بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم
Salam alaykum warahmatullah,
From time to time, I’d like to share stories of hijabi sisters at different stages in their journeys across different industries and job roles. I believe this will help those of us who are still far behind. We pray continues to Allah grants these sisters increased eeman and knowledge and may Allah reward them for sharing their stories with us.
This is an interview we had with Sister H (she’d rather be anonymous).
- What motivated you to start?
Funny…. I can’t really say what triggered it but I remember being unconsciously depressed (if that is possible). I was losing weight and people were noticing even though I didn’t. Someone actually asked me what the problem was after watching me for 2 or so weeks…. I couldn’t say…I just knew i was preoccupied mentally and it was beginning to take its toll on my body and I didn’t know why.
I had just started praying regularly so I decided to make it a prayer point in my daily dua. I prayed to Allah to clear my heavy heart of what ailed it and guide me purposefully. Ramadhan was around the corner so I guess Allah truly decided to have mercy on me, I discovered Islam channel and watched a Ramadhan prep program which said to cut social media and regular TV programs during the sacred month. I thought it made sense so decided to do just that. So that is how it all started.
- How did you progress?
They had programs that continually encouraged the hijab, Jilbab and modest Islamic dressing no matter how little you started. I starting wrapping my hair Erika Badu style all through Ramadhan but at the end of Ramadhan I made a decision to continue, next was giving up all my short skirts for trousers and long sleeve shirts for work…. Islam channel also taught me how to wrap a pashmina hijab so I graduated from a head wrap to a pashmina hijab wrap….by this time, my colleagues at work knew all wasn’t the same with me. Sometime later, i gave up my trousers for full length skirts and loose fitting tops…and i was cool for the while.
- How did people relate to you?
A few people started asking questions trying to figure out what my motivation was. And if it was permanent. Thankfully I never got any mandate at work to remove it (I won’t lie, I don’t know what I would have done then if asked to) …but that was the good part…I had Muslim friends who mocked my new dress code (which quite frankly made no sense) but i guess work strengthened me because i more or less damned them at that point, I felt “If strangers at work could accept me then what’s your problem?”
- How far have you come since?
I got married to my university sweetheart who also supported me through my transformation. We decided to memorize more of the Quran and learn Arabic so we joined a Madrasah….
Believe me, it was the best thing for my budding Islam and i thank Allah for leading me down that path…I found myself in the company of Muslims, who neither judged not questioned…they took me as I was even though they were mostly Jilbabites and nikaabies…..as they say show me your friends and I will tell you who you are….. Allah in His book says a true Muslim is one who enjoin what is good and forbids what is evil while The Prophet (SAW) always advised us to walk in good company so that they may rub off well on us. Ever so gently, they encouraged me to lengthen my hijab and taught me what was really important in life. (the right support system – very key)
I went for hajj where I saw working Muslim women from other parts of the world dress formally and modestly…..I bought as many full length formal Islamic dresses I could afford and resumed work.
- What challenges did you face?
I got teased yes…but nothing serious. I remember my MD walked up to me one day and said “i am watching you ohhhh” and I laughed and threatened to go all out 1 piece Jilbab and we bantered for a little while but he didn’t get upset. I continued getting sincere advice and support from my new Muslim sisters and then no pressure nor thought…I sat down and thought now is the time. My husband was ecstatic he bought me Jilbabs in different patterns and colours…. but I was still scared…we both were…. Would work accept my new dress code?
- What’s different now from when you started?
Alhamdulillah for all things December 2015 I wore my 1-piece Jilbab and went to work and no one objected….1 month passed nothing…no email from HR, no offline discussion, my M.D. saw me and said “heyyy Eleha” (Yoruba term for Muslim women all covered up)…. smiled and walked on. No objection. I was so happy…what I feared the most never came to pass. Today I wear my Jilbab everywhere, I go for client meetings, strategic work sessions and it’s all good. I still get teased. Old friends wondering what is going on, coworkers trying for a laugh, family members wondering why I am being supposedly extreme, bus drivers shouting boko haram when I don’t allow them overtake me on the road and silly things like that but it doesn’t bother me….My freedom is in wearing what Allah has chosen for me.
PS: If you would like to share your hijab story, please feel free to comment below so I can reach out to you.
Barakallahu lee wa lakum
السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ