By Rahila Ovais
It’s been nearly 5 years since I started wearing hijab. I cover up whenever I am out of the house without my husband. He doesn’t like me with hijab yet but I hope and pray that if I continue with determination, he will also come to terms with it.
To me, hijab is not just that piece of cloth covering my hair. It took a complete overhaul of my closet. It’s a constant reminder of what it means to be a Muslim. It’s a continuous prompt that I must also always make sure of all the little things that are required of me, to pray on time, not to indulge in gossip, not to lie, not to listen to music to name a few.
I remember the first day when I walked into my work with my hijab on, I was ready for a few weird looks and a lot of questions. It was to my uttermost surprise that there were no weird looks; in fact most of my coworkers complimented me. Few had questions, like what made me decide to wear hijab after all these years. To them my answer was simple “because I have to, my religion prescribes it for me, and because I want to set a good example for my girls and if not now, when?”
It was interesting to note that my coworkers were more supportive than family! My family is a reflection of modern day Muslim. It is a general opinion on my husband and in-laws’ side that we don’t have to dress a certain way to be identified as a good Muslim, a sentiment I agree with. Wearing a hijab does not really qualify you as a Good Muslim but for me it has certainly enabled me to learn more and practice more of my religion without imposing it on others around me.
Nonetheless, I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received from my colleagues and friends at work. I once went to work, I had taken a shower in the morning and my hair wasn’t completely dry before I put my hijab on. Around lunch time at work I ended up with a headache, so I just mentioned to my co-worker. She said “why don’t you take off the hijab and let your hair dry completely and I will stay guard and make sure that none of the male coworkers walk in.” I was absolutely moved by her support!
During an event at work, I couldn’t believe how many pleasant encounters I had. There was an Egyptian lady, when I greeted her in the morning, she automatically replied with a Salam. Another Muslim Pakistani gentleman said Salam and automatically lowered his gaze while he spoke to me. Hijab is my identity now. No one has to wonder and ask me what my background is or where I am from. They see me as a Muslim and that is enough. Yet another older Muslim lady, who had met me before in my non-hijab wearing days had a hard time recognizing me, nevertheless when she did she said “MashaAllah you look good. Pray for me too”. I replied “InshaAllah, you never know when you will be inspired and Allah will grant you Tawfeeq (inspiration)”.
Before I started taking hijab I used to look at all other hijabi sisters with respect and admiration and wished I could be as strong and brave as them, I used to ask them to pray for me too that Allah gives me Hidaya (guidance).
Inspiration came to me in many ways. I had attended a lecture during my last pregnancy and the lecturer described how a woman when she gives birth becomes as pure as the baby. The way she described it gave me goose bumps and sent chills down my spine. I wished I had been enlightened earlier.
But honestly, come to think of it, donning the hijab has made me more confident, more assured and contrary to popular belief, Hijab has given me more independence.
About the author:
Rahila Ovais is a Pharmacy Technician working at the Ontario College of Pharmacists. A mother to four, she’s called Jeddah, KSA, where she was born and Karachi, Pakistan, where she was brought up, her homes before moving to Toronto twenty years ago.