Before delving into this topic, one must understand every Muslim woman will answer the question, “What is it like wearing hijab?” differently. Muslim women are certainly not monolithic, and people’s experiences vary greatly due to a number of factors including location, age, background, and much more.
That being said, this is my experience wearing the hijab. A twenty-something year-old, born and raised in New Jersey who never called any other place besides the United States her home.
I love wearing hijab. It is a part of me. It provides a comfort, a protection, and a uniqueness. I am very aware of my hijab when going out. Even while walking to my car, I notice who is around and how I am dressed very differently than most. I cannot help but wonder what they think about my choice of dress.
I often wonder if they realize I can speak English, that I am a university graduate, and a writer. I wonder if they realize my hijab is my choice, that I am happy, that I love wearing it even though I have my fair share of “bad hijab days” when the fabric just does not sit on my head properly and leaves me frustrated. No matter how lopsided it might look one day due to my glasses or lack of pins, I will wear it even just to take the garbage out a few steps away from my door.
I never felt like my hijab put me in any danger. I have been fortunate in that sense. I know it announces to everyone I am Muslim, but honestly, I am not comfortable with hiding that fact anyway. I like to demonstrate the opposite of what people see in the media about Muslim women through my actions, whether that is smiling at the cashier, holding the door open for a passerby, or picking up some litter on the street. I hope when I do have the opportunity to do these actions, people see my hijab and attribute something positive to all Muslims. That is the same reason I will try to avoid honking my car horn unnecessarily or cutting someone off.
What is especially great is to see another person in hijab where you do not expect. Bumping into someone who looks like you during a random outing at the mall or walk around the neighborhood brings a warm and fuzzy feeling to my heart. That may sound odd to some people, but as a minority, it feels amazing to simply see another person and knowing without even exchanging a word that you have something in common with them. And not merely something, but the most important thing—your faith. It is easy to exchange a smile and a greeting of peace and leaving that place feeling a sense of sisterhood.
While hijab is a part of me, it is not all of me. There is still a lot to learn about an individual wearing a hijab beyond the cloth on her head. The hijab tells you I am Muslim, and that is the biggest part of my identity for sure. But it does not tell you everything about my hobbies, passions, favorite foods, or what my family and friends are like.
There is much more to being a Muslim woman than wearing hijab. The best way to learn about the experience is to ask someone who wears one. So maybe I am the first person who is sharing insight with you on the topic, but I guarantee you there are many more willing to share their stories as well.