World Hijaab Day-My Hijaab Story


World Hijab Day-2018

Today is World Hijab Day; a movement started by New York resident Nazma Khan as a means to invite non hijaab wearing women (Muslim and Non-Muslim) alike to join for one day and wear the hijaab. The idea is to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, in this case-hijab. This day was started in 2013 a post 9/11 world, where hate crime against Muslims is on the rise.

I am all for trendy movements because if nothing else, at the very least they help bring an otherwise taboo subject to the fore.  World Hijab Day has many critics and I fully understand where the criticism is coming from and don’t necessarily disagree or think that the criticism is unfounded (but more on that later). I don’t like the idea of simplifying complex problems through joining a trending movement, and that is precisely why I have decided to write on it today-you know own my own narrative.

Most people associate hijab with oppression and a lack of choice. I want to share my story because if anything, it is a story of choice-but my intention is to also be very honest and forthcoming-The words following have never been spoken to a wider audience but only to a very few close and trusted friends and family members. This piece definitely is going to be raw, unadulterated real talk from the heart–so fasten your seat belt as I take you onto my Hijaab journey.

My Hijaab Story?

hijab story
Photo Credit:

I was 14 when my dad gave us the impeccable news that we as a family were getting an opportunity to go for Hajj. I had just turned 14 that month of April in 1996. My dad who is known to do things by the seat of his pants-impulse decisions are his forte, had applied for the hajj application that year, at the absolute last moment right before the deadline. Most people when embarking on this journey, go as husband and wife, not my father. All of his friends advised him not to go with the children, but he said: ‘either we are all going, or none of us is going.’ There he was-planning the journey of a lifetime with his wife, and 4 of his children-the youngest of us being 6 at the time. As luck would have it, or destiny or just simply the call of Allah, our application was accepted (against all odds)-At the time, we lived in the small island of Bahrain-next to the peninsula of Saudi Arabia.

Photo Source:

Soon after the application, we started planning for the hajj. We had all been fortunate enough to go for Umrah prior to this-so we understood where we were headed. I was excited, overjoyed at the prospect of being at 2 of my favourite places, Kabah and Masjid-ul-Nabwi. The hijaab story kind of begins here but let’s go back to my childhood for the 1st seeds that were planted. The hijaab and I have almost always had a love hate relationship-and in the next few paragraphs I will elaborate on this.


I grew up in a moderately traditionally conservative typical Pakistani household. We weren’t very strict practitioners of the faith of Islam. My paternal grandfather (Dada Jaan) was probably the only and the most pious man I have ever known and I am the eldest grandchild on my dad’s side of the family-which means that where I experienced immense love and attention, I also was the guinea pig for most restrictions placed upon any kid in our household. When I was younger and we lived with my grandparents, he insisted I wear a dress (or frock as we called them) with a shalwar. Even at that young age of perhaps 6-8, I did not want to be making a fashion faux pas (this style is all the rage nowadays-see images below. Maybe Dada jaan was just a very fashion forward guy?)

So, instead I traded in my beautiful dresses for elegant shalwar kameez with a dupatta. It made my grandfather happy, and saved me the shame of a horrendous fashion mistake.

young maheen
Young me-rocking my shalwar kameez-Clearly, I have always loved colour too much

Fast forward to the year 1994, I came to visit Pakistan from Bahrain and stayed at my grandparents. Unlike many girls my age, I was taller, and actually looked a lot older than my age. I think that was my last growth spurt because I clearly did not get any taller.

There I am looking the oldest amongst all my cousins. Believe it or not, the one in the pink striped shirt is only a year younger than me. And the one in red with a bob is only 8 months older-

My grandfather, who had a way with words, told me to wear the duppata on my head. I had long, luscious silky hair, that my Dada Jaan wanted me to confine to the duppata. He explained to me that covering my head is like adding a frame to an already beautiful picture. I was an obedient child, dared not to argue my case then, and so I did what he said, albeit defiantly. I had it on, but I Hated it. I walked around day and night with the duppata on my head-deep down hating this curse placed upon me by my grandfather.


I didn’t wear it when we went outside, but this rule imposed upon me was followed to the T in my grandfather’s home. My mom’s sister happened to visit us during that time from Karachi. My aunt, being the youngest, was a woman of fashion, and I was also close to her-I remember standing in the kitchen and crying to her that I have been forced to wear this abomination on my head. She empathised, heard my cries-but could not do much to change my situation. I prayed and waited for the days we would leave. Once I left Islamabad, the dupatta was off and freedom was mine again.

My last time with my Beloved Dada (grandfather) in 2006
The Last time I ever was in the presence of my beloved Dada Jaan -August 2006-

My father occasionally would also insist that I wear the hijab, but I never did. Unlike my grandfather, I could tell my dad that I will wear it when and if I decide to wear it. When we were preparing for our hajj in 1996, I recall someone said to me that once you do Hajj, Hijaab becomes absolutely compulsory on you. I was not ready to hear this-but I sat there and made dua that Allah help me in this. My father wanted me to buy an abaya to wear on the Hajj Journey-I was never an overt rebel, but did defy within limits-I told my mother there is no way I am buying an abaya.  I will wear a Chaddor and that is more than enough and you need to tell dad to back off.

The top part is the kind of chaddor I wore on Hajj 1996 with my Shalwar Kameez beneath it

I didn’t end up buying an abaya before going on the journey despite my father’s constant insistence. (I did end up buying an abaya whilst in Madinah-but that is for another post-hint it relates to the ‘Me Too’ Campaign). I didn’t want to wear the abaya for Hajj only and then take it off-it seemed kind of hypocritical to me.  I had made an intention before going that I will come back and wear the hijaab since it is compulsory. I dared not share this with anyone and kept it a secret that was between me and God.


They really did not make beautiful abayas back then like they do now. Check out these modern beauties.


Once hajj was completed and we came back, I had started wearing the Hijaab-my father was overjoyed that I had made this decision on my own-and so began my hijaab wearing days.

What is my relationship with hijaab today?


Remember when I said my relationship with the hijaab is a love and hate relationship? Well, that stands true. Soon after hajj, we found out that we will be moving to Canada. I knew that I will not be taking my hijaab off to fit better in my new home. I could be quite resolute when required even at that young an age. In December of 96, we flew into Vancouver, Canada-I was very proud of my hijaab. My first secondary school that I joined in Canada, I was the ONLY Hijaabi in the school, if not the only Muslim girl. I was also the first person in my entire family to be wearing a hijaab. There was a level of uniqueness and pioneer-like feeling that made me love it dearly. I was a cadet in the 767 Dearman Squadron of the Royal Air Cadets of Canada-the first Hijaabi in my squadron-my hijaab always matched my uniform -but because it was never uniform issued, I could not wear the badge on it. I used to wear the wedge on top of the hijaab just so I could have my badge on. In my second year, before our Annual Parade, I was finally issued a matching hijaab-which was basically the approved Sikh Turban fabric. My hijaab was finally part of my official uniform and I could put my badge on it. This was a Hoorah moment.


I also was one of the first, if not the first girl to wear Hijaab amongst all my friends and family friends. This being the first to do it and the fact that I stood out as different is what kept me in Love-I guess, I have always been a fan of being a sore thumb.

dearman squadron
Shout out too 767 Dearman Squadron


University Is When It Changed!

Finally, at Simon Fraser University, I had friends who wore the hijaab. We had things to share in common like what a bad hijaab day does to ruin your entire day. But, as I started getting older, I started feeling distant or a bit of a disconnect from hijaab. I noticed a rise in women who started wearing the hijaab judging those who didn’t. All of a sudden sin and piety was added to the mix. I used to be those women who believed hijaab was obligatory and not wearing it was a sin. Remember, I started wearing it because someone said that you must wear it after hajj, not because I had done any research or learnt about it properly. I am a bit of an agnostic when it comes to the hijaab-not 100% sure that not wearing it is a sin, nor 100% sure that it isn’t a prescribed tenet.

My University’s Convocation Mall-Making an appearance in 6th Day. Yeah that is right, I went to a celebrity University-It has been in many movies


I started to learn the differences in opinion on the way we understand hijaab to be a piece of clothing for the head. The more I read, and the more I learnt, I came to a different realization. Hijaab in the Quran is never mentioned to refer to the piece of cloth on our heads. This is a very colloquial use of the word. Hijaab was the veil that was between God and the Prophet PBUH on the Night of Ascension, the injunction for the Mothers of the Believers to be behind a partition when speaking to others and a few other references referring to Partition between good and evil, light and dark.

hijaab ahzaab
The Verse Referencing Hijaab in reference to the Mothers of the Believers. I have highlighted the word Hijaab.

Hijaab is never referred to in the Quran as a head covering. The term used is Khimar and the historical definition of what a Khimar differs vastly from what we understand to be the hijaab today.

The verse referring Khimar, a common interpretation for the present day Hijaab


There is no denying that Islam promotes modesty-but modesty is a concept not just limited for women-nor is it just about our clothing. Modesty in all aspects of our lives-modesty in thought, in action, in the way we dress-in the very way we live our lives. I think I am more inclined not to believe that hijaab is mandatory because of the sudden religio-political rise of it. I find the idea that person’s level of piety is somehow directly correlated to a piece of cloth. Last time I checked, the rules of the Quran weren’t divided into Hijaabi Quran and Non-Hijaabi Quran.


I vehemently defend the right of women who choose to wear the hijaab because in 2018-what a woman wears should not be a topic of debate or used as a political tool to otherwise and scaremonger against a group of people. I also just as vehemently defend the right of a woman who chooses to not wear it because there is enough evidence to suggest that the Hijaab has been a manufactured concept by a very strict religio-political ideology. Many women around the world have not been given the choice whether to wear the hijaab or not-Women in Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting for their right to choose. The state has no place in dictating what a woman wears. I am glad, that I was lucky enough to make that decision myself despite the fact, that men in my life initially tried to dictate that onto me.

This is a really good TedEx Talk by Samina Ali outlining how modern day hijaab is a religio-political construct

I will admit that I am not a very strict follower of hijaab. Most days, I will have some defiant hair showing through the folds of the hijaab. It won’t be the end of my life, if the hair shows. But, this relaxed attitude is probably because of what I have come to see hijaab as. After all these years, I have yet to perfect my hijaab and I often wonder how most women keep their hijaabs looking spectacular. I struggle still on many days with whether I want to continue wearing it, whether I still love it as much. There are days when I wish I would throw it off. But, so much of my existence and identity has been tied to being a prominently visible Muslim-and to me that is the purpose the hijaab serves now. It is an identifier. I am proud of my faith, even if on most days-my faith is under the microscope and in constant negative limelight. I am proud to showcase that being Muslim is not what the media will have you believe and the hijaab just happens to make me visible as a Muslim. But, with this visibility comes the burden of carrying the faith on my shoulders and speaking for the entire Muslim population-and that is a burden too heavy to carry.  I like being a sore thumb and being a representative of my faith, but I also do NOT want you to judge my actions (you know when I get angry and swear at someone) as indicative of my entire faith. See-I am full of paradoxical conundrums!

Hijaab has become increasingly commercialized in the recent years. To me, there is a disconnect with the idea of modesty, when it leads to excessive consumerism. I think the Hijaabi bloggers/vloggers have played a huge role in shedding a different and often positive light on the hijaab, or at least has brought Muslim women out from the shadows. We are no longer just voiceless, faceless, draped in dark cloths-we are powerful, independent, feisty women and this at least helps debunk a lot of myths surrounding Muslim women. But, I struggle with the commercialization of it. Hijaab, if we were to accept as a mandatory edict should have been an equalizer, but nowadays Muslim women are cool, so long as our preferences for modest clothing support the status quo of capitalism. Retailers have caught on that Muslim Women will spend on modest clothing, and are carrying hijaabs and modest clothing as part of their regular fashion lines. It isn’t about our voices or our real struggles-we are the token poster child for diversity.

This is why, I hope that initiatives like World Hijaab Day allow everyone an opportunity to hear our real stories- not the commercialized, watered down version of being Muslim and a Hijaabi. This is why I have shared my truth rather than be a poster child for hijaab-and I hope you will hear our struggles and realize our humanity. I am hoping that with this realization, we will also build more tolerance and love. We are all just human beings trying to get by in this thing called life-with our different beliefs and often times practices that seem eccentric. I invite you to walk a mile in our scarves-see how high winds, sunshine, rain, can either ruin or make our day. We don’t have bad hair days; we have bad Hijaab days.


bad hijab day

This is a blog hop for World Hijab Day so please do take the time to read the posts of these lovely ladies:

world hijab day widget

What Keeps Women from Starting Their Own Business?

Many people dream of having the freedom of setting their own hours and being their own boss, however many people never actualize the plans to start their own business.


What are the five biggest things that keep women from starting their own business.

  1. Fear
  2.  Lack of Support
  3. Finances
  4. Time Committment
  5. Failure

1. Fear


The fear of failure, and the uncertainty whether the venture will be successful is one of the many reasons many women do not start their own business. They get tied down to working for their bosses, working according to their bosses’ demands and schedules, and often struggle with balancing work and personal life. Often, this fear is baseless, but mostly this fear is a result of many other factors impacting a woman’s life.

2. Lack of Support


Often times women do not have the support from their loved ones to propel them into achieving their dreams. This is a difficult journey to undertake on your own, and with constant criticism and questioning, it becomes even harder to take the leap of faith. It is imperative that women build a support network that helps them towards fulfilling their dreams.

3. Finances


Let’s be honest, the biggest reason any of us ever goes to work is financial independence and the ability to support ourselves. In a cut throat environment, where living expense are constantly rising, both partners need to work to support a family. This is one of the biggest reasons women will not start their own business.

4. Time Commitment


We already struggle to balance our work and personal lives. Starting a new business is a lot of work, a lot of unpaid hours to initially set up and start up, a lot of wakeful nights, and research. Let’s be honest, it requires us to give time that we already don’t have. We get comfortable with our routines and it is definitely easier to continue to do that then stir the pot.

5. Failure


The constant questioning and fear of failure will hold us back from achieving our dreams. If you have failed before, then you are even more scared to take on a risky venture.

Combine all of the above and it is the kryptonite for most brilliant ideas that keep you awake at night. Most of those ideas then die on your pillow top. How best to get over all these and find the inspiration you need to be your own boss. Join @UpliftConnections on 16th of March 2017 for #ANightOfInspiration in Celebration of #IWD2017 #BeBoldForChange as we discuss the above and help you on the road to becoming your own boss.


For more information visit:

Like us on our facebook page at:

Follow us on twitter: @Uplift_connect.