Pinning a Scarf
17th January 2009 marks the day I decided to start wearing a scarf – Two weeks before I took my shahadah. I felt so lovely and exotic, covering up… I looked at myself in the mirror and was proud of the lady looking back, draped in scarf and sparkly eyed. I felt as if God had enveloped me; that that cloth was like God’s hands, keeping me safe and giving me strength. I felt so beautiful.
The first scarf I bought was milk-chocolate brown, light loosely woven cotton with lines of sequins going length-ways. I didn’t know how to do a scarf properly; I wrapped it over my head a few times. I remember walking out of the shop wearing it, feeling like a different person. It was the proudest feeling, knowing that anyone who looked at me would know that I am a Muslim (or in my case, was seriously considering being a Muslim).
Over the next few months I bought many many scarves. It was a lengthy process of trial and error to come to the conclusion that I’m only comfortable wearing black and that certain materials are absolutely useless. I now have drawers full of scarves I’ve never worn… stashed in the hope that one day I’ll have to wear a colourful outfit and might locate the perfectly coordinated colour scarf therein. Perhaps I’ll grow out of my black movement.
My life changed a lot in my first year of Islam, and my scarf was a constant reminder that I was being watched over; that I was walking a path that I was deeply in love with. I felt safe in it and in the identity that it offered me – for the first time I felt free of pressures to look a certain way, be a certain weight, dress a certain style. I felt as if I had a place in the world and that I was accepted – not because people around me necessarily approved, but because I was trying to live a life in accordance with the Divine.
The hijab is something that I have had many questions about, and few people are willing to engage in genuine and honest discussion on the topic. The Qur’an and ahadith are vague on the subject, yet unofficial ‘hijabi law’ abounds. For example, why do people believe that if some of a woman’s hair is showing, her hijab is incorrect?
But there are deeper questions with regard to the core of the hijab that inevitably begin to emerge – most importantly, the question of modesty. At what point does wearing hijab become a useless practice? If my heart is dirty and immodest, is the hijab a farce? Many Muslim women don’t wear a scarf, and their reasons are varied and valid. I think the more idealistic we become, the less easy it is to wear a scarf – because we fail to realise that our scarves form part of the middle ground.
I slipped up a few months ago. I became increasingly idealistic and internally divided. I began to feel like a hypocrite wearing a scarf when my clothing wasn’t “Islamic enough”. It became an either-or scenario, where one day I’d look Muslim and the next I’d look like any other white girl. After a while I began to realise that there was an interesting relationship between my scarf and my state of being. That the notion of wearing a scarf only when we’re “good enough” to is sort of like putting the cart before the horse. Sometimes our scarves pull the whole wagon.
In times of spiritual drought, remembering my first visit to that scarf shop has been deeply uplifting and inspiring. I become filled with such joy, such wonder; I feel the feelings I felt that day so strongly and all I want is to be a better Muslim.
I don’t believe that hijab has to be rigid; I think it just needs to be modest: hiding every strand of hair and even wearing niqab does not necessarily equate to modesty. But attempting to do my best with regard to hijab – that is very important; it breeds a mindset and a way of living that is modest.
It is my prayer that 2011 will bring modesty in immodest amounts, to me and all my sisters. And that I will find some nice new black scarves.
(as originally blogged on zuhayra.com)