I am what I am, with or without a headcovering

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone (of any faith) told me, “You’re not a real Muslim, you don’t wear a hijab.” I’m sure many women of many faiths also frequently get similar comments thrown at them.

Now here’s a fun fact — I used to wear the hijab. I tried twice, totally on my own, to give the hijab a go. Once for a full year in middle school, again for two years during college. I obviously stopped. My personal stance on the hijab is 100% in line with the sentiments shared by Queen Rania of Jordan.



My reasons for stopping, both times, were due to social pressure. No, I wasn’t trying to impress boys — I had no need to. If anything, I looked more awesome with the hijab on because I used to wrap them in gorgeous ways, using multiple scarves with different prints — I looked fantastic.

Why I Stopped In Middle School

I stopped in middle school because of the nonsense I dealt with from fellow Muslims instead of being praised. Here are some examples:

  1. “You shouldn’t make it look stylish, it ruins the point.”
  2. “You shouldn’t wear it so tightly, it shows the shape of your head.”
  3. “You shouldn’t wear it so loosely, what if the wind blows?”
  4. “You shouldn’t have your hair in a bun under the hijab, that lets men know you have long hair.”
  5. “You shouldn’t wear colored lipgloss when you wear the hijab.”

I slowly began to realize, there was not a (practical) way to wear a hijab that would satisfy everyone. Because heck, there were lots of other hijabis I came across who also seemed to be breaking rules as well, but I didn’t dare comment. For example:

  1. Girls that wore the hijab, but paired it with tight clothes.
  2. Girls that wore the hijab, but only in school and not in other public places.
  3. Girls that wore the hijab, yet ate haram foods in restaurants that weren’t halal.
  4. Girls the wore the hijab, but yanked it off at random times in front of guys.
  5. Girls that wore hijabs made of very sheer fabrics you would totally see through without even trying.
  6. Girls that wore hijabs, but totally exposed the roots of their hair and often made the hijab start around the mid-scalp.

Anyway, the ridiculousness of it all on a regular basis was pretty discouraging, so I told myself I’ll try again a few years later. For the record, I didn’t receive any form of hate or awkwardness from peers of other religions. The criticism I got from my own fellow Muslims, over something I originally did completely on my own, was just too disheartening for me at the time.

Why I Stopped In College

I loved wearing the hijab in college more than middle school. Mostly because puberty hit since then, and I looked even more phenomenal each time I paired the different fabrics with my flowing skirts and dresses. It gave me a boost of confidence to start each day feeling like a total goddess in my gorgeous outfits. Yes, it was great on the spiritual level too, but I’m only being real here.

No one made comments about how I should/shouldn’t wear the hijab. No one made comments about how I should/shouldn’t accessorize. None of that stuff happened. I figured yes — hijab is finally here to stay!

Yeah, that honeymoon ended too. For completely different reasons. But it still had to do with social pressure.

As you can expect, hijabis typically hung out with other hijabis. I wasn’t one of those, I always liked mingling with people that were not exactly like me. Anyway, little by little, they started approaching me to join them in events and such that I absolutely did not want to be a part of. Some of those events had anti-Semitic slants to them. Some of those events were also political, yet they seemed to want to scream out “Islam!” in situations where it really wasn’t relevant or necessary at all. That stuff weirded me out, and it was strike 1. I saw no need to blindly support them just because we all wore hijabs.

Strike 2 happened as I increasingly saw hijabis being unIslamic when no one was looking. There were some drinking tons of alcohol in parties, others that were stealing from people, and, yeah, some promiscuous ones too. Now look, I don’t normally judge. But if you’re going to have the hijab on, I expect you to uphold the best of Islamic values and represent Muslims in the most positive light. Granted, there were plenty of hijabis that were indeed doing justice to the hijab and Islam. Even so, the bad apples were a major turn off, because they were the ones making the most noise. And they were the ones that people took more notice of.

Strike 3 happened during my interactions with others, inside and outside my college. Many people came to know different groups of the hypocritical hijabis, and since I wore one, and was always outspoken, they figured I was one of the hypocrite types too. I wore my hijab with pride. I was a virgin that never drank alcohol, ate halal, prayed — the works. But my veil was no longer a symbol of purity and a connection with God. Instead, by association, it became a flag of sorts… like “hey guys, closeted party girl here!” I decided enough was enough, and stopped again.

Now the plan is to start wearing the hijab again after I become a mother, before my child starts going to school. Wish me luck, hopefully third time will be a charm.

The Social Pressure Doesn’t Stop

I presently don’t wear the hijab. Yet I take part in many interfaith events, as a proud, peace-loving Muslim. For the most part, people don’t comment on my appearance. Those that know me, wholeheartedly praise me for the other ways I am very Islamic. You know, the same fundamentals of all religions — being good to others, charity, honesty, etc. I’m selfless to a fault. But whenever I reach new heights of influence, new people (of all ages and religions) would pop up again, telling me I’m not a real Muslim because I don’t wear a hijab.

Oh really now? Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I typically don’t engage with these people, mostly because I’m too busy to entertain trolls, and also because I don’t want things to escalate.

But let’s entertain the idea for a second, that I’m not a real Muslim solely because I don’t wear a hijab.

  • Hey trolls, who died and made you God?
  • Are the hypocritical hijabis that I came across more Muslim than me, because at the end of the day, they wear it and I don’t?
  • Does that mean I am wasting my time and money doing good in the world in the name of Islam?
  • Don’t we all sin differently? Gee, you must be so darn pure and sin-free.

I understand the Quran states I should wear the hijab, especially now that I am married. But hey, I want to — I’m not refusing to. I will. Different religious books state different things in extremes. Heck, even the Bible states things such as if a woman isn’t a virgin on her wedding night, she should be stoned to death. So by extended logic, does that mean once a Christian woman engages in premarital sex, she is no longer a Christian? Oh please. None of this is on us to judge. 

I imagine that married Jewish women experience something similar when it comes to covering their hair. To cover, or to not cover? Sheitel, or tichel? Snood? Roots? Ends of hair? Yes? No? I bet it’s even more complicated for them, than anything I personally experienced. Especially for women who started to cover, then decided to stop. There’s always an interesting backstory behind that.

Bottom line is, I am what I am. There isn’t a single human being on this planet that can say I’m not a real Muslim, because I’m pretty sure they aren’t angels themselves.

But hey, it’s a free world. None of us can actually stop people that make such comments. Meanwhile, I for one will continue to do good. Because I know, and God knows what I am, what I try to be, and what my intentions are.

About the Author
Farhana Rahman has been representing socially driven Israeli startups for over 5 years, and has been in the PR/Marketing industries for nearly 10 years. Farhana always makes time to assist startups in an advisory role with initiatives surrounding product launches, marketing campaigns, and social strategy. Additionally, she finds enjoyment in giving presentations on those topics in company events and roundtables. In the rare instances Farhana is not glued to her mobile devices, you will find her cooking gourmet feasts for her parents, playing mindless games with her brother, or running (Netflix) marathons with her husband.
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