When I started to wear the hijab I really hated it.
I just felt so ugly. And I wasn’t even wearing it properly. I was still wearing tight clothes because that’s all I had and I would wear a scarf.
It felt odd to me- that combination, because when I went to the masjid I would see sisters looking so amazing in their jilbabs and abayas. However, I couldn’t afford those kinds of clothes at the time and I still didn’t feel confident to wear something like that.
After I moved from London to Newcastle and got married I wanted to dress more modestly. I was still wearing trousers but I would try to find long tops to go over it. This was really hard to find and I always had to wear so many layers just to cover- which I hated.
Wearing so many things was a headache and fuss, and still I didn’t feel completely covered! Subhanallah.
Then I thought I could sew myself some abaya. So I bought some fabric and made a few in my own style and I would wear them. Some were good and some not so good. But I felt better wearing them because I didn’t have to wear so many clothes and I would be covered.
To be honest at the time I think I had some problems with my identity. I still wanted to look like a black girl who is an artist. I felt like an outsider because being black no one thought I was a convert and when people found out that I was a convert they wanted to put me with all the other converts as they thought that I would have more in common with them.
However, I didn’t have much in common with the other converts at all because I never ate pork growing up and I had never really celebrated Christmas. Even though my family was Christian. My family already ate halal meat and I didn’t have any anxiety over whether I needed to excuse myself from the family Christmas dinner because there wasn’t one.
So all the problems that other converts I met had- I didn’t. They were white and I wasn’t, their culture was so different from mine. Being black meant that I was already used to prejudice and racism and being looked at as the ‘other’ so when I became Muslim it wasn’t new for me.
My struggles with hijab were different. I was happy to wear it because I knew it was obligatory but my mum would always remind me that no one could see my elaborate and creative hair styles that I would do. I always used to take care of my hair and would be noticed and complimented for it wherever I went. It was a big part of my culture and had been part of my artistic expression to the outside world.
Now I was wearing a hijab and struggling with my own style. It was weird for me in that sense.
When I accepted Islam I had a great desire to wear the niqab. Ever since I saw those women in the masjid, black women who were converts like me, Arab women, Asian women, white women, all mixed cultures and wearing the niqab. I thought it was amazing and I wanted to wear it too.
But that was my experience with sisters in London.
In Newcastle most of the Muslims I met were Asian, some Arab too but I hardly ever met any niqabi sisters there. And the masjid there was different. I would hear people say not so nice things about sisters who wear the niqab. I didn’t believe it but with the other things going on in my life I decided I wasn’t ready to wear the niqab.
I just had not been ready spiritually, mentally or socially.
It was only about a year after I got divorced that I felt ready to wear it. So when my daughter changed to a new school I did it. It was easier because the area we were living in had many Muslims and at the new school she was going to I would see other women wearing niqab alhamdulillah.
So on her first day at her new school I wore the niqab for the first time. It was the worst niqab that I’ve ever had and I could hardly breathe. The material was terrible- but I felt so good finally being able to wear the niqab.
I was happy. Alhamdolillah.
Wearing the niqab had never been about joining a club of niqab wearers. I had always been used to looking different and standing out. Yet, it took me years, about seven years to finally do it.
I was a single Muslim woman convert to Islam who had made another decision about how I wanted to represent myself and it felt good. Alhamdolillah.
Now I have a whole podcast where I talk to other Muslim women to find out what made them want to wear the niqab and their journey to get there.
Credit: The Niqabi Diaries