Blog post written by Maliya Naz
In honor of Muslim Women’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on my journey with hijab, and how, despite living in a secular country, Islam and hijab continue to be a source of happiness and empowerment for me.
Women in the West are told that freedom equates to showcasing their skin and baring it all. It’s a narrative that surrounds us and permeates our environment, from the people in our lives to the content we see online. This was even something I experienced at home. Even though I grew up in a South Asian household, my mother was very liberal, allowing me to dress however I wished.
But I always longed to dress more modestly. I felt most liberated while wearing my hijab and traditional kurta, or long top. For a long time, I was afraid to say this out loud, as it went completely against the American culture that I was born and raised in. How could I voice my comfort in my modest clothing when ‘liberation’, I was told, equated to provocative clothing?
Every article or post I stumbled upon would associate showing skin with being "free.” I began to feel discouraged and lost. Even though I knew I wanted to transition into wearing modest clothing, everywhere I turned and looked, I was being pressured to strip down and display my body. According to the mass majority of the content targeted to young females, you are only beautiful and fearless when you dress scantily and wear revealing clothes.
But my truth is that I feel most beautiful when I cover myself. No, I don’t feel like I’m being "oppressed." When I wear my hijab, I feel more confident than ever. My hijab represents my integrity, while my kurta is a symbol of resilience. When people ask me, “Why the sudden change?”, I respond by simply saying, “I do not want to be a slave to this world; rather, I choose to fully submit myself to Allah SWT.”
It’s a continuous journey of self-reflection and personal growth, but I feel my purpose in life is much more than to just be on display for people. In this ultimately meaningless and saturated universe, religion is the one of the main things that gives meaning to my life. In Islam, I am able to be the most authentic and raw version of myself. Islam enables me to distinguish between right and wrong, and allows me to pave my own path and identity, separate from society’s unrealistic standards of both beauty and success. And truly, it doesn’t get any better than that.