It has been slightly more than a month since I made the promise to Allah (s.w.t) that I'd put on my hijab for good from this Ramadan onwards. I started slightly earlier before Ramadan itself, on 11th May, right after I had arrived at Haneda Airport in Japan. Truth was that I was afraid. Of discrimination in a strange land, of not being able to integrate into the Japanese culture because I don't drink and look so obviously foreign, of sticking out as the only hijabi amongst the morning peak crowd.
I kept wondering if I should wait. Until I properly integrated at work, until I got the job, until a memorable date like the start of Ramadan or something so I could also do 'Da'wah' to my new colleagues.
It was like that back home as well. I had said I will commit to wearing the hijab when I can commit to wearing it always- and my family was one of the reasons why I had still not worn it. But if I think really hard about it, there'll always be a reason to keep from wearing it, or conveniently choose the easier way of wearing it on occasions only.
“And whoever fears Allah, He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. (65:2-3)
I experienced the full impact of this verse, not the moment I started wearing the hijab, but the moment I had made up my mind to do so.
The courage to start putting it on the moment I landed in Japan was given to me by S, who surprised me at the airport even though he was supposed to be miles away.
The worries of not being able to fit in and socialize with my colleagues because I can't drink was alleviated, when I found out my colleagues didn't really do much drinking parties (also known as 'nomikai' in Japan) because they were mostly middle-aged and had families. Even the welcome party my colleagues held for me was thoughtfully arranged during lunch time, at a restaurant that used only seafood in its menu, and none of them were drinking.
It's really the little miracles that Allah swt puts in front of me to ease my journey, like finding halal chicken in a small grocery store close to the place I stay, or having colleagues who would go out of their way (without me asking them to do so) to enquire restaurant staff if the food had alcohol in it or if the meat was cooked with the oil they used for cooking pork.
Of course, people have said that I was brave, some said it was a waste to hide my hair, some even thought I was forced to wear the hijab. But as I found myself explaining to them why I chose to wear the hijab, I found it easier to explain the other aspects of Islam to them, because no matter to a Muslim or a non-Muslim, the hijab completes the image of a Muslim woman presented to the world. I've experienced many times before when I had said something about Islam and someone else would veer totally off topic and interject, "How come you're not wearing hijab even though you're a Muslim?", and I would have to explain a whole lot more to clarify that hijab IS a compulsion set by Allah SWT, not a choice.
When I wear the hijab, I experience a different sort of beauty- of greetings of salaam and friendly nods with Muslim sisters whom I pass by along the street, of people going out of their way to accommodate my dietary and praying needs, and of opportunities to tell people about Islam because they start by asking you about it first- all these, without the need to utter a single word.
Alhamdulillah, I have come far since my last post a year ago on my struggle to be hijab-less. I've come far from being concerned about physical appearances because I can now see the glow (Nur) in the faces of the women who are truly at peace and joy with their faith, and that is the most beautiful appearance of all because it shines from within.