This blog topic is a common one for many Hijabi bloggers. Every Muslimah has their own reasons for choosing to wear or not wear a headscarf, or modest clothing. I never got round to writing my reasons down or blogging about it. I prefer the face to face discussions, as I can address the follow-up questions that inevitably arise.

Though I am open in talking about it in person, I am deliberate with my wording. I am not trying to explain my reasoning as there’s no need to justify it to anyone. This is purely to educate those that want to hear one Muslim woman’s perspective. I speak for myself only, as this is my story.

I am under no obligation to explain myself to anyone. I am more than happy, when asked, to talk about my personal reasons with people I know.


I am not here to debate or justify my personal reasons. If you ask me to talk about my reasons, then that’s what I will do. Those who ask, need to accept my reasoning as applying to me, and me only.

For those who are interested in hearing more from Muslim women themselves, I encourage you to read wider and get an understanding of multiple perspectives of different Muslim Women’s “why’. My life, my hijab, my choice. I only speak for myself.

If you want to argue the validity of my personal journey, then move along. No one knows the ins and outs of my life and the struggles I’ve been through. No one has the right to challenge me on my life decisions.


Now we’ve weeded out the trolls… I’ll begin.

1999-ish

I first started wearing hijab when I was in Sixth form at school, when I was 16 or 17. I went to a girls school and I had no male teachers in Sixth Form, so I chose not to wear it at school. I did wear it outside of school, including at school events off-site.

I don’t fully remember why I wore it back then. I do remember it was my choice, as my father never even asked me about wearing hijab. My mum would mention it every so often and I’d remind her that she only started to wear hijab recently, and on her own terms. If I chose to wear it, I was determined to do so on my own terms.

In the end, it wasn’t really in my own terms. There was a boy from another school who had a crush on me. He was a friend of a friend, and so I saw him at any friend’s get togethers, birthdays, etc.

He was persistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer. That is, until I started wearing hijab. That was a symbolic and physical expression of my “no”. It’s messed up that he only backed off then.

What about the mutual friend? She repeatedly told him that I meant what I said, yet he persisted. I could have removed myself from the social group, but didn’t see why I should be the one to hide away.

So that’s how it started. I felt more comfortable with it on, and continued to wear hijab when I started uni in Autumn of 2000. I made friends, both male and female, all of whom respected my religion as a part of me, and never excluded me from anything. It was never a reason to exclude me and all was fine.


Why did I stop?

I stopped wearing hijab when I went back to uni in Autumn 2001. It was actually the Muslims at uni that turned me away from hijab. To be honest, that was a clear indication that I wasn’t wearing hijab for the right reasons. I wasn’t wearing it for me otherwise I would not have been bothered by what other Muslims said, did or thought.

In my first year of uni I experienced negativity from Muslim men. That’s unsurprising to be honest, as ISOCs back then were a male bastion. 20 years ago ISOCs were mostly male-run and not really catering to Muslim women’s needs. They were pretty judgemental and were the first encounters I had with the self-appointed Haram Police. The interactions were mostly policing open ISOC events, commenting on/looking down on me for having mixed m/f friends.

The second factor were the girls who wore hijab as a coverup to their parents. They would wear hijab leaving the house or when being dropped off at uni by papa-ji, but whipping it off as soon as they got to Traders (the uni coffee bar). They tended to flock together and gave me stares. I did not want to be associated with them because I didn’t want to be seen as a hijabi of convenience.

Ironically after wearing hijab for reasons other than my own conviction, I then stopped wearing or for reasons other than my own. Throughout this period, I continued to dress covered – not as much as now – but still minimising skin showing. I continued to pray 5 times a day. I continued to read quran ay home and study hadith when I had time. Nothing was different about how I practised my religion, so it didn’t make a difference to me whether I wore or or not.

Long story short, I realised that I started to cover my hair for the wrong reasons. It was a reaction to other people, and not for myself at all. I then stopped wearing it as a reaction to other people, again, not for myself.

So what changed?

I went back to hijab aged 32, on my own terms and for my own reasons. I just wore it one day to go to my aunt’s house. I was having a bad hair day and was running late faffing around with my hair, so I grabbed a scarf and covered it. Yes, really, it started with a bad hair day.

No-one batted an eyelid. It was just normal to them and my family treated me the same as before. No comments, just normal. So I wore one the next day, and the next and the next.

After a few weeks of casually wearing my hijab every time I went out, I noticed a positive difference in myself.

  • It became a physical reminder to myself that I am accountable for my actions, regardless of who sees, Allah swt always sees. It is a reminder to myself to be mindful of how I interact with people, and to treat them with due respect.
  • It was a reminder to myself that there’s no reason for me to delay prayers, as I’m always ready to pray anywhere. I have been more focused and timely in my prayers, which gives me personal peace and refocus at various points in the day, often when I need it most.
  • I have bold, rainbow coloured hair that I love. I choose who to share that with. Having bold, bright hair opens up questions I don’t always want to answer. Wearing hijab keeps it to myself and stops comments (positive and negative) from random strangers.

Other impacts

  • I like being recognised as part of the Muslim Ummah (family/ community). When at work, when visiting Muslims from other offices work from my office for the day, they know that they have someone to ask to borrow a prayer mat from, or someone to show them the prayer room, or tell them of halal food options nearby.
  • There are negative aspects to being visibly Muslim. But those negative aspects are not my issue. It’s weakness in those who discriminate against me for being myself.
  • I have a traditional job in finance and often have to work with closed minded people that equate brightly dyed hair with frivolity and assume I’m not qualified, educated or as senior in my role as I am. They see my work speaks for itself, before they find out I have rainbow hair.
  • There are many people that loved my various rainbow hair colours. I started liking the compliments too much for my comfort level and started to feel that the bold colour was for others, not myself. Wearing hijab keeps my personal vanity in check and keeps me doing the bold hair and multiple piercings for myself.
  • Also with the hair and multiple piercings, people often stare at that instead of looking at me and listening to what I’m saying. The hijab removes that distraction. Though that is also the weakness of the other person, and not a reflection of me or what I’m saying.

In a nutshell…

I wear my hijab for me, I don’t have a husband forcing me to wear it. My father has never forced me or pressured me to wear it, but made it clear to me when I first started wearing it as a teenager, that it was a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly. I thought I was ready in my teens. I wasn’t. No negative comments were made to me by my family when I stopped wearing hijab, and no weird comments since then. It’s always been my decision.

I recognise that I am in a privileged position. My family are quite practical in religious matters, opting for encouragement over enforcement. This is not the case for many Muslim women around the world, and their voices should be amplified. As much as I have a right to speak for myself about my experiences, women feeling coerced need to be supported in speaking their truth as well.

I’d like to leave you with a final thought, directly from the Quran, straight after Ayatul-Qursi.


There is no compulsion in religion.