I am a convert (three years), New Yorker and Hispanic. I have been married for 16 years. I started wearing the hijab immediately after converting. At first, my husband asked me if it was a phase and asked me to only wear it for Jumu’ah/masjid related events. I briefly explained to him how important it was to me. Since then, our relationship has declined dramatically. He has told me outright that he feels uncomfortable being seen with me out in public because he feels as if everyone is looking at us, and mostly because he hates the way I look in it. I continue to wear the hijab all the time, even though I know how uncomfortable it makes him. I ultimately care about pleasing Allah (SWT).
One of the first things I’ve always told converts is to be prepared for a test to come their way which will challenge their new commitment to Islam. Usually, that test comes within one of the key relationships in their life. In your case, it’s your husband. In others, it’s their parents, best friend, or boss at work.
It reminds me of the following ayahs in the Qur’an:
“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested.
And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars” (Al Ankabut:2-3)
Maybe being a convert myself, I feel comfortable offering these words because it allows a person new to the faith to know that when things get tough, it’s simply a way of being strengthened in their commitment, insha Allah.
But having your husband be the person who is challenging you in the act of obeying Allah I regarding hijab certainly presents its own unique set of challenges. You cannot remove the hijab to please him, and at the same time, you want him to be pleased with you.
There are likely many reasons he isn’t comfortable with you covering, but all of them boil down to him dealing with uncertainty.
He has already expressed that he is uncomfortable because his perception is that everyone is staring at you, and therefore, he isn’t “normal” anymore. He can’t blend in standing next to you. He can’t have certainty of what people will think or say around both of you, or whether or not someone might try to say rude comments to you or harm you.
But then we’ve got a lot of compassionate maybes to entertain in our minds.
Maybe your visibility as a Muslim makes him have to come face to face with his own personal level of commitment to Islam and his own Muslim identity.
Maybe he missed the “old” you and is afraid to relate to you as you are because he thinks he’ll have to start changing himself. It’s a lot easier to remind someone of their past than it is to change and move forward when someone else is growing.
As human beings, we are all resistant to change when it comes without us asking for it.
Even if he technically believes women should be following the Qur’an regarding covering, he may still not like the sudden change he experienced with you when you began dressing differently. Not because he is bad or evil, but because he loves you, and wrestles with sudden change.
So, there are a lot of maybes, but going through them is an important mental exercise, because it opens your heart to not just a way to understand him, but a way to have greater compassion towards him.
Here are some suggestions to reconnect in your marriage:
1. Remind him often of what made you say yes to him in the first place. Act the way you did when you first got together and bring back the excitement to see him, passionate energy and desire to please him.
2. Appreciate his worries and concerns about you covering. Even at face value, he doesn’t want you to stand out and be mistreated. He doesn’t want people to be afraid of Muslims, and he thinks you’re beautiful uncovered. See how you can work with that, and make extra effort to look good when you’re at home. Maybe he is just missing the “old” you a bit.
3. Have patience and compassion with him in regards to the deen. It may be that your conversion, while a happy occasion for both of you, has also left him feeling inadequate in how he is following Islam. Make du’a for him often, and recognise that the conviction you have is a blessing from Allah I. With that in your heart, be a source of acceptance and comfort for him as much as you can.
How do you balance your responsibilities towards your parents, post marriage, where Indo-Pak mentalities within in-laws dictate a girl forgets her old home after marriage?
I understand that there is a strong tradition followed by some within your culture which emphasises not only obedience and conformity to your husband’s family, but also an expectation that you practically cut off your relationship with your own parents.
Because I’m not from the same culture, I am not likely the best person to advise you on the matter. However, I do want to emphasise that within Islam, one is never supposed to cut ties with their family, nor ignore or neglect them.
What I would recommend is working on this with your husband directly, and finding his position on the matter, while expressing your desire to remain close with your parents. If you can positively influence him to accept your love for your family, he can help stand up for your position within the rest of the family.
In a world where there is so much technology to keep us connected, there should be no excuse for not having regular conversation and even video chats with your parents. This at least you can do in private, and the frequency of conversation doesn’t need to be known within your extended family. You have every right to continue to speak with your family.
I pray there comes a time when this custom will no longer be encouraged or practised as it does not have roots from within our deen. Until then, see if you can also look for a strong female role model within your family or community who broke tradition, and did so without having her in-laws ostracise her.
Megan Wyatt is the founder of Wives of Jannah, a rapidly growing organization of thousands of Muslim wives who are inspired by the core goal of rekindling marriage as an act of worship. She coaches wives and couples to learn the art of her key technique Fearless Vulnerability. SISTERS magazine, an international publication now online, features Megan in their relationship column where she answers questions from wives around the globe. She is also the co-founder and key trainer for Find Your Mr. Right where she guides single Muslim women in finding, meeting, attracting, and marrying their future husband. She co-authored and published a book with her 13 year old daughter called “How to Get Hijab Ready: A Guide for Muslim Girls Ages 8-11.” A homeschooling mother of four, Megan resides in Southern California with her children and husband Zeyad Ramadan.