As I migrate my person work to this site and turn Infinitely Classic into a community based blog, I thought it'd be fitting to kick this off with a partially updated Hijab Story. A lot of the content is the same from the one I posted almost two years ago but with updates.
“There was no where that I could turn to but God.”
My hijab story is quite a unique one thus I will start the story prior to when I first wore it. I was born almost 22 years ago in the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto to loving parents. My father, an Egyptian immigrant to Canada was raised Muslim while my mother, a Canadian by birth was raised Anglican Christian and converted to Islam 8 months prior to my birth. In fact, she converted two weeks before she found out she was pregnant with me. As a result of having practicing Muslim parents, I was always exposed to Islam and I always felt I resonated with my Egyptian side much more. From the age of 4, I went to Islamic classes daily after I would go to school (public school) and took Arabic courses almost daily as well. I loved Islam. I lived in a predominantly Muslim area which made it much easier for me.
When I was 8 years old, I ended up moving to the other end of Toronto where Islamic and Arabic classes were not accessible so I stopped going. That is when I started losing touch with it. My mother would pray and I would pray occasionally as I still was not at the age to be praying full-time yet and I did not fast. Sadly, I lost all my Arabic skills because I never had anyone to practice. Note: by this time, my father was not working or living in Toronto due to the nature of his field of work.
Fast forward 6 years and it was the first time I went to Egypt alone. I had a hard first year of high school as my grandmother died (in front of my eyes) 3 days before I started the 9th grade and coming to terms with my mental health issues. I had no self-confidence, I still held the times of bullying and loneliness in my head and most of all, I missed my grandmother. When I was in Egypt, I had a hard time. I was there for 9 weeks and the culture shock (despite being the 5th time that I had visited) really shook me. I felt very alone, secluded and isolated. There was no where that I could turn to but God. At that time, I had started praying full-time as I should have been for a couple years. I felt at ease, I felt purpose and I finally felt that Mariam was coming back. Despite my eventual struggles with my anxiety and depression, I always had a place of solace to go to, with my head on the ground submitting to the Lord. After reconnecting with my religion, I made myself a promise – to wear the hijab upon graduating high school. It was a promise that was not shared with anyone.
“It was a beautiful feeling. A new beginning and I finally felt content.”
Grade 10 ended up being a much better year for me. I still prayed, my grades were higher than ever (Thanks be to God I was always a decent student) and I finally had friends I could trust. I went to Egypt again in the summer all by myself and really learned more about Islam. It reaffirmed my promise that I was to wear the hijab in two years time. Grade 11 on the other hand, was a very tough year. My health was very poor, my anxiety was quite bad and my self-image was not at its best. Grade 12 was a good year and I luckily got into all the programs and universities that I applied to (Thanks be to God once again). After months of going back and forth, I picked the university I was going to attend. I chose the university because although it was still in my hometown, no one I knew was going to be in my program.
It was Ramadan 2013. I had graduated from high school and was 6 weeks away from starting university. I was sitting in my room and was pondering about my promise I had made three years prior. I suddenly felt ready. Ready to wear the hijab and fulfill my promise to myself. That day, in July 2013, is when I started wearing the hijab.
Wearing the hijab in my area was nerve-wracking at first as people knew me. However, once I started university, no one knew that I had just started wearing it. It was a beautiful feeling. A new beginning and I finally felt content.
End of 2013 – mid 2014
“The hijab to me is not just a cloth, it represents the journey I am on and the ones that I was on…”
I had been wearing the hijab for almost 4 months now and all was well. I was enjoying my program, I had made many new and great friends and I was happy. I did notice something strange. Some people treated me differently. I came to realize much later that it was because of my hijab and the misconception some people have of it. Sadly in my second semester of university, I became quite ill and had to take a leave of absence from my studies. That is when I started a downward trek. I was quite sad because that would put me a year behind and I had nothing to do. Due to my illness, I could not do much. I could not even put my head on the ground for sujood because of it and I honestly felt the impact. My faith was not faltering rather I was losing hope in myself.
A few months later, I was well on my way into recovery when a life changing event happened. I was on the subway when I noticed a woman looking at me funny. I never thought much about it. I was getting up a couple stops before mine just to stretch and offer my seat to someone who had a longer way to go. I felt that she spat at me. I minded my own business because I am not one to retaliate or act out. However, close to my stop, she started tugging at my hijab. That is what shook me. Something that took me years to put on was being tugged. The hijab to me is not just a cloth, it represents the journey I am on and the ones that I was on. The incident left me emotionally distraught. I was too scared to tell anyone so I kept it to myself. I sat in my room thinking about taking it off. Reasons being: safety, insecurity and being unsure. Two weeks later, after many sleepless nights, I decided to take it off in order to fully work on my Iman (Faith) while not blatantly looking like a Muslim.
End of 2014-Mid 2015
“It was something I had to do, not want to do”
Alhamdulilah (thanks be to God), the months after taking my hijab off were quite eye-opening. I really became more faithful to God, learned a lot more about Islam and about myself. I was still quite immersed into the Muslim community at my university. Some people misjudged me, including those closest to me but they have no idea how I felt taking it off. It was something I had to do, not want to do. No words can describe the pain of losing something that was a part of you. It was April 2015 when I had an epiphany. I knew I wanted to wear the hijab again, not sure when, but the desire was there. I was awaken by a vivid dream. A dream of my late geddo (grandfather – may God have mercy on him). I have had this connection with him since I was little. He died 10 months before I was born so I never got to physically meet him but I have in my heart. He encouraged me to face my fears, stand up for what I believe in and fought for so much and continue my dreams. He reaffirmed my belief that I am the same Mariam with or without the hijab and that those who love and cherish me will accept it. I woke up in tears. I needed that assurance. I was worried that when I were to put it on again, people would figure I would take it off again especially some closest to my heart. Two weeks later on, I wore the hijab again and this time I know it is permanent.
Mid 2015 to Present
“Today, I am the Mariam I am supposed to be.”
Today I am nearing 2 years of wearing the hijab again and I am so happy. I have not had the urge to take my hijab off once. I feel like I am strong in my beliefs and my goals to create a platform for folks like myself to express and do work no matter what their identities are. I was verbally harassed pretty badly a couple times since putting my hijab on. That period of “hiatus” gave me insight. Gave me the strength I needed to overcome so many of life’s obstacles and gave me the wisdom to stand far above and beyond those who belittle others for their amusement.
That being said, I cannot say that I am not worried about how this Trump presidency will echo and unleashed horrible sentiments in covert bigots. I fear for my sisters in hijab. I fear for my siblings of colour and for those who are ridiculed for being themselves. But what I am is hopeful. Hopeful that we marginalized folks will stand together through thick and thin.
Today, I am the Mariam I am supposed to be. The young, almost 22 year old, daughter, sister, fiancée, friend, classmate, entrepreneur, designer & blogger etc. Today is another day into my journey towards doing good for the world as I hope and dream to do.