She slipped the dark blue head cap over her head so that it lay in a circle around her neck. She lifted it back up to fit over her scalp, pulling her hair back neatly, covering up even the fine, loose pieces that usually fly unruly around her hairline. She reached down to pick up the second portion – a long rectangular scarf – and started to wrap it over her head and shoulders. This section of the hijab was light-blue, with beaded strings at the ends of it. She draped it over the top of her head, and then crossed one end of it over her left shoulder, placing the other over her right so that it covered the bare skin of her neck.
It was not hard to put on, not after so much practice. Standing in front of a mirror in the safety of her own non-judgmental eyes. But this was her first day in public. An article of clothing, holding so much power and influence, so much meaning to herself and to others. She felt exhilarated, she was finally taking the first step in her deen – in the struggle to follow her Islam. She knew she would be stared at: even she herself would often stare at the women she saw in hijab, mesmerized by their courage, amazed by their resolve and sincerity. But others would stare with different intentions and reactions, she knew. She’d seen.
She left the house, closing the door behind her.
It was years ago that she’d first learned about Islam. It began with a simple greeting from a Muslim at her college: “Asalaamu alaykum.” Peace be upon you. She discovered that in Islam, religion was a part of every aspect of daily life, from greeting others to eating to sleeping, every aspect of life was centered around God. She loved saying her prayers five times a day, it was like meditation for her, peaceful moments that would remind her of the important things in life.
She never imagined that her life would be this way. Growing up as a Catholic in a Catholic family, she loved going to church, attending Christmas mass, singing the songs that were so ingrained in her memories of childhood. But the more she learned about Islam, the more she realized that there was more to religion than just traditions and songs. She learned a belief system that made sense to her, that wasn’t based on loose translations and confusing doctrines. She was allowed to ask questions. And the answers drew her closer and closer to Islam.
She stood at the bus stop, trying hard to ignore the stares and glares from others around her. She imagined that she looked foreign to them, strange and scary. They might not understand her. They might see her as oppressed, confused, or unapproachable. She tried to make eye contact and smile at them, but they turned away from her. She silently prayed to Allah to help make the day easier for her.
As she filed onto the bus, she heard a familiar greeting: “Asalaamu alaykum, Sister.” The bus driver gave her a friendly smile. He didn’t know her, and she didn’t know him, yet still he was her brother and she was his sister. She smiled back at him and said, “Alaykum salaam, Brother.” She was instantly reminded of another aspect of Islam that was so attractive to her – the sense of community and companionship that she felt amongst other Muslims.
It always seemed that whenever she was faced with a challenge, Allah always somehow made it easier for her. She felt proud to be a Muslim, and she knew no matter what happened, that she would have the strength to get through her day.