This is not going to be a popular post but it’s how I feel.
I came to Islam without knowing a single Muslim. Many asked me to change my name but I refused. I am still Tuscany: always have been and always will be. I didn’t understand hijab at first since I didn’t meet other Muslims for a while. I wore a scarf over my hair but I kept wearing short sleeves because I didn’t know.
I posted several photos online like this and luckily, I didn’t know any of you who would make fun of me in my beginning moments. Instead, I was surrounded by kind people who taught me that hijab also included the arms. Later, they gave me my first abaya.
I was instantly so touched that they gave me something that I needed. I tried to wear it to every jummah so Allah would know that I’m trying hard. It was a constant reminder of my blessings when I wore it.
People would ask me, “Hey, I’m going to Jordan/Pakistan/Egypt/Saudi/Etc. Do you need anything?” I would always say clothes.
I converted in a July the day before Ramadan and I started wearing hijab literally overnight. It was hard going from eating every day to not eating or drinking sun up to sun down while having several more layers on. I started avoiding going outside though…
I suffer from heat strokes and I was scared all of the time that I was wearing too many clothes…that I would have to go back to the hospital again. However, when I wear an abaya or a Kameez, which are made in warm climates, I could have the freedom I wanted without worry. I could feel comfortable like I did before.
This was a double-edged sword. I was comfortable but suddenly, it was like my skin color was different. Was it really? Of course not. But in small town Indiana, I was no longer seen as white. People stopped hiring me. People would yell, curse, and spit on me for wearing clothes that looked like I was from somewhere else…it didn’t matter if I told them I was from here. They were convinced my parents were from overseas. I must speak Arabic. People always asked what I thought of 9/11.
It was a struggle because my parents couldn’t understand what it’s like no longer be seen as white. My mom begged me to stop being Muslim, and when I said no, she begged me to stop wearing the hijab. So I could be free from this hell, she said. She would call every day to tell me that Christ missed me and would accept me again regardless of my sins.
I said “No, Allah asked me to do this. As long as I have faith in Him, it will work out.” And it did.
I moved to a community with Muslims in it. You know, I cried a little the first time I saw other women wearing the same clothes as me. They were doctors, wives, friends, sisters, children, and mothers.
I got my first job, and I made some friends in the community. I struggled as all converts do navigating the thin line between culture and religion.
Many years later, here I am. I wear the abaya and the niqab BECAUSE I FEEL GOOD. I feel free and comfortable. I feel like I’m striving for the sake of Allah and I’m always learning more about the cultures around me. Careful to insist that my Midwestern culture not be forgotten but also not overtaking the culture they’re bringing to me…that we can mesh our pasts into something beautiful in the present.
The Prophet’s famous last sermon said that there is no race better than another and no culture better than another except through piety. I never meant to offend anybody by wearing what I do. I always try to learn about these cultures, embrace them with love and teach others. I never meant to offend anybody during my journey of self-discovery. I only meant to please Allah. I apologize if I’ve offended any of you or you feel like I took your culture.