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WHY I WORE HIJAB THEN NIQAB
By Tara Gregory
27 May 2008
Three years after becoming Muslim, I finally succumbed to the fact that hijab was obligatory. I had been wearing hijab for three years when I compiled “Why I Wear Hijab Not Niqab”. If anyone had told me that I’d wear niqab a year after I wrote that article, I wouldn’t have believed them. *See footnote*
It all started in Ibri, Oman. A dear friend, Khadija Oum Abdul-Aziz, invited me to stay with her and her family at their village. I readily accepted and left Muscat for this conservative little town in the northeast region of the country. On the bus ride to Ibri, I sat in the front seat to the right of the bus driver for safety because I was alone and without a mahram. Despite my fears of being harassed, nobody ever bothered me alhamdulillah.
Khadija picked me up and took me back to her house. While chatting with Khadija, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that her
driver kept looking at me in the rear-view mirror. He was probably having a field day seeing the unveiled face of a non-mahram woman. Even though he was an older brother, I still felt uncomfortable.
This was one of the first of many instances of feeling uncomfortable when out and about in Ibri. Whenever I accompanied Khadija around town, most of the men would stare unabashedly at me. It wasn’t that I was gorgeous, I do alright, but I think it was my light skin and uncovered face that attracted so much attention. I have never liked to draw attention to myself and was constantly embarrassed. I also stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the veiled women and was very conscious of the fact that I looked like a foreigner.
I yearned to wear niqab. I wanted to hide behind its anonymity from the prying eyes of those men who lacked the willpower to stop gazing at my face. I realized that being more modest could help bring me closer to the pleasure of Allah. The man who would later become my husband desired that I wear niqab. I viewed satisfying his request as another way to please Allah.
From time to time, Khadija and I discussed wearing niqab. She instilled courage in me and was an ideal role model being a niqabi herself. One day she gave me an extra niqab which I still have to this day, barakAllahu feehaa ameen. I was excited and waited until I could try it on in private. Flipping back the top layers, I was stunned by the reflection in the mirror. A mysterious woman looked back at me as I admired her in her niqab masha’Allah. Was this woman really me?
I liked it alhamdulillah! The material was Saudi cotton gauze which made it easier to breathe, a plus in hot weather. Now I was incognito, nobody I didn’t know could recognize me. I blended in with the local women and strangers spoke to me in Arabic, not realizing that I was (gasp) American! Niqab covered my blemishes when I was having a bad face day. I was empowered, nobody could see my face without my permission. What a blessing not to have my face on display for those men who couldn’t or wouldn’t lower their gaze. You can’t see me, nananana boo boo.
I liked it so much I continued to wear it when I moved to Bahrain 2 months later. For those who know, Bahrain is very modern Muslim country. Not too many women wear niqab. For those who do, there is a suspicion that they might be prostitutes. Some prostitutes are known for doing business while using the niqab as a disguise to trick the police. I was chased by men although I was covered from head
to toe in black, with the exception of my eyes and hands. This mostly happened whenever I walked in public alone. Unfortunately, I had to take my niqab off while working in a mixed gender international school. I worked there during my last three months in Bahrain and wore it off and on.
Back in the US, my iman was not high enough to wear the niqab so I kept it off. I didn’t feel brave enough to wear it in a non-Muslim country. Shallow excuses, I know. I felt guilty not wearing it and strived to be like the few niqabis I saw in Missouri. They looked so beautiful and confident masha’Allah. It seemed that nothing prevented them from donning what they had the freedom to wear. Even though I constantly strived to wear niqab, I cared too much about what my family and strangers would think of me and not enough of what Allah thought of me. I worried that I would bring harm to myself from Muslim haters when I should have trusted in Allah that He would protect me.
Now that I’m in Saudi Arabia, I feel that Allah has given me a second chance. I couldn’t imagine not wearing niqab here. And if I ever return to the US, I hope that I can wear my niqab with pride while fearing Allah and not His creation.
I’d like to conclude this article by reminding other sisters that no matter how we decide to cover, we all have one thing in common and that is being a Muslimah in this glorious Din al-Islam (Religion of Islam.) Amongst us Muslim women there is the one who doesn’t cover at all because she doesn’t think it is obligatory; the one who doesn’t cover and is striving to; the hijabi who covers everything except her face and hands; the hijabi who is striving for niqaab; the niqaabi that believes covering everything is wajib and the niqaabi who believes it is only encouraged. Who is the best? The one that is the most pious. Which one is the most pious? Allah Knows Best!
*13 August 2011 update: My current views on niqab is that it is mustahabb and wajib in some circumstances. I have deleted the contents of the article, “Why I Wear Hijab Not Niqab” because I do not wish to be associated with it any longer. There is a webmaster of a website called, Islam For Today, who still has my old article up but I can’t reach him through the email address he lists on the website. His name is Hussein Abdulwaheed Amin so if anyone knows current contact details for him please email me. If you find it on other websites/blogs, please alert me at taraummomar at gmail dot com so that I can request it be taken down insha’Allah. JazakumAllahu khair, Tara Umm Omar