10 Lessons I Learned in 10 Years of Wearing Hijab

10 years! A decade! A third of my life! On December 31st, 2018, I will have been wearing the hijab for 10 years! I can't even believe it! I remember everything about that journey. My fears before, my struggles during and the joys I had along the way. It's not an easy journey and if someone tells you it is, they are LYING! I started wearing hijab at 22 years old. The process to get to that point was long and hard. I've mentioned this is previous posts and a FB live I did about my story but there isn't one reason I started wearing hijab. There are many reasons. any experiences that lead me to make that step. A decision I believe to be the best decision I have ever made.

1. Every women is on her own journey. It is unfair to judge how a woman wears her hijab. Yes, there may be basic guidelines that we "should" follow but each woman has her own spiritual relationship with God and if she's at the cover my hair but reveal my neck stage, then that's where she is at. I was there too. Over the past 10 years how I wear my hijab has changed drastically. I used to cover my hair but reveal my neck and wear three-quarter sleeves. Then the sleeves got longer and my neck was covered. Then my clothes got a bit looser and longer. I am still on the journey to being better. In the end Allah (swt) is the only judge.

2. Fashion and Faith can mix. Just because you choose to dress modestly doesn't mean you can not be trendy, fashionable or look amazing! Modesty comes in my forms and one way we express who we are is through the clothes we wear. That's why it's called PERSONAL style! Putting care and effort into your appearance does not make you less modest and being modest doesn't have to appear boring, frumpy or plain. You can easily wear a lovely abaya with a beautiful hijab and a cute denim jacket. Or you can wear a lovely blouse, jeans and a unique cardigan.

3. Hijab is only 1 of many ways women worship Allah. I used to believe that hijab was the ultimate form of worship for a woman. It we her ultimate submission to Allah (swt). How wrong I was. I used to believe that when I started wearing hijab it would stop me from doing nothing else "wrong". That's also not true! Yes, it made me more aware of my actions, it made me more reserved but still the hijab itself is not a means by which you will instantly become righteous. I didn't realize this until my reasons for wearing hijab shifted and changed form. I realized that even though I had taken this large step in my life, the other forms of worship still needed to be worked on. My salat didn't suddenly become regular. I had to work on that still. Everything aspect of worship needs constant work.

4. Hijab is more than just the scarf. It's a state of mind and a lifestyle. The concept of hijab is more than just the scarf I wear or the clothes I cover my body with. It is not just about dressing modestly but being a modest person. In actions, in speech in everything. We do it no justice when we limit it's meaning to a matter of clothing. Anybody can put on a scarf and a long top and say they wear hijab. When we limit it to just the clothing we become slaves to the material world as what is clothing but material? It's so much more than that. A mohajaba is a mohajaba inside out. This takes many forms.

5. People will stare. This is especially true in the Western world. People naturally fear or wonder about what they do not understand. A woman's hijab, unlike that of a man doesn't "fit" the societal norms. There are many misconceptions about us that we can not control. We can try to, but misconceptions will always exist. When someone stares, glares or makes a comment be careful how you respond or react. Make the choice to invite that person to engage in a positive interaction. Smile, and let them know you see them. Be willing to have open and honest dialogues with people and remember that ignorance is just "lack of knowledge", help that person be knowledgeable. Islamophobia and hostility may arise someday, choose positive ways of battling Islamophobia. You can learn how I choose to battle Islamophobia in the West here.

6. We are walking advertisements for Islam. If Islam is meant to be a Deen of Peace then we have to be peaceful and showcase that! If Islam is a Deen of respect then we must be respectful. If Islam is a Deen of understanding and compassion, then we must be understanding and compassionate. There are very few people who will go to find out about the true meaning of Islam from the Q'uran or Tafseer. The easiest way is to look at those who follow Islam. Sadly, so many Muslims do not actually act Islamically and are not the best examples of the teachings of Islam. Islam is perfect, but Muslims are not. Try to be the best example for those around you.

7. Self image. I have had many days where I struggled with my self image. I had many days where my hijab just wasn't working for me, and I missed styling my hair. There were many days where trying to "hijabify" my outfit was a total fail. When I've been the only woman in a whole room wearing hijab it used to make me feel very self conscious. The media doesn't help either. Finding images of "beautiful" women that we can relate to is rare. A woman is usually perceived as beautiful when they show off their bodies, style their hair, etc. I can't do any of that. Does that mean I am not beautiful too? In my twenties, I already struggled a bit with self-confidence. I was a typical twenty-something that cared too much what people thought of me. So add hijab to that and it's not an equation for success. It took a number of years but actually wearing my hijab made me more confident. When I realized I knew who I was, what I believed in and who I wanted to be I was liberated. When I realized that my hijab was my crown, my power and my liberation from everything I was worried about before, I was set free.

8. Support System. Having people you can turn to in your weakest moments is key. It's about having sisters who keep you motivated and confident to be a Mohajaba no matter what the world throws your way. It's about having sisters that can give you outfit and hijab styling ideas. It's about having community members that will encourage you to pursue your dreams no matter what they may be. It's about your friend you call in the morning when you are struggling to put your hijab on and you are running late for work. It's about having people there for the good and the bad. "Find your tribe, love them hard".

9. Hijab is not a barrier for anything. I really believe that my hijab has been a barrier for anything I have wanted to do in my life. Perhaps that has something to do with my mindset and that I refuse to allow it to stop me from doing anything. Work; I worked. Mind you I worked in areas related to Islam and education but still work. Physical activities; I do it! I work out often, love to snorkel and swim. I have tried flyboarding, I hike, ski, and you name it, I'll do it hijab and all! I've done public speaking, I'm a teacher, writer and community organizer. I believe that you can use your hijab as a platform for your message. People are already look; give them something to hear too.

10. Hijab has many meanings. You may have been asked "Why do you wear hijab?". You answer may have been something like "I am Muslim" or "We believe God has asked women to wear hijab". But that doesn't answer why YOU wear hijab. The meaning of my hijab has changed many times over the past 10 years. I reasons I wore it on the first day are different than the reasons I wear it today. Yes, it's still about modesty and submission to Allah (swt) but now I wear it to show I am Muslim. I am a very proud Muslimah and I want the world to know what I believe in. I want people to ask me questions and have tough conversations with me. No two women wear hijab for the same reasons. The real reasons. That's fine, that's the beauty of hijab and it also shows how it is a sacred and spiritual aspect of our lives. It's so personal and private. It's yours and yours alone.

Remember that the blessing is in the struggle. And if Allah brings you to it, he will bring you through it. His almighty is the most gracious, and most merciful. Wishing you endless blessings!

What lessons have you learned as a Mohajaba?