Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
So for today’s post, I have something a bit different for you. This is something I jotted down in my History 41 notebook at UC Santa Cruz (instead of paying attention to the lecture). It was fall 2014, and I was deep into my study of Islam, after having returned from my time in the U.K. I had been harboring these kinds of feelings every Tuesday and Thursday as I sat in class and tried to pay attention, and finally just had to get it out on paper.
The girl I was writing about is now actually a friend of mine on Facebook, after I met her at a class at the mosque, quite a while after I had officially converted, and began to wear the hijab myself. Funny how these things work, isn’t it…
So, I hope you all enjoy a glimpse into my pre-Islam self, and the kinds of things that I was thinking and feeling while on my journey to taking my shahada.
I look around and she is by far the most beautiful woman in the room. Amidst the sea of bleached blonde, painted eyes, and overdone lips, her soft purple headscarf stands out brilliantly. She has a long face, and thick, dark eyebrows. Her nose is long and straight. In the tide of generic, white-bread names, hers reverberates with meaning that ours have long since lost.
I find myself becoming jealous of this girl. By modern American standards I am probably considered far prettier- I have natural blonde hair, ever-changing grey eyes, and a fair complexion on top of my 5’9” frame. But there is a light, a glow that radiates from her face. It is as if she is experiencing some inner serenity every day. Her long outfit looks stifling in this heat, but I wish I could be clothed in the same strength and dignity as her.
Instead of paying attention to the lecture, I find myself looking around the room, thinking about my own appearance and faith. Every time my eyes sweep the room her purple scarf catching my eye, and I am filled with an intense longing. I shift uncomfortably in my seat, wondering if I will ever have the courage to make myself that beautiful.
For me the headscarf has always meant a loss- loss of family, of friends, of vain beauty and of comfort. But today, in this moment I have finally realized that this is the cycle of life: in order to find something so much more important, one has to lose many things along the way.
Because the headscarf really means finding security, finding peace, and finding the beauty inside of yourself rather than searching for it in the faces of the impossible standards of today.