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When Being Unapologetically Muslim is Hard, Turn to Allah (S)

Posted on Feb 27, 2020
Dilshad Ali


It's not easy living life as strong, visibly Muslim, multi-hyphenated women. In a recent conversation I had with my friend and fellow Haute Hijab blog writer Layla Abdullah-Poulos, we agreed that the decision to wear hijab and continue wearing hijab feeds into our safety as we live our lives in the United States (and in many places around the world).

All this month and continuing on into the spring, we've been talking about the idea that "this is what America looks like a nation of vast and various communities, which includes Muslim women working in all facets of life and doing all kinds of things for the betterment of our own lives and for society at large.

Muslim woman from behind

We interviewed powerful Muslim women, shared narratives, encouraged you to consider what your "power hijab" is and lean into your visibleness as a covered Muslim woman. We asked you to share with us in our social media channels about what "power hijab" means to you  what are those hijabs that make you feel strong and confident?

But we also need to acknowledge that it becomes exhausting at times to focus so much on our visibility and our hijab, to be about empowerment all the time (a topic we hope to explore more later). In a recent piece for This Magazine, Sidrah Ahmad Chan writes about how she is exhausted by constantly having to portray her powerful self when she walks out the door and the expectations of representation thrust upon her:

"I am tired of it.

"My stereotype-busting-Muslim-girl PR job started in 1995. My first day of Grade 6 was also my first day wearing hijab to school, and I was the only kid in my central Toronto elementary school who did so at the time. When I walked into the classroom with my head covered that day, my teacher asked me to stand up and explain my hijab to the rest of the class. I remember sweating as I described the meaning of hijab to my classmates to the best of my 12-year-old ability, trying to ensure that they all understood that wearing hijab was my choice  that I was empowered. By that age, I knew all too well the stereotypes that circulated about Muslims: that we were terrorists, that we were backwards, and  the gendered stereotype most relevant to me  that Muslim women and girls were oppressed, helpless, victims."

She is right. It is exhausting, and asking ourselves to be powerful all the time isn't useful when we also must acknowledge that we also may be messy, confused, struggling and need to retreat at times.

It's important to acknowledge this and allow ourselves whatever we need by means of self care, worship and the privacy to take that rest, that breather we need. I struggle to lean into my worship, to make time for it and Allah (S), and yet that is what I believe can best serve so many of us when being a Muslim woman in American becomes too much.

Recently one of my other friends and fellow HH blog writer Danah Shuli wrote about being our best self inside and out, which includes our appearance, for the sake of Islam. I think a lot of us strive to do that when we leave our homes. I propose we bring our best selves to our worship and prayer as well. (Maybe you are already doing that!)

Do you have a power hijab for prayer? One in which you feel beautiful, comfortable, clean and presentable for your worship of Allah? For me it's a maxi Woven, which covers up all of me in an elegant and simple manner. I always tell my kids to bring their best selves to prayer, and that's a lesson I need to follow myself.

We're playing the long game here, as the primary election season heats up and anti-Muslim rhetoric will grow once again. I pray for all our protection and hope all of you take whatever time you need for yourself, whenever you need it, and turn to Allah (S)