My Niqab Story
Prelude: I currently wear niqab "when I feel like it" rather than full-time. This story was written in 2002 shortly after I first started wearing niqab and focuses on my experiences getting started.
It seems fitting that I open this page with my own niqab story. I began wearing niqab on Wednesday, January 14, 2002.
When I first accepted Islam, I thought that niqab was oppressive. I accepted the need for hijab, and in fact began wearing it within a month of my reversion. But I thought that niqab was a cultural practice only, or that it was a case of men putting extra restrictions on women rather than taking the responsbility of controlling their own desires.
However, as I came to read and learn more about the rules governing Islamic dress for women, I discovered that in fact niqab was firmly established among the sahabiyat - it is part of Islam as the Prophet (sAas) brought it, not a cultural tradition. Once I saw this, it opened my mind to consider the benefits of niqab.
The more I learned about niqab, the more I saw its beauty. All the benefits that hijab brings, niqab can bring more of. Niqab is haya. Niqab is taqwa. Niqab is a way of pleasing Allah SWT and of seeking to draw near to Him, inshallah.
By the summer of 2001, I had come to decide that niqab was something that I would like to do. I was not sure that I was ready, but I purchased my first niqab and one weekend in early September, I made my first brief expedition outdoors while wearing it. I was still pretty nervous about it even after this and not sure what to do next -- then a few days later came the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
In the first days following the attacks, it took a lot of courage just for me to go out wearing hijab, although I was completely determined that I would do so. Al-hamdulillah, I never faced any worse trouble than some nasty looks and rudeness. But the thought of going out in public in niqab almost made me panic. I was filled with fears and worries. What if people thought that I was a terrorist or a criminal because I had my face covered, and tried to do something to me? I read stories about sisters elsewhere being harassed and persecuted for wearing hijab, and niqab is an even more obvious symbol of Islam than that. Would the same happen to me?
For the next four months, I continued to fret and worry over niqab. I really should have known better. I would have told any other sister in my place that it was the shaytan playing with her mind, trying to keep her away from what pleases Allah SWT. I would have given her lots of bracing advice about having courage. But somehow, when it came to myself, I couldn't seem to get past it.
I did join some online discussion clubs about niqab and began sharing experiences with niqabi sisters, and other sisters like me who were interested in niqab but had not yet started wearing it. This was really the best thing I could have done for myself. In fact, it provided the impetus that finally pushed me forward to niqab. In the course of a discussion with another sister who was skeptical about niqab, I started feeling like a hypocrite. Here I was telling her that sisters should be proud to wear niqab in the West and yet I was too scared to do it myself. What a hypocrite. What a coward. I realized I had to confront my fears once and for all. I offered salat al-istikhara and asked Allah SWT to make niqab easy if it was what He had willed for me.
Over the following week, I made several brief expeditions near to where I live while wearing niqab. This was good, but I knew it was not enough. I generally don't go out except for my needs, and to work (I have to work to support myself since Allah SWT has not yet blessed me with a husband, and my family are not Muslims.) I knew that until I wore niqab out to work, I was still not really wearing it.
During the weekend after those expeditions I began to have this very strong feeling that grew stronger as the weekend went on. It is hard to describe it, but it was a kind of urgency. I knew that I had to find the courage to wear niqab for real, or fail the test that Allah SWT had set for me. This was the answer to my istikhara.
I offered salat al-istikhara again Sunday night then Monday morning when I dressed to go out for work, on went the niqab. I was so nervous! You would not believe how scared I was inside. But I kept making du'a constantly. Ya Allah, give me strength. Ya Allah, help me.
At that time, I worked in an office with other women only and we did not have walk-ins, so there was little danger of non-mahram men coming by. I would take off my niqab there (although I did wear hijab). It was the commute by bus to and from work, an hour each way, that was the hard part, and the one I so feared. That morning, as we completed each stage of the trip, I gave thanks to Allah SWT for making it easy for me. And I kept making du'a.
By the grace of Allah SWT, I made it safely through the day and back home and did not face any trouble. When I got back inside my apartment, I almost literally dropped to my knees giving thanks to Allah SWT.
The marvelous thing is that each day since then it has become easier. It was the first day that was by far the most difficult. Once I had faced that down, then I could do the rest with confidence. The funniest thing of all is that this is almost an exact replay of what I went through when I started to wear hijab, just more so. I almost laugh now looking back at it. First the stage of fear and indecision, then determination and I do it. And then, having faced my fears, it becomes easy for me, al-hamdulillah. If I had been able to look at it from the outside I could have predicted it, and told myself what I needed to do.
Inshallah, I would like to close with some advice for sisters who may be in the same position I was, wanting to wear niqab but afraid. You really have to just do it. If you wait for a time that you are not afraid, you will still be waiting when Allah SWT takes your soul. Courage isn't being fearless. It's doing what you know is right even though you are terrified inside.
Put your trust completely in Allah SWT. Ask Him to help you and give you strength, and have faith that He will. Offer istikhara, as many times as you need to. And make du'a. Make du'a constantly if you need to. Ask Allah SWT for every moment of courage that you need, then give thanks to Him when He gives it to you. When you trust in Him, He will help you. He will give you the strength and the courage you need. When you put your faith in Him, you can do anything. Gather your courage together and JUST DO IT. I finally did, and it was worth it. I feel now like such a great burden has been lifted from me. I didn't realize how much it was weighing on me that I was letting my fears keep me from doing what I want to do to seek the love of Allah SWT. Now I feel at such peace. I offer my prayers with a light heart again. This is the feeling of freedom that comes when you submit yourself to Allah SWT. Truly, He is the most Merciful and the most Gentle to His weak and pitiful slaves.
For me, niqab was truly a jihad an-nafs. I think it was harder than just about anything I have done in a long time. But it is worth it, all praise is to Allah, it is worth it.
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P.S. When you have niqab on, nobody can see how scared you are!All rights reserved to the author