I started wearing the hijab right after I performed Hajj. For those who do not know what Hajj is – it is a religious pilgrimage that is performed in the holy city of Mecca. It is a compulsory rite to every Muslim to at least perform it once in a lifetime. For the most part, it was assumed that I would automatically start covering my head after I got back home. For the month that I was away, I kept asking myself if I was ready to do this and if I really wanted to go ahead with it or not. Sometimes I feel like the greatest battles we fight are not with others but with ourselves. When I got back home, it is customary to greet family members who visit with ‘salaams’ and the head covered so for some time, I did cover my head. Other times at home and elsewhere I had my scarf around my neck as usual.
My husband didn’t approve of me doing this. Every single time we left the house to go out to see a friend or for a cup of coffee, he’d confront me about covering my head. “Why isn’t it on your head?”, “did you forget to put the scarf on your head?” were common questions. They were asked in the manner which made me feel like I had done a great sin and had a sinking guilty feeling inside me. I’d look at him in a pleading way and almost expect him to understand where I was coming from but he never did. I’d reluctantly then cover my head.
I don’t mean any disrespect to those who do wear the hijab and do it so well, but I was very uncomfortable doing this. I didn’t feel like because it was not coming from within me and I was simply doing it because I was told to. I wasn’t asked to; I was told to. This went on for a few weeks and it came to a point where one day my husband said to me, “I’m telling you as your husband to wear the hijab,” and that was that. A command. I’m someone who won’t easily bow down to anyone unless my heart was in it. But my husband and I had been arguing over the subject for some time and I just wanted it to end and wanted to be able to go out without instigating yet another argument over covering my head.
I told myself that I’d do it for him. Not God, but for him. I told myself that I’d try my best to keep at it; to make peace with the notion. I told myself that if I ever felt like I couldn’t do it, I’d still make an effort to plaster a smile on my face and get on with it. I did it for five months. When it came to a point where I felt like I was being a hypocrite, I sat my husband down one day and I told him I wasn’t happy doing it.
He looked back at me shocked. “I thought you were happy doing it,” he said. “How could I be when it wasn’t my choice in the first place?” I asked back. “Because you are doing it in the name of God Almightly.” “I’m not; in my heart I’m not doing it for Him, I’ve been doing it for you. For you so that we won’t argue all the time and fight about it.” “You need to make yourself be okay with it and do it for His sake.” “I don’t know if I can.” “Try.” “I am trying.”
The conversation went nowhere.
I thought I should put more effort and heart into covering my head. But a year and a couple of months later, here I am, still covering my head not for the right reasons. Muslims argue over the topic; some claiming it to be a choice others claiming it to be compulsory. I’m not one to argue. It is meant as a sign of modesty of women; but my argument is, does it mean I am not modest when I am not covering my head? What is modesty in today’s world anyway? Men look at you no matter what you are wearing; be it the abaya or a mini skirt and crop top. I believe that modesty lies in what’s in your heart. My faith does not confine women to shun themselves from the world. My faith celebrates women and whatever it may be, I know that I am a good Muslim whether I cover my head or not. What will prevail in the Hereafter because of my actions and choices is up to God.
My husband knows I am not happy covering my head even to this day. I’ve brought up the subject once more in recent times and I was yet again left with no choice. People can argue over it being my choice and I should defy my husband over this. Believe me, I’ve tried. But what is there to gain of it arguing over it when life almost becomes unbearable with the constant fights?
But the choice should be mine, right? What is better – to argue constantly or let things be? I can’t seem to decide. I’m tired of being pulled apart in this manner. I’ve lost sight of who I am because of it. I feel like I have no identity. I feel like a hypocrite every time I step out of the house. Yes, I also think in a practical manner and the heat has been killing me. It’s hot around my neck and all I want to do is shove my scarf down a drain. I miss my long hair and being able to style in so many different ways. I cut it almost like a boy because I didn’t see the point in having long hair and covering my head. I cried over it in the bathroom. My husband does not know it upset me that much. And yet, when I step outside this afternoon to meet a friend, I will carefully pick a scarf that complements my outfit and wrap it around my head and go out for a bite. I’ll pretend like everything is fine when inside me, I am unhappy. I’ll laugh about an incident that happened a day ago and adjust my scarf well if it happens to slide down. We’ll spend an hour or two catching up and I will go home, where I will immediately discard my scarf. The day comes to an end and I will sleep and then wake up to yet another day that I will do the same – wear the hijab not because I want to, but because I was asked to.
Sharing some images I captured during my stay in Kandy: