Hallelujah to each and every one of us! Hallelujah for our differences! In recent years, as a teacher of international students, I have found myself intrigued when I’m in the presence of Muslim women whose faith suggests they wear hijabs. For me, a United States citizen, these head scarves seem exotic and their wearers from Saudi Arabia, Libya, U.A.E., Ethiopia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Turkey appear mysterious. Hijab fashion fills me with delight because each scarf expresses the personality of the woman wearing it.
How is it that a yard or more of fabric intended to cover each woman’s hair, ears, neck and chest, can be expressed in so many different kinds of fabrics and patterns? The silks, cottons, polyesters and denims dazzle the eye in a complex of florals, solids, checks, and stripes.
In addition to choosing the fabric and pattern, each wearer of the hijab determines how the swath of material is negotiated at the forehead, around the ears and pinned at the neck. Some hijabs, which are worn loosely, come undone erratically and require constant supervision. With great periodicity, the wearer must flip the errant scarf back over her shoulder and tug at it unceremoniously under her chin. Other hijabs are secured firmly in a no-nonsense way, the fabric agrees not to budge. This certainty of placement gives their wearers an aura of serenity and calm control.
Each day my work culture becomes more entwined with these young women’s cultures. I know that as women they are like me, but as hijab observing Muslims, they are different. The hijab they wear has become a metaphor for me, representing that which I can’t fathom—that which remains hidden. I do a lot of pausing around these women, leaning into the unknown, wanting to discover what IS there. I greet them. I sit down with them. I ask questions. I wait to see what topics they might nominate. In addition to the cultural and religious differences, the age difference—I am 52, and they are some 20 to 35 years younger—also stalls the conversation. Instead of understanding the sublime, I am left with the material world and the small things I can observe looming at what feels to me to be the gates of mystery.
Occasionally, in the restroom at GT’s Language Institute, I catch a little glimpse, a small part of the woman under the scarf. She removes her hijab and adjusts her hair before pinning the scarf back on. How surprised I have been to see blond, light brown, or brunette hair instead of the black hair I expected to find. Would they be amused at my small curious observations?
Needless to say, the prospect of what IS IN THE MYSTERY lingers with me. In my morning creations, often a girl in a hijab finds her way into my drawing, speaking to me of what I already know. I stay present to making the image, honoring its desire to emerge before me. This process makes me Hallelujah!
I HONOR MYSELF and EVERY ONE. Hallelujah for our differences. Hallelujah for the MYSTERY and to ART which allows me a way to contemplate the MYSTERY.
That’s COFFEE WITH HALLELUAJH! Soul blog with me and tell me what is your understanding of the hijab, the mystery of differences and similarities. How will you honor yourself today? Hallelujah loves you!