I reverted to Islam two and a half months ago, but it has been 5 years since I was deeply touched by Islam, its practices and cultures.
I was actively participating in international youth programs when I was a student. The life changing opportunity to encounter Islam was during Ship for South East Asia and Japanese Youth Program (SSEAYP) in 2011. During the program, I spent 53 days with over 200 participants from ASEAN nations, and I saw the real Islam through brothers and sisters from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Philippines and Myanmar. This was where I met my Malay-Malaysian fiancé too.
During the program, I learnt that wearing Hijab is by a woman’s own will, not forced by anyone else. When I asked a Bruneian sister (now I know how rude my question was), “Hey, Don’t you ask your sisters to wear hijab?”, and she answered, “No, I don’t. Because it is a thing between individuals and God, no one can force anyone to do so. On the other hand, I think I could try inviting her to pray together instead,” with a smile on her face. I was a little bit confused to see some wearing hijab and others who were not, but her answer made me think that it is by one’s own decision to wear hijab.
After the program and upon finishing my studies, I moved to Malaysia and lived in Kuala Lumpur for a year to see and experience Islamic cultures in society. During my stay, I had the opportunity to attend my friend’s wedding. The bride, she used to reveal her shiny bright long hair but she started to wear hijab after marriage. This was very surprising fact for me, to see how different she looks with and without Hijab and I kept wondering what made her to wear Hijab! Then I asked my fiancé, “Why do you think she started to wear hijab?” and he answered with an easy explanation for me, “It might be with some reasons but I believe the main reason would be that the beauty of the wife belongs to her husband when they get married.” His answer made me realize that women wear Hijab because they are beautiful, respected and protected, not discriminated or oppressed!”
When I returned to Japan and began working in Tokyo, I realise that it is not logical if I became a Muslim only for the purpose of marriage. This made me study Islam for myself and finally I was convinced to revert to Islam. I noticed that wearing Hijab is for Allah and indirectly for myself after I became a Muslim. I started to wear Hijab for the weekend Arabic lessons at Tokyo Camii at the beginning. I put on the Hijab at the station and while heading to the mosque, and I took it off on the way home. I was trying to increase the frequency and length of wearing Hijab outside. One day I was able to put it on for a whole day outside and was happy with my accomplishment. I wondered what made me feel this way and I figured out I was able to do things that Allah likes and Allah wants us to do. It brought me more confidence to wear hijab outside, one of the ways to be a good Muslim.
However, wearing Hijab in Tokyo is not easy. People look at me especially in the train. But when I think carefully why people look at me, I figure that it might be because they would not know about Islam and the reason why women put headscarves, like I did not know about Islam five years ago! I found there is huge gap between those who know Islam and those who do not know. I believe what I can do is by practicing good manners as Muslim, not staring back at those who stare at me, praying that what they see now will influence them to want to understand Islam in future, and also help me explain properly if people ask me why I wear Hijab.