As a young girl, I grew up in a family of Uluma (Muslim Clerics). Clerics that were not so strict with people but who somehow had indirect influence on the choices made by my parents. We lived in a nuclear family set-up, in the more developed part of the city. My siblings and I went to convent schools wearing skirts, carefree and happy (back then I had an idea that skirts were limited to school). My parents never told us to wear stockings to cover our legs or to wear an extra scarf to cover our hair. It was as normal as you can imagine.
Soon I started to understand that I was supposed to put a piece of cloth on my head whenever going to my maternal grandmother’s place. That I had to appear as I always wore a scarf. I had to pretend, and mind you I was really good at it. Back then, I didn’t know what hypocrisy was. Back then, I didn’t know why I had to cover my head at certain places and around certain people. Of course I never dared to argue and did what I was told.
I remember the first time I started questioning the entire ‘pardah’ system, responses from elders never satisfied me. I became curious. Started reading about it. The more I read about it, the more my belief system came crashing down.
I spoke to people on the subject and they told me that it was right for a woman to “hide her beauty from men, except her husband.” That appeared to me as a derogatory remark for men, weren’t men beautiful? If that was the case then I believe all humans are beautiful, everyone should hide.
Spoke to a few others and I got the most ‘reasonable’ example of my life. It was so reasonable that for a while I sheepishly believed it. The famous ‘pearl’ example.
They said, “The pearl is inside a shell, to be protected. The pearl is beautiful and it needs good protection.”
That’s not all, there’s one more example – “So my dear, there are two candies kept on the table. One is covered, the other uncovered. Which one would you choose? The one uncovered has flies sitting on it and it’s dirty. Would you choose that one? Oh! Definitely no, the same is with women they are beautiful when covered.”
Some people told me that women look more beautiful when wearing a hijab, it makes them look decent. Boys like women who dress in this manner. Okay, so tell me something if it makes us look more beautiful then we shouldn’t do it at all, right? Cause we should look our worst when walking on the roads, hiding our assets, our gorgeous locks, hiding all the flesh? To make women look less beautiful, that was the purpose of the hijab, that’s what people told me at least.
I kept talking to people about it – clerics, hijabis, non-hijabis, and everyone kept confusing me. There were times when I cursed myself for not hiding my beauty from people. I felt as if I were doing a sin (many would still think so). I was so confused between two ends or maybe three,
1. Should I follow the crowd and become a hijabi?
2. Should I follow the crowd and become a non-hijabi?
3. Should I become a hypocrite? One who changes appearance according to gatherings?
The only person who could give me an answer was my own soul. The day my soul told me that it wouldn’t be happy doing the hijab. I knew that it was all I needed.
I don’t think I’m a candy, that’s pure objectification of women. Neither am I a pearl, I’m just a human who wants to live life in the most normal manner. I will live the way I like to, be it in a scarf or without it. Only I get to choose for myself.
No matter how many women in your family wear/don’t wear a scarf/abaya, no matter how men in your family lay rules, no matter how many clerics tell you that this is right. Listen to your heart, it is never wrong. Do it if it empowers you in any way, do it if it gives you happiness, do it if it makes you feel less of a sinner. Similarly, don’t do it if it doesn’t give you happiness, don’t do it cause of family pressure, don’t do it cause it’s a trend. Do something with all your heart.
Don’t follow the crowd, follow your heart!
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