Ramadan: Asian Network's Nadia Ali opens up about wearing a hijab

Nadia Ali smiling in the studio, she is next to an Asian Network microphone, and wearing a hijab, with is patterned with polka dots.
Nadia Ali started wearing a hijab in the holy month of Ramadan [Nadia Ali]

"I've never felt so complete in my life, so content. It's unreal."

During this year's Ramadan, BBC Asian Network presenter Nadia Ali decided to do something new. Something which made her nervous at first.

She chose to wear a hijab.

The religious headscarf is worn by Muslim girls and women as a display of modesty, with one of the first occasions for Nadia being while she was presenting for the station.

Nadia says she's had an overwhelmingly positive reaction on social media, but admits being in tears before she went to work.

"I was very nervous about how people would respond," Nadia tells Asian Network News. "I think that was the main thing.

"My listeners were amazing. They've shown me so much love.

"I think that always gives you a bit more empowerment and the confidence boost that you need."

'I have made a commitment'

Nadia says she's been fully supported by her family, and before she went to work, her husband emphasised it was her choice.

"That's another thing which I found really amazing, because I think sometimes with the hijab, there's a perception that it's come from oppression, or someone's [forced] you to wear this.

"But for me, it was totally the opposite."

The final push of support came from her four-year-old daughter, Hana.

"I was like, Hana do you like my curly hair or do you like my scarf? And she was like, 'I love your scarf mummy'."

Nadia says she took that as "a call from God".

While she's been thinking about wearing a hijab since the coronavirus pandemic, Nadia says it's only this Ramadan she decided to take the step.

"I've been thinking about it since then, but I've just never really had the guts to do it," she says.

She feels it's the final missing piece of a "jigsaw puzzle".

"I've been a good Muslim, I like to think. I've prayed, I've done Ramadan, I give to charity, you know, I've done all the bits around it.

"But the hijab was one thing that I felt I wasn't ready to do," Nadia says.

"And actually, I come from quite a modern Muslim family where not many people wear the hijab. So, for me, that was the one thing I felt was missing."

It's still taking some getting used to, though.

"It's so overwhelming, because one minute I am feeling really confident, really empowered," she says.

"However, on the flip side, I've got this battle. I've got to change my clothes and [think if] the scarf goes with this [outfit]? I miss my hair.

"It's just this new look, I'm not used to it, so it's balancing the two."

For now, Nadia says she's ready to continue wearing the hijab after the holy month of Ramadan.

"I have made a commitment. And you know, things change in life," she says.

"Right now, my heart, my soul is saying I want to be a hijabi."

Asian Network logo

Listen to Ankur Desai's show on BBC Asian Network live from 15:00-18:00 Monday to Thursday - or listen back here.