suddenly, i was big and small again.
i was the new girl, and so was everyone else.
it turned out, for several people i was in fact the first Hijabi they had ever genuinely engaged with. being a visible Muslim woman in a predominantly non-Muslim environment is not only a fact, it’s a feeling.
i felt it.
some days it felt like a responsibility, some days it felt like an honour, and some days i barely felt it at all. some days i would forget i was the only one wearing a Hijab, i was busy, i was doing things, i was enjoying myself… i had more and more of these days as time went on. each campus open day and fresher’s event saw a few more Muslims and consequently a few more Hijabis. i found myself going out of my way to say hi, to do Salaam, to let them know where i was if they ever needed anything. student life can be strange and isolating, i was thankful i hadn’t felt this way, but this meant i was able to be a shoulder to anyone who did.
i was 20, i was 21. i was travelling, i was making friends, i was writing, i was performing, i was laughing, i was studying, i was cooking, i was learning, i was loving, i was doing life.
i was in spaces i wasn’t supposed to be. i was talking to people i wasn’t supposed to talk to. i was saying things i wasn’t supposed to say. by who’s standards? i’m not sure.
i was existing.
day to day, in-between, and ordinary.
by my final year of university, i could count on two hands the Muslims living on campus, specifically the Muslim Hijabis. it almost became a game, an inside joke between my friends and i- had i spotted the Hijabi? had i smiled in her direction yet?
at 23, i am sat by the fire and writing my Hijab story.
“i don’t want it to be political, i don’t want it to be emotional, i just wanna write” i tell my friends.
the more i learn and unlearn, the more i grasp being visible and Muslim is beyond factual, beyond feeling- it is fascinating, provocative, inviting. in this country and in this climate, my Hijab will receive eyes, questions, and every once in a while an insult.
i am mindful of the fact that oftentimes my Hijab is the first thing some will notice about me, that or my brownness. whether i am sitting by a group of strangers on the train, walking on stage, or just being.
i cannot always control my own thoughts and feelings; i will never expect to control those of others’.
it is not my job to educate, it is not my place to speak on behalf of.
i represent only myself.
if you are to question my Hijab, i ask you to question it fairly and objectively.
question my humility, my sincerity, my listening, my speaking, my manners, my tone… is this too not Hijab? years of fixation on women, and dress, and women’s dress have simplified my Hijab to cloth, fabric, fashion.
cloth, fabric, fashion it may well be to some and that is okay.
we are all living. we are individual.
at this stage in my life my inner Hijab is just as, if not more, significant as my outer Hijab.
i wish to be soft in the right moments,
strong in the right moments,
loud in the right moments,
listening in the right moments,
at 23, i have learnt the only people questioning me are the people who always did, and then i realise… i do not care. i am bored of explaining, and bored of expecting.
my Hijab is of heart and it fluctuates.
to my women:
there is an unspoken friendship, a warmness, a familiarity between us.
sisters, bound by cloth and vein.
part-time, full-time, baby-hairs, turban, Hijab, niqab.
good days, bad days, heavy days, long days, bright days,
i love you all the same.
happy international women's day!