Some months after taking off the hijab, you go to the halaal meat store. You say Salaam Alaikum. The two Arab brothers look at you, then at each other, and return a short, simple salaam.
You know what this means.
Without the hijab, they don’t know if they are safe with you, or not.
Twenty years ago, before the hijab and before the marriage, you were a young blond Muslim in an Arab food store getting the same abbreviated greetings. Since that time, you’ve rocked the hijab in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, in Mecca and Medina, in front of the Prophet’s (pbuh) grave, and in various mosques around the world. You’ve seen more Islam than most Muslims will see in their lifetimes.
Yet, on this day, without a piece of head fabric, you get the abbreviated salaam version reserved for the kafr, the unbeliever.
Twenty years. September 11th. July 7th. Iraq. Afghanistan. The Arab Spring. After all the loss, after all the trauma and psychic pain, some Muslims still measure the length of their salaams by the width of what is used to cover one’s head.
Inside, you feel the Force, the There is No God But God and Muhammad is His Prophet, and you know that your Islam is bigger than this.
You say Allahu Alaam, Allah knows best. There are no team uniform requirements for those on the Sufi Jedi Warrior path.
One day, you finally decide to do something trendy with your hair. Shave a part of it, pay homage to hipster couture. You notice how beautiful your eyes are, and how your hair has become a soft, pleasant auburn shade after years under the veil. Like you, it has deepened its hues.
More than one person tells you that you glow.
What was once on the outside in now internalized. The transformation is complete.
You say Subhaan Allah, Glory to God, for this realization.