“I am not going to lie, the temptation hits me sometimes,” I said to my friends. Our conversation had stirred towards the subject of hijab. My friends looked at each other, then back at me, dumbfounded. It had never occurred to me that I could ever entertain this thought. Considering how short my hair is, I had never contemplated taking off my hijab.
I wanted to talk about how it really had nothing to do with showing off my beauty. It was just a temptation that needed to be addressed. If anything, all my friends who had taken off their hijabs had really short hair but rather than continue the conversation, I lay back and let my mind drift off…..
Growing up and being raised in Muslim homes, I think we are sometimes dishonest with ourselves. We lie to ourselves. When talking about such things as temptation or desire, we act as though these are things we are immune to. I personally don’t think that I could have thought deeply about this if I were still at home. It was just the automatic thing to do. All around me were infants who were wrapped to their chests in hijabs. Six to ten-year-old children would definitely have no issues with it. My roommate used to say about infants who were dressed in hijab, “She will grow up to detest the hijab. She would definitely grow up to take it off and then, they would have failed her as parents.” Part of me always resonated with that assertion but I didn’t quite understand what she fully meant. How could one grow up to detest something they simply had to do. There was no choice around the topic of hijab. It was like breathing; you simply had to do it.
Over time, I found that the questions couldn’t be shushed anymore. Whenever I was around women, these questions would come to me. “Do you ever consider taking it off?” I would ponder. “Now that you are wearing it, how did you get to this stage? Who are you wearing it for?” These questions demanded answers. These are topics we should be able to discuss at great length, but these subjects, whenever brought up in conversations, are met with stark disapproval and resignation, as though they were some kind of blasphemy. Islam does not discourage curiosity and questioning. It’s easy to assume the first few times that on the surface, most women are in such a good place with their Deen, so much that the idea of taking off their hijabs seems absurd to them. But with time it becomes apparent that it’s only a façade. And because facades are lies, they never last.
I don’t think any “school-age” girl would have had the courage to ask, “Why am I wearing the hijab?” because there’s simply no room for it. This begs the question, “How much of this is rooted in fear?” More women feel the pressure to live up to certain societal expectations of what a woman should be and so they keep these questions to themselves even though having these questions does not necessarily translate to taking off the hijab.
Dear Muslim women, should you have any questions, don’t be ashamed to ask them. Seek clarity and knowledge. The questions are there. By silencing them, they do not go anywhere. They patiently lurk, to haunt us in the future. Ask yourself this; would I still wear it if I were in a place where no one knows me; a place where I have only Allah to answer to? You might think the answer is yes (and if it truly is, congratulations to you!) but ponder about it.
Living in a hijab-wearing community is no real test. Would you still wear it if there was no one there to see you? Would your loyalty still be there if you weren’t put in a situation where you are tested? This is a short essay encouraging women not to silence their inner voices; to have honest conversations. But most importantly, to know and understand why they are doing certain acts as Muslims, and to make sure it is solely because of Allah, and not the creation.