Taking my hijab off was a slow transition. I wore it for 16 years, fought over it in my head for six months, then took it off after what felt like an overnight decision.
I didn’t understand God until I started listening to my inner guidance.
I now know that was the Divine guidance I was ignoring all along.
I kept pushing back on my ego by saying things like this is what God wants or this is what I’m supposed to do and every time I did that I was driving the divine further and further away from me.
The divine speaks to each of us individually. It is within each of us and only we can connect with it best. This is what I was taught growing up, and yet when it came to making a decision on what I wanted to wear or not wear, suddenly it became a question of what do other people think.
I was on the phone with my mom listing to her my qualms with the hijab. She listened patiently and empathetically. She wore a scarf too and could understand, I thought.
At the end of the conversation I said I’m just scared of what Baba will say.
I realized the only reason I still had it on was for my dad’s sake. Not God’s sake. Little did she know it was at that moment that I knew I had to take it off.
If the only reason you’re doing something personal is for the emotional stability of someone else, that’s a plain red flag– you’re off your path. This is also known as co-dependency.
I don’t think I started off wearing the hijab because of my dad. I really think it was what everyone was doing around me and what the mature girls did at the private Islamic school I went to, and I wanted to be like them.
I always wanted to be like the older girls with everything. I started wearing the scarf when I was five and you couldn’t convince me to take it off for anything. Those first few years I was so stubborn that I even wore it in front of blood related family like my uncles. Just comes to show you how little I understood the point of the hijab. Even at such a young age I think I just wanted to dictate what I wanted to wear; it was more to make a statement than for any religious reasoning.
Of course as I grew older, I started learning the religious doctrine. My well-practiced defense against the anti-Muslim world: I wore my hijab as an act of empowerment and liberation. It sounded confident and sexy and people loved it.
Well, it just stopped sounding sexy to me around senior year of college. I don’t even want to get into why I took it off, because none of that matters. At the time it was a really, really, really big deal but now that I have some perspective I see how insanely self-centered I was to think the world would stop revolving if I quit wearing the scarf.
The world didn’t stop, but it did go downhill with my parents. They thought I was trying to disassociate from my culture, family and religion. They took it very personally. They thought I was ashamed of who I was. Not bearing the thought of me hurting his ego, my dad decided to take it upon himself and let me know that he disowned me, and I wasn’t his daughter anymore unless I put the scarf back on. I did not see that coming and thought it was a bit dramatic. I didn’t really know I was owned to start with. How much was I worth? Where was I getting sold? Costco? Or Trader Joe’s?
Two seconds after he shut the phone in my face I picked it back up and dialed our family therapist. Side note: this therapist was an old Jewish man whose family survived the Holocaust, an angel sent from god that saved our family’s life so many times. He’s passed away since. I send him all my love.
My mom took a sharp turn on her support. She didn’t want the parent front to seem divided and came back to tell me she didn’t think what I was doing was right at all. I heard the same story over and over again, and I told my same story over and over again.
She said your dad can’t believe you didn’t think of him in making your decision.
Ironic, considering I did think a lot about him but I thought that wasn’t the point. Wearing the hijab was a personal decision between God and myself, wasn’t that what we were taught?
He is worried because now he doesn’t know how he’ll show his face at the mosque. How is he going to give his Friday sermons now with his daughter running around with no scarf on? What will come next?
I had to take a big step back. Most of my friends understood but some of them, like my parents, needed really long explanations- almost like defending a dissertation. I had an hour to two hours worth of information, life experience, analogies and data to back up my decision.
This is exactly why the therapist was a nice perspective. A third person that had nothing to do with the situation reminded me to step back for perspective, then for self-acceptance. He reminded me of the tribal community I come from. He taught me to have some compassion for my parents — this was all they knew. He also showed me how to look at the whole picture. I wasn’t just dealing with my present-day choices. I came from generations and generations of women that did not disobey the patriarchy- regardless of whether or not it was about religion. This was shaking our family’s foundations to the core and it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
I spent countless months and days explaining to my parents my perspective. I was basically begging them for their love, affection and acceptance.
I spent so much energy defending myself against nothing that needed defending.
Now when my friends come to me with worries or need advice I just ask them: how do you feel doing what you want to do? Good? Ok good. How do you feel holding back from it? Miserable? Like your soul is getting sucked out of you everyday if you continue this way? Great, now you know what you have to do, go do it. I don’t care to have an opinion/agenda on other people’s life choices.
If I’m sensing you’re miserable and you’re pretending to be happy, sure I’ll let you know my perspective, but in the end only you know why you’re acting or feeling a certain way. And don’t worry, because nothing feels worse than your soul getting sucked out of you everyday. So the answer is really clear. Do what makes you happy on every level and God and the entire Universe will be by your side.
There was another reminder I want to mention that actually did come from religion and it gave me some peace of mind at the time. I remembered learning: life isn’t meant to be a burden. At the time the scarf felt like the burden of the entire world on my shoulders, so that made my answer even more clear for me.
I know it sounds like I’m over-simplifying life and decision-making. But it really wasn’t an easy decision for me. I tormented over it for months. And I did the same for every other life decision, big or small.
Shortly after taking my scarf off I found my own therapist. One of the first things she said to me was people like your parents usually don’t change without a big illness or death in the family. I’ll never forget that. It was a reality check and a reminder that I couldn’t wait for something like that to happen to live my life. If it was going to take my parents a tragedy to understand unconditional love, at least I’d could get a head start on learning unconditional self-love and acceptance.
Unfortunately it didn’t take one tragedy, it’s taken many for my parents to begin to understand that fear and control do not equal love. My family has gone through so much mental illness and tumultuous pain, that I wish it upon nobody. Now I realize this was all part of the journey I had to take to learn how to connect with my own power.
Over the past six years I’ve spent over $15k in life coaches, therapists, books and courses in order to understand why I was the way I was. If I can spare you a nickel I’ll tell you this: you don’t have to defend yourself. There’s nothing to prove. You don’t need to think up a thesis for everything you do in your life. There is a clear distinction between having a loving conversation with someone about a decision and feeling like you have to defend yourself for dear life.
I won’t lie, this was a new idea to me and it took a few years to put into practice.
What do you mean I don’t have to say anything? I asked my life coach.
You don’t. If you want to, you can just say what you chose to do and that’s it. I was baffled.
What if they keep asking why?
You don’t have to answer.
My understanding of God changed from some man out there that was waiting for me to fu** up, to this incredible Source of unlimited inspiration and love we all have within us that helps us live joyful, prosperous lives. It was the difference between looking at other people to tell me what to believe to checking in with myself and asking does that sound like it serves me well? Is that coming from a place of love or a place of fear? What belief would serve me better?
That meant looking at every belief, not just the ones we talked about openly growing up like God and religion. That meant beliefs about my body and how I liked to workout. Beliefs about what patio furniture colors I liked. It meant rethinking my beliefs about money, how to spend it and how to make it. Beliefs about people that believed differently than I did. Beliefs about what plant-based milk I liked and didn’t like. Beliefs on how to talk to my partner.
The beliefs that dictate our daily lives are endless. Beliefs are basically thoughts that we think over and over again until they’re ingrained into our minds as that’s just how it is or, my favorite, it’s the truth. Sadly, most of us have learned so many true-lies as I like to call them. They are beliefs that we thought were 100 percent true growing up but are nothing more than one person’s beliefs. We might as well choose the beliefs that serve our joy and freedom.
You are divine my love,