We Talk to 5 Teen Hijabis About the Challenges of Wearing a Headscarf and Why They’re Holding On Anyway

By: Malak Atwa

A little while ago, I sat down with 5 completely different, yet equally wonderful, talented and beautiful girls and asked them several questions about their headscarf. Regrets, decisions and mostly what it means to them. Also, a special thank you and shoutout to these incredibly brave and badass girls for opening up about their insecurities surrounding their hijab and much more. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Anyways, here is what they had to say:

When – at what age – did you start wearing the headscarf? And why did you decide to wear it?

A: I started wearing it when i was around the age of 13-14. My family is quite religious and they pushed me to take this decision. If it were for me i would’ve waited a bit more, but I don’t regret doing it one bit.

B: The first time I wore it, i was 15. It was 100% my decision. I knew that I was on the wrong path when I wasn’t wearing it. And, I wanted to find a way to get closer to Allah. The hijab seemed like a good idea, and it was.

C (my favorite answer – might i add): I was 14 at the time when i decided to first wear the hijab. What brought the thought of wearing it to my mind was that: no one is promised another breath, and that’s heartbreaking. I can never commit to something i don’t fully believe in. so, i looked up why the hijab is an obligation in islam. The reason that stood out to me the most was: women are perceived as sexual objects no matter what they wear – and they’re never to blame for how others react to their choice of clothing. The hijab was made to honor women and it’s also an opposition to them being perceived as sexual objects. I did it because it felt right. I did it for god. Because after everything he did for me, i could never repay half of what i’ve been blessed with. And god would never ask any of us to do something if it wasn’t for our benefit.

D: I started wearing my hijab when i was around 13 years old. My mom always talked to me about it and I thought to myself “if I don’t do it now, i never will”.

E: I was 13 and some of my friends were hijabis. I was somewhat hesitant, but they continuously encouraged me and supported me into taking this step. And so, I did.

When do you think is the “appropriate” age for a girl to start wearing the headscarf?

A: Islam says that a girl is supposed to wear the hijab when she becomes a woman. After puberty or when she gets her period. Even though that’s the right thing, i believe she should wear it when she is ready, in order for her to not regret her decision and keep wearing it.

B: When she gets her period or when she reaches the age of puberty which is usually around 12-16.

C: Wherever she is mature enough and feels ready to wear it. It’s her body and her life after all.

D: Well, all women have to wear the hijab once she gets her period, it’s an obligation. And, as much as I believe in that, it mainly depends on whether or not she is mentally and spiritually ready to wear it or not.

E: Probably around the ages of 14 to 15.

From your perspective: what are some misconceptions about the headscarf?

A: Something that really gets on my nerves is that people think that hijabis have restricted or isolated themselves from any kind of fun activities. They think that any hijabi is super religious, strict and serious. They think they dont have guy friends or they don’t interact and joke around. But, shocker that’s completely false. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The hijab is not an addition to my character. I’m not going to drastically change and become a different person after wearing it. I’m the same person. Im me. It’s merely an addition to my appearance, and not to who I am as a person.

B: There are a lot of misconceptions, but mainly that it makes us look attractive, older or like we’re strict and very religious. Like we have these “restrictions” that we’ve put for ourselves. That any hijabi is “m3a2ada” or 3andaha 3o2ad for some stupid reason. Like no. why can’t I just wear it in the name of Allah?

C: “it limits you”. As in: if you’re a hijabi, you can’t act how you would if you weren’t one. Wearing a headscarf doesn’t change who I am, it just changes how I look. Also, people tend to assume that young girls only wear it when they are forced to by their parents. I’m aware that its common for parents to ask their daughter to wear the veil when they hit puberty, but it’s really wrong. A girl should only take this step when she decides to.

D: That the hijab defines who I am. But, it’s not even close to who i am.

E: In our society, unfortunately, it is believed that the headscarf – literally this piece of fabric on your head – will limit you and prohibit you from many activities and achievements career wise and just in life in general.

What’s the hardest part about being a hijabi for you?

A: Good hair days are surprisingly really hard. I know that makes me sound shallow but im still a kid too and I do sometimes wish that I can go swimming with a normal bathing suit and feel the wind in my hair, but I can’t. Climate change also isn’t helping with the weather. It’s getting hotter and hotter everyday and sometimes that can feel very suffocating.

B: I’m a girl that’s very into fashion and what’s trendy and what’s not. I find it very difficult to style outfits around the hijab that are fashionable and cute, but that are modest and suitable for the hijabi lifestyle.

C: Simply, feeling different. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about being unique and embracing who you are. But, I feel like the odd one out is no fun to be frank. Especially on the days when your mind plays tricks on you. It can be mentally challenging at times. But still, it’s worth it.

D: The hardest part of being a hijabi was still having the opportunity to compete in sports – as I am an athlete. I also feel insecure when I’m at the beach or pool, any scenario where i have to wear a burkini. I always feel like people are judging me even though i know its just in my head.

E: For me, I think that the hardest part would be accepting people’s negative – and not to mention unwanted – comments without being affected by them. And obviously finding fashionable, yet suitable clothes for a hijabi who is still a teenager.

Do you think that the headscarf defines women whether they choose to wear it or not? And does it define you or your character?

A: No, it doesn’t. What defines a person is their manners not what they choose to wear – or not wear in this case. The hijab doesn’t define who i am. It’s only an extra article of clothing on my body.

B: No. The veil is only a fracture of the many things that would define a woman. But it doesn’t solely define her. And people shouldn’t focus on whether or not she chose to wear it. It’s completely up to her and her alone. Some people think that the hijab defines the person. Like its a window into their soul. But, that’s not true. At least, for me its not. It’s just a piece of fabric. People should not concentrate on it too much.

C: Absolutely not. What defines women – or anyone for that matter is who they are and who they choose to be. Period. Whatever they choose to wear is completely out of the question or at least it’s a very small portion of that.  I don’t think that the hijab define who I am but I think of it as a product of a part of who I am and what I believe in. It doesn’t define me, but it is a result of some of the things that I do.

D: Definitely not. There are thousands of women with totally different characteristics, personalities and mindsets, but we are all wearing the hijab. I guess this is one of the main misconceptions about the hijab.

E: No, women shouldn’t be defined by whatever they choose to cover or not to cover of their bodies. I am much much more than a piece of fabric on my head.

What do you think it takes to become a hijabi? (mentally and spiritually)

A: You need to have a lot of self confidence and self control in order to actually go through with it and continue on wearing it. You also need to know that you are doing the right thing. No matter what the people around you are telling you. You are doing what’s right.

B: In our generation, it’s incredibly difficult to wear the hijab. Especially if you are much younger. It’s hard, I won’t lie. But, you’re doing this for god. Not for anyone else but god. That’s why you need to have the strongest faith in order to accomplish this and to wear the hijab.

C: You need: strength, the ability to commit, and believing in why you’re wearing the headscarf.

E: Mentally: understand why are you wearing it. Is it something you always wanted to do? Or not? Spiritually: you just gotta feel that you are doing this for god not for your family, friends or a significant other even. It’s all for god because he asked you to.

What’s the best & worst thing anyone has ever told you about your hijab?

A: Best: “you look better with the hijab than without it.” Which was lowkey kind of offensive. Worst: “When will you take it?” Or “you’re too young to wear it”.

B: The best thing from taking this step was actually the response i got and seeing how all my friends and family were happy and proud of me. The worst however was: “when are you going to take it off?”.

C: I can’t really put my finger on the nicest thing that someone has told me about my hijab but there really were so many sweet people who complimented how I looked as a hijabi and others said they were really proud of me for taking this step. I’d say the worst thing was when someone kind of mocked how I wore it and that person apologised later on but it was definitely hurtful at the time. No one gets to decide how a hijabi decides to wear her headscarf but her. There’s nothing wrong with advising someone but make the decisions when it’s on your head.

D: The best would be: how strong I am for continuing to wear it, no matter the circumstances. And that I look better with the hijab. No one ever really said anything that was bad about my hijab, but I definitely did get a few weird stares here and there.

E: Best: that I was cute without the hijab and with the hijab Im more cute. Worst: “leh 3amlty fe nafsk keda? enty lesa soghayra awii”.

From your perspective: do you think that the hijab is one of the hardest or most challenging things you did in your life?

A: For some odd reason being a hijabi is “rare” or uncommon,which is sad because we’re supposedly living in an islamic country. Modest fashion or hijabi fashion isn’t very diverse because they think that only adults are made to wear hijabs and modest style clothing and that needs to change.

B: Yes, I do. The hijab is definitely a very challenging, it tests your faith a lot and your self love too funnily enough.

C: It definitely was, and it still is. But, it’s one of the most rewarding ones too. I would definitely say that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

D: Yeah, definitely being able to express yourself as a muslim anywhere you go as you are a hijabi is sometimes very difficult especially if you’re in a foreign country that’s mainly focuses on christianity or atheism.

E: yes, it definitely is. Growing up and wearing the hijab young is a challenge for the most part, as you’re still discovering yourself and what you feel comfortable in and what you like. But I don’t regret it honestly even though it is very challenging, it is the right thing. Not everything that’s right comes easy and not everything that’s easy is right.

Finally: What would you advise girls who are hesitant about taking this step or who have just decided to wear the hijab?

A: You are beautiful and don’t ever give a f**k about what people think because all that matters is you inner beauty, but forreal sometimes you’ll feel like you want to take it off. Sometimes you’ll almost regret it. And that’s fine. It’s okay to feel that way. Its normal. Just pray and have faith in god and in his power and always remember “dah fe mezan 7asanatek”.  And also remember that burning from the hot weather on earth is better than burning in hell, courtesy of my mom ladies and gents.

B: Just do it. If you overthink it, you’ll never take that step. Overthinking ruins everything. Remember that its for god. You can go and buy hijab clothes in order to feel motivated and encouraged even to start wearing it. Just do it.

C: You need to know that it’s not always going to be easy. There will be days where you’ll doubt yourself and your decision, but always remember the reason of why you chose to do it in the first place. Remind yourself of what an honour it is to be wearing it.

D: The harder it gets, the stronger you’ll become and the better your relationship with god will be.

E: Wearing the hijab is surely very hard and challenging step, but once you wear it, you will get used to it eventually and you will be proud of yourself. And nothing will ever come close to that feeling.

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