Safiya’s Hijab Story
Growing up as a Muslim in the United States, I was not always surrounded by Hijabi women. My mother was a Hijabi when she was a teenager, but during the Bosnian Genocide, taking it off is what kept her alive. When she arrived in Switzerland as a refugee, she was not inclined to put it back on right away due to so much suffering and trauma that came with being Muslim in Bosnia. But when I was fourteen, my mother picked me up from school one day and, without any warning, I looked over to her after getting in the car and smiled. She had put on the hijab. When I asked my mother ‘why’ she said, “Why not?” I remember trying hard to pry an answer out of her but the most I could get was something along the lines of “It is part of my journey in becoming closer to Allah.” And that was the end of the discussion. She never told me anything like “because it’s fard,” or “because I have to,” my mother had paired self-spirituality with hijab and it was my first introduction to the oh-so-thin piece of fabric that covered the hair and bosoms of so many women around the world.
I had several encounters in my life with the religious characters of my extended family that were unknowingly, pulling me closer to Islamic modesty. I remember one time, we had just come back from the mosque because there was a ceremony for my great Aunt whom had passed away (May Allah have mercy on her). Back at the house I was being introduced to people: I had never met some of these cousins in my life and felt a bit uncomfortable. Naturally, I kept my hijab on and didn’t take it off even after leaving the mosque. Wallahi it gives me goosebumps when I think of it now, how Allah was putting something in my heart which make me uncomfortable showing my hair to my extended family. An distant family member of mine noticed, and asked me to take it off because “my hair was so pretty and I should reveal it.” I got angry with her, not visibly of course, but I was taken aback to her request. I refused. She left and her brother (the practicing Muslim of the family) had heard the exchange and came up to me after and said, “you don’t have to take it off, you look beautiful in it.” He continued to give more words of support which completely filled the void which his sister had made.
Fast-forward to two years later, one day I had to skip my first three classes in school because my mother was taking me to an interview with a well-known modeling agency. Even then, my mother had patience with me. When we arrived at their studio, we talked about my nationality, what I loved to do, when I was graduating from high school, what kind of modeling I liked to do, etc. The meeting ended with them taking my measurements, a comment on how my waist was a bit larger than the usual girls they took, and a few model shots. They had concluded that they would take me once my braces had come off. But before they could come off my priorities had shifted, because one year later I put on the hijab.
"Just like my mother, hijab for me was something that came with faith"
Just like my mother, hijab for me was something that came with faith, there had been a few things that happened in my life that led to the point where I truly wanted to start practicing the religion. I guess you could say that I took my shahada, but this time I really meant it. As a young woman, I was tired of the catcalls and stares and men asking for my number and with the knowledge that I gained while researching Islam, I found what the hijab was for and why Allah (swt) commanded us women to cover ourselves. The day I put on the hijab, I had felt liberated for the first time in my life. I am someone who gets to speak about the western ideals of women because I used to live them. There was a point in my life where I thought that the less you wore the more liberated you were. But little did I know, I was so far away from the truth. I had chosen to wear a baby pink hijab with flowers my first time wearing it; and I found myself, particularly emotional that day. I was tearing up at random times throughout that day. I will never forget that feeling, I felt like angels were hugging me fom all around and filling my heart with their light. I felt complete.
Hijab has reminded me of who I am, and thus, my prayers are regular, my character continues to improve, my relationships with people are easier to mend because I have made my relationship with Allah my first priority. In short, when the hijab isn’t forced, it is the most liberating item a woman can wear. Because it symbolizes respect, dignity, identity, modesty, and spirituality. It communicates a sort of “unavailability” because, since the day I put on hijab, I have not once been catcalled or sexually harassed, even by the men who saw me without hijab in some of my college classes. Because of the hijab, I know what respect is, and I am keen on keeping it.
Hijab is for women who are not afraid to think, of the values of their society and compare them to the values of Islam, who are not afraid to go against what the world tells them to be true, and most importantly, whom are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in to be true: That there is no God but Allah, and that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is His last and final Messanger.