Our first guest blogger Loulwa Kalache talks about her experience of wearing the veil at the age of 24.
by: Loulwa Kalache
On May 20, 2012, I was putting the first touches on my crown. It was a coronation for a new Loulwa.
I was putting the Hijab.
It wasn’t just about a piece of cloth that I merely put, it was an actual transformation of my state.
Why did I become a “Mouhajaba” at age of 24?
In 2011, I was going through a lot of personal hardships. Yet it was during this time, that I found myself kneeling to Allah. I found myself fully submissive to His will only.
Although, earlier I was pious in following almost all basic duties of Islam, praying, saying the Shahadah, fasting, believing in judgment day and the prophets…etc However, I wasn’t feeling Islam properly. I wasn’t actually submissive fully to the will of Allah. I put a lot of worldly things before Allah.
Thus, I started feeling a tiny growing feeling in my heart that made me create a long forgotten relationship with my God. Until there was a significant day, I decided what I want from this life. It was a day that I asked and prayed for God to guide me through, to show me the way, and to find me a solution to end this dispute and get rid of the worldly attachments. Indeed, a spiritual revolution occurred inside of me.
In that year, I planned to be a better Muslim; to perfect my prayers, to wake up and pray fajr, to read Quran every day, and to deliver the right message about Islam to others. I did my best to do all these. But there was something missing that I was not following. It was one basic element that God asked from women specifically, which was to cover their heads and bodies.
But what was hindering me?
Despite I was raised in an Islamic setting where my parents always wanted me to wear the veil, they never forced it on me. They used to explain to me the consequences of not putting it versus putting it. I never listened to them and I refused to put it at a young age.
Deep in my subconscious, I was afraid of being labeled as mouhajabah. I wanted to be “free” and not chained by a cover over my hair.
I created this mindset believing that mouhajabeh can’t do anything. And that a mouhajabah is perceived as a “shy”, “behind the man”, and not outgoing persona. And that she will be labeled differently. What was I thinking back then? Indeed, I was blind, and ignorant with these stereotypes. Excuse me for that.
So society or people were never the hindering agent. The only struggle I was facing was my own self. So as soon as I let go of this foolish mindset, I decided to put the veil. I wanted to represent Islam properly. I want to show them what it is to be a Muslimah that can follow religion and at the same time be an activist, a hard worker, and a sociable person …A veil can never hinder me, nor my ambitions.
When I put it, there were no remarkable challenges. I remember clearly the moment I put it: I was walking in Beirut, and I didn’t feel any less different. On the contrary, I felt more confident and proud.
Of course family and friends were surprised and happy. No one criticized me or told me to remove it…They did question my motives and reasons, perhaps out of curiosity. And even if some didn’t like that change, I didn’t really care.
Because it was not something I did between me and my society. It was something I did between myself and the Almighty. Because when someone is doing something purely for Allah, he or she doesn’t wait for the world to approve.
For years my parents have had one T.V. in the house. Me and my siblings would always fight over the remote control and what shows we were going to watch. Few were the moments when we all agreed on something and most of the times we would end up watching either a chick flick or a horrifying movie. In both cases no one was happy,if it was the girls turn to choose the show,the boys would make it impossible for us to watch because of their constant nagging and we would do the same to them just to make sure we were even. No one was happy except Makdis.
Makdis has been part of our family for the past two years, she cleans and does the dishes but most importantly she never complains about what T.V. show we are going to watch, what ever is on Makdis will watch and she always seems to enjoy it.
I really never paid attention to Makdis or what Makdis wanted to watch and for some reason I always assumed that she understood what we were watching whether in English or Arabic. I forgot that she was from Ethipoia, that she barely spoke Arabic or English and that this was the first time she had seen a T.V.
In an attempt to solve all the family disputes my parents decided to buy an additional T.V. set, of course we were all thrilled but no one was more excited than Makdis. The presence of a new T.V. empowered Makdis, now she could watch what she wants,when she wants and was not confined by our personal choices, instead she had the ability to hold the remote and control and choose her favorite shows.
Over the weeks I observed Makdis, in the morning she would watch a morning show with her nescafe and in the afternoon after all the housework was complete she would tune in for her favorite Turkish soap opera. Her life had been transformed!
The assumptions we make about people determine the way we treat them. I assumed that Makdis didn’t care about what we were watching but in fact she did, we assume that physically disabled people might be less intelligent so we speak loudly and slowly when in reality they are as smart as we are if not more.
Makdis’s story taught me a very important lesson, the basic needs of any human being such as laughter, the need for entertainment and having our own space are universal to all human beings whether they are from Lebanon or Ethiopia. The idea might seem cliche but in practice I realized that I was not really applying it.
Today Makdis enjoys a variety of TV shows and my siblings and I still fight over the remote.
“We can either choose to live in fear or speak up for ourselves. No matter how helpless we may feel, change is always an option.”