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Did I take off my hijab?

Did I take off my hijab? / Simplicity in Vogue - @ByAndreaB / modesty, modest fashion, modest style, hijab, taking off hijab, muslim women, hijab struggles

Hey, there! Today I'm writing about things that are very intimate to me, so forgive me if you're not big on oversharing. I usually prefer to talk about light topics here, like wellness, lifestyle, travel or fashion. But recently, I've made a choice that could create some gossip or misconceptions among family members, friends, people I've met through social media and my blog readers. So I thought I should write this post more like a personal letter and explain everything, before sharing new pictures of me online. Please, read it until the end. 

So, let's go straight to the point. Did I take off my hijab? If by hijab you mean the headscarf, then yes, I'm taking a break on wearing it fulltime outside my home, but I'll still wear it every day when I pray or whenever I go to a mosque or Islamic gatherings.

Hijab is much more than a simple scarf on your head. It's about dressing modestly in your whole outfit and also about behaviour. It's about creating a barrier between you and everything that is not good and can lead you away from God. You need to have a good heart and have a good conduct. Hijab is for men and women. Thus, in this sense, I'll still continue to apply those principles in my life, in the way I dress and in my behaviour, with the exception that I'll not be covering my hair in public.

I'm not a visible muslim anymore. I still feel weird going out without the scarf. Part of me is sad, guilty, ashamed and feels like something of my identity is missing. I wore it for 5 years, so it became a huge part of my life. But another side of me (my social anxiety side) is happy that I became "invisible" again and I can finally go out in peace without having all eyes on me and having to constantly answer weird questions.

Other than that, I'm still 100% Muslim. Nothing changed in my faith and every new thing I learn about Islam makes me fall even more in love with it and glad that 5 years ago I made the decision to become a Muslim.

Many people think that if you take your hijab off, it's because you are freeing yourself from oppression or that you are struggling with your faith. That can be true for some people but not for everyone. First of all, yes, we (Muslims) see the hijab as a commandment from God, but it also has to be a choice. And it has nothing to do with oppression, for the contrary, I actually feel empowered wearing it. Second of all, indeed, I am struggling, not with my faith but with the oppressive discrimination, with my anxiety, with the difficulties to find a job as a hijabi woman and so on.

Did I take off my hijab? / Simplicity in Vogue - @ByAndreaB / modesty, modest fashion, modest style, hijab, taking off hijab, muslim women, hijab struggles
Photo: Thaakirah Jacobs - Instagram @thaaks.i


Did I take off my hijab? / Simplicity in Vogue - @ByAndreaB / modesty, modest fashion, modest style, hijab, taking off hijab, muslim women, hijab struggles
Photo: Thaakirah Jacobs - Instagram @thaaks.i

But now, let me explain some of those reasons a little more in depth. I say some because there are things that are too personal and I prefer to keep some details in private.

When I converted to Islam, I was living in London. And I wanted the hijab to be a statement of my faith. I wanted everyone to see me as a muslim. I felt like I had to prove myself and show the world that I was serious about my conversion. That's why I chose to wear it right away. There is quite a large community of Muslims in London and that made it very easy for me to wear the hijab.

I knew I would have to come back to Brazil, but I thought I would stay here just until finishing my graduation and then I could go back to the UK to live permanently there. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I'm still here after 5 years. I didn't really think about the consequences of wearing the hijab here for a long period of time.

You see, the muslim community here is very small compared to the UK, especially where I live. My city Recife is quite big and the few Muslims who live here are dispersed in different neighbourhoods. If we don't set up a date to see each other, I could go out every day and never see another muslim hijabi woman here. Only once, in those 5 years, I coincidentally met with another muslim woman in the shopping centre.

So when I came back to Brazil, I was completely lost. I didn't know any Muslims here, but I found some girls through Facebook and finally, I wasn't so alone anymore. But that wasn't enough, with the distance, it's difficult to create a real connection and to feel part of the community. I'm shy and an introverted kind of girl, and it takes a lot for me to open up to a new friendship and keep it. I was also really busy with my university, where by the way I was the only girl in a hijab and maybe, even the only muslim there.

I think I made it look easy in my smiling photos or in my calm attitude, but in reality, I was struggling really hard with all the attention I would receive anywhere I go. I felt really alone and lonely, like if I were from another planet. I didn't really mind when it was only curiosity, but many times I would receive angry stares, and/or jokes about terrorism, and so on. In these moments my anxiety would go really high and I even had some panic attacks.

It is really difficult to face those things when you are the only muslim in your family, when you don't have the support of a muslim husband (or he can't be with you in the same country for problems that are beyond your power), and when there are no other Muslims around you in your daily life. Although my parents aren't muslim, they give me a lot of support but it's not the same thing.

When I finally graduated, at the end of 2015, I knew I had to find a job and I had no excuse anymore to postpone it. I also knew it would be hard to find one as a hijabi woman. So that was when I first started thinking about the idea of stop wearing the hijab.

I went to London one last time, for some months, before going on my job hunting. And for the first time in 3 years, I experimented for some days, going out without the hijab. But when I came back to Brazil, I just couldn't take that step.

It was a really hard decision because the hijab is so important and meaningful to me. It's part of my identity, a symbol of my faith, a way to fight for our rights and discrimination against Muslim women and Muslims in general. It's a constant reminder to pay attention to my behaviour because by wearing it I was representing many other muslim women and my religion. It's a strong reminder to avoid anything that wouldn't be beneficial to my life.

A reminder of God. A reminder that although there was no Muslims in my building or neighbourhood, I am one. And it also made me more aware and sympathetic to so many other groups that face discrimination.

So I tried to keep strong with my hijab, I wanted to fight for our rights, I wanted to find a job wearing it in my area of expertize. But 2 years passed and nothing. Alhamdulillah, I have a quite privileged life. My father is not rich but he works hard to give us a comfortable life. However, he is not so young anymore and I just can't be a burden for him anymore. I want to have my own small business as well in sha Allah (If Allah wills), but I want to achieve that without relying on him for everything.

Taking these points and some others into consideration, I had to finally take that step of taking off my hijab. It was a painful decision, even now when I'm writing this I feel torn. But, at the same time, it's a relief the possibility of going out without drawing so much unwanted attention. Part of me feels like a failure, but I'm also learning to practice self-forgiveness, as well as striving to be the best human being that I can be in an unfair society. Actually, that is what we all should do.

And anyway, hijab (meaning the headscarf) will always be a part of my life and you may occasionally see me wearing it. I still have some posts to share here where I'm wearing it because I didn't have time to share before. But I decided to write this post first because I didn't want to hide anymore. It's been about two months that I'm not wearing it to go out anymore, and since then, I've been only sharing old photos online.

To my muslim friends and followers, I hope you can understand my decision. And to the ones that aren't muslim, please don't make comments like: Oh you look better or more beautiful without the hijab. I say that because I've already heard something like this before and even if made with the best of intention, it's a bit disrespectful and insensitive. Hijab has many purposes, one of them is about modesty. But modesty is not about making you look ugly. And to be honest, I always felt beautiful with my hijab.

On a final note, I hope that one day I can be in a place in my life where I'll feel safe, strong and comfortable enough to wear it again. In sha Allah

Thank you for all of you who read this long post until the end. :)

See you soon! :)

xx,
Andrea

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2 comments

  1. Only Allah SWT knows our struggles and intentions. Stay strong sister :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! :)

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