Creative Writing





Removing My Hijab: Part 1.

I have always believed in God and sometimes it has been the only constant in my life. When we are young, we are taught about morality and justice, about chivalry and malice, but it is only when we experience it for ourselves that it becomes real. 

We have to break the rules to learn to follow them. Sometimes we have to try things out to discover that they are not for us.

When you fall into a ditch, the only thing that runs through your mind is finding a way out. You are trapped in darkness and it soon becomes all that you can see. In this scenario, you hold on to the first hand that attempts to pull you out because you just want to be rescued; everything is about finding an escape. Getting out. Seeing light. Living again. In my case, the first hand that pulled me out wasn’t a means of salvation, it caused me to fall back in deeper.

I spent a lot of time with the Islamic Society during my final year of my undergraduate degree. It was a difficult period of my life and I so desperately wanted to be surrounded by people that would make me feel better. The girls were welcoming; they were always smiling, always at peace. They were generous and beautiful and I did not feel asphyxiated when I was with them. 

I often wondered how these girls could be so happy. I convinced myself that it was because they covered themselves. The girls soon began to hint that I should also cover my hair; it would please God, make everything better, make me feel closer to Him. In the midst of desperation, it was the only thing left to do. I woke up one morning, covered my hair and went to university. It felt strange but I wanted to get rid of the anxiety, and everyone told me that it was what God wanted.

Eventually, people began suggesting that I should wear the abaya. This was a bigger step but they knew more about my religion than I did, it was the right thing to do. Covering my hair and wearing the abaya led to a series of changes such as cutting out male friends. I should have stopped, taken a deep breath and thought about how much my belief system was changing. I didn’t realise who or what I was becoming. I went from being surrounded by boys to being covered from head to toe and not conversing with men. My whole life changed, but I wanted to feel closer to God; I wanted to feel good. I wanted to breathe. I wanted to stop feeling anxious. I just wanted peace.

But I was still unhappy and there were always new restrictions appearing. I began to withdraw myself from interaction because it was easier. I wouldn't have to worry so much about making mistakes or sinning. When I started my Masters, I introduced myself with my headscarf on for the first time. These people didn’t know who I was before, they didn't know the real me, and this bothered me greatly. That was when I realised that this wasn’t who I wanted to be. I felt like a stranger within myself. I was trapped in this new being; detached from my own self. I was outside my own body, watching from a far. I began to fall into an intense state of turbulence, living a life detached from memories that were no longer mine. I digressed so rapidly that it even affected my speech and my ability to string a sentence together. 

I could no longer think or feel. I became numb. I started to shut down. I wanted to escape the boundaries of life and forget who I was.

After months of withdrawing, I began to daydream about removing the hijab. It always felt like it would be a disgrace to the religion so I persisted and inevitably became more miserable. I didn’t understand why God wanted me to cover my hair or my skin. He wouldn’t judge my faith according to the clothes that I wore. I thought that taking off my headscarf would disappoint a lot of people but then I hit rock bottom and nothing mattered anymore.

I removed the headscarf and abaya to salvage what was left of my sanity. I felt suffocated. I knew that there would be consequences but it was something that I needed to do for myself. The headscarf had no meaning for me anymore, I don't think that it ever did. 

I had to take off the hijab to reclaim my relationship with God.

The first day that I uncovered myself, I felt liberated. It was as if God had pulled the plug and allowed my breath to escape. It has been six months, and I feel alive, like myself. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and it is only now that I realise the extent to which I withdrew myself from living. I have lost a lot of friends and followers, I have received negativity but I do not at all regret my decision. God wouldn't want me to be miserable. He doesn't want us to make things difficult for ourselves, He doesn't want us to feel compelled.

I wanted to clarify that I don’t blame the headscarf or abaya for making me feel that way. I rushed into a decision that wasn’t the right thing for me. I didn’t understand the meaning or purpose, which led to me feeling detached. I’m still Muslim, and I feel that the way I dress does not symbolise or represent my beliefs.

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