Posted on Dec 07, 2019
Editor's note: What does it mean to "wear it like you mean it?" We know this coming year may be hard for Muslims, especially visibly Muslim women, and we invite you (and ourselves) to renew our intentions and reflect on what our hijab (and faith) mean to us. Throughout the month we are sharing stories of what this means to women around the U.S. as well as highlighting local heroes who are quietly doing good and hard work in their communities.
We ran into each other in the parking lot of a local grocery store a few weeks back. It was early morning, and we both were sitting in our cars on our phones before heading into the store, having dropped off our kids to school. I exited my car and tapped on my neighbor’s window. She laughed and exited her car.
“I was wondering if I should interrupt you,” I said. “I didn’t want to scare you!”
“I was catching up on emails on my phone! Sorry I didn’t see you!”
We chit-chatted for a few minutes. My friend Sadia lives in the neighborhood adjacent to mine, but in one of those typical suburban situations, we never seem to see each other except at social events and the occasional grocery store run in. After our usual quick catch up, I remarked to her how put-together she was looking. For the record, I was pretty messily dressed. Sadia was in jeans, tall boots, a pullover and a beautiful Burberry-esque hijab, with a hint of lipstick and freshness to her face.
My friend and neighbor Sadia Khalid. How stunning is she? Masha'Allah!
I was wearing baggy yoga pants, some shirt, my go-to nondescript striped hijab (I know, I know, I am part of the Haute Hijab team and my hijab game was decidedly weak that day) and barely-washed face. “Look at the two of us,” I told Sadia. “You’re so polished, so early in the day! I can barely get myself together.”
Sadia told me that it was important to her to put in that bit of effort before leaving her home in the morning. “When I am out in the community, I know people are looking at me. They know I’m a Muslim woman. And though I’m not responsible for what anyone may think or changing any misconceptions non-Muslims may have, I want to put my best foot forward. I want them to see me and know I take pride in myself, in my hijab.”
Wow, I thought. Whereas my motus operandi in the mornings has pretty much been to put on a hijab - any hijab (usually one of my standard old go-to’s) – and whatever clothes are fastest and get things done before I go to work, Sadia’s is to put in a little bit of effort in her appearance, to consider her visibility as a Muslim woman. That means something.
Here at HH we just launched our month-long “Wear it like you mean it” challenge, where we are asking ourselves and want you to ask yourself – why are you choosing to wear your hijab every single morning before you walk out your door? What does it mean to be so very visible as a Muslim woman in our current tense climate? What are our intentions? How long has it been since we’ve thought deeply about that, about what Allah (S) asks of us and who we want to be? Why did we commit to our hijab in the first place? Why do we continue to wear it now?
These are all intensely personal discussions for so many of us. I know sharing my “hijab story” is something I’ve never been terribly interested in doing, more so because as a journalist and editor covering Muslim women, I want to know your stories instead. But in thinking about my conversation with Sadia and when we discussed putting together this challenge in our office, I was struck by this idea of thinking – really thinking – about why those of us who wear hijab choose to do so every day. What is our intention? Perhaps it has changed from when we first started.
As Sadia told me, “The kind of society that we are living in now, whether we like it or not, we are presenting ourselves as Muslims. I want to look well. I know I don’t represent all Muslims, but that’s part of what we face when we leave our homes and enter society. I started wearing hijab after coming back from Hajj in 2006. My perspectives have changed so much since then. Now, it’s just like an identity for me. It’s part of me now. I like that I identify as Muslim.I like that it gives a different perspective out in society.”
Our conversation has stuck with me. It’s made me think. What does it mean to “wear it like you mean it?” How are we owning our hijab, our place as visibly Muslim women? A long time ago when I was a beginning religion journalist, one of my editors joked when they hired me, “Have hijab, will travel.” I was more of an anomaly back then, and I kind of resented the extra attention I received because of my hijab. But, like for Sadia, whether I wanted it or not, it’s become part of my identity.
Like anything in Islam – and in life – you constantly have to renew your intention and consciously decide to do something for the sake of Allah (S) every single day. Hijab is no different. For those who wear it, it can become a habit, and thus it’s good to pause and think.
And so, we invite you to reconnect to your hijab and reflect on why you wear it, or why you want to wear it. Perhaps you started wearing it when you were so young and it’s lost its meaning or appeal to you now. Or, perhaps you’re just starting on your hijab journey (Congratulations! May Allah make it an easy one for you!) and want to learn more about why we wear it.
Or, maybe hijab’s visibility in and of itself is becoming heavy for you, and so it would be good to reflect on why it was important to you in the first place. Regardless of your situation, hijab is something that many of us put on every single day we leave the house, and it deserves the extra attention and intention behind it.
So, what does it mean to “wear it like you mean it” for you?