When looking at a person, we automatically make a judgement of that person based on the way they look, their height, weight, race, clothing, or just the way they carry themselves. 

With the millions of Muslim women who wear the hijab, it isn’t any different. The hijab, also known as a headscarf by many, is a piece of clothing a woman practicing Islam wears. Since the judgments implemented by society give people negative opinions about Islam, Muslim women bear the forefront of the hate and judgement, for they are the face of the religion. 

Today, many people around the world see Muslims as violent, radical people who oppress and force women to cover up. A woman who lived life on both sides shared her story with me about her journey to Islam. The revert sister talked about in this article says that growing up, the media was what taught her about Islam and the Muslim community, and it was pretty much all negative news.  

In order to respect her privacy, the revert sister’s full name will be left anonymous. 

Religion is a sensitive subject, as there are many differing opinions around it, so when one wants to proudly express their religion, it can be tough to do so. To most, religion is part of our identity, and being able to practice our religion, whether it’s in a mosque or in our own homes, we want a safe space. Masha, a revert sister I was able to meet, gave me the privilege to hear her story and share it with everyone. Over a cup of coffee at a Starbucks, we unraveled her story with laughs, smiles, and a few tears.  

With the hardships she had to face in 2018, like almost losing her life in a car accident, Masha didn’t know she would be taking her Shahadah (shah-hahduh) (a testimony of faith) at a Tim Hortons. As she mentioned, Islam was portrayed in a very negative way her entire life. Growing up in a Catholic household and going to Catholic schools all her life, she never completely believed what she was told to believe in. Masha was constantly conflicted and confused about the things she was taught and told to do. “There was always a feeling of not having enough purpose and just wanting to connect with a religion but not being raised into one that I felt that I could connect with.” 

When finally stepping out on her own to attend university, Masha began to venture off and find answers her heart had been yearning for all her life. Throughout university, she learned about Islam and finally, after graduating, her heart pushed her to finally take the step to reverting. To her, Islam always “felt as if it was carved out” for her. She says, “It was like that void that I had been missing and something that I felt I was naturally gravitating to my entire life.” 

As she found her identity within Islam, her journey was very difficult, with struggles within her own family. Since the media portrays Islam as violent and extreme, many around the world take this as what this religion truly is, like her family. They found it difficult and could not understand why she chose to revert and be a Muslim. With her faith fully in Allah, Masha stood by her decision and faced the struggles that came along, like being homeless and having to find shelter at NISA Homes. The home provided her with shelter and welcomed her with open arms. However, when at home, she had many fallouts within her family before and after she left the house. She mentioned that when she began to wear modest clothing, her family didn’t like it, believing that dressing modestly was something Muslim women were forced to do, not realizing that they were the ones oppressing her in that moment. As this life is filled with tests and hardships, to test our faith in Allah, all of these trials she faced were part of her journey. She continues to respect her family, but set boundaries and stood her ground with her faith, proudly wearing the hijab as a Muslim woman. From being someone who thought the hijab was a sign of oppression, to being a woman who chooses to wear the hijab, she shines with pride as a woman of Islam, representing it with her hijab. 

Because of the media, many think that hijabs represent oppression, when we, Muslims, value it as a sign of our faith and love for our religion. The hijab is more than just a piece of cloth wrapped around our heads; it’s a symbol of our identity and faith to God. She explains beautifully that the hijab is important because of the value one puts on it, like a ring or necklace gifted to them. 

“The idea is that objects do not inherently possess value, as they are material. The importance of the hijab is the values associated with it that one wants to represent, comparative to the way that some individuals attribute value to a necklace or any tangible material that was given to them by a loved one, [something] that they would never remove because of the value that it has for them. The hijab can be understood in this context. We would never be so quick to oppress someone who never removes that [valuable] necklace, but the hijab is not afforded the same level of understanding as an object that has a perceived inherent value in the Western world.” 

Over the years, the media has played a huge role in spreading misinformation about why a woman wears the hijab. With bans and bills in countries that oppress women and force them to remove their scarves, women around the world are struggling to confidently represent their faith in peace.

Many people around the world choose not to understand the hijab through the perspective of the person wearing it, and dismiss it as something wrong because it isn’t something they practice or understand. However, when you take the time to learn about why a woman chooses to dress a certain way, you learn to respect it because that is her choice. 

As we were finishing up our hot drinks and wrapping up our conversation, Masha mentioned that she wanted to share her story because someone out there may be going through similar hardships. She wanted to give them a sense of hope of better days to come.

May Allah (God) bless her with ease in her journey to Islam. May Allah bless us all in our journeys. Ameen.