Confessions of a non-hijabi

by - Saturday, September 24, 2016

"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils (...)"

(Quran, 24:31)

As you might see from my photos, I don't permanently wear a headscarf - commonly know as the hijab. I'm not really gonna get into the discussion on the woman's obligation to do so - I'm not a scholar, and my personal views are currently just too confused.

I've never felt judged by other Muslims for not wearing a scarf. If anything, whenever I'd actually wear one, I hear words of encouragement, but nothing pushy. The only times I felt the judgement, it came from fellow converts - couple of times we came across mixed couples like us, and while my husband would talk to the man, he heard the usual "Isn't your wife going to convert?" question. And at the same time I would get asked exactly the same by his veiled wife. And believe me, it's not a look of approval when I answered that I did, in fact, convert. The looks we both got said "How come? But she's/you're not wearing the hijab!"

As I already said, I'm not going to get deep into the issue of the obligation to cover. The general agreement is that a woman needs to wear a veil, but you can also find plenty of sources arguing that it's not compulsory. One thing I believe, is that it needs to be a woman's own, conscious choice. And Allah knows best.

Contrary to popular belief, my husband has never asked me to wear a headscarf. Even when I asked him directly, he didn't really want to answer. The only thing I got out of him, was that it needs to be my choice and he can't tell me to do anything.

The thing with hijab is, that every woman will be at a different level with her faith. Some I know started covering straight away, some took few months, some took few years and quite a few never took this step. And you know what? It's not really for us to judge one another. If anything, it's really discouraging. Wearing a headscarf without properly understanding it, feeling forced to do so, will make anyone unhappy.

Why don't I actually wear the hijab then?

Some Muslim converts are able to take this step straight away - right after the Shahada it's goodbye old clothes, hello hijab.

For some, like me, it's a gradual process. 

I actually started dressing more modestly way before converting. When Hubby and I met, I used to wear shorts, mini skirts, sleeveless tops... At first he wouldn't say anything, but then one day when we were going out together, he wasn't too happy about my dress' length. I still remember how upset I was - I thought he'd be different, that he wouldn't try to dictate me what I can and cannot wear. 
But then we sat down, and discussed this calmly. His point was, that he's now responsible for me, and equally I represent him when we're out. He wouldn't want people to disrespect me, thinking that he got himself a girlfriend just for fun. It took a while, but I did actually understand his point - couple of years before I once went to our Asian area with a friend, who was buying halal meat for her own husband. And as it was summer, and we were coming back from the gym, we were both wearing shorts and tank tops. Oh my, the looks we got - I don't think I've ever felt so uncomfortable about my clothing choice! To my defence, I didn't really know much about Islam and Muslims, so I didn't realise it could be frowned upon ;)
Anyway, since then I decided I can tone it down for his peace of mind. He wouldn't mind me wearing short-sleeved tops, but I started avoiding deep necklines and short skirts were reserved for holidays back home. Even though I wasn't even thinking about Islam at that time, I guess this gradual transition was one of my first steps towards it.

Where am I now then? 

I admit that I often think about the hijab. I love my scarves, and pretty much always have one around my neck - even though there isn't one on my head, I feel more comfortable if I have a scarf covering my chest.

I actually tried to put the hijab on when going outside. Last year, just before the Ramadan, I thought it could be a great time to start. I went out wearing a scarf few times, and actually felt quite comfortable in it.

But after a few days doubts started creeping in. Why was I actually doing it? On one hand, I thought maybe wearing the hijab would push me to better myself. That I'd actually be recognised as a Muslim. But on the other hand I didn't feel worthy of it, if you know what I mean. Most of the time I'm not exactly a great example of a Muslim. I probably got scared, that people would perceive me as more pious, that they would have certain expectations towards me. I started thinking - did I actually put a headscarf on for the right reasons?

I remember spending couple of days at home, not wanting to go out anywhere. I didn't want to go out, because I didn't know if I wanted to put the scarf on my head. And I cried. I sat alone, while Hubby was sleeping off his night shift, and cried so hard, because I felt lost. And what felt worst, was that it was actually Ramadan, the month where people usually get spiritually uplifted, and I felt like that.
Eventually I decided to talk to Hubby abut it. I cried again, when I told him that I might've made a choice that wasn't quite right for me at that point. And he just hugged me, called me silly and told me it was gonna be OK. That if felt I wasn't ready, then I wasn't ready, and I shouldn't be forcing myself and making myself unhappy. I can only say Alhamdulillah for such a supportive spouse!

I know I'm not perfect in my struggle. But I also know I'm not alone. Nowadays I only wear long trousers and skirts or dresses, or if I like some shorter dress I pair it up with leggings. I don't have any tops with low neckline, and short sleeves are reserved for wearing at home - only on really hot days I'll resort to 3/4 sleeved shirts. In addition, all my clothing is rather loose-fitting. I'm even uncomfortable going swimming, unless it would be women-only session.

But all some people see, is my hair on show.

So please, don't be too hard on us non-hijabis. You never know someone's personal struggles. And you never know when we might change our mind. 

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  1. I am Polish, converted to Islam about 8 years ago. At the beginning I thought I could never wear a hijab, by the time I started thinking about it more and more. Same as you I've started covering my body slowly - longer sleeves, longer skirts and I loved scarves around my neck as well :). I've never felt any worse by not showing my body and I actually enjoyed that journey. I started admiring girls in hijab and I liked the way they look but I was still terrified to wear it, terrified of facing peoples reaction, especially my family. How many times I cried because of this - I cannot even count. It took me few years to make that step. It's now 1.5 year since I decided that I am ready. I am not a perfect Muslim either, even with a scarf on my head, however the hijab reminds me about how as Muslims we should be and when it comes to fear, it is as we say in polish "strach ma wielkie oczy", most of my fears where bigger than reality was :) I love to play with my scarves and matching them with different outfits and I receive nice comments from my non-muslim work colleagues, that being honest I feel now that hijab is my own personal style :) My advice is do not put pressure on yourself and take your time!

  2. I think the courage it takes to convert to a religion that's totally opposite to what you've been raised around, is extremely difficult on its own. So let alone changing the whole lifestyle at once. I was born a Muslim but never wore hijab until I gained more knowledge and awareness of Islam. And it has been a very gradual process towards niqab even. It's so important to step into it with your own choice to stick around. Otherwise, you soon lose the desire to wear it (affecting other parts of your spirituality as well).

  3. Hijab is 100% your decision, you know that and your husband knows and acknowledges that, that's all that matters. People will ALWAYS have comments and will want to gossip, it's hard but don't play into it. I understand what you're feeling and what you're going through. Religion is a personal journey, no one elses business.


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