Inshallah this post finds you all well. I am writing this because inshallah it might help some other reverts with this internal conflict.
So, I will just dive right in. I converted before I meet and married the hubs. About two months after we married I began exclusively wearing abaya and jelbab. Part of it was a mindset that it was the only modest option and the other was the hubs having grown up with seeing women only wear jelbab and abaya had an association it was also the only form of modest dress. I say that in a 100% not bad way. We all form ideas and associate them throughout our lives.
Well, I struggled with abaya and jelbab especially during the summer. I didn't struggle as in felt oppressed it was the added weight of the garments, issues with length and mobility. Its hard to explain but at times wearing another culture's clothing exclusively (face it jelbab and abaya are cultural dress which also fit within the guidelines of Islamically acceptable clothing) felt almost like a rejection totally of a part of my cultural identity as an American. As a revert we have to learn, mesh, and form our own unique identity as Muslims. Take from our own traditions and culture's customs what is halal and forgo what is haram. An across the board rejection of our mother culture isn't part of Islam. Only rejecting what is bad and haram for us is.
Its a struggle and individual path each one of us have to walk and will uniquely form. From that meshing comes the American Muslim experience and identity. Many Muslims who are born and raised in Islam coming from Muslim majority cultures do not understand this struggle and may have misconceptions on what it means to revert to Islam and extend the reverting to that of the convert "converting" to their own culture. Because their culture and Islam are so closely intertwined what is part of Islam and what is part of their cultural practices they may or may not know the difference of. Another darker take is that of a feeling of cultural superiority over American culture thus the across the board rejection of the mother culture of the revert being insisted upon. As a convert I see it often and have personally felt it. The expectation to change my "American" name, cook only Arab food, decorate my home in Arab style ect ect ect. The hubs is Arab the pressure didn't come from him but from the communities we have lived in. Alhamduallah as a couple we have formed within our own home a beautiful balance from each of us which have given our home a deep diversity we cherish for our children. The only hang up was hijab. Covering was never in question, I.WANT.TO.COVER. How, in what manner was. I have been praying about it for over a year Alhamduallah about a month ago after ordering yet another expensive and straight up cheap horribly constructed frumpy selection of abayas and jelbab for almost $500 we were done. My husband asked if I wanted to go to Kohls to find clothing which may work since I was in a fashion pinch. I had worn my abayas threadbare. We went with an open mind checking the preconceived notions at the automatic door. Over the next hour we hashed it out outfit after outfit following the guidelines for Islamically acceptable clothing for women which are;
- That they do not imitate the clothing of men,
- That they do not imitate the clothing of the disbelievers - as in don't dress as to pass as a member of a specific religion with their specific religious dress. As in the habit of a nun, or the dress of the Amish or FLDS.
- That the garments are loose and cover the contours of the body
- That the garments are not transparent
Instantly we ditched pants. We may reevaluate wide leg later but for now we didn't find a pair we felt comfortable in. With the guidelines in hand I tried on dozens of outfits and left with 6 outfits which are Islamically acceptable and stylish. It felt liberating to me that I was able to reconcile these two aspects of myself. I stepped out with an outward reflection of my faith that corresponded with my mother culture and identity without sacrificing an ounce of modesty. I went home with a selection of maxi dresses, black skirts, blouses, and long cardigans. When I tried on the first outfit and walked into view in the changing room so the hubs could see, he was astonished. He said, "I didn't know it could look modest and nice." I didn't know it could look that way either. It opened a whole new world of fashion choices for me.
I am not 100% ditching the abaya and jelbab. They are a part of me just as much as my new maxi dress and cardi are. Each outfit choice has a time and a place. The versatility and diversity of my wardrobe now reflects my identity as an American Muslim. Embracing the new, the old, and forgoing that which is haram. Jelbab will always be my outfit of choice in cooler weather and when I need a more professional tailored look just as a maxi dress will be my mommy uniform of choice.
This is my path, my experince, my comfort level with "How I Hijab".