal around me just not as close.’ why would you want people to be further away?

    It seems that regardless of the clothing, your views on how you ‘ought’ to behave in my view act to ‘restrict me from living my life to the fullest’.

  • Anonymous

    “I am covered to hide my hair from them and that the only person who will ever see it will be the man that I marry. Only my husband will be able to see and appreciate the beauty underneath.”

    Vanity much?

  • Anonymous

    This is a neutral comment

  • Anonymous

    what is the point doe? women who don’t wear a useless piece of cloth are inferior?

    • Anonymous

      To show that a woman is more than just her beauty. And her body is not for show.

  • Anonymous

    I’d rather be a brain-dead religious fanatic than a dickhead

    • Dickhead

      Dickhead every time

  • Anonymous

    Interesting that this is a difficult decision to be made and warrants a news article.

  • Rev Krev

    Some nice religious propaganda.

  • Anonymous

    i have some sincere questions: how can you be happy with the fact that your non-muslim guy friends are unsure how to act around you anymore or that they can be ‘not as close’ as you were before.. its seems that wearing your hijab has pushed you apart even if it is just a little and how is it a good thing for you, now an ambassador of islam to now be less close with you non-muslim friends?
    and i know that you havent been pressured to put on the hijab and you chose to do it of your own will but you said that the way that your muslim male friends has changed towards you positively, that they now respect you more and isnt that in a sense an indirect pressure to wear a headscarf- to be respected more by your male peers?
    and finally if the Quran says you are not compulsed to wear a hijab, why does wearing one make you feel like a better muslim?

    i hope Aemun sees this and can answer my questions or if anyone that wears a hijab could because they are genuine questions, i dont mean to be rude or undermine this this article in anyway i learnt a lot from it

    thanks

  • This article is ludicrous

    The concept of free choice has no meaning when children are indoctrinated with a set of ideals from birth. The oppression brought about by organised religion is insidious, not overt.

    • Anonymous

      This: “Our duty as Muslims is to submit to God and we do so with pleasure. We believe that God knows what is best for us, even if we do not understand it ourselves and so we follow His commands without hesitation.” is utter bullshit. Aren’t you a medical student? You must have done a couple of Sciences at school – did those subjects not teach you how to question and reason for yourself? Questioning and reasoning, coupled with the rigour of the Scientific Method leads to human progress. Conversely, accepting, assuming, or believing something to be true without attempting to verify it, especially if you do not understand it, leads to stagnation at best.

  • A shame

    “Our duty as Muslims is to submit to God and we do so with pleasure. We believe that God knows what is best for us, even if we do not understand it ourselves and so we follow His commands without hesitation.”

    - This quote sums up everything that is wrong with organised religion. Why would a person accept a set of values and restrictions on their freedom if they do not understand the reasons behind this lifestyle? As sentient beings we should always question our beliefs, and should never accept or follow ‘without hesitation’ but rather seek to learn and to understand so that we may make rational and educated decisions. While the sentiment is pure, this article unfortunately ends up reading like any piece of religious propaganda.

  • Anon

    This was (1) really interesting and (2) probably one of the only Tab articles I’ve read and not cringed once. Brilliant piece, Aemun!

  • joe

    Acting daft in the name of a backwards primitive religion. Fascinating read

  • Not bothered

    fashionable PC nonsense

  • Carly

    “The Quran clearly states that there is no compulsion in religion” / “The ultimate reason why Muslim women put on a hijab is because we believe that God has commanded us to do so”

    Any book which calls for the death of those who do not share in the same religious belief yet says there is ‘no compulsion’ in religion is kidding itself.

  • Sophie

    Surely if you say that no-one can judge women who choose not to wear the hijab, then your comments about being treated differently, and with more respect, now you wear it suggest there is a great deal of negative social association with women who choose “freely” not to cover their hair. They can expect to be treated with less respect (as you yourself experienced) that a woman who wears the hijab? This kind of social intimidation is the tool of much patriarchally-motivated religious practice…

  • Anonymous

    “Muslim boys are different when it comes to how they treat a girl in a headscarf. I’ve noticed a bigger change in the way they act towards me. Guys are now more respectful around me.”

    They should be respectful towards you anyway because you are a HUMAN. Typical apologetic attitude towards muslim men’s misogynistic attitude.

  • An impressed student

    Glad to see The Tab promote understanding of an often misunderstood religion. This is one of the best articles I’ve seen on here.

  • Hans.hannes

    wow! a lot of ignorant views from people who clearly misunderstand the religion. you clearly.don’t understand the society we live in either-sexism, sexual crime, the studies on our children becoming hypersexualised. These are facts that we don’t have answers for but Islam does-yes you can’t force someone to take up islam.as a way of life (no compulsion) but that does not mean there are no compulsory things to.do as part of the religion.
    and I have to mention that this is a lady doing through a transition -segregation is very much a part of the religion so its not like its encouraged for her to befriend male guys and hang out with them. thing about your own life and how you were affected when your partner looked at that girl on the street or if they preferred to hang out with women other than yourself-doesnt matter who you are that has a psychological impact on you and your relationship. Does this mean we don’t talk to the opposite sex? its not.encouraged yes but when there’s a need we keep things professional.
    all in all.there’s a lot of misinformed views here social science says that as westerners his can you use.those very same eyes to judge and criticize another culture its a dufferent way of life-the morals.we practise innthw west aren’t universally accepted.
    so next time you choose to generalize everyone why not try and understand the person first talk to a Muslim you know-you owe it to your own intellect and the institute you study in to represent them.as people of sincere discussion and progressive thinking.

    • Anonymous

      You clearly don’t understand the rules of syntax and grammar, not to mention spelling.

    • Anon.

      You clearly don’t understand the rules of syntax and grammar, not to mention spelling.

  • Infidel

    An antiquated and regressive institution. An affront to human rationality and the progress of our society. A psychological device that furthers the ridiculous notion that morality and systems of ethics are handed from the words of Gods, and not out of the rigorous application of reason and understanding. I treat women respectfully because I afford everybody the same initial respect regardless of sex, and because I am not a Neanderthal spurred on by my instinctive lizard brain that makes me want to spasmodically procreate every 15 seconds.

    Whilst she had the choice to wear the hijab, I find it sad that she notices Muslim men treat her all the better for it. We encourage behaviour because it is good in itself, not because we deem the person good through some as superficial as the subscription to an outdated norm.

    “You don’t just place a scarf on your head. You commit yourself to living a modest life, behaving with dignity and in a respectable manner.” – As if I am utterly incapable of doing so without resource to desert theology.

    • Anon

      Agree.

  • Bill Maher

    I’ve said it once, and I will say it again…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgUT5HAT8JI

  • Anonymous

    what a pitiful collection of paradoxes this article is.
    1 when one sees “the koran clearly states” written anywhere, any reaction other than despair is impossible; no religious text ever states a law unequivocally like that – they are, like this article, collections of deluded and self-contradictory statements.
    2 how could you ever it a good idea to follow ‘without hesitation’ what someone else tells you are the wishes of God?
    3 “The rest of the world views me differently. I am now ‘one of them’. It’s a difficult climate for Muslims in the West. It is even more difficult to boldly state that you are Muslim.” your self-pitying tone here (and indeed throughout the article) is insufferable
    4 the ignorance you betrayed by stating that your hijab wearing friends convinced you it is not a sign of oppression is also quite astounding. whilst you may feel empowered by it, this is because you had the choice. there are millions of women in the world who did not and you insult them

  • practical thinker

    men treat you with more respect AND you dont have to wear a napkin at dinner #winning

  • Curious Agnostic

    I always enjoy discovering more about other cultures and religions, and in this I was hoping that someone could help me to understand a couple of things about Islam (and I guess all Abrahamic religions).
    Firstly, I don’t really understand why people believe that God is a male, or has a gender at all. Does he have genitalia? If so, what’s the point of it if he doesn’t reproduce sexually? If not, then how does anyone know that he is male?
    Secondly, I don’t really get how hell would work with regards to age. Is there a minimum age at which one can be admitted into hell? If not, do children go to hell? If there is, what’s the minimum age? Is it around 18? Do 17 year olds get a free pass to eternal bliss, while those who die at 18 are condemned to an eternity of torment?
    I’m honestly not being cheeky or anything and genuinely just want to understand how this all works. If anyone can provide me with some insight, that would be great, thanks.

    • The Voice Of Reason

      One issue at a time mate, lets just concentrate on the tea-cosy for now

  • Paul Cooper

    I love how The Tab subtly, almost subliminally, gets in a “Barack Obama is a Muslim” pic. Top work, Truthers!

  • Anon
  • Anonymous

    ‘I had been brainwashed to think that it was a sign of oppression, that it was limiting and restricting.’ – What in the same way you had been brainwashed into thinking the USA and UK are free countries and places like Dubai that give women prison sentences after being raped are bad places to live? Or in the same way you had been brainwashed by the West into thinking it was wrong to behead people for insulting Islam (as happens in Saudi). Covering the face/head has no place in a civilised western society.

  • Anonymous

    why is there no headscarf for Muslim men?

  • anon

    “You commit yourself to living a modest life, behaving with dignity and in a respectable manner.” How dare you suggest that you need a hijab to do this. You offend women all over the world.

  • Robert

    Anyone is free to believe what ever they want. But in this country I find it odd that some women continue to follow Islam when they have the choice not to. The Quran was written a VERY long time ago, along with it promoting mass genocide on non believers it is clearly very discriminatory towards women. The religion was built upon war and that is reflected in the writings. The fact that millions of people in this day and age are forced to obey Islam (Middle east), and if they want to leave the religion they will be faced with the possibility of death.
    Islam needs to adapt itself to the modern day otherwise most westerners will not respect the religion. I can’t see this happening unless Muslims start openly challenging certain things that are stated within there holy texts.