Lift the veil from your heart

It was the first day of my semester, the day that I will never forget. It happened last summer. I was in the campus, searching for my first class when I came across a girl, maybe the same age as me, with a blue scarf wrapped around her head. I was amused at first as my eyes turned to see the sunny and hot weather of summer outside. Then I started to question why someone would wear such clothing when the weather is hot enough to make you sweat.

I have seen nuns covering basically the same part of body this girl is. But she does not seem like a nun and I certainly do not expect a nun to be wondering around campus. Besides, her dressing was colourful, not plain white. I walked pass her, wondering without bothering to stop and ask her. I rushed quickly to find my lecture hall, thinking not to see her again.

After two hours of lecture, my class was finally over. The beautiful sunshine tempted me to leave the campus and walk to the beach. I walked straight back home to change my clothes and to grab my brand- new sunglasses. The journey back home seems far. The hours seem long. The excitement of summer pulled my legs to walk faster.

I arrived home after 15 minutes of walking. I walked around this new place called home as I waited for the lift. As I was admiring the beautiful paintings on the walls, the door of the lift finally opened. When I got inside the lift, there was a girl standing inside, the same girl I saw this morning. The girl with the blue scarf wrapped around her head.

She looked at me and noticed the surprised look on my face. She smiled at me. I smiled back at her, with many questions in my head. My curiosity forced me to ask her about her dressings.

‘Hi, I’m Helen’, I started the conversation with a smile.

‘Hi, I’m Jannah’, she replied back.

I decided not to go to the beach and ask her about her headscarf instead. Just as I was about to ask her, the lift stopped at my floor. So, I pressed the ‘close’ button and turned to Jannah.

‘Erm, are you free today? ’, I asked and continued without waiting for her reply. ‘What are you wearing on your head? Is it something to do with your culture? ’, I blurted out.

The lift stopped again and this time at her floor. Jannah only smiled at hearing my questions. The door opened and I thought the conversation was over. But Jannah invited me to her room. I nodded and followed her.

Her room was bigger than mine, with a small kitchen near the door. There was a big shelf, filled with books standing next to her bed. She went to her small kitchen and heated the water. Then, she walked and sat next to me. The next few hours of my day was spent with me asking about her headscarf.

Jannah started our discussion by explaining to me that she wears the headscarf occasionally; only when she is among males with exception of her father, husband and close male relatives. When I asked her the feelings of wearing it, Jannah explains that she started observing the headscarf since she reaches puberty. At first, it was hard and uncomfortable for her. She remembered the cold stares from people in the streets and how she misses the feeling of her hair blowing in the wind. But now, after six years of wearing the headscarf, she values it wholeheartedly as it has become a part of her life and a means for her to express her love for God.

Suddenly, Jannah stood and walked to her bookshelf. She picked a book which is about the size of my New Testament and sat down next to me. She was holding the Quran, a book which she believes comes from the one God. Jannah opened the Quran and showed me the verses where the command of headscarf is mentioned.

‘O prophet! Tell thy wives, daughters and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is more convenient that they should be known (as such) and not molested: and Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful’ (Quran 33: 59).

Jannah closed the Quran and then clarified the verse for me. She explained that the headscarf helps to differentiate between a Muslim women and a non- Muslim one. Once she wears the headscarf, she will not have the trouble in practising the other aspects of her religion. For instance, she does not have to explain further when she is offered a beer or to shake hands with other males.

It was then clear for me as why Jannah decided to keep her headscarf even though she is far from her home country, Malaysia. The headscarf is not just a simple piece of cloth; it is a symbol of faith. Her final words on the headscarf changed my whole perspective on the headscarf. She ends our discussion with one simple question.

‘Helen, in the summer, people wears coats to work and not shorts, right?’ Jannah asked me.

I nodded silently with a weird look on my face.

‘And they wear it as to follow the rules of their company. I do not see the trouble of doing the same thing- in my case- covering the whole body except hands and face. Because this dress code comes from a higher authority’, she explained further.

‘A higher authority? ’, I asked curiously.

Then, with a smile she answered, ‘God! ’, with great conviction.



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