A piece of cloth on my head: My Hijab Journey 16:43:00 PM
“Why did I start putting a piece of cloth on my head a few years ago?
What made me wanted to wear it?
What was the pushing factor?”
It’s a question that I have been asked a lot. It’s a story that I’ve been wanting to share, but I was hesitant because it would mean that I would be exposing my old weaknesses and sins. I was also hesitant because I did not want to be interpreted as showing off or trying to portray as though I am now holier. However, I’ve just decided that I am going to share why I’m wearing a piece of cloth on my head in the hopes that someone might find this post beneficial.
In Malaysia, this piece of cloth is generally called the “tudung”, but it is more commonly referred to in the Arabic word of “hijab” in the media worldwide. (Yes, I know the word hijab means a lot more than just a cloth.)
Is it really just a cloth?
What does this cloth mean to me?
In my post “What is Your Hijab Story” I shared the challenges I faced when I started to wear the hijab and how I faced those challenges.
Here in this post I am going to share why and how I started to wear the hijab.
It might be surprising to many, but I only started wearing the hijab relatively recently in my life. I did not grow up in a family where everyone was made to wear the hijab. Neither did I go to a school where it is compulsory to wear the tudung. My parents did not ask me to wear the tudung. I am blessed to have parents who gave me freedom to choose whatever it is that I want to do in my life. I did not grow up in the kind of environment where my parents told me what to wear.
I started out my primary school going to Convent Bukit Nanas, a missionary all girls school. Then for 3 years, I went to Main Convent Ipoh with my cousins and subsequently SK Bukit Damansara, a co-ed school. I re-joined Convent Bukit Nanas in high school.
Trust me when I say that I was really different back when I was in high school. I always preferred to wear pinafores rather than the traditional and more modest baju kurung. I loved dancing and singing publicly. (I still love to do that but not as aggressively though!)
I used to love performing in front of audiences, including traditional dances. I remember when my father organized an International Arts Festival in Perak I was given the opportunity to do a traditional dance in front of the current Sultan of Perak. Of course, I also performed modern dances for school as well. Does anyone remember the Commonwealth Games 1998 in Kuala Lumpur? Yeah, I was there, dancing during the opening and closing ceremony.
I was also a cheerleader and represented the school for national cheerleading championship. I was one of the members of Puteri Islam in my school but as I was also a cheerleader at that time, I had to skip a lot of Puteri Islam classes just to practice.
So while the Puteri Islam classes were going on and all the girls had to wear the tudung for the class, I would rather skip those classes, and have fun in my short skirt practicing cheerleading and all that with my girl friends. It was a really fun and carefree time for us as friends. Most of my cheerleader friends became my best of friends until today J
At that time, I felt that it was more fun and it was more “me”. I couldn’t relate to the tudung that we were made to wear at those religious classes or the Puteri Islam co-curriculum. In fact, I could never imagine myself in a tudung at that time.
Because of my love for dancing, I started going clubbing too. In fact, I started quite early. I was sneaking into clubs going for gigs when I was 14 years old. In fact, I was the one who coaxed my friends to join me even though they were afraid. Imagine me, I was the most mischievous one amongst my friends! I know, you guys won’t believe me. My friends used to come and sleep over, and after we finished dancing in clubs, we came back and continued our sleepover. Of course, I did a lot of other things that I’m not proud of and I won’t share here. Suffice to say that my heart aches and I still cry whenever I think of my many many sins.
So how did I change?
For me, it was a gradual, slow change. Even as I was having a lot of fun and doing so called ‘wild’ things, I did realize that there was an emptiness inside me which I could not fill with physical things. I truly felt that I did not have enough religious education. (Well, I can’t blame anyone but myself for skipping religious classes in school). But I wanted to learn more. My late grandmother Tah was the one who taught me how to pray, and my Tok and late Opah used to teach me a lot about religion when I was younger. I used to hate being forced to learn, but as I grew up older and saw less and less of them, I started missing their lessons, reminders, lectures, and yes, even their scolding on religion or missing the obligatory prayers.
So after highschool, that emptiness and thirst for religious knowledge became stronger. So I convinced my parents that I wanted to go to a local Islamic university so that I could learn more about the basics in religion even when I could have furthered my studies in private colleges or overseas. I was determined and really wanted to go there despite some hesitation amongst my family and friends that I wanted to go there just for that reason.
To be continued…
(P/s: All the photos in this post are old photos (2007 and 2008) when I just started wearing the cloth on my head)
PEACE & LOVE!