بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
"O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allâh is ever Forgiving, exceedingly Merciful. (33:59)"
سبحان الله , how perfectly precise Allah swt got it to the heart of the matter.
Before wearing the hijaab I did not understand how covering would actually lead to freedom. Not that I thought the contrary, I just did not understand how enveloping would set you free. So the more I engaged in deen, the more I thought about covering. Yet back then I did not tell anybody except for a very close & dear friend of mine, who used to motivate me patiently, as if knowing that I would make my final decision very soon.
What was special about that time was the growing tendency towards nakedness in fashion. Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by half-naked ladies, many of them still in a very young age. I had to lower my gaze more often for the girls out there than for the guys - actually I wasn't really sure whether lowering was better or raising, as none of the perspectives promised for the better.
Anybody who grew up in the West will know how these types of fashion are justified: "Free" country, the "freedom" of dressing, the "right" to "express" oneself. Western women are taught to wear these things due to their "freedom", yet what they do not see is that stores provide these types of clothes for them, which then everybody buys & wears. Pretty much like eating in a canteen: You only get what the cooker wants you to eat. The question is: did they never ever notice that these clothes are tailor-made according to men's desires, exposing all the charming parts of a woman? Why is it that nowadays fashion is either see-through, extremely tight or unbelievably short? Think about it.
So in addition, there is this desire of women to beautify themselves. We love to adorn, put make-up on, wear beautiful clothes, get our hair done, etc. This is just how Allah swt made us, and there is absolutely nothing wrong about caring about the appearance. But the point is, you need to reveal this only to someone worthy of enjoying your view in your most beautiful state.
Furthermore, human beings are thirsty for compliments and every woman loves to hear how beautiful she is. Back in the days, before wearing hijaab, I used to get compliments, privileges and sometimes even extra-treatment. People often tried to have a chat and these conversations did not always start for good, sincere reasons. Back then I used to back off and get upset and wonder why they would do so, did they not see I was a Muslim? But now I understand that to them I did not look any different than all other girls. Alhamdulillah, I always disliked dressing openly, but from their perspective there was just no clear signal, simply telling them that behind this "ordinary" face were "strict" manners and beliefs, which differed from theirs. I do not aim to blame anybody because this is just how Western society works and how (most of) Western people think.
And then, when Allah swt willed so, I decided to cover islamically. I soon realized how I disappeared from the scene all of a sudden. Every day I stood in front of my closet, I again realized that actually nobody cares about how I look now. And that's it: only when I took off from fashion and the likes, I fully understood how the outer appearance is bound to people's opinions, no matter how much we want to claim the opposite. As the days gone by, I thrived in the thought of being "invisible", and all of a sudden I understood what freedom actually meant. This dunya sparkles more than it actually has to offer and we fall prey to these sparkles. Fashion and societal acceptance is one of these sparkles we fall for, and by putting on the hijaab I finally separated from at least one of them. Also, I excluded a huge part of people from talking to me for silly, "un-sincere" purposes; I knew that from now on, only those, who really valued my personality and not my looks, would talk to me (there are still loads of exceptions). Not to forget all those "friends" who all of a sudden vanished (And I love all those to death who "stayed", may Allah swt grant them the best, ameen!). But as merciful and loving as our Creator is, He soon led me amongst amazing people who helped me a lot in my deen and whom I'll hope to remain friends with even until after the day of judgement, in shaa Allah.
I felt like I have let go of an enormous weight on my shoulders. And the most beautiful part about it was the constant confrontation with my deen and my identity as an honored slave of Allah. Everywhere I was, I knew I was neither part of this society nor of this dunya, so my awareness of Allah swt grew. I knew, just as people constantly saw I was a Muslim, Allah swt was with me in every second. There are just no words to describe the peace and tranquility I started feeling from then on, as if my soul finally got what it screamed for and everything was in his own place again.
What I did not expect was the amount of respect I got from Muslims and non-Muslims. Every time I walk over the campus, doors are held open, sometimes people behind me almost run forwards and push them open. Every time I want to pass somewhere, people take a step back and let me pass first (I always remember the story of Musa (as) parting the red sea when I have to go through crowds).
I remember one day when I (coincidentally) engaged in street da'wah and there was this Christian talking to me. After a while, a huge group of brothers surrounded me for whatever reason and listened to the conversation. Actually they did not get very close, yet I was still bothered. When I noticed them, I stopped talking, looked left and right and calmly said "Umm, brothers...?" - wallahi, within a SECOND all of them backed off, apologizing with their heads lowered.
This is how Islam teaches respect for women. And the respect reaches to the point where people think twice about even offering their hand to be shaken (in a society where touching is normal & shaking hands is "polite") and where guys only approach a girl when having life-long intentions.
At some point I understood that nowadays roles are not distributed the right way: women strive and revolt for being treaten like men, which is not even biologically possible, and they beautify to please them. Islam teaches the other way round: brothers need to work hard to convince the sister AND her family. It struck into my mind while I was sitting at work and some friends of my mom actually brought their son to my work place, so that I could "check him out" and see whether I was interested or not. And this is only one of my experiences, I'm sure countless sisters did experience similar things.
Please beware of the fact that in no way I want to complement myself or the likes, walyadhubillah. Allah swt is my witness. I am just an average person, one of countless slaves of Allah the Almighty, whom He does not need in any way, but who are in need of Him. What I am attempting to clarify is how much Allah swt honors us when we start submitting ourself. All of a sudden people treat you completely different, even though what they see is not even 10% of what you are in reality (and I mean this for both good AND bad sides, we're all human). And they know. Still Allah swt guards your dignity and fulfills - once again - His beautiful promise.
How strange life can be.
It was only some random scarf I once got from my boss as a gift which I wrapped around my head and left the house, but it changed my entire life. I see the world in different colors now that I realize that slaves will always remain slaves. And every human being is enslaved to someone or something. But the slaves of Allah swt are those, who, when they start acting according to His mighty, perfect decree, turn into Queens and Soldiers. Allah swt has created all of us Queens, it is us who choose whether we wear the crown or not.
"And We have certainly honored the children of Adam (...)" (17:70)
How true this is. All we are is a piece of flesh and bones and skin, dependent of food and water and toilets - yet He blessed us with belief, the purifier of the heart and the key to everlasting happiness in paradise.
May Allah swt make us from the people of paradise - ameen.