Life as a Muslimah ... Hijab experiences
I thought I would share some of my experiences so far with wearing Hijab. The first time I wore it was of course to pray, it's kind of a nice feeling to have to prepare for prayer. We are told to make ourselves clean , both physically and mentally , before we pray - I think it helps to put you in the right frame of mind when you do the washing (wudu) and cover your head and body.
Other times I have worn it was going to the mosque during Ramadan - both years that I have gone were positive experiences but I was a bit frazzled and worried about how I would feel going out while being covered. So my Husband and I got ready to go, me all 'hijabed' (we were meeting up with another couple who was going to drive us to the mosque) I was ready to go out in the world - well at least a small street, if not the whole world! I distinctly remember feeling 'watched' as we waited for the couple to come downstairs from their apartment. A few people were looking at me, while others ignored me all together - but I just could not help but feel as if I was the center of attention. I couldn't help but think that wearing this scarf made me get more stares than usual - wasn't the point in wearing it to make you less 'of a visual distraction'? (shrug) It took me two years to really realize that the problem lies with me and not others - let me explain how I came to this realization.
Oh but before I get to that , let me also tell you that there were some other 'hijabed' women who looked at me, and of course when I saw them I was totally expecting them to say to me 'Salam' (so in my head I practiced my reply 'wa alaikum assalam', I was nervous about how I would say it and if it would be understandable). So, as the woman approached I smiled and waited for her to say it (ok, yes I could have said Salam first - but I got nervous) - I never got a chance to say my reply, she did not even smile at me. Hmm...I kind of sat there and thought 'well ok, maybe she is in a bad mood or just does not feel 'sociable' today. This must have happened about three more times, and each time I had no Salam's - I got depressed and had a bit of my 'balloon' deflate. I kept reading and seeing on-line of how Muslims interact with each other and how they greet each other - I found it so lovely that they would not say 'hello' but instead would meet each other by offering 'peace'. So here I was, proclaiming to the world that I am a Muslim yet I could not partake in the most simplest deed. I felt a bit down and it was always in the back of my head - for months I would casually observe Muslim women at the malls, or outside and see if they would offer Salam's - I did not see any.
Anyway, back to my original thoughts, I was going to tell you about how the problem was with me and not others.
A few weeks ago I was going to go meet up with a friend, another convert - we were going to go to a mall, and I had this idea come into my head that I would wear the hijab when I meet up with her. Now as a warning, I do not take this lightly, nor is this some attempt at being funny or making fun of wearing hijab - I am just at a point in my life and faith that I cannot wear it. I feel that if I can wear it 'sometimes', it will give me a sense of why I feel so uncomfortable with it. So the day comes, and all morning I am nervous about it, what will I wear, how to tie it, how will I feel going out in public with it, what if someone who knows me sees me with it??? Agg, all these questions and fears, were driving me crazy - so I just said: 'forget it, why am I doing this, what will I accomplish? After taking a few moments to really think about it, I kind of decided that I had nothing to lose and only something to gain. So, off I went!! All the way I was self-conscience about how people were looking at me while I was driving, so from time to time I would glance over at a another driver stopped at the red light, only to see each time nobody looking at me... hmm, I thought, and continued to drive along. Got to the mall, parked, walked towards the entrance - I thought for sure I would get a panic attack when I saw how many people were all gathered by the doorway ' oh my everyone is going to look and stare at me!" Got to the door - nobody really cared! Opened the door - ack more people ... at this point I had to slap my 'alter-ego' (you know the little voice inside your head that tends to push things out of proportion) and say 'relax, its fine. Nothing will happen, they are not going to eat you, look there is a sandwich shop there, they eat the bread not you! After that little 'pep' talk, I started to look around for my friend, nowhere to be seen (ugg) then my phone rang, it was her, letting me know where she was in the mall. Met up with her and another friend of hers, so here we are three 'hijabed' women walking around in the mall - not such a big deal as I had made it out to be. So we spent a nice few hours walking around the mall, looking at shoes and clothes, (fun fun) sat and talked a bit, and enjoyed our free time. The day came to an end and we parted ways, me with a smile on my face and a good feeling of accomplishment in my heart. So I start to walk back towards my car, I can feel there are some people behind me and I move to the right to let them pass. They pass and at the end there is a woman who passes by me and I look up and she says 'salam' and walks past me. I can't imagine the look on my face as she said it, I was so surprised (pleasantly) that she had greeted me! It all went by so fast that I had not had the chance to reply to her instantly, but had mouthed the words once I had regained my senses. After that I just could not help but smile all the way home. I also came to realize that there is no 'problem' with hijab. The problem is with our perceptions. I let this get to me way too much, and forgot that people are people, no matter what they wear!! I kind of also realized that without the scarf, you are not identified as a Muslim, you have no outward appearance that screams your religion, which sometimes is a good thing but in this case would have prevented me from receiving the Salam. This unknown woman, unbeknownst to her has made me see things in a different way. I am glad that I had chosen that day to wear the hijab, the experience was memorable and has set me on a new way of thinking.