I may not do it consciously, because let’s face it, I’m not as in tune with fashion or overtly obsessed as the girls on Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars, but even so, when summer rolls around, I start to think about what I can wear that is summery, breezy, fun, and modest. This year, as I looked through my closet, all I could find was a fairly alarming swath of thick sweaters from this past winter. Searching for some lighter clothing, I remembered that I had packed away last year’s summer clothes to emerge triumphantly around the time the sun warmed the earth in the first few days of June.
I reached in and pulled out a few tank tops, which I always try to pair with some kind of zip-up or jacket and a few short sleeve t-shirts, which should be okay for this year as well. I mean yeah, the cap sleeves are kind of short, but at least they’re not sleeveless. Sifting through the piles there are a few capris and ankle pants that I can wear this year. Examining it a bit closely I thought, “Woah…this one looks a little short, it’s closer to my knees than ankles and it’s making me a bit uneasy. I think this other one is better, it’s a bit closer to my ankles and more appropriate.”
As the search continued, my eyes landed on some tops hidden at the bottom of the box. They were a bit low cut, but I decided that I could pair them with a scarf around the neck to fix that up. I was surprised to find a short skirt and thought “I wore this?!” And then promptly remembered that I had paired it with dark tights, so it worked out just fine.
This whole mental clothing battle isn’t new.
I’ve had it countless times before – regardless of the season. But this time, there was something nagging me that wouldn’t let up. It’s a feeling I have tried to swat away because it makes me uncomfortable to think about it. I recognize that my methods of separating clothing are kind of….arbitrary to say the least. Is a short-sleeved t-shirt better than sleeveless? How did the fabric that covered my shoulder to my forearm suddenly make my clothing go from inappropriate to Muslim-friendly?
The capris that stopped right below my calves got a stamp of approval while the capris that ended right at my knees were seen as totally out of the question.
Sitting there and obsessing over t-shirts, I recognize that this mental battle is deeper than what everyone reduces the struggles of a Muslim woman to- it isn’t really about the clothes, it’s so much more than that. Over the past few years, I’ve attended some Islamic classes, halaqat, and volunteered for Islamic events here and there. As much as I would rather not think about it, and with the realization that I’m not necessarily there yet…it’s pretty clear to me that the most appropriate kind of clothing would include hijab. I know that Muslim women are supposed to wear hijab, I know that I should not only be covering my hair, neck and chest, but my clothes should also be loose and not showing my shape. More than the clothes, the reason why Muslim women believe this and follow this is the main point.
I get it…this is what Allah (swt), my Creator, has prescribed for me to wear as a Muslim and honestly, THAT is important to me.
But I’m not ready yet and as soon as I start thinking about it, the age-old worries begin to plague me.
What will it be like when I first walk in to class with hijab? How will I even explain this change? What will people think at work? Will covering my hair really make me more religious? I really can’t stand the thought of people staring at me weirdly. It might even sound petty but I just recently got my hair dyed, what was the point if it’s going to be covered? I’m not practicing at a level yet where I can wear hijab, I’m not a good enough Muslim to wear it. If I’m not ready to do a full-scale improvement of my life as a Muslim, then I definitely better not attempt hijab just yet…
This time though, I felt different. These questions, doubts, and worries that often consumed me suddenly weren’t enough to push away a persistent feeling about donning the hijab. These random standards that I hold about sleeveless vs. short sleeve shirts and shorts vs. capris literally have no basis, it’s not as though they were some absolute truth I was trying to follow. It came with the realization that these arbitrary standards I was enacting were no comparison to the standards set by Allah (swt)– those standards are unchanging and were prescribed by the One who created me-the One who knows me better than I know myself. I’ve poured in all this effort over the years into trying to make my dressing Islamically appropriate, but I realize that perhaps it was always at a superficial level. What if my version of Islamic clothing is not in line with Islam at all?
It dawned on me: I believe in hijab in the way Allah (swt) prescribed it, but then why am I not implementing it? It was a deep period of reflection on these challenging, yet critical questions that began my beautiful and meaningful journey towards wearing hijab…
To read more about this Muslim sister’s life-changing story, stay tuned for the next entry of Memoirs of a Muhajjaba.