The Hijab Diaries: Going Back to School


http://www.flickr.com/photos/rcsj/2915797223/in/photostream/By Gabrielle Deonath

The Hijab Diaries: Part I | Part II

Because I started wearing my hijab in the beginning of this past summer, a thought that was always in the back of my mind was how people in school would react to the change I’d made. How would acquaintances and friends treat me? Would the people I had previously had problems with mock me?

All summer while I was wearing my hijab, I felt comfortable and confident. I would have conversations with co-workers or classmates about Islam or religion in general. I felt so happy and free to be myself. As much as I tried to analyze what people would think, for the most part, I thought I would be confident and have a different perspective, socially, this year.

After two months of being away, the first day of school came and went. I remember seeing some friends I hadn’t seen all summer who were very supportive of my hijab. I remember my health teacher telling me how pretty I was (She’s a female. Don’t freak out!). No one stared, no one asked any questions, no one seemed to care about my change. I was happy, but some part of me didn’t feel completely comfortable either.

Before, I was always a loner. I just enjoyed being with my own thoughts, rather than getting caught up in high school drama that I’d had enough of and wanted to take no part in. This time, it somehow felt different. Over the summer, I had become friends with people who were in college. They seemed more in my headspace. They were thinking about their future and they were more mature in socialization skills; we just had much more in common than I’d ever had with anyone in my own grade. I went from feeling very connected and confident to feeling very detached, alone, and insecure.

I also had what I would describe as paranoia. If someone was laughing with a friend and they were looking at me, I would assume they were mocking my hijab and/or Islam. I somehow felt people were treating me differently, even though in actuality, everyone was treating me pretty much the same. I cried the first Friday I spent in school. I was overwhelmed by my feelings and I didn’t have anyone to turn to. Being a practicing Muslim was new to my life, so it was hard for me to believe that I didn’t need anyone else, except Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).

After I calmed down and a few adults and an old friend soothed my feelings, life began to change. I gained that confidence back, little by little. I realized that yes, I look different than I did before, but that’s all that changed. I always had the morals of Islam in my heart; I just never outwardly showed it. I soon began to get into the grind of school, and the workload began to take over that empty time I had.

I started a club about religious awareness and tolerance, which kept me busy and gave me something to be passionate about that involved Islam. My idea for the club came to me this past school year when I was still deciding about whether to wear the hijab. I wanted a way to connect to others on this journey so I thought starting an MSA would be a good idea, but unfortunately, there aren’t many Muslim students in my school. Plus, those that are there are interested in other things besides Islam. I, then, thought about a club about religious tolerance and acceptance. I believed this would be a great way to spread Islam’s message and squash the misconceptions that many Americans have about it. We’ve had some really interesting conversations in the club. People want to learn about Islam and understand our religion. We’re also able to see many of the similarities between the major religions. The turnout wavers meeting to meeting, which is expected with any new club, but for the most part, it has been an uplifting, encouraging experience.

Going back to school has been a normal experience. Much of the anxiety I’ve had stemmed from my own insecurities and paranoia. It’s like going into school with a broken limb: in the beginning, it’s a big deal and everyone wants to help, but eventually, you’re left on your own and people don’t really care. If you are worried about what people are going to think, whether it’s your co-workers, or your classmates, don’t let it hold you back. You never know when your last day will be. People are generally very open-minded and encouraging. This decision is for you and Allah (swt) alone. Remember that Allah is always watching over you and He never gives you more than you can handle.

Gabrielle Deonath is sixteen years old and is a new hijabi. She is of Indian and Guyanese decent. She is a student in high school. She strives to learn about new things about Islam every day, and implement what she learns in her life as best as she can. She hopes her story can help other sisters who are in the spot she once was.

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15 Comments

  1. Sabah says:

    You go girl! So proud of ya :) sounds like my own little story when I started wearing my hijab at 19 yrs old. Best decision in my life. I never looked back. Alhumdulillah!

  2. Girl says:

    I went through some of the same emotions when I started! But I started on a random weekend during my college semester. I was in an anthropology class (that had 2 other muslim students in it) and we were actually starting our unit on women in different cultures. The unit included a day focusing on hijab. I was soooooo nervous to step into class, and when I did, everyone stared straight at me. I think the muslim students smiled a bit, but that embarrassed me even more. And when the professor asked me my opinion on hijab since I had just started over the weekend, all I did was stutter! Well Alhamdulillah, now I think I’m a bit more confident :D I just laugh when I think back to that day.

  3. Gabrielle Deonath says:

    Salaam everyone! Thank you for your support and kind words. I have also started a YouTube channel to help other hijabis balance this dunya and Islam. Please spread the word! JazakAllahu Khair! My channel is misshijabi101.

  4. Yasmin says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your very inspirational story with us! Inshallah Allah (swt) will reward you immensely for your dep faith!

  5. Nora says:

    Your story is very inspiring. This is good for me to convey it to my little daughters who are in the process of growing up. May Allah guide all of us.

  6. Rafeea says:

    Gaby, I honestly don’t have the words to describe how proud and happy I am to say you r my cousin and installah I can be like you one day. You are truly a blessing. May Allah continue to guide you on the path to janat ul firdaus. And bless your parents as well. :) love u

  7. Tauseef says:

    May Allah bless your efforts in following His path. There’s a saying, ‘No one can make you feel anything.’ It’s a simple saying, but it is difficult to incorporate it into your daily life. What it means is, any anxiety, embarrassment, awkwardness, discomfort, etc, that you feel, from you hijab or anything else, comes completely from within, from your reaction to your circumstances. The trick is, no one else knows what your emotions are, so if you want to go ahead and feel something different, like happiness, security, comfort, confidence, gratitude to Allah or humility, you can simply decide to feel that way by reminding yourself why you should feel positive instead of remaining to feel negative. Practice reacting positively. Just practice your positive feelings and the world around you will change, with Allah’s blessings.

    • Gabrielle Deonath says:

      Thank you so much for your reply. I’ve really learned how to deal with it. I’m completely confident now, I do understand what you mean. JazakAllahu khair!

  8. Aziza says:

    JazakAllah Khair sister Gabrielle for this beautiful and timely article. This is my first semester at college wearing my hijab, and just like you, I have found people to be supportive and not to treat me any different at all. I can relate to you a bit because I am the only one wearing hijab and it can be scary, especially in the beginning. But I slowly am starting to feel more at ease. I firmly believe that you have that sincere wish in your heart, Allah will pull out all the stops and make your journey easy. May He continue to give you strength and guidance and support and make your club successful…what a great idea!

  9. Rubaba says:

    16 years? Maashaa Allah. Beautiful. Jazaakumul Laahu khairan

  10. Farah says:

    Gabrielle, you are such an inspiration, mashaAllah. May Allah (swt) strengthen your resolve with each step, and aid you in your wonderful endeavors. You are very proactive – starting the club in your school, and now a youtube channel. Perhaps when you have time you could compile your essays into a little book :) Then I’ll buy a copy and give it to my own little girl (who is very little yet)

  11. Salsabil says:

    JazakAlllah Khair! Gabrielle, It’s so wonderful that you are braving through these trials with your strength and commitment to Islam. Truly, when a trial hits a believer, it is only Allah who is trying to test the strength in their Iman so don’t you ever give that up!MashAllah,you’re really taking the lead by starting the club,so continue this. May Allah guide and bless you!The Muslim community would be proud.:)

  12. zaynab says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your very inspirational story with us! Inshallah Allah (swt) will reward you

  13. Sheena says:

    I love you Gabby. I am so proud of you. Reading this made me think back to how I was in high school. I was definately someone that had other things on my mind besides Islam. My mind couldn’t come near the thought of doing anything like this. You are so strong Gabby. I really am so very proud of you.

  14. Maha says:

    Gabs, Mashallah. I am incredibly proud of you beyond compare. What you have done, and continue to do so, will be the extra boost for another person struggling. They will be able to see that it’s possible even when the tough gets going. Continue being strong!

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