Pick a Day – And Do It!

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In this guest post, Ambreen Shaikh explains some of the influences that brought her to hijab: researching the matter, looking up to the role models in her life… picking a day, and simply doing it.

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Some people might be curious as to why I chose to wear hijab all of a sudden in my 21 year-old life. I give them one simple answer: I found truth.

In the beginning of the summer, I decided to look into what hijab really was and why people wear it. For two months, I did lots of research. I found why some women do not wear hijab, and I even found why some wear niqab (cover their face). It’s interesting how much information you can gather within such a small period of time.

I was always curious about the hijab, but earlier in my life, I had little to medium interest in it – never enough to actually wear it. I was afraid I’d be stared at, left out and simply not accepted by today’s society.

Later on, I realized this was a weakness I had to overcome, and that I had to strengthen my imaan (faith) big time. I realized that I shouldn’t be bothered by what people think, and what should concern me is if I am obeying my Creator.

It’s like this: Why do we have to conform to society and be a certain way? Why can’t we just dare to be different and have the freedom to follow our own religion? We live in America for a reason, it is the beautiful land of the free – we should be free to practice Islam the right way. After all, our duty in this life isn’t to please society, it is to please Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

The conflict between culture and religion has gone on for many, many years and has confused many people. This is especially true in Desi and American culture, where hijab is sometimes (mistakenly) considered an Arab custom, instead of a religious obligation. One thing people should keep in mind in helping them understand hijab is that Islam is not only a religion; it is a complete way of life.

Many times in the past, I thought about covering at a later period in my life, always postponing it to years and years down the line. Then one day, I finally came across an article I could relate to. The article stated that if an individual actually picked a day to wear hijab, went through with the decision and did not back out, then the life-long chase would finally be over.

After some research, I picked a day to start my journey with hijab: that day was August 17th, 2008.

One of the sources that completely convinced me about the importance of hijab was actually opening the Qur’an and reading Surat An-Noor, where it was plain and clear for my naked eye to see. It states in the Qur’an:

“And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of men other than their husbands, Fathers, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, their blood related uncles, their brothers, the sons of their brothers and sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal certain details of their bodies. All of you shall repent to Allah, O you believers, that you may succeed.” [Surat an-Noor, 24:31]

Covering is not only for women – it applies to men as well. Generally, men must be covered from the naval to the knee in front of women. They must also lower their gaze, and not look at women who are not lawful for them:

“Tell the believing men that they shall subdue their eyes (and not stare at the women), and to maintain their chastity (guard their private parts). This is purer for them. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything they do.” [24:30]

I also read Surat al-Baqarah, and that helped me become more motivated as a Muslim in general. In Surat al-Baqarah, it mentions that in front of the believers, some people will say, “We believe in Allah, and will obey Him and no one else.” Yet when these same people are in the presence of a disbeliever, they say the exact same thing to them. I thought to myself: This is so true in today’s society! How can we be such hypocrites? Either we are believers or not!

Right before I started wearing hijab, I was so worried by the silly stories I made up in my head about how my friends would reject me, or about being looked down upon, or being viewed as oppressed. When I actually started wearing the hijab, all of those things I worried about never even happened.

In fact, it has been such a positive experience. I wasn’t treated any different by society. I was respected. Alhumdulillah, they say if you take one step towards Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, He will take ten steps towards you and make everything easier for you. This is very true. I felt like the road was already paved for me and I did not have to struggle in this transition.

Indeed, in the media there have been so many misconceptions about the status of women in Islam and the misconception of Muslims in general. Hijab does not oppress a believing woman, it actually liberates her.

Why? Do you see today’s advertisements? The majority of advertisements use the female body to sell their products and attract more attention. A female in today’s society is pressured to fit in, and be on top of fashion, and show lots of skin. She is actually being oppressed by not having the freedom of wearing what she wants, and always being under pressure to please men by showing off her body. Also, her body must be thin and in shape to look “attractive”!

In fact, a society which promotes nakedness takes people nearer to the culture of animals. By wearing hijab and dressing modestly, a Muslim woman is liberated by the sense that she has control over what people see of her. She is not treated as an object.

One thing that I have been blessed with was support. My elder sister was the first person in my family to start wearing hijab (when she entered college), then my mom started wearing hijab a few years ago, and eventually I started to think about it because I became more interested in what it was.

I do admit that my mom is my biggest role-model – she showed me that you can wear hijab and still have a place in today’s society because she holds such a great job in the hospital where she works. My mom has so much confidence, masha’Allah, and has tremendous power at home and wherever she goes. And people respect her for it, alhumdulillah.

To a sister who might have family or friends who don’t support her in wearing hijab, I would highly recommend that she finds other hijabis to become friends with. That way, she’ll still have some form of a support system.

This transition in my life has also been a great dawah opportunity to explain to others what Islam is and why women wear hijab. We must help our Muslim brothers and sisters in this time of corruption.

And just because we do something good other people don’t (like wearing hijab), we should never think that we are superior to anyone else. This is because at any given moment, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala can strengthen their imaan so that it is higher than yours, and your imaan in return can be tested and weakened. We also do not know what anyone else’s intentions are, and which deeds are being accepted by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Islam prohibits pride and arrogance: with pride, there will always be competition and backstabbing, and this is wrong.

Alhumdulillah, it has been two months since I started wearing hijab and I’ve noticed many doors filled with opportunity open for me. I noticed that my imaan has improved and my interest in Islam has gone further.

It has been such a blessing and I truly have never felt so close to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala as I do now. It is a sign that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala loves those who become stronger in their faith. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala bring each and every one of us to the straight and right path as well as keeping us their Ameen.