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Do men think they will be left alone to say, “We believe,” and not be tested? [29:2]

Commitments in life cannot be made without a test. Whenever you go out of your way to reach a new stage in life, you are bound to run into difficulties. Sometimes you think that just because you have reached a new stage in your life, you will not be tested or go through any trials. But Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is only testing you, to allow you to reach higher stages in jannah, insha’Allah. Sometimes you might not see the wisdom behind barriers that pop up in your life; sometimes you just have to accept.

What really happens when you start to wear hijab? What is it about this new step that changes your life? Hijab is not just a piece of fancy cloth wrapped neatly around your hair. Hijab is not the fact that your short-sleeve t-shirts end up in the back of your closet, and the baggy jeans start coming to the front. Hijab is a whole new contract, a new commitment, and like every other commitment in life, you have to take it seriously.

When I began to wear hijab some years ago, I really felt this “being tested” concept come into action. When I began wearing hijab, I remember my best friend telling me now that I wear it, I have to “act it.” I laughed at her when she said that, saying that the way I act is fine, and I need to change nothing except my wardrobe. But I was mistaken. Hijab is not just the act of getting new clothes – it’s a new life style.

To think of it now after four years, wearing hijab was the best thing that ever happened to me. I changed not only to become a person who respects others, but who also respects herself. As I grow older and more attached to Islam, I begin to understand this more and more.

An incident that is unforgettable for me occurred last summer overseas. There was a big dinner one of my relatives was throwing because my aunt and her husband had just come from America. My aunt’s husband has always been a dad-like figure to me. Growing up as their neighbor, I have always been close to him. Now that I had “grown’ up and hadn’t seen him for two years, something changed.

As all my cousins saw him, they raced to hug him, and I was in utter shock. He was a non-muhram, how could they possibly do that? Thoughts began to race in my head, as I did not know what to say. I was confused and bewildered. As my turn came to greet him, his smile widened as he called me by my childhood nickname, and his arms opened as he came to embrace me. At this point, I knew all the seminars I had been attending would not go to waste. I knew Islam had to be implemented, and I was not going to back out. So I nodded politely, and stepped back. I heard the snickering of my cousins and the puzzlement of the rest of my family. I remember at this point, I felt like I was doing something wrong, like I was the odd one out. I felt my eyes welling up with tears. Why was this all going wrong? I thought I was doing the right thing, I thought they would be proud, how come this is their reaction?

Then I snapped out of it, reminding myself that I would not do something to please others, while that action displeases my Lord. My grandfather at this point realized I was in an awkward position so he called me to come sit on his lap.

I knew my relatives all knew the reason I didn’t hug my aunt’s husband, I guess it was just hard for them to actually witness it being implemented. After that, I went off into another room, trying to hide my tears. I was embarrassed, but I did not know why – wasn’t I right?

This experience was not only a humbling for me, but it also allowed my family members to gain an exceptional respect towards me. I came back and sat in the large gathering and began to explain to them that I wear hijab now, and I am not about to displease Allah by violating an aspect of that hijab. At this point, I was a bit annoyed with my cousins, the ones who would not stop laughing at my “religiousness.” To calm my soul, I began to assure myself that my cousins simply did not know. And if they knew, maybe this was a reminder.

I learnt from this situation that hijab was the protection of my dignity. Not only did I learn more about the true “inner me,” but I also learnt how now, as I get older and life gets more serious, I have to find a way to balance out my deen and my relationships with others.

I considered that in this situation, I could have just hugged my aunt’s husband and then forgotten about the whole deal. I could have tried to ignore his presence and pretended I had not heard him call me. But all this could haves just did not seem to be reasonable. If I had done any of those other things, I would never have showed my family that just because its family, it does not mean deen does not have to be implemented. I take my deen seriously, and I wanted to make sure they all knew it, in a polite manner of course.

Strangely enough, this experience brought me closer to my cousins. I realized that they really just didn’t know. So I explained it to them, and saw their noses wrinkle in astonishment. I giggled to myself at their reactions – alhamdulillah, guidance is a blessing from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

The best part is, a couple of days later, my aunt’s husband called me by my childhood nickname, and then paused –

“You don’t mind me calling you that right?” he asked.

I was happy to know that sticking with the truth through this “mini trial” of mine, not only was my aunt’s husband understanding, but he had come to respect and care about my opinion.