When Hijab Gets the Job

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A few months back, I was invited to interview for the position of English teacher at a top, comprehensive school in an affluent area. The school only had a small intake of ethnic students, and therefore a small number of Muslim students and teachers. I knew I would stand out from the other applicants, dressed in a hijab and jilbab. But I derived my strength from knowing that if Allah had decreed this position for me, then it would be mine, whereas if I did not get it, then there was some good in that situation as well.

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Standing amongst the other eight candidates, I stood out like water in the sahara desert. While all the other candidates were suited and booted, I had my hijab and jilbab on with a smart blazer on top. The night before, I had made lots of dua that Allah show me at my best as a Muslim woman, and that He help me to retain my honour and dignity.

Although I had been a bundle of nerves the previous evening, worrying I would mess up the lesson I had to teach as part of the assessment process, I felt much more relaxed on the day of the interview, and a sudden blanket of serenity wrapped itself around me. I recalled advice from various job sites on ‘playing it cool,’ and with Allah’s help, I felt like a cool cucumber among the other candidates who seemed to swelter under the pressure. The hijab felt like my envelope of strength that reminded me that: Yes I was different but in a positive way. I was following Allah’s law and therefore, He would protect me in every situation.

The first part of my assessment was teaching a year eight class, which was observed by the deputy of English. The lesson flowed, all praise be to Allah. Though the children did put me through my paces by initially lacking enthusiasm and resisting cooperation, I refused to waver and kept brimming with enthusiasm and assertiveness until I won their respect and got them to complete the task. As I left the room, the deputy patted me on my back and said well done, which was pleasing, no doubt, to hear.

Before I knew it, time whizzed by and I found myself sitting in front of an interview panel, consisting of three senior managers, two women and one man. My heart beat with trepidation as I awaited the dreaded handshake scenario. But when I entered the room no hand was offered, much to my relief, and I was asked pleasantly to sit down.

The interview itself turned out not to be a daunting experience. As I answered the questions using my experience as a parent as well as a teacher, and discussed work I do for the community, it actually felt more like a conversation. Prior to entering the interview room, I recited the dua Prophet Musa uttered when he has to meet the Pharaoh to loosen the knot in his tongue:

“O Lord, expand my breast for me, and ease my task for me. And loosen the knot in my tongue, that they may understand my words.” (Quran, 20: 25-28)

The dua helped me to speak with assurance and clarity and demonstrate my genuine interest in developing and shaping young minds and teaching teenagers. As the interview drew to an end, the interviewers stood and extended their hands for me to shake. I gulped, shook the hands of the two women and politely explained that I do not shake the hands of men for religious reasons. To which he replied “I should have known!”

The overall experience made me realise that by wearing the hijab and following the Islamic etiquettes, I portrayed the image of a strong woman with principles, and in return Allah gave me respect and honour. Despite being a daunting experience, Allah poured reassurance and confidence into my words. And I knew as I walked out of the school unaware of the outcome, that no matter whether I got the job or not, I had not compromised the deen in the way I dressed or the manner I behaved – therefore, Allah would grant me success whichever way I turned. And that feeling of contentment was irreplaceable.

You may be wandering, whether or not I got the job. After arriving home, I received a call two hours later offering me the position, alhamdullilah. I asked to wait a day while I prayed Isthikhara and accepted the job a day later.

Allah is truly the Most Merciful. If we strive for the akhirah, Allah grants us success in both this world and the next. However, if we run after the dunya, we will be losers both in this world and the next.

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  • Yacht

    Salam Alaikum,

    Alhamdullilah you got the job! I have a job-related story also. My friend and I both applied for the same job, and it turned out we ended up in the same group interview. She wore hijab, but I did not. We went to the interview together and were both asked questions. Later I ended up not getting the job, but she did.

    One of my excuses not to wear hijab in my pre-hijabi days was the possibility of my career life being hindered, when in reality, the only one who can really hinder anything is Allah (swt). So this incident proved to me that whatever Allah wills will happen no matter if you are a hijabi, or non-hijabi, so you have to trust and strive in the way of Allah and what has been written for you will happen.

    Salam

  • Yacht

    Salam Alaikum,

    Alhamdullilah you got the job! I have a job-related story also. My friend and I both applied for the same job, and it turned out we ended up in the same group interview. She wore hijab, but I did not. We went to the interview together and were both asked questions. Later I ended up not getting the job, but she did.

    One of my excuses not to wear hijab in my pre-hijabi days was the possibility of my career life being hindered, when in reality, the only one who can really hinder anything is Allah (swt). So this incident proved to me that whatever Allah wills will happen no matter if you are a hijabi, or non-hijabi, so you have to trust and strive in the way of Allah and what has been written for you will happen.

    Salam

  • Aliza

    Jzk for your comment Yatch. You’re right everything we strive for really is in Allah’s hand, when I didn’t wear the hijab. I used to find it so hard to get a job. I had so many interviews in my pre-hijab days and as soon as I put the hijab on,a year later, I got a job within a month, through recommendation, without applying for it. Amazing how Allah works isn’t it.

  • Aliza

    Jzk for your comment Yatch. You’re right everything we strive for really is in Allah’s hand, when I didn’t wear the hijab. I used to find it so hard to get a job. I had so many interviews in my pre-hijab days and as soon as I put the hijab on,a year later, I got a job within a month, through recommendation, without applying for it. Amazing how Allah works isn’t it.

  • student

    MashaAllah, may Allah ‘azza wa jal keep you strong Aliza! Your article was very “emanrushing” ..if that’s a word!

  • student

    MashaAllah, may Allah ‘azza wa jal keep you strong Aliza! Your article was very “emanrushing” ..if that’s a word!

  • muslimah

    masha’Allah – I am so happy for you, sister!

    I had a very similar experience recently when I interviewed for a law intern position at a big law firm in the city. Of course the pressure was a LOT less, but I know what you went through.

    Besides these struggles mentioned, which were all handled alhumdulillah for you by the grace of Allah (swt), I wanted to mention another key struggle that I was faced with frequently during the month-long internship, which was shaking hands with nonMahram. This situation came up quite frequently, and it was most difficult/awkward for me to deal with since most people here still are not yet aware of the Islamic code of conduct.

    Any advice as to how to avoid the shaking of hands dilemma? Especially when it’s on the spot? Unfortunately, it’s very hard for me to gather the guts to speak up and clearly say that I can’t shake hands to the person before doing so…Shaytaan really has me tight in these situations! Help :(

  • muslimah

    masha’Allah – I am so happy for you, sister!

    I had a very similar experience recently when I interviewed for a law intern position at a big law firm in the city. Of course the pressure was a LOT less, but I know what you went through.

    Besides these struggles mentioned, which were all handled alhumdulillah for you by the grace of Allah (swt), I wanted to mention another key struggle that I was faced with frequently during the month-long internship, which was shaking hands with nonMahram. This situation came up quite frequently, and it was most difficult/awkward for me to deal with since most people here still are not yet aware of the Islamic code of conduct.

    Any advice as to how to avoid the shaking of hands dilemma? Especially when it’s on the spot? Unfortunately, it’s very hard for me to gather the guts to speak up and clearly say that I can’t shake hands to the person before doing so…Shaytaan really has me tight in these situations! Help :(

  • http://diaryofamuslimgirl.blogspot.com/ Muslim Girl

    mA that was very inspiring. I love inspiring stories :)

  • http://diaryofamuslimgirl.blogspot.com Muslim Girl

    mA that was very inspiring. I love inspiring stories :)

  • http://diaryofamuslimgirl.blogspot.com/ Muslim Girl

    Muslimah: I think you should read the post “To Shake or Not to Shake” about the handshake dilemma here:

    http://igotitcovered.org/?p=1264

    :)

  • http://diaryofamuslimgirl.blogspot.com Muslim Girl

    Muslimah: I think you should read the post “To Shake or Not to Shake” about the handshake dilemma here:

    http://igotitcovered.org/?p=1264

    :)

  • http://www.areweprepared.ca/ Shayistha

    Assalamu Alaikum..

    Masha Allah sister.. very well written..

    May Allah help all our sisters to go for work proudly with the Muslim Identity..Ameen..

  • http://www.areweprepared.ca Shayistha

    Assalamu Alaikum..

    Masha Allah sister.. very well written..

    May Allah help all our sisters to go for work proudly with the Muslim Identity..Ameen..

  • Aliza

    Wasalam, sorry I was away for a week on holiday. Jzk for your comments.I think sharing our experiences are such a lovely way to strengthen each others iman, as we are all at various stages of our lives, alhamdullah. With regards to the handshake, I think the hardest part is the first couple of times you say no, but just put your hands up and smile with a comment like I don’t shake hands with men for religious reasons and many people understand and more so you will find they really admire you for having principles and courage to say no. Funny thing is I’ve just came back from a week in Egypt and so many muslim men tried to shake hands with me and my husband, even the taxi prices etc, but I just said no thank you, I think they have thought as we are from the UK ,thats what muslim western women do. Just be strong and inshallah it will be your action induced dawah.

  • Aliza

    Wasalam, sorry I was away for a week on holiday. Jzk for your comments.I think sharing our experiences are such a lovely way to strengthen each others iman, as we are all at various stages of our lives, alhamdullah. With regards to the handshake, I think the hardest part is the first couple of times you say no, but just put your hands up and smile with a comment like I don’t shake hands with men for religious reasons and many people understand and more so you will find they really admire you for having principles and courage to say no. Funny thing is I’ve just came back from a week in Egypt and so many muslim men tried to shake hands with me and my husband, even the taxi prices etc, but I just said no thank you, I think they have thought as we are from the UK ,thats what muslim western women do. Just be strong and inshallah it will be your action induced dawah.

  • Amina

    Asalamu alaikuam!

    MashaAllah! That was a wonderful read. Very inspiring. Baraka Allah feeki :)

    InshaAllah I will be passing this message on :)

  • Mujahada

    Walaykum Assalam!

    That is such a beautiful story masha'Allah!! Jazak Allahu khair for sharing! May Allah always make you successful in this life. Ameen

  • Mariamelsamra

     jazakom allah kol khayrr, i was confused and you gave me strength that Allah will protect us whatever, SOBHAN ALLAH. 

  • Fatima

    As salaamulaikum..

    I too have a similar story of getting job, i attended the interview with hijab and jilbab and yes Alhamdulillah Allah gave me not only job but a post which i dreamed of..