Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
November 2013


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A Matter for the Heart

I am 39 years old and I have been wearing hijab since the age of 20, which is nearly half my life. I decided to wear hijab after many, many months of contemplation. I had been thinking about life, the purpose of life, the natural spiritual equilibrium that the soul craves, the giving up of the self and a newly found devotion and love of the Divine. That, mixed with my rebellious nature, led me to the hijab. Was it an easy decision? I would say the decision was in me all along and the manifestation of it came to fruition at that particular point in my life. In many ways it was a natural progression in my spiritual development at the time.

There was a mixed reaction from my family after I made my decision. Friends were supportive but some family members became quite irate. There was a long period of time where I wasn’t allowed to wear it in my family home. I would have to leave the house through the backdoor, put my hijab on and leave through the garage. Returning home, I used to take my hijab off in the garage before entering the house. Negative remarks and disdainful looks came my way on a daily basis even though I was raised in an Albanian-Muslim family. Until this day, much to the surprise of many people who make the assumption that all Muslim women are ordered or forced into hijab, I remain the only female in my entire extended family who wears the head scarf.

I have never felt uncomfortable wearing hijab in public although I have been surprised on a number of occasions at the reaction some people have towards me, from smiles and warm greetings to outright disdain and abuse. There are times when I wonder why people react negatively. Nevertheless, the hijab is a part of me…

I don’t think that wearing hijab makes you a more ‘authentic’ Muslim woman than a woman who doesn’t. By the way, these days my Mother (who is also now a wonderful grandmother) is more than happy to see my hijab come through the front door. I understand now that at the beginning she thought I was making an arrogant statement about my ‘superior’ spirituality; she thought that by wearing hijab I was being haughty and openly declaring to all and sundry that I was a more devout Muslim than other women who didn’t ‘cover’. Even today I sometimes think that women who don’t wear hijab are sometimes more judgmental towards women who do (the ‘hijabis’, as we’re called) rather than the reverse as is often implied.

Devotion is a matter for the heart and I would never consider myself more, or less, devout than another person. My mother wasn’t able to understand why I would want to give myself ‘a hard time’ in life because as a mother she worried that people wouldn’t like me if I wore the scarf; she worried that they wouldn’t employ me or treat me equally in a non Muslim country.

Some people wonder whether the hijab makes a Muslim woman more ‘authentic’. Well, the only thing I can say is this—hijab may not make me more ‘authentic’ but it definitely makes me more identifiable as a Muslim. And I like that I am.

Nur Shkembi