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.

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!

Love or Loss?

steppingstonesIt was around 11:00 p.m. and she was running on the road in an unknown direction. The streets were covered with fog and there was complete silence, with the exception of her loud cries. She was screaming for help as if burning in scorching heat. People are always afraid of going near the fire but she was experiencing blaze with soaring intensity. Her heart was beating so fast that she felt it will burst out if she ran for another minute. Suddenly a car stopped on the adjacent lane and called her “Sara”. She turned back and recognized that it was Hannah. Out of exhaustion and fear she instantly fell on the ground and lost her consciousness. The last words on her mind were from the Quran:

“(Shaitan) said: Because You have sent me astray, surely I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your Straight Path. Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them as thankful ones.” (Al-Araf 7: 16-17)

Few Days Back . . .

Sara was late for the Islamic Conference and it was raining unexpectedly. “Can’t you wake up early? Is it necessary for you to always get late?” she said to herself and went out of the house. “Oh Allah (swt) help me in reaching safely there!”

While she was thinking her phone rang, “Sara where are you girl?” Nageen inquired.

“I am stuck in rain. Can you please send someone to come and pick me?” she said.

“Yeah sure I am sending Hannah, just wait there alright?” Nageen replied.

“Yep I am waiting.” said Sara.

She was now standing on the road corner under a shade when someone called her from backside,

“Hey Sara, what happened?” said Faraj. “Were you not supposed to be at the convention by now?” he inquired.

“Yeah I am waiting for Hannah.”

“Hmm, alright. But listen I am also going there so why don’t you join me?”

Sara waited for a second and realized that it was raining heavily. She was thinking what to say and just then someone whispered to her, “Sara you are already late and why disturb Hannah? She will have to leave all her work to come and pick you. Faraj’s offer isn’t really bad. Come on it’s just a 15-fifteen minutes drive.”

“Hmm yeah right!” she thought and sat in Faraj’s car. Then she called Hannah and told her not to come.

Sara and Faraj were volunteers at a non-profit organization which arranges lectures of renowned Islamic scholars in USA. They met for the first time a month ago at the annual meeting of volunteers. Although there was complete segregation between men and women but in order to resolve some technical issues in the ladies’ hall, Sara had to call Faraj and then they both arranged another room for the girls. There they had very limited conversation regarding work. They next met at a shopping mall and again had some formal exchange of greetings. Now almost two weeks later she was sitting in his car “accidently”.

The convention proved to be very successful and the audience immensely appreciated the managing team. When Sara reached home it was around 7:00 p.m. She prayed and then rested. Later in night, she woke up to check the convention response on their Facebook page. As soon as she logged in she saw a friend’s request. She opened the notification and to her surprise it was Faraj. She thought for a while and then someone whispered to her, “Yeah that’s really good that you avoid accepting friend requests from “brothers” but come on its Faraj! Remember he gave you lift today in the morning? It is inappropriate to reject his request. Don’t forget his favour…Yeah?” And she clicked “Accept”!

“And come not near to adultery. Verily, it is a Fahishah (i.e. anything that transgresses its limits (a great sin)) and an evil way (that leads one to Hell unless Allah forgives him).” (Al-Isra 17:32)

Few Days Later…

Sara was doing some of her college assignments late night. Her Facebook account was logged in and suddenly a conversation window popped up. It was Faraj.

“Hey!”

“Asalaamu ‘alaikum.”

“Oh lol Wa alaikum salaam.”

“So how you are doing?”

“I am good and how are you?”

“Yeah fine. Actually very tired just got back from a party :D”

“Ohk so you do party?”

“Lol yeah what’s so shocking about it?”

“Nahh I was just saying….”

Out of the blue, Sara realized that it was a useless conversation. She shut down the window and continued with her work. Faraj also did not say anything. But then after a while the window popped up again.

“Hey sorry I got a call. . . so how about Sunday?”

“This Sunday?”

“Nahh next month’s fifth Sunday :P”

“Lol hmm nothing special . . . why?”

“I am having a party at my place . . . you know I have cleared my exams”

“Congratulations . . . that’s good news. Which course?”

“Business Management. So are you coming?”

“Hmm I’ll tell you about it…”

“Don’t worry I’ll send you my car :P”

“Haha nah that’s not an issue. Actually that day my father left early and I could not bear the risk of driving in such an intense weather.”

“Yeah I can understand. Alright I gotta go now. Talk to you later and yes be there Sunday 8pm. I’ll text you my address send me your number. Okay bye.”

Sara did not know what trigged her and she just wrote her number in the conversation window.

Next day in the morning, Faraj called her and explained the address. Although she was still undecided whether to go or not, she noted down the address and promised him to be there.

On Sunday evening, she received a text message while sleeping. “Hey I’ll be waiting for you . . . do come.”

Someone whispered to her “Oh he is being so nice and look how rude you are. Can’t you attend a simple party in return of his favour? Now don’t come up with a lame excuse that it’s not good. Just don’t drink and dance there. Attend the party for him and come back!”

“Yeah . . . it’s just a party! What’s the big deal?” she talked to herself. “Yes I will come.” she replied.

This became a regular pattern. Sara was amazed as to how in a few days she had come so close to Faraj. Initially she was just trying to return his favour which gradually turned into friendship.

This became a regular pattern. Sara was amazed as to how in a few days she had come so close to Faraj. Initially she was just trying to return his favour which gradually turned into friendship. She was always attracted to Muslims and tried to make friends in her community only. Therefore she had very few friends, but they were all trustworthy. However, Faraj was slightly different. She knew that he was gaining more importance than just a friend. Sara felt something in her heart “Maybe its love…” someone whispered. She smiled to herself and then went to sleep.

Sara belonged to a family where parents communicate all the religious obligations while leaving rest on the experiences of their children. She was brought up with Islamic values while also enjoying the freedom of choice. From day one, she knew that her relationship with Faraj was highly inappropriate in the religious context but she was continuing it, assuming that it was no big thing. On the other end, Faraj was an Asian, pursuing professional education in America. His family was by-the-way Muslim and had a huge architecture business in their hometown. Belonging to such a background, money and values were never his problems. He was actually very “different”’ in his routine life and he joined the conventions only on the emphasis of some fellows belonging to his district back home. He was not at all religious and that was pretty evident from his ways and attitude. But at the same time he knew that living alone in USA can be very challenging if he does not have good terms with the Muslim community. Hence he chose to volunteer for the Islamic organization.

Days turned into months and now it was the best time for Faraj to extend his relationship with Sara. By now he had gained her confidence and knew that she was blindly in love with him. When he finally proposed to her, she was overwhelmed with happiness and instantly accepted him as her future husband.

One day Faraj called her in the morning:

“Free tonight?”

“Yes what’s the plan?”

“That’s a surprise! Get ready at 9:00 am sharp. And yeah dress your best; you are going to remember this night forever.”

“Haha sure!”

“And O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in Paradise, and eat thereof as you both wish, but approach not this tree otherwise you both will be of the Zalimun (unjust and wrong-doers).

Then Shaitan (Satan) whispered suggestions to them both in order to uncover that which was hidden from them of their private parts (before); he said: Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals.” (Al-Araf 7:19-20)

Sara listened to the whispers of Shaitan and came nearer to the greatest sin with every coming day she was spending with Faraj. She knew that even coming near to adultery was strictly forbidden by Allah (swt) but Shaitan told her that it was no big deal and that she will end up with a caring and loving husband. Doesn’t she already want that?

Clock hits 9:00 p.m. and Faraj was standing outside her home. She came out telling her mom that she is going with a friend of Hannah to attend a party.

They drove over to Salman’s house, who was Faraj’s best friend. In the midst of dance and music, Salman came and informed Sara that Faraj isn’t feeling well.

“He is having a severe headache; please just go and check him.” Sara got quite alarmed. She immediately went upstairs into Salman’s room where Faraj was standing near the window. One can only imagine what might have happened next… It’s only important to know that Sara managed to run out in the nick of time.

Hannah saw her running on the road. She called her name but Sara fell on the ground unconscious. Hannah took her to the hospital where doctors examined her and concluded that she has just experienced a great shock. Hannah felt relaxed to know that she will be fine by the next morning. She dropped Sara at her home.

“And We send down from the Quran that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism and act on it) and it increases the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers) nothing but loss. And when We bestow Our Grace on man (the disbeliever), he turns away and becomes arrogant, far away from the Right Path. And when evil touches him he is in great despair.” (Al-Isra 17:82-83)

Why has he forbidden unnecessary conversations between men and women? Simply because they hurt a lot and leave an everlasting scar on our lives. It seems something very attractive and begins with innocence, giggles and loving emotions but ends on heart breaks and severe sins.

Next day when Hannah went to see Sara, she came to know the entire story. Sara told her how she met Faraj and how slowly and gradually she started loving him. Hannah was stunned to find out that so much was happening in her friend’s life and she knew nothing. After listening to Sara, she tried to console her and said: “Do you know why Allah (swt) has asked us to not even go near these relationships? Why has he forbidden unnecessary conversations between men and women? Simply because they hurt a lot and leave an everlasting scar on our lives. It seems something very attractive and begins with innocence, giggles and loving emotions but ends on heart breaks and severe sins. Allah (swt) wants to save us from the extreme humiliation that human beings suffer as a result of shamelessness. Salat and Hijab aren’t enough to protect ourselves from Fitnah these days. We actually need to take extra precautions to avoid falling prey to the Shaitan. So now repent from the depth of your heart and believe that Allah (swt) is Ar-Rahman. He will surely forgive you”.

“They said: Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers.” (Al-Araf 7:23)

The Veil

perlinshellEvery time I board an international flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, I see the very same spectacle that amazes me just about as much as it intrigues me. Muslim women, clad in the abaya taken as models of piety and chastity, continue to act as reminders of the fact that Allah (swt) loves the people of Haya. This display of piety with God is a familiar and bemusing sight for anyone travelling abroad from a heartland of Islam but it continues to disturb much of our modernized Muslims and the secular west. It begs much larger questions, such as, the role the state should play in enforcing and dictating religious law and whether ‘secularism’ championed by the West is really the best way to move forward in the modern world.

The need to spatially situate ourselves back in time before analyzing religious literature is necessary to be able to answer these questions. However, the modernists and reformists of today feel that the customs of the Hejaz of 600 CE are nothing comparable to anything in our present world. However, what they fail to realize is that although history does play a part in shaping any religion, the message of Allah (swt) is eternal and the teachings are to be followed by the entire humanity irrespective of time and place.

Arabia, before Islam, was going through what is generally agreed upon as Jahiliyah, a time of social and moral ignorance and despondence. Tribal customs prevailed and law of force was the primary law of the land. In a place where the strong dominated the weak, it should hardly be surprising that the societal setup was extremely patriarchal in nature and women were oppressed. Not only did women enjoy few or no basic rights such as those of inheritance and freedom, they could even be inherited from one generation to another, like any other commodity. Concubines, wife-lending and marriage by exchange, all practices prevalent at that time, point to the same fact that women clearly experienced a markedly inferior status in pre-Islamic Arabia. The contention here is not whether Islam came at a time when such order prevailed but rather that it was through the teachings of Islam that the society was reformed.

Many reformists feel that the problem for any male messiah or prophet born in such a society becomes easy to visualize. Despite any divine orders to ensure equality of rights between the two genders, the Prophet (sa) would constantly be surrounded by elements, his male companions, who would resist any move that would change this status quo but there is no evidence to support the claim. The Sahabah were the truest of Muslims and they totally submitted their lives for the sake of Islam. For them the message of Allah (swt) was final and they could not even think about deviating from the commandments of the Quran and Hadeeth. The effect of Muhammad’s revelations was gradual, as the society was slowly being prepared for the new teachings of Islam. Despite all the odds, the Arab society was completely revolutionalized in two to three decades.

No matter how much advancement we make in terms of science and technology, none of it excuses us from the teachings of Allah (swt). The teachings of Taqwa and Haya do not change across time

The Quran requires women to cover their entire bodies from head to toe in decent clothing.  The bosoms should be covered and the women should not show themselves off. In the modern world where people feel that there is a need for identification, I fail to see why we cannot have women in Hijab who perform all the core duties that they deem they are fit for. The Hijab is in no way a hindrance to their freedom; rather, it gives them a sense of security and dignity. However, reformists refuse to budge on the Hijab question, and demand for it to be removed from the teachings of Islam and merely be declared as optional. They use the classical line, “Islam is a personal affair between God and the believer, and nobody should have the right to enforce his or her own interpretations of religious literature upon anyone.” They feel that Hijab must remain an open and viable choice for anyone who wants to wear it. It would certainly be naïve to suggest that the stagnation of views on just the Hijab question stems in part from the sexist bigotry which seems to have permeated most Muslim societies and has become deep rooted in the vast majority of Islamic literature.

Having said all that, when I look at my surroundings and consider myself as an educated, young man belonging to a time where the youth has been caught up in the delusion of enlightened moderation and a reformed and liberal Islam, I feel proud to admit that I would like to marry a woman who not only is a practicing Muslim in terms of her actions but also in terms of her outer Sunnah i.e. wears Hijab and covers herself modestly. No matter how much advancement we make in terms of science and technology, none of it excuses us from the teachings of Allah (swt). The teachings of Taqwa and Haya do not change across time and there is no way of reforming the word of Allah (swt). Historians have known throughout time that whenever mankind has chosen to leave the word of God, they have shifted from being Ashraf al Makhlooqat to worse than animals. The choice for the Muslim woman of today might be: veil or no veil; but the Quranic stance on it remains the same. Thus what most of us might consider as conservative, is essentially not only protecting a women’s modesty, it is also a symbol of dignity and a notion of why we are the most superior form of creation. The implications of the teachings of Quran and Sunnah are beyond just the apparent aspects. They are the word of God and His Messenger (sa), and carry in them benefit for us that is beyond our intellectual capacity.