by Asmaa Hussein
“I took my hijab off today. On my last early morning in Prince Edward Island, I visited a beach that was completely empty. I looked in every direction and there was not a person in sight.
No people around meant I could take my hijab off. So I did. The Atlantic Ocean breeze blew through my hair.
I didn’t know I would, but I cried big, hot tears. Because it felt wonderful. I was spending time with the ocean and some birds, none of whom looked at me or cared that I was there. And I wondered, “Is this how it feels to not wear hijab?”
I walked, and walked, with my orange hijab balled up in my fist. I looked into the vast body of water, and at the sky, and at my feet, and everything in between. I thanked God for bringing me here, to a place I have wanted to visit since I was a child.
And then it was time to go. I looked at my hijab and then in the direction of the parking lot. From far away I could see tiny figures and I knew a few people were starting to arrive.
I could’ve walked to my car without my hijab. No one here knows me. I could’ve pretended I was someone else for a moment. I could’ve felt the breeze for a bit longer.
But I didn’t. I said goodbye to the sticky salt wind, and I put my hijab on. My hijab blew in the wind, but it didn’t feel the same. Then I walked back to my car, re-entering the world as a Muslim woman.
A woman who is looked at, judged, and always held to a higher level of scrutiny. A woman who just wants to live her life, but is seen as a flag bearer for this faith. A woman who is imperfect, but has to hold up an image of perfection so as to honor others like her. And it’s so, so tiring. No man can understand this heaviness.
But as I walked back, I said to Allah: I do this for You and no one else. And though it’s hard, I will hold onto it. Tightly. Fiercely. With vigor and patience.
There is no other path I would choose, because He chose this for me. And I love and obey Him.
In Jannah, I’ll feel this breeze in my hair again. Cool and gentle and kind, carrying a scent that is better than that of a thousand oceans.
I will wait for that day. I think I can be patient for a while longer.”