[Reflections] Why I Wear the Hijab

hijab                                                    Image Courtesy www. eislaminfo.blogspot.com


I start with His praise for it is Allah (swt) who guides me each day, and His infinite mercy sustains me for my every breath.

Recently, I was asked by somebody to write a piece for Hijab Day about my journey and my experience wearing Hijab. I was thrown into a bit of a dilemma- as this was a case of, “Well I don’t really celebrate any days as such!”; and not wanting to be offensive, as I knew he in his own right was being sincere. I wrote this over night as I decided to go with how I feel. I didn’t think that this is what was wanted out of me, but I have found that I can only find words when I speak from the heart, or I can’t say anything at all. This is what I wrote, but I didn’t give it in as I felt there could not be a competition for what each of us feels.

I don’t need a day to define the Muslimah that lives inside of me.  Every day for me is a Hijab day. Although, we go through our trials, and are in the various stages of life, but I do not call my Hijab a struggle. For me- it is a source of comfort of beauty,  peace, love, and an integral part of Deen. I don’t need days and I don’t need symbols- but I do need Him, His guidance, His mercy, and even, the people He sends as friends, as teachers, and as fellow travellers throughout this journey.

Years ago, somebody told me during that tough phase when I first wore the Hijab- that this is just a sip of the ocean. Truly, I have found that Deen is so much more than that sip. It is the ocean of life; holding onto Deen, and trying not to deviate- is the real challenge.

I come from a secular back ground, where after several years, the smallest insult to my face is that I am insane. I hear stories about my past as if there was never a time of repentance. I am told by near and dear ones that I may not be forgiven. After all, I came into it so late. After all, wasn’t I so terrible? And yes, I was; and yes, I have repented; and yes, it still goes round and round in my head. Could I have been better? Could I not have done more? For me- the depth of my madness is a normal conversation; for me- this is a normal day.

I don’t ask for sympathy for what is the point in asking for it when I look at His mercy, and I know that He chose me- the lowest of all the repentant sinners to be on His path; the one who forgot Him, but was not forgotten by Him. What I do ask for is forgiveness; and that He makes it easy for all of us. This is not a rant nor this is a complaint- this is plainly the lives of many. I am just the same story in another book which can go into volumes. But each of our stories does matter to our own selves.

When Allah (swt) wants to purify a soul, he tests it through trial and tribulation. Every soul goes through this in its own different ways.

So, here we are after each insult that broke us down; you see it only broke us to re-shape us. If you felt torn apart, it was only to weave you into something stronger.

This madness has made me weep; it has made me cry; and it has made me love. If this is what it is, and the end leads to something far better than what my human mind can fathom, then let me live in my madness.

Those who know me have known my story of “love”. So, this is not a speech of grief. This is truly a story of wanting more of that ocean. I turn everything around as this is the way I will fight. You see I love my Rabb.

And I do it for His love. I love my Prophet (sa) and I love my Deen. I find no embarrassment in secular groups to say it.  And because of this love, I also love my sisters for the sake of Allah (swt).

I cannot compare my stories to any struggling Muslimah- as sometimes when I hear others relate their lives- I am humbled by the strength of the women in this Ummah. But our stories don’t end here, do they? We will go back home. and we will struggle, and we will live some more, and that is how we will move each day.

We do what we do with love for the sake of Him; that love for which there are not enough words in the human language to describe.

When you think of who you’re doing it for, it becomes easy to close chapters and lay certain pages of life to rest- knowing deep in your heart- He has other stories for you. Better plans than we can possibly imagine. I am not just speaking about the Hijab. I speak about our way of life. Imagine, the Mercy upon us when we could have been of those unaware.

From the Creator who has written millions of beautiful journeys, you should be assured, He has got yours covered every step of the way.

After all, “Wa Huwa Ala Kulli Shai in Qadeer”.  He is powerful over everything. So, engrave this belief into your soul.

Yes, I know there are days; but just believe each day will be a good day. For even if you have slept with a face soaked in tears, wake up knowing He is still with you.  For He is As-Sami (The All-Hearer); and He does listen to your Dua- the one you made when you felt there was nobody there. And, He is Al-Wadud (The Ever Loving) – the one who loves you the most. He has all the beautiful names that belong to Him.

And, this great entity, Al-Azeem (The Magnificent) chose us to be on His path; always watching over us, protecting us, loving us, guiding His slaves to Jannah; guiding us back to Him.

When you think of all the things you are hit with; when it seems you are flooded; just then, right at that moment, find that knowledge within you; the knowledge that He will never leave you, and it is then you can truly feel this beautiful realization; that feeling which comes from within; when you utter from the depth of your soul, when you cry out and truly mean the words, Alhumdulillahi Rabb il Aalameen. When you know and understand in that moment of relief that all praise truly belongs to Him.

Repentent sinner

Struggling Muslimah



I discovered when I covered

Blumen - DekorationI was not ready to wear Abaya at all; it seemed quite outmoded and I loved to doll up.
For me Abaya was not less than a prison. My vision shadowed by the basic concept of stereotypes. The idea of Purdah came up with the image of women who swathed themselves in veils, hiding in the inner most recesses of their homes.

I was not raised in a very religious family, but I had seen my mother being a very composed Muslimah. She is the one who made me learn and understand the basic concept of Deen. But there was and there still is a void- I could feel it.

The feeling of emptiness made me curious for what was lacking.
Hijab was my first step towards a contented and perfect living; there was no inspiration behind- it was just a promise I made to myself and Allah (swt).

Later on, my heart found its way, and I started to gain knowledge; but then Abaya was something I never thought of wearing.

And one day, my mother asked me to wear it, and somehow, I reluctantly agreed. In the beginning, I found it real hard and the worldly imperfections attracted me. It still does attract- but now, I have finally decided not to let this precious thing get away from me ever.

This Quranic verse is my favourite; and it is the only thing which inspires me to be pious for Allah (swt) Who is closely watching us, “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do, and say to believing women that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what appears thereof.” (Surah Nur 24: 30-31)

I feel more confident and secure in my Abaya; it’s like a Harry potter’s cloak to me which makes me disappear in front of all evil eyes and protects my grace. Moreover, Abaya is a real blessing for girls- whether in T-shirt or Pyjamas- just get up wear your Abaya and you are gracefully ready to go.

May Allah (swt) grant us utmost righteousness. Ameen.

My life saviour was an angel

Picture courtesy: arabianbusiness.com

Picture courtesy: arabianbusiness.com

The piercing sound of minions struck my eardrums. Without putting a glance I stopped my alarm. I jumped out from my bed at 6:30 a.m. It was Sunday morning; I quickly finished my routine work, wore a black gown known as Abaya, and fixed my scarf along with the Niqab. I took my bag which was a bit heavy, and rushed towards the door where I could see my driver rubbing his eyes and trying to get back to his life again. I had a great sympathy for him, as I knew how difficult it was to wake up in the morning- when nothing looks beautiful except your bed and pillow. But, I flushed out my thoughts and got back into my state.

I recited all the Duas that happened to be the most important act for me. I felt safe then. Suddenly, a drop of water fell on my cheeks and cold breeze touched my skin. I began to think how beautiful my Allah (swt) is, and at that moment my car started and took away my concentration. Forgetting about the driver and few people around me, I visualized myself around the spell-binding weather, cold mizzle and freed birds. I felt so content. The satisfaction led me to some flashbacks.

Rosy pink cheeks with attractive eyes- which were more prominent with well-blended eyeliner and lips were covered with Maybelline colour whisper; and shiny, thick hair flying out the window. Her beauty was attention seeking and she was already well-aware of it. She really wanted to be the perfectionist. Her beauty was enough to beat her plump body. She…I waited a second- why am I calling this girl (I pointed myself) as a third person. Then returning back, I continued- I was appreciated and people used to ignore the fact that I wasn’t a zero figure, I was fat then. Again, I corrected, actually “I am still a fat girl.” I was so much into this world that I forgot about the reality and went astray.

Temporary world’s beautification used to attract me, and it grabbed me so tightly that I was blind; I couldn’t distinguish between falsehood and truth, but what thing changed me? Yes Allah (swt) sent an angel for me who corrected me and made me realize that I went on a wrong path. That angel came into my life and I did come up with the devilish ideas to get that angel out of my life, but that angel didn’t leave me and stood by my side at every moment and situation.

Then one day, the people who used to appreciate my beauty- mocked me and pointed out on my character; they pointed out such things that I had never done, nor did I intend to do. But still, without saying a word, I went out of that place and rushed towards my room and cried as much as I could. Those false allegations on my character weren’t going out of my mind, I couldn’t sleep. My self-confidence, my poise was all gone. I didn’t know why, even though I knew I was pure but nobody believed. I was broken and I couldn’t enable myself to face those accusing faces- I died inside. I was unable to stand in front of my Allah (swt) because I regretted for ignoring Him.

But once I  realized, I was scared and embarrassed to face my Only Creator, my Only Supporter. An angel whispered in my ears to open the Quran. And after a war within myself, I opened the Holy Quran with shivering hands, and removed the dust that fully prevailed on its cover. I randomly opened it and wind blew, and the most shocking part of my life occurred, I called it a miracle and it totally changed my life.

I read the bold lines, “Verily, proofs have come to you from your Lord, so whosoever sees, will do so for (the good of) his own self, and whosoever blinds himself, will do so to his own harm, and I (Muhammad (sa)) am not a watcher over you.” (Al-Anam 6:104)

I stood on my prayer mat without any fear and when I went in Sujood, I cried and I got my life back again. Now, I have saved my beauty for my Allah (swt) and for that man whom Allah (swt) has chosen for me. People do call me with offensive names, call me extremist, but I don’t react, nor does it affect me because Allah (swt) has said, “And give glad tidings to those who believe and do righteous good deeds, that for them will be Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise).

Every time they will be provided with a fruit there from, they will say: “This is what we were provided with before,” and they will be given things in resemblance (i.e. in the same form but different in taste) and they shall have therein Azwajun Mutahharatun (purified mates or wives), (having no menses, stools, urine, etc.) and they will abide therein forever.” (Al-Baqarah 2:25)


The truth behind my Niqab

female-silhouetteI have been wearing the Niqab for a little more than 5-five years, and found many blessings through that. It has served as an aid and as a essential support in my efforts to reach the most important goals in my life.

What does Niqab signify?

The main “keywords” that come to mind regarding the Niqab are protection, self-respect and nearness to Allah (swt).

The most important evidence for the practice of covering the face of a woman in Islam is the fact that the wives and female companions of the Prophet (sa) used to do that; hence, this is the way we can show our respect to the practice of these immensely great women, as well as, our determination to emulate them in every aspect possible.

I have noticed Allah’s (swt) special Nur on the faces of those women who have chosen to cover their faces in the presence of non-related men- it is similar to the light of faith that radiates from the heart. Such a face is protected from the unwanted, idle, curious or even hateful glances of people around.

Niqab gives one an opportunity to be in a sacred, blessed solitude even while being in a crowd of people; opportunity to smile exclusively and purely for the sake of Allah (swt); thanking Him for the blessings He has bestowed upon us; opportunity to whisper to oneself words of Allah’s (swt) remembrance; all of that without fearing to attract unwanted attention and causing perplexity to others.

Niqab is a sign of that what one aspires for: true spiritual inwardness and superiority of the spiritual aspect of our being over the physical aspect. A sign of aspiration to draw closer to Allah (swt), in opposition to what allures majority of people (and especially in the case of women – beautifying oneself in order to show off to other people, to butter up one’s selfishness and ambition). This tendency to turn away from the highest aim and waste our efforts for the sake of different ephemeral trifles is present in all of us, and everything that helps to counteract it is to be valued.

Niqab is a sign of turning away from the world-  a place of mundane entertainments without the awareness of the Divine Presence; away from the hustle and bustle that strive to take over our minds, and turning to Allah (swt) instead of all that. While being outside the house, it is a constant reminder of the goal, helping in different circumstances- not to forget towards where I have decided to direct my steps. Niqab is a sign of limiting the individualism and personal whims for the sake of a higher, over-individual goal, as well as, keeping aloof from everything that is base and fake in this world; thus, protecting one’s inner space from such influences.

On a symbolic level niqab points to the feminine, hidden aspect of Allah (swt)- not to Allah (swt) in His masculine aspect, as the Creator; but to Allah (swt) as the Infinite and the Incomprehensible; the black colour, on the other hand, indicates to the primeval state of being before the Creation, before the beginning of manifestation. The covering of the face, on its part, corresponds to Allah (swt) hiding His infinite, inexpressible Beauty behind the veils of the created things – those veils that only a few are able to see through, although everyone yearns for that, even though mostly not being aware of that themselves.

Biased attitude towards Niqab

It is not uncommon to hear that this attire reminds about the Christian nuns, and on a certain level we can agree with that; because, although in a different manner, their clothes speak about total devotion to Allah (swt), and leaving aside everything that may hinder that: if not as a state has been already attained but at least as a goal that one has put for oneself. This attests that it is possible for the society to accept the outward signs of an inner religious determination without any detriment for its totality. It might well be that not everyone feels fully comfortable at a certain point to see something that reminds them about the possibility to move in a different direction than the majority of the society does; but this in no way means that because of one person’s evanescent, by-passing inconvenience we should destroy other person’s opportunity to draw nearer to the highest aim of life. If in the case of Christianity such an expression is generally accepted and – in most cases – respected, why could that not be true in the case of Islam as well?

If somebody would argue that such a practice increases the quandary and hatred of people, it should be said that hatred is a problem of a person’s inner attitude, and it is clear that if it does not find one occasion to discharge itself, it will search for and definitely find another one that by accident will come in its way. Similarly as, reading the Quran, everyone reads there his/her own self, the attitude of people towards the attire of the Prophet’s (s) wives demonstrates to them what is hidden inside themselves, what are their hearts filled with: be it hatred, contempt and arrogance or cordiality, generosity and respect for the human being and his/her highest aspirations and yearnings.

The society blues against Niqab

Undoubtedly, in the basis of the society’s equivocal attitude also lies lack of knowledge and understanding, tightly holding on to prejudices that have been formed in the past, self-righteousness ‘I know better’ when one knows just nothing about the issue at hand, indisposition to lend an ear that is too close to actual deafness; even more deeply there lies hidden inner insecurity, sense of being endangered, lack of self-confidence that pushes one to ‘the best’ solution that actually does not solve anything: banning-mocking-waving aside-out of my sight!-destroying-forgetting.

Regarding safety issues – after all, the possibility to verify person’s identity in case of need is not lost in case of a person wearing the Niqab; it must be understood that no one asks people who pass by on the street every day to show their passports in order to compare the photo with the actual face, and absolute majority of the faces that we see passing by on the street we have already forgotten after just a few minutes. It is difficult to understand how a possible prohibition to cover one’s face could hold someone back from criminal acts he/she intends to perform. Therefore, it should be asked, what exactly is it that is so valuable that the society would gain in case wearing the Niqab would be banned, so that it outweighs the suffering of those members of society whom such a ban would influence the most?

Some months ago unfortunately I happened to be in Brussels for a while, where I was forced to take off the Niqab, and I have to say that it felt like being forced to undress and remain in that state just because of a certain whim of some people, although it is crystal clear that there is no real necessity for that. It would seem that everyone is able to imagine how humiliating and absurd such an experience must be.

There is no doubt that our society is in need of knowledge and an effort must be made in order to explain those – as well as many other Islam-related – issues. Therefore, a discussion in this regard is definitively to be welcomed; however, if this discussion will result in the habitual lack of true listening and eventual adopting of prohibitions for the sake of ‘overall convenience and comfort’, I am more than sure that all the involved sides will have to be counted as losers.

Taking Back Our Narrative

peopletalkingThe winter of 2013 was an eventful one for me. As a second year medical student from Pakistan, I had the opportunity to visit the United States for a research elective at a university there. There were many lessons learnt and memories made, but there is one that has especially resonated with me.

As I was hurrying back from lunch to the office one day, I had trouble with the key.  A lady kindly offered to help. I had bumped into her before and exchanged a few greetings. However, that day after the door finally managed to get unlocked, she turned to me and said, “So listen, I have been meaning to ask you….why do you cover your head?”

I was, in all honestly, taken aback. But I also noticed something else. The tone she had used was neither condescending nor pitying. In fact it was one of curiosity.

And, it made a difference.

My answer was simple. I told her it was a part of my religion (Islam), which in turn, was part of my identity. I also mentioned that it had been my choice and wasn’t something I did simply because of tradition. I couldn’t explain much or launch into a detailed explanation out there in the hallway, but she seemed satisfied with the little details I did give; and she gave me no less than a positive response saying she thought it was a beautiful concept.

While the Hijab appears to be a central theme in the above anecdote, I want to highlight an aspect that has nothing to do with covering my head: harmony amongst people and within a society.

She chose to listen to my narrative, simple as it was, over whatever pre-conceived notions she may have had or any assumptions that people usually make regarding the Hijab.

The lady chose to ask me why I did something that she had seen few people do in her homeland, when she saw that it clearly highlighted that I was a foreigner and a Muslim; she did what few people think of doing, albeit unconsciously: she gave me a voice. She chose to listen to my narrative, simple as it was, over whatever pre-conceived notions she may have had or any assumptions that people usually make regarding the Hijab. She chose to get to know me rather than the version of me that society most commonly constructs (i.e. just another oppressed Muslim being weighed down by her religion).

Being extremely busy, I barely had a chance to see her again, but she taught me one of the most important lessons I could have learnt as a human being: sometimes in order to get to know people and give them a voice, all you have to do is throw aside whatever you think you know, whatever assumptions you have and just listen. Listen to why some people cover their heads. Listen to why some don’t. Listen to why people are in tune with their religion. Listen to why others are not. Listen to why some seem to be enjoying their lives to the fullest. Listen to why others are not.  Listen and understand these differences instead of treating them like the elephant in the room.

I would not like it for myself that others make an opinion about me without ever meeting me, based on what they may have heard from other people. And, the least I can do is offer others the same courtesy and treat them the way I would like to be treated.

Our Beloved Prophet (sa) understood this more than anyone else, and enjoined it by saying in his famous Hadeeth, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

Can we ever appreciate the wisdom of this beautiful Hadeeth enough? As Muslims we are taught not only to refrain from negative assumptions, but also to speak good of others; yet, every day, we seem to be doing the opposite.

In Surah Ar-Rahman, Allah (swt) mentions how He, in his infinite Mercy, taught man to speak. Physically speaking, it is pretty amazing how Allah (swt) did this, how He fashioned the vocal cords inside of us. I got the opportunity to view them once, when I got to observe an anesthetist as she intubated a patient. Intubation requires for a tube to be fitted down the throat into the trachea (windpipe) after sedation is achieved. And, as the anesthetist slid the laryngoscope in for visualization, I got to stand right beside her and view the inside of the throat. The tube moved in effortlessly, coming to a stop as they reached the windpipe. From my angle, I could view the vocal cords. And with the light of the laryngoscope, these small white cords appeared almost to glisten.

Here is the reality. Right in the middle of red, wet, tissue that is in our throats these glistening white cords stand out like pearls. They are tiny- you would hardly think they were created for a purpose. But, their Maker knew where to place them exactly so that they could come together to produce sound, the very essence of communication, of how we get to know each other. And these tiny, lovely pearl-like cords are there in the throats of every human being, delivering the purpose according to the way they are used. They are there in the neck of a tyrant as he spews out hate; they are there in the victim as he cries for mercy. They are there for the adult who may espouse some wisdom, for the child as he murmurs and cries, for the oppressor and the oppressed.

And these tiny, lovely pearl-like cords are there in the throats of every human being, delivering the purpose according to the way they are used.

These cords are in harmony with one another. But when we abuse this incredible power we have been given, we lose that harmony. And this loss can result in the ugliest of manifestations….broken homes, broken families, even broken nations. Hence, if we really want change, let’s start from here. Let’s beautify our speech. Let us be more understanding and considerate of others. Let us take back our narrative together, as a human race.

Make a Hijab Deal – Conceal, and Do Not reveal!

Picture courtesy: arabianbusiness.com

Picture courtesy: arabianbusiness.com

“I don’t understand the purpose of this piece of cloth,” says the voice over the phone. “It only covers the head. Everything else can be seen.”

“That is why I choose to wear the outer garment that fully covers the body, as well as, the face cover,” I reply, jumping through the loophole in his argument.

He immediately backpedals.

“You know who wears that?” His voice rises. “You don’t know the kind of women who wear that, you live a sheltered life.”

“Yes,” I say. “I do know. Prostitutes.”

He is surprised, not having expected me to know the answer. He goes off on a tangent, asking me how would I like it if I talked to him with him having a piece of cloth over his face, or how would I like it if I had “three other mothers” (his reference to the Islamic allowance for a man to keep up to four wives), and other spiraling circles of conversation. After an exchange of questions and answers, he said, “Well, then, it’s just a matter of faith.”

How I came to have this conversation over the phone with my father’s friend, who is a doctor, is irrelevant. What was said in the conversation is highly relevant, as it highlights the attitude of people towards the Quranic commandment for women to observe Hijab.

I would like to highlight some points about the girls who observe Hijab (whether it is just head and front cover, or with outer garment, or with face cover, or any combination of the three).

1. Hijabi girls are not allergic to males, or to marriage. I did not discover this opinion until one day, an acquaintance said out of the blue, “You don’t want to get married, right?” which is a way of saying, “You don’t find men attractive, right?” I observed head cover and outer garment then- not the face cover, and still she thought I was against marriage. Why? Not because of my dressing only, but because I did not talk about boys the way the other girls did. I did not discuss which cute boys I had seen when I went out shopping last weekend, I did not list my crushes, I did not share which actors I found attractive, I did not keep wallpapers of actors.

People do not know that this face cover, body cover and head cover is the legacy of the mothers of the believers. Yes! They used to observe it all.

As I know the state of my own inner thoughts only and not anyone else’s; here is a sneak peek: yes, I did see cute boys when I went out. I did have crushes on some of the males I interacted with during school (and later, on work). I did have celebrity crushes when I used to watch movies, and to tell the truth, even a photo shopped poster of a movie glimpsed while driving by is enough to plant the seed of a crush. I used to save wallpapers of computer animated characters from video games, and yes, some of them did feature attractive men. What I did not do was share these thoughts with my friends, because I did not want to give power to them. You give power to thoughts, and they rule your consciousness. I did not want to sit with my friends and cook daily servings of crushes and infatuations. What ruled my consciousness were my own daydreams of my own made-up characters in my own fantasy world. I used to think I was merely making up stories as a writer, until something I read made me realize that I was substituting my own imaginary “ideals” for the flesh-and-blood members of the opposite sex in this world. Yes, my imagination did include attractive male characters as well. Make of that what you will, but I eventually learned not to daydream so much. I didn’t want to take my own whims and desires as my God.

2. Hijabis have nothing to hide. Sure, there’s the girl who will use her head cover to hide her earphones while she listens to music in a packed college classroom. There’s the girl who will use the same method to cheat in exams. Yes, I am coming to the juicy part: there are females who wear face cover to hide their identity so that they can engage with males in pre-marital or extra-marital relations, or as I mentioned in the conversation in the beginning of the article, they do it in order to sell their bodies. People do not know that this face cover, body cover and head cover is the legacy of the mothers of the believers. Yes! They used to observe it all.

The words “Khimar” (head and chest cover) and “Jilbab” (body cover i.e. outer garment) come in the Quran. Whether face cover is included in the word “Jilbab” is the only point of disagreement between scholars. Yes, contrary to the public assumption that all Islamic dress code for females is open to question, there is actually no ignoring these two words, “Khimar” and “Jilbab”, in the Quran.

This brings me to an important point. Belief in the Quran is a pillar of Islamic faith. That means belief in every verse of the Quran, including the ones which spark social controversy today. Whether or not, you choose to obey a particular verse of the Quran or not, you cannot try to change its meaning in order to make yourself feel safe and comfortable. You cannot pretend that these words are not in the Quran. Even if you believe from the depth of your heart that the Hijabi sister you see is up to no good, you should create excuses for her in your mind. After all, it’s not your job to judge people, that job is Allah’s (swt). Good thing He didn’t give it to you and me, right? Our heads would explode.

Belief in the Quran is a pillar of Islamic faith. That means belief in every verse of the Quran, including the ones which spark social controversy today.

3. The default setting of a Hijabi is not “sexually frustrated”. Yes, there are holier-than-thou Hijabi sisters and they just have frowning, or sad facial expressions naturally; but that doesn’t mean that all they need is “a good make out”. If you claim to support feminine freedom and are against “the patriarchy”, consider giving your Hijabi sisters a break, too. On the inside, they are creations of emotions, thoughts and conflicts, just like you.

All this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addressing assumptions about Hijabi Muslims. Whether this article gives you answers, or creates more questions in your mind, depends on your perspective. I will end this article, the way I ended the conversation with my father’s friend: “It’s all a matter of faith.”

When I covered my head, I opened my mind

flowerpWhen I was young, my perception was that a highly qualified woman should have a modern look! So during my teenage years, I copied all the silly pop ideas.

One of these ideas was that if I wear jeans, I would be more smart and pretty. My mother used to tell me to use Hijab, but I did not like it. The idea of modesty did not exactly click in my mind, like it did for my other friends.

I got really embarrassed, when I got a scarf as a gift! It was presented by my friend from Saudi Arabia!

Let me tell you, why I felt like this. Actually, I have beautiful, long, thick healthy hair, which would be hidden, if I would wear a scarf. Inspired by ads of various shampoos, I could not imagine doing so. Although my mother always persuaded me to cover myself, but being a young girl, my perception was totally different! I used to think that highly qualified ladies must have a modern look and obviously I dreamt to wear jeans as my casual dress, but my traditions didn’t allow me.

My friend politely convinced me to use the scarf. I was impressed by her point that pollution and sun rays may damage my hair, so for the sake of protecting my hair, I started using that abstract printed scarf.

People’s reaction surprised me! They appreciated me on covering my head. I myself felt confident, nicer and smarter. The mirror reflected the glow of my face. This excited me to continue wearing my scarf. Truly, it was my class fellows’ and friends’ positive reaction that motivated me in doing so.

One day, when I was waiting for the bus at the bus stop, some street guys started laughing at me. At that moment I realized that I became their target, because I didn’t completely cover my body. My head scarf was not complementing my dress. I admit it was stylish and trendy, and was exposing my body. That dress was good for a party or private gathering, but not suitable for a public place. This realization made it easy for me to take the next decision.

As soon as I reached home, I asked my mom to buy an Abaya for me. It was a pleasure for her. We went to market to get it. There were a lot of different varieties of Abayas in the market. Being a young, fashion-conscious girl, I selected a stylish one. I noticed my mom was not satisfied by my choice, but she approved reluctantly.

From the very next day, I started to wear my black Abaya. It transformed my personality. Everybody looked at me with a pleasant smile. It gave me confidence and pride.

“Wow! Beautiful! Gorgeous!” remarks like these made me proud on my wise decision. It was people’s response that mattered to me and enhanced my emotions towards my Abaya! This also made my daily life easy and simple, as I didn’t need to worry about clothes to wear and saved my precious time to bother about them. Hence, I could use my time constructively.

But, as there was curiosity about this getup, questions raised by some people made me to do some research about the reasons, why I should cover. I started to think: am I doing it for the sake of tradition or fashion? Was it imposed by my family or did I do it for myself? Is there anything more to it than cultural or social pressure?

But, as there was curiosity about this getup, questions raised by some people made me to do some research about the reasons, why I should cover.

Some of them were really keen to know, while a few asked just to humiliate me, because I used to get confused in replying to them, which they enjoyed a lot. I got puzzled about their satire and sarcasm. I was hurt and decided to search thoroughly for the answers of the questions; I started to learn the reality and consulted the literature about it.

Obviously, reading the Quran with translation and explanation (Tafseer) was a must! It enhanced my thirst for more knowledge; hence, I joined a group to quench my thirst. This experience helped me to rectify myself as a proper Muslimah. Not only got answers to all my questions, but gained confidence and got rid of all confusion and inferiority complexes. It solved all my problems regarding public image/opinion about me. I have to please my Creator only. My fear about people’s remarks and reaction faded. I became bold enough to face the people, carefree about public opinion and conscious of Allah’s (swt) demand.

I read the Holy Book in detail for the first time in my life. That was my first experience of understanding the Quran properly. I managed to break through the shackles of pride, ego and learnt much more. I started feeling better day by day. Allah (swt) solved all my problems. Then, I started to do veil or Niqab. That was a big change in my life. I was feeling bold and confident day by day.

It was the best choice I ever made. For the first time in my life, I felt that I was a strong person. I did what I believed is right, and I did not care of what people think of it, or how they will look at me. First day of Hijab was the best. I had never felt so good in my entire life. Everyone discouraged me, saying that I won’t be able to fight with myself for long. But with Allah’s (swt) help, I am continuing till today. Everyone started to respect me. Hijab protected me everywhere and no one would look at me, as if I was a picture or a dummy. I believe that Allah (swt) demands Hijab to help us and to make our life easier. It builds respect between a man and woman. It also indicates that you are a Muslim.

Similar guidelines are also in other religions, for example, Jews wear a small cup on top of their heads, Christians wear a cross. And none of them feels ashamed to show it to public. No man would think badly about a woman, who is wearing Hijab, so that will provide her to fall in mistake or something that is Haram. A woman, who can wear Hijab, is strong enough to do anything in life. Everyone will trust you in everything, because you trust yourself. Allah (swt) made you (Ashraf ul Makhluqat), very precious and valuable.

It was the best choice I ever made. For the first time in my life, I felt that I was a strong person.

He guided me. The change in perception enabled me to think about my get up more critically! And I felt ashamed of my choices made in the past. They were horribly against the rule of the Quran about “…not to be noticed and respected”.

This thought made me put off my ornamental Abaya and replace it by a simple, loose and dull colour Abaya. After putting it on, I stood in front of mirror and asked myself: “Is it to please Allah (swt)?” Surely, yes! My belief got stronger and firmer!

At present, I am a mature housewife and I laugh off my past. My then favourite activities seem foolish now. I am a happy and contented person, whose journey towards truth started with covering my head. Love to my scarf that gave me respect and purpose in life. Love to my friend, who had given me that scarf as a gift.

I am very grateful to Allah (swt) for letting me realize that when I covered my head, I took away from people any means for judging me other than my mind, soul and heart. When I covered my head, I took away the incentive for exploitation based on beauty. When I covered my head, I made people respect me, because they saw that I respected myself. When I covered my head, I finally opened my mind to the truth.

Cloak with an Eternal Glow

Photo credit: TexasEagle / Foter / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: TexasEagle / Foter / CC BY-NC

The first time I met a princess;
Astonished, I don’t know how to express,
The look of an empress,
That leaves man always impressed.

A beauty that radiates from the heart,
Makes you look down when it meets your sight.
The show of modesty so bright,
That places her in the greatest heights.

Beauty –
A controversial discussion.
Whose is the duty
To judge in that position?

Their acclaimed beauty is skin scratched;
Nothing, but a facial mask!
To a pitiful task,
Obliged to what the society asks.

The sight that betrays the gaze,
As it cruises in lustful chase.
On flesh, a baked clay,
Leaving body and soul dazed.

Beautifully unique are these knights,
Who wear the flags of the One with Might.
Not parading what is meant out of sight,
These beauties you cannot smite.

With bigots from the society,
Plague to humanity,
Coming from their so-called liberty
To distort nature’s morality.

Freedom without values,
Forced in skimp and hills,
Degrading our milieu,
With shapes without skills.

She’s free from the eyes that prey,
Cover to the heart that prays,
Save the next generation from fray,
With guidance from the religious rays.

Clothe to please her Lord
Distinguished from them all
As believers in His law,
Who look away from human lure.

She’s free;
Freedom from the denizen of earth.
She’s beautiful in her Hijab and heart.
She’s a princess on earth
And a Queen in Jannah.

She’s better than Hurul-Ayan;
They didn’t pass through this worldly strain,
Obeying their Lord’s claim,
Eminent ladies of heavenly gain.

To all Hijabis,
The queen of Al-Jannah.

Pearl in the Shell

pearls4Until I wore the Hijab, I had no idea of how it feels to be a victim of prejudice. When I covered my head, I opened my mind. I’m Malak Nawfal and currently in high school. I’ve always been a cool person. I’m bubbly, smart and pretty. I was welcomed and accepted everywhere.

Looking back, I always mourn the years I spent in complete ignorance of who I was. I was a born Muslim but not a practicing one. And I did not want to practice. I thought Islam basically told you to stop doing anything fun and spend your life in worship. Hey, I wanted to live my life. I didn’t like people, who were too religious, because then it would be a “You’ll go to hell!” lecture.

The Hijab signifies the identity of a Muslim woman, but the examples the Hijabi girls set for me were far from ideal. I saw them with boyfriends, tight clothes and heavy makeup. After all, if they did such things, then why care for an extra piece of cloth on one’s head? I thought so, until I heard those two men conversing.

It was Sunday and I was at the mall with my friends. It was just four of us: Sarah, Justin, Mikael and I. By two o’clock, we were feeling hungry. The three went off to order pizza, while I sat at the table, lest someone take it. As I looked around, I became aware of two men talking. Through the noise, I could barely hear them. Eavesdropping is rude, but when you’re left alone, what do you do? Anyway, the men were talking about girls that pretty much got my attention.

“Man I tell ya I could eat ‘em girls in one bite’, I heard one say.

“Darn right. Ya talk to them all nice ‘n they’ll fall all over ya. Then ya ditch ‘em an’ get a new one.” answered the other.

I sat still. They were talking of girls, as if they were objects! Toys!

“Yep most of ‘em swooning girls’re ugly anyway. They slap on lots ‘a cream but can’t hide that black skin.” They started laughing and I wondered, if that was what most men thought of girls?

In books and movies the men loved their women, and every girl hoped for her Prince Charming someday. I dived into their conversation again.

“You ever gonna marry man?”

“Me? No. It’d never work. Ya marry one, love her fer a few days. By the end ‘a the year ya wanna strangle her. Women’re vicious. Ya marry one ’coz ‘a her looks and she turns out to be a monster. If I marry it’ll be ‘coz she’s a good person inside.”

I was cold and sweaty. I ate my pizza in silence. I kept thinking: “Do Justin and Mikael feel like that? Are we just toys?”’

“Hey, Malak, what’s wrong? You’re real silent.”

“I’m fine.”

I replied that I was not fine. I just heard men discussing girls like trash. My world had been shaken for God’s sake. As we made our way out the door, I glanced warily at every man I passed. I just wanted to go home and think about this.

After returning home, I made my way upstairs. I ignored the greetings of Salman, my brother, and Nayla, my sister. My father is an Arab, but he studied in America. My mom is American, born and bred. I took a shower and went to sleep.

Next day, school felt like a prison that I couldn’t escape. I listened to nothing during class and failed every pop-quiz the teacher pulled. That night, I went out with my friend Khadijah. She wore Hijab but put on heavier makeup than I. I liked her a lot. Today, with those men on my mind, I asked her: “Khadijah, what’s the Hijab for?” She shrugged. “I think it’s for hiding your hair and to cover your beauty, but I just wear it, because my mum makes me do it.” That didn’t make sense. I knew even with the Hijab you could look beautiful. Your hair was just one of those features that made you pretty. I didn’t want a guy to judge me by my appearance, but by my heart.

From that day on, I stopped trying to look glamorous. I wanted to see, whether people still adored me. They didn’t. My mom did not like it. She told me: “Nowadays people don’t care about personality. You just have to have a good body.” I was so angry. “Then I don’t care about them either! I can live without them!” I bursted. I was right, but I still felt incomplete.

Salman came to my rescue. He said, “You said the Hijab didn’t make any sense. Let’s see, if it does.” So for the next few weeks that’s what we did – research about the Hijab. A converted Muslim talked about it on YouTube as it being an identity clarifier – a sign that this woman was to be respected. She said it represents our uniqueness from other women. There were millions of women out there on display. The ones, who are covered, were secrets and mysteries. Only after marriage their lucky husbands would uncover the mystery. It was like any other prince charming story I’d ever thought of, though it was more exciting. I read somewhere, “A pearl is pure and precious. It does not float in the sea but is hidden away in its shell, opened by only the fortunate. You, my dear sister, are the pearl, too.”

It made sense. Covering meant hiding your beauty. At the same time, Islam urges us to look clean and presentable. To our husband, we can be much more than that. My lucky husband – I smiled. It felt nice to be the pearl. “I’ve made up my mind,” I said to Salman, “I’m going to start the Hijab. It makes sense.” Salman hugged me. Dad was fine with it. Mom was not. We argued and argued. I wanted my place in the world; she said I wouldn’t get one with that cloth on my head. So I didn’t go anywhere. Not to the mall or school or anywhere else. Dad thought it had gone too far. He said mom was being paranoid. I agreed.

On a bright, sunny Monday morning I pinned up my hijab and smiled. I was the pearl now and nothing could stop me from shining. No insult, prejudice or any amount of reasoning could stop me from shining. I was pearl with a shell and that was something none could break. Not now, not ever. Insha’Allah.

[Winning Story] An Escapist’s Version of Reality

Winning story of the 3rd Annual Short Story Writing Competition organized by Hiba

10 escapist version of realityI vividly remember the disastrous day my mom forced an Abaya on me. I was an extremely outgoing girl, the very opposite of what my mom wanted me to be. My life revolved around partying, hanging out with school friends, and especially socializing around the many social networking sites on the World Wide Web. One of my closest friends was an emerging musician, and although I did not have a knack for music, she was my source for the latest gossip relating to our school’s social scene.

It was after a parent-teacher meeting at school that my mom became adamant upon having me wear an Abaya: by hook or by crook. In normal circumstances, I would surely not have given in to her way, but back then, I knew that I had lost my ground as my teacher had informed her about all my ‘extra-curricular activities’. My mother was furious. However, it was not her anger that struck me the most; it was the fact that I had betrayed her trust that caused her to hurt most, and that made me reflect upon my character and the path of disloyalty I was treading.

The initial few days of being shrouded in an Abaya were quite miserable. The many times that I would run a critical gaze down my Abaya-donned body made me deeply regret my agreement to have it as an identity for the rest of my life.

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How She Found God

stepping-stonesBeing a Muslim, I am very much interested in listening to the stories of reverts. It really fascinates me, how people of different religions come into Islam by their own will. And all of them have beautiful stories of how they are guided by Allah (swt) to the true religion and to the one and only God.

On Wednesday night, 10th December, 2014, a Columbian lady came to my house with her husband and two little daughters: Shazia and Hanan. Actually, she was my father’s old friend’s wife. She was clad in a black Abaya with a scarf neatly tucked onto her face. Her mother tongue was Spanish, and so her daughters could only speak Spanish. They all were sitting in our drawing room, when the two cuties saw the whiteboard in our basement, and they wanted to write on it. So we all went into the basement and they just started playing. A huge smile came on their faces and they got busy. It was then that the Columbian lady told me that she reverted to Islam in 2001, and before that she was a Catholic.

I always had this feeling of emptiness in my heart. I felt something was missing from my life. I wanted to pray to God directly.

I was excited to know that she was a revert. I wanted to know everything about her journey to Islam. So we went upstairs at the dining table to talk. She asked me where and what was I studying. And then told me that she herself was a costume designer. She went to USA to get her degree in costume designing, as she was very passionate about it. I then asked her; “So how did you find your way to Islam and Allah (swt)?” She said; “Okay, so let me tell you my story. But I want all of you to listen; your mother, brother and sisters.” So I called my siblings and mom. We all sat at the dining table, eager to hear from her. As she recently learned English from USA, so her English accent was a mixture of Spanish and American English, which sounded really sweet.

She started off with her story. “I always had this feeling of emptiness in my heart. I felt something was missing from my life. I wanted to pray to God directly. I used to go to the church and ask the nuns: ‘Why can’t I pray to God directly? Why do I have to pray to the priests and saints as intermediaries?’ She said that’s how it was. But her answer did not satisfy me. I told her again: ‘Tell me a way, through which I’ll be able to pray to God directly.’ She told me: ‘For that, you will have to become a nun.’ Obviously I never wanted to become a nun, as I wanted to get married and have kids. This caused so much chaos in my mind that I just told myself that I wasn’t a part of any religion. However, it was somewhere in my mind that there is a God… the One Who created me.” She told.

“There were some thoughts that kept coming to my mind. I knew deep inside that there was a Creator – the One, Who created me. And I really wanted to pray to Him. My mother was a very practicing Catholic, whereas my father wasn’t that practicing.”  “He’s an artist.” She added, looking at a painting on our staircase wall.

“I went to USA to do my career in costume designing, as I loved clothes. During my stay in USA, I used to live alone in an apartment with my younger brother. Since a very young age, my parents had taught me to be sincere and truthful. I used to tell myself: ‘Keep it clean.’ My brother had gotten into bad company, and his conduct was worsening day by day. I was getting very depressed for him, because back at home in Columbia, my parents were thinking that my brother was doing well, as he was living with his elder sister, i.e., me. But sadly, little did they know that the reality was very different. When I could not bear my brother’s ill behaviour any more, I told him to leave my apartment and live where ever he wanted. From then on, I was living alone. I was very disturbed. I started thinking about life, my purpose, God… I was in a state of utter confusion.

As I had to earn for my living, I started a part time job as an office cleaner. The job of cleaning is very beloved to me as God guided me to Himself through this simple job. So one day, I was alone in the office, and it was very late. I was exhausted. I went clumsily to get the cleaning equipment. Then, with a lot of effort, I cleaned the office. As I was tying the garbage bag, all of a sudden it fell on the carpet and all the tiny pieces of paper were scattered on the carpet that I just cleaned. Although I was drained out, I had to clean everything again – otherwise, my boss would get angry. So instead of bringing all the equipment again from the store, I sat on my knees and started picking up the mess with my hands. As I was on my knees, a very strange thought came to my mind; I am on my knees. I am humbling myself in front of whom? In front of this garbage just to please my boss? Why can’t I humble myself to God? Why?”

“You know, I used to write these thoughts in a diary. I still have that diary. Because I knew these thoughts were not mine. And I was scared I would forget these thoughts, so I secured them in the form of writing. I was lost in these thoughts. At times I felt like I was getting crazy. I never felt like partying anymore. My friends and I used to party a lot every weekend. But later, whenever they called me I used to refuse. I wanted solitude. I told them, “Leave me alone please.” I started thinking about life. I started thinking: whom am I worshipping? What are my desires? My career – costume designing? Is that it? Is this what I will be doing all life?

I felt empty and purposeless. I missed my brother, too. I prayed to God in my own way; I prayed that my brother comes back home. And after a few days, he did come back. This strengthened my belief that we can communicate to God directly without any intermediaries. And God listens to our prayers.

Now, when I look back, I realize that God was guiding me step by step. So one day, I was in my university library working on an assignment on the computer. I needed some assistance in setting up a program on the computer, so I went up to the librarian. She was a young lady, who wore Hijab. And she was writing an essay on Islam. I don’t know what happened to me, but I asked her if I could read her essay. She was astonished. She asked me, if I was interested in Islam. I told her: “I don’t mind reading your essay. I’m very open minded.” So she took my email address and gave her number to me. She said she’d mail me her essay. Her name was Zahida.

After she accepted Islam, she went back to Columbia. Since then, eighty people reverted to Islam… just by observing her mannerism.

So, I went home, read the essay. I was not intrigued by it. My depression phase continued… After some time, I had opted for another job of a house cleaner. Due to my parents’ upbringing, there were some values that were ingrained in my mind: to do every work with perfection and not to steal or lie in any case. Hence, I was a perfectionist even at cleaning. I used to clean every corner of the house. One day, I was cleaning this house, working too hard to clean it well. Suddenly, a thought struck my mind that why am I being so cautious while working? I am not stealing even though there’s nobody looking at me. Why? Because of recompense from my boss. I immediately got my answer to “What is life?” and “What is our purpose in life?”  I thought just like I’m working sincerely because of recompense from my boss; similarly, in life, whatever we do, there will be a recompense from God for all our deeds. I immediately went into prostration and I was crying like a baby, although I knew nothing about prostration. It was just automatic, by default. I thought this was a last push from God for me to come to the true path.

I went back home and wrote about all this in my diary. Then I called Zahida (that Muslim librarian) and told her: “I don’t know why I feel like crying and I feel like talking to you only Zahida.” I told her about my recent thoughts. She told me: “God does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” I found these words so beautiful and soothing. I cried when I heard them. I asked her, if these were her own words. She told me these are from the Quran. I told her I wanted Quran. She told me she would send it to me with translation in my language i.e. Spanish. In the meanwhile, she gave me Hadeeth-e-Qudsi (Hadeeth Qudsi are the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) as revealed to him by the Almighty Allah (swt). Hadeeth Qudsi (or Sacred Hadeeth) are so named because, unlike the majority of Hadeeth which are Prophetic Hadeeth, their authority (Sanad) is traced back, not to the Prophet but to the Almighty) to read. The Hadeeth-e-Qudsi touched my heart deeply. I knew this was the true religion that I was searching for. And Alhumdulillah, I took my Shahada.”

After she accepted Islam, she went back to Columbia. Since then, eighty people reverted to Islam… just by observing her mannerism. Subhan’Allah! She told me: “My parents named me Monica. But after accepting Islam, I named myself Sakina.” Sakina means: tranquility, devout, God-inspired peace of mind.

When leaving our house, Sakina hugged me warmly. And her daughters just clung on to me. They didn’t want to leave. I asked Sakina how to say “Come back soon!” in Spanish. “Regrato pronto!” she told me cheerfully. I asked her the same for “I love you”. “Te quiero mucho!” she said. I kissed her lovely daughters saying “Te quiero mucho.”

This beautiful sister left such a deep impact on my soul. How she yearned to pray to Allah (swt), how she cried, while prostrating. And then I thought of how strong her faith was, Masha’Allah. Most of us are born in Muslim families, but we hardly strive to find Allah (swt) and build a connection with Him. The signs are everywhere… if only we strive to seek for Him.

The Wow-Woman in You

wowWhat do we love the most in winter? Blankets, of course!

There must be a good reason for stepping out of the bed early on a Sunday morning and going all the way to the IBA main campus. However, I managed to go, as I had to attend a workshop about “Finding the Wow-Woman in You” – who wouldn’t want to attend an event that sounded so good?

In the workshop, five speakers gave talks on various topics related to women: the worth of a Muslim woman, Islamic perspective on woman’s career, stories of female companions (ra) and self-esteem issues in young girls. The actual workshop activities were carried out by a renowned former business journalist and sustainability consultant Khadijah Balkhi.

Following description is based upon the lessons that I learnt from her speech and the activities she conducted with us. Her session really helped me in analyzing myself from different perspectives. I hope it becomes beneficial for those sisters who could not attend the workshop. (Note: This is not a transcript of her speech.)

Activity 1:

  • Who is the ‘Wow-Woman’ in your life?
  • Mention three of her characteristics, which inspired you the most. Remember – three is just a number; you can go up to a hundred and above.

This will give you a clear idea about your understanding of a successful and influential woman, while also making a pathway for you to become one yourself. But what if you aren’t inspired by anyone? Well, that’s a problem in itself! Try to stay in the company of people, who are at a higher level than you religiously, and who can inspire you towards an Islamic lifestyle.

After this, she shared her experience of returning to the original practices of Islam, which meant that wearing Hijab became more important than conducting training sessions for hundreds of men. She continued saying that one cannot do everything in life, implying that we are always required to make certain choices in order to become the Wow-Woman.

Here, ‘wow’ symbolizes a state, where a woman is so close to Allah (swt) that we perceive her as ‘wow’.

Here, ‘wow’ symbolizes a state, where a woman is so close to Allah (swt) that we perceive her as ‘wow’. However, before working to get the Qurb of Allah (swt), it is important for us to identify the barriers, which are taking us away from His love and care. For instance, in case of Ms. Balkhi, it was her career, which she later chose to give up for the sake of Deen. It does not mean that every Muslim woman should quit her job; rather, it only means that if your job or your dream is based upon the violation of Allah’s (swt) Deen, then there is certainly no good in it. She further clarified that everyone has a different situation, and, therefore, a woman has to evaluate her career choices critically, so that she can pursue her passions, while remaining close to Allah (swt).

“Don’t feel the pressure to do things, which you aren’t required to do!”

Similarly, on the other side, Allah (swt) has blessed women with unmatched intellect and knowledge, so why use them for His disobedience?

This led us to another activity.

Activity 2:

  • List down things, which are holding you back from His Deen.
  • List down number of ways, which you can use to tune them.

Subsequently, Ms. Balkhi shared her valuable insight on Nafi – negation or canceling out something. Negation is important, because technically we can focus only on one thing, and our focus of attention should be on nothing else but the pleasure of Allah (swt). This helps us in developing clear values and preferences for the rest of our lives.

Make a mental note of things-to-do and things-not-to-do. Once this is done, aim to become a Wow-Woman. For achieving it, we need to make heavy investments in our environment, which is as simple as moving into gatherings which are filled with the Dhikr of Allah (swt) and the presence of His loving slaves. This will significantly help us in bringing out the best of ourselves, Insha’Allah.

Activity 3:

  • List down things which you think are positive in your life.
  • List down your wow-factors from an Islamic perspective.

Ms. Balkhi concluded her speech with a wonderful advice, which relieved my heart and truly became a source of inspiration for me. She said to do away with the useless messages of society (false ideologies, peer pressure, family traditions, social expectations, etc.), so that you are able to see yourself clearly and spend time with people, who help you in exploring yourself. Most importantly, pray for your guidance and remember that you can have Deen + career; however, at times, you have to choose one of them – so be ready for making the right choice, whenever required.

Transformation to my true self

lotusMany women in my country are driven by cultural stereotypes and nationalism, peer pressure and irrational societal norms. Those who have ‘groomed’ themselves with education and negated cultural slavery, are somewhere trapped in the complicated maze of modernity and westernization. Over and above, those who tend to cover themselves, do it inappropriately by force or misuse the covering garment for illegal purposes.

Till twenty-two years of age, I was not taught the exact conditions, prerequisites, importance and the prescribed method of Hijab, as given in Surah An-Nur, Surah Al-Ahzab and the Sahih Ahadeeth of Messenger (sa). A very rigid socio-cultural way of covering had been taught to me by my elders and family, without the main rules regarding adornment and covering in front of Mahram and non-Mahram men. The very rationale given to me to cover myself did not match the course as outlined in the Quran. Social acceptance was at the core of the cultural teaching of covering and never did I realize that I had to cover because Allah (swt) loved His female servants in that attire and Jilbab, as He loved beauty and modesty!

All praise is for the Creator, the Cherisher, the Sustainer, the Loving and the Most Merciful! He guided me, and I was able to dive thoroughly into the origin, history, logic, benefits and the immense reward of covering myself. Haya, the central theme had never occurred to me like it did, as I leafed through the pages of various books and commentaries of Surah An-Nur and Surah Al-Ahzab.

If I look back to my teenage years, I have emotionally suffered solely because of the lack of knowledge of Deen I had. I was struggling to develop an identity for myself amidst false attachments to the Dunya and addiction to people. Having been obese and exceptionally tall, I received remarks and comments that made my soul shriek out. Indirectly, the evil of self (Nafs) and Satan’s planning were well-tuned; I turned to flaunting, showing off, weight loss, obsession with body talk, idealizing female celebrities and what not. What I had observed and learnt in that age hindered my learning about my Deen. My priorities and attitudes as a girl were exactly defying what my Rabb had taught in His Quran.

If I look back to my teenage years, I have emotionally suffered solely because of the lack of knowledge of Deen I had. I was struggling to develop an identity for myself amidst false attachments to the Dunya

After the transformation, I have found my soul and understood the Fitrah I was born with. I was programmed to naturally incline towards modesty and beauty, and Hijab means both. I can be myself with my outer garment and face veil (Jilbab and Niqab). I was concerned about social approval when thinking about how my dress should be before.

Now, I just feel awe-inspiring and extremely content when I think about how Allah (swt) loves me and will reward me in Jannah for covering myself. Hijab has set me free from cultural slavery, age old traditional myths, and the modern and westernized traps of Satan. It has healed me from the identity crisis I was suffering from. I am a twenty-four years old Muslim woman, and I wear the Hijab (Jilbab or Chador), just to please my Creator, Who sent the Quran as a manual/code of conduct.

When a baby is born, it needs support and guidance to live. Can a machine be operated without reading its manual? How can a human being, Allah’s (swt), the Creator’s best creation, thrive without reading, understanding and acting as per the manual revealed by the Creator Himself? How can a Muslim woman dress or carry herself without reading that manual? The Quran and Hadeeth are for us to learn, implement and share with others.

Allah (swt) empowered me with Hijab to wake me up from the slumber I was in; denying the reality of my Fitrah, Haya and the Akhirah. I understand life and Deen very clearly from under my Jilbab. Many of the infections I was suffering from on a spiritual level have been healed, Alhumdulillah!

I want to be the beloved of Allah (swt) and one of the hints Allah (swt) has given me in the Noble Quran to seek His pleasure is to cover myself. He is my Creator, my Owner! He loves to see me covered like a precious pearl; then why shouldn’t I remove the doubts and regrets in my heart about the rigid, irrational ways of society that go against the guidance He revealed through Prophet (sa).

I see many sisters stuck in the same mental state and frustration of preferring culture over religion. Allah (swt), the author of Noble Quran, wrote in the introductory chapter of the Quran,

“This is the Book (the Quran), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious and righteous persons who fear Allah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained).” (Al-Baqarah 2:2)

This is the book, for you and me, in which there is absolutely no doubt. If we don’t understand this, we will never be able to defeat the doubts that are stored in our minds. I had a doubt in my mind that the Quran restricts the woman, but rather it sets me free. We need to crush these doubts and replace them with the illumination Quran gives us regarding the Hijab, even if we start step by step. One must do it by first understanding it herself and then the need to do it. We are the servants of Allah (swt) and we need to seek His pleasure in everything we do.

After the transformation, I have found my soul and understood the Fitrah I was born with. I was programmed to naturally incline towards modesty and beauty, and Hijab means both.

The laws and guidelines in the Quran and Hadeeth regarding Hijab have to be followed first and foremost due to total submission to our Rabb. Lastly, the way this Hijab acts as a reality check, it helps me monitor my actions outside and inside my home. It defines me from the core of my soul; it gives a title to my personality and it empowers me as a woman. It teaches me to grow, learn, write, implement and teach all for the love of Allah (swt). One of the automated reminders this transformation gives me is to repent and turn back to Allah (swt).

To my sisters in Islam, our lost souls belong to Him! Initiate and embrace Hijab. Begin by drawing near to Allah (swt) by a span of your hand! It was reported by Abu Hurairah (ra) that the Prophet (sa) said: “Allah (swt), the Exalted and Glorious, said: I am as My servant expects Me and I am with him as he remembers Me. By Allah, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His servant than how one of you would be on finding the lost camel in the waterless desert. When he draws near Me by the span of his hand, I draw near him by the length of a cubit. And when he draws near Me by the length of a cubit, I draw near him by the length of a fathom. And when he draws near Me walking, I draw close to him quickly.” (Bukhari)

I am being myself and this is where I belong!

Struggle All the Way to Jannah

steppingstonesA believer’s faith in the meta-physical aspects of Islam: Iman, is not something that is in a constant state, but is in a constant state of flux. Every Muslim experiences highs and lows of Iman, and often at times these highs of Iman empowers a believer to make some life changing decisions. Similar is the case with a young Muslim girl, when she decides to start taking Hijab, and guard her modesty for the sake of Allah (swt). Slowly and gradually, the way she dresses up, the friends she hangs out with, the way she thinks and responds to things around her, everything changes, and Hijab becomes an essential part of her personality. But with this comes an extra responsibility. And some extra struggle.

So when she goes to a wedding (a typical Desi wedding), people stare at her or some aunties constantly give her smiles, as if she really needs it to feel comfortable in the crowd.  Ironically, it actually does the opposite; but she struggles.

When her mother wants her to loosen the scarf a bit, so that the flashy and glamorous neckline of her dress is visible; when she can see that her mother is a little uncomfortable with the piece on her head, and that she wants her daughter to look beautiful (according to what our society defines it), she struggles.

And when somebody asks her the reason for doing Hijab, and says: “But you are so beautiful.” Her heart sinks, not because she understands their point but because they don’t understand hers. And she struggles. She struggles within the boundaries of her heart.

When we have the right to look glamorous for the society, why don’t we have the right to guard our modesty for the sake of Allah (swt)? Suddenly, people give you a suspicious look, as if there’s been something wrong in your life, may be a tragedy, which made you take the decision. Parents think that there’s something wrong with their daughter and that she needs to comply with the society norms. Taking Hijab becomes something “abnormal” and the girl becomes an “extremist”. “She just needs to be normal!” So Hijab is for the ones who’re not really a part of the society. “They are different. They are not like us. We are not like them.” And this is something that is said by a mother, or father, or a friend, of a Muslim family.

How can one expect to have a distinction, without taking an exam?

In this materialistic world, where glamour is everything; a few hits on a profile picture or a few flattering comments about how beautiful you look, defines your worth and at times your dignity. It is indeed difficult to stick to your decision. And I don’t think it’s wrong to have these feelings. It’s human, perfectly human to fall. But how you strive and fight against your Nafs to rise up again (for the sake of Allah (swt)), is what defines your worth and you as a true submitter to Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) doesn’t want us to have an empty heart, cold and indifferent; He tests us by observing as to how we deal with everything inside it. Iman, love, and faith (Aqeeda) rest in the heart and so do hatred, jealousy and doubts. The point is not to clear your heart, but to beautify it with what is good for it, according to the Master who owns it.

How to deal with criticism

How do I deal with it? How do I answer them back? How do I tell them that this is not for anyone who wants to see me all dolled up, to please their eyes? But do I really need to give these explanations to feel good about it? Well, this has already been addressed in the Quran, to answer this restlessness.

“The life of this world is no more than illusion and vanity, while the abode of the Hereafter is far better for the righteous. Do you not understand?” (Quran 6:32)

Beautiful! He knows. He knows what you’re going through. And it was actually “meant” to be this way. So she struggles. But now we know, the struggles are indeed blessings. He repeats “Do you not understand?” Actually she missed the point. How can one expect to have a distinction, without taking an exam?  He is providing her with some bonus points to reach Jannah. By practicing patience, by being even extra polite to her mother and the aunties, by holding back her tears when she is alienated in a gathering, and by having complete faith in Him, and only Him. Her struggle would pay immense rewards Insha’Allah

Remember, “Isn’t Allah enough for His servants?” (Az-Zumar)

My Faith Rescued Me…

faithI grew up in a Muslim family but I hated Islam and the Muslims. I was not happy to be called a Muslim. I was looked at with terror and called a troublemaker. I did not like to pray and hated to wear Niqab. I wanted to fly free like a bird, intermingling with the opposite sex and staying overnight at parties. However, my mom never listened to me. Moreover, she would force me to pray and compel me to cover. She would make me say all my Duas and made me learn the Quran as well. She would make me recite Surah Al-Falaq and An-Nas for my protection.

Once she was invited to her cousin’s wedding, held in a village that was a day distance by train. I refused to accompany her. Until the last moment, she warned me and requested me earnestly to read the Duas, recite Quran, offer Salah and wear my Niqab when I go to college. She said:

أَسْتَوْدِعُ اللَّهَ دِينَكَ وَأَمَانَتَكَ وَخَوَاتِيمَ عَمَلِكَ

“(I make) Allah (swt) responsible for your Deen, your trustworthiness and for the results of your actions.” (Tirmidhi)

After bestowing me with the Dua, she left. Her departure meant an arrival of entertainment in my life. I had all the fun pre-planned days ago. My friends had invited me for a sleepover at their place. There would be party, music, and fun!

I was ecstatic. In the evening, my friends picked me up in their car. As soon as I entered my friend’s home that was candle lit, I found something fishy. My heartbeat sped up.

There were not only girls as promised by my friends. There were boys too who were smoking!
Ya Allah (swt)! In what a mess had I stepped in! I was glad I had obeyed my mother by reading the Duas and wearing my Niqab and I was still in it. I had offered Maghrib too. My friend and host Nadia, who was busy talking to a boy, turned to me and said, “C’mon now!” and stretched her hand to my Niqab saying, “Remove this disgusting thing and learn to enjoy!” I defended my Niqab. I saw her dressed in a low cut T-shirt and a very short skirt. Her long legs stood bare and I told her curtly: “I am very comfortable like this Nadia.”

Her parents had a bungalow in a posh area of the city. But she had left them and rented a flat in an apartment.

Music was blaring loudly. Soon, all were couple-dancing. Ryan had no one to dance with and so he was approaching me! He offered his hand to me but I kept mine locked behind. I knew it was Allah (swt) who was helping me to stay away from the evil temptations (for which I had craved earlier). Then he sat next to me with a huge thud! Now! What was I going to do? Should I run away from the house?

I stood up with a firm resolution to leave. He tried to hold me back by my shoulder, but I pushed him down. To my amazement, a gentle push made him fall on the ground and he fainted. Nadia was furious at me. The lights were switched on. They tried to revive him by pouring water on him. But he was gone! There were no pulse beats!

All the girls and boys were shocked! I saw the bottles of the deadly drink laid on the table that was placed in the terrace. This overnight party and sleep over was not something simple. It was like a bar – a Zina centre.

All were Muslims! They had tried to shake my faith. They had already lost theirs. The point to ponder is that how Ryan’s life ended in just trying to touch a woman! I was feeling happy and grateful to Allah (swt) for I had a lovely mother who protected me with the armour of Islam and moulded me into a modest woman. It was a changing moment in my life.

Ryan’s death was a warning bell for all of us. We never know when would be our turn.

(Based on a true story with names changed to protect identity)

The True Essence of a Muslimah

Beautiful-DiamondA daughter once asked her mother, “Mom, I have heard about diamonds and rubies and also gold and silver. Which is the most precious jewel?”

Her mother replied, “Jewels of gold, silver, diamonds and rubies are all only stones, and do not shine, unless they are burnt and polished. For me, you are my precious jewel. In fact, every daughter is a gem, irreplaceable! I would like to decorate you with such jewels and gems, which will bring you honour and respect, and add a glow to your dignity and character.

• Clothe yourself with Taqwa, and adorn yourself with the most precious jewel of piety.
• Take care of your head! It is the closest to Allah (swt) in Sujud, so make your prostrations lengthy.
• Keep your head cool and low (out of humility) when amongst people. Let Allah (swt) raise it high.
• Keep your hands immersed in work and tongue moist in Dhikr. That’s the essence of the women of Jannah.
• Raise your hands, shed tears, and share your thoughts and feelings only in front of Allah (swt).
• Lower your gaze and adorn it with the emeralds of contentment.

If you have gold, it’s not that you will not turn old.
But if you have character, it will build your Akhirah.
If you have lots of brocade and silk in your closet,
But elegance will be disclosed by your deeds’ facet.

If you are not endowed with diamonds or pearls,
Remember, through your speech and smile you glitter.
And scatter the beauty of Islam.
Through reverence in covering your Awrah.
And reveal what is permissible, and be it little, be happy with Halal and pure.
That’s the true essence of a Muslimah.

Her daughter replied: “True! I am blessed to have a mother, who knows my true value and wants the best for me in this life as well as hereafter.”

May Allah (swt) guide my daughter and all the daughters of the Ummah, too. Ameen