This story is an excerpt from the book called “Meeting the challenge of Parenting in the West,” by Dr. Ekram Beshir. Her 10-year-old daughter wrote: “I just happened to be living in Ottawa, Canada, when I was faced with it [the decision to begin wearing hijab]. At the time I was a fourth grade student enjoying the freedom of a long teachers strike. While they walked the picket lines, I played in the backyard with my sisters and brainstormed over my list of ‘Eid presents. Yes, ‘Eid was coming up and my teachers were on strike. How wonderful! There’ll be so much time to decorate the house, bake the goodies, and pick the new outfits!
So when I had to choose whether or not I would wear hijab, I was surrounded by Muslim friends and themes. So I decided that I was prepared to wear hijab and meet my public school friends at the beginning of the next school year. (The expectation was that the strike would go on for the rest of this year and we would return to school next year.)
Then, to my dismay, one night before I went to sleep my sister told me that the strike was over.
“Over! No! No! No! No! That can’t be! The strike’s not over until next year! What am I going to do?”
I put on my prayer clothes and prayed Isha’. Though I said every word of Surat al-Fatiha and did every rak’ah and every sajdah, my mind was not understanding the actions or the beautiful words. After the prayer, I went to the stairway railing where I stood calling my mother. She had visitors over that night and my father and her were sitting with them in the livingroom. I don’t know how long I actually stood at the railing and whined for my mom, but it felt like forever. Finally, when she came, she found me weeping on my bed still in my prayer clothes. “Mama,” I squeaked, “the strike is over.”
“Yes I know, Sweetie,” my mother said, squeezing my hand.
“What am I going to do?” I asked my mother this question expecting her to wipe my tears and hand me the answer, but I had come to a point in my life where I had to make the major decision.
My mother stood by me and comforted me with warm hugs and verses from the Qur’an until my weeping became sniffling. But my mother did not carve the answer in stone and give the stone to me. Instead, she explained to me the reasons to wear hijab that my little 10-year-old mind could grasp. She explained all the benefits that I would get in this life and in the hereafter from wearing the hijab. And then she asked me what I wanted to do.
“You will be upset if I don’t wear it,” I said.
“No Sweetie, ” my mom assured me, “we won’t be upset with you.”
Many times I voiced my concern about displeasing my parents. The reason I cared so much what they thought was because they had given our relationship lots of love, care, guidance, and understanding. So I wanted to make my parents happy with me. But my mom didn’t want me to wear the hijab out of fear of my parents and so that night she reassured me time and time again that they would not be upset with me if I didnt wear it.
“What about Allah?” I asked. “Allah will be mad if I don’t wear the hijab.”
“In sha’Allah, Allah will understand if you can’t wear it right now, because you are so young and we don’t live in a Muslim country,” my mom told me. “Now you can get ready for it and when you grow a little older you can wear the hijab.”
“But Mama,” I responded. “Allah knows everything. So, if He picked me to wear the hijab now, then He knows I can. So I can do it now.”
I had spoken those words through heavy tears but nevertheless, I had spoken them.The fact that I had been the one to tell my mom I would wear the hijab and not vice versa made all the differences in the world. I had made the decision myself and that gave me more confidence when I walked out of the house the next day with my scarf on my head.
I think, I was only able to make that decision because of my parents’ support and continuous gentle advice at various stages of my life; and the fact that I had a role model with me every day, who never forced me to do anything against my wishes, but always led me by example.
When I arrived to school, my friends, who assumed I was my older sister, asked me where I was. When I pointed to myself, they said, “Oh, you’re wearing it now. Cool!” And to my surprise life went on normally. When I got home that afternoon, I gave each one of my parents a long hug. It was a thank you for their precious admonition and advice.