After writing about why I chosen to put on a Hijab (or headscarf) in the first place (http://imperial.tab.co.uk/2013/07/12/hijab/.) I decided that now that I have had a full year's experience with my hijab, I can explain properly how it has changed both me and my life.
The first point is simple, not once have I regretted my decision on putting on my Hijab. I say this because over the last year I have come across a few girls who have made the opposite decision and have decided to take them off. When this happens, a ripple of gossip spreads through the Muslim community and there is a very potent sense of disappointment. Muslims equate taking off one's Hijab to turning away from your religion and in effect, going backwards and I can tell that some Muslims look down upon them, even if they do not show it. Obviously, this is completely ridiculous. A Hijab is a girl's choice and if you are preaching that it is most definitely not a symbol of oppression, then why react this way? She could have completely justifiable reasons and one cannot solely judge someone's piety based on one piece of clothing.
The main thing I've loved about my Hijab is how people have managed to treat me both differently and the same. I say this mainly in reference to boys, I find that guys still treat me as the same old Aemun that they knew before and yet at the same time they have that bit of respect, to not touch me, to keep a slight bit of distance and sometimes, in extreme cases, to lower their gaze. It helps me to believe that I am still the same person and that my Hijab just completed the missing puzzle that is me.However, I've discovered a whole other world to wearing a Hijab that the public don't. The public have this concept that Hijabis are oppressed, quiet individuals but the truth is that we are the exact same as any other girls. I know Hijabis that have boyfriends, that smoke or do whatever. I am not saying this is a good thing but at the same time, I cannot say it is a bad thing either. If it is their choice to do something that others may frown upon, then it is their choice. In the Quran it says:
This means that Allah (God) knows us best and knows our intentions better than anyone around us ever will.
"And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein [50:16] http://quran.com/50/16"
But the thing that sadly has changed the most is my awareness of how I must look to other people. That 'what will everyone else say?' thought process has started to creep into my mind a lot more than I would like. I always used to stand proud as a 'I don't really care what others think' person but now that part of me has changed. If I'm standing with a boy alone I'll start getting anxious, am I standing too close? Will people think we are together? What will people say? Or if I'm being friendly to someone, am I being too friendly? Should I stop? Should I reinforce the boundaries between us? It is something I'm still getting used to and I find a daily challenge.
Its the trivial things that have been the hardest to adapt to. For example, clothing in a way that is still me but covers my entire body can prove difficult, especially in the settling of a medical workplace. Working with my Hijab and a stethoscope can be difficult too. Even stupid things like wearing my glasses with my Hijab can annoy me.
Overall, my Hijab is me but I am not my Hijab. I love it, I wear it and I live it but I maintain those parts of me that are still me, regardless of my Hijab. It's not an easy job and as I develop myself as a person, I'm glad my Hijab is with me, along for the ride. For those that read this, hoping to one day wear a Hijab, my advice is to start early so that you can grow with your Hijab because even if you make mistakes now or whilst wearing it, the intention is always between you and God.
Follow Aemun Reza on Twitter: www.twitter.com/xaemunx