Hijab Ahmed used to live her life in fear, uncomfortable with her decisions but more afraid of what others would think if she reversed them. In her story, she shares why she decided to stop wearing a hijab, how that changed her relationship with herself, those closest to her, and how it strengthened her faith. This story is part of MALA’s scholarship essay contest. To see more scholarship essays, click here.
Life is a canvas, and I define myself as the colors that splatter, forever leaving a unique mark. I am the colors of bravery for being Muslim in a currently anti-Muslim world; honesty for telling myself the truth in a world ridden with lies; and caring for seeing those who may define themselves as invisible. Unfortunately, I have not always been this way. I used to be timid and soft-spoken. I was scared of what people thought or said about me, and I was afraid to come to terms with the truth that bothered me the most about myself. When many people hear about me it comes as a shock to them that my name is Hijab. Not for the sole reason that it is an uncommon name, but because I do not wear a hijab. I wore a hijab from the age of 10 to 16 — a very long six years in which I struggled to know who I really was. I wondered: Did I only wear a hijab because I was told to? Because my friends wore it? If I it off, would I be a walking pun, a joke? The answer to all these questions was apparent, but I never wanted to face the answers, so I suffocated them in my mind until I found myself screaming, gasping for the truth.
The fact of the matter was I made the decision to wear a hijab when I was too young and incapable of taking on such a responsibility. After a lot thinking and soul searching, I had to come to terms that it was okay for me to take off my hijab and wear it again whenever I am ready to. I needed to be honest with myself and accept the truth, even if it hurt. At 10 years old, I thought the hijab was just a cloth, but in reality, it is so much more than that. It is being physically and spiritually modest and acting in a humble way. Deciding to take off my scarf, telling my friends and family, and withstanding the reactions from people was an experience that changed me forever.
To this day, I am extremely proud of myself for being brave enough to face so many people with an action so controversial. So many Muslims and non-Muslims speculated my faith and confronted me to question why I made this decision. I realized that I cannot let anyone define my faith with Allah, and that I should not care about their opinions on such a personal decision. It let me know I have a strong emotional support system made up of my friends and family, and that I can never thank Allah enough for them. I also realized from my support system that being caring and comforting to someone who is having a hard time fighting with him or herself is crucial, and it is important to be understanding of someone’s situation and decisions when they are in a lot of emotional pain. Although I admit I am still working on accepting the truth that I do not like, I can proudly say as a Muslim girl in America that I have evolved from being scared of others’ thoughts and words to being as brave, honest and caring as I can in a world that paints Muslims in a bad light. I will be the vivid splatter in people’s minds to remind them Muslims are of all bold colors, with every single shade in between.