Mommy’s a Woman Now

9

Dread filled me as we approached the boarding school that was to be my new abode. As my father drove us through the entrance, I held on to my hijab with trepidation, mulling over how I would survive wearing it every day for the next five years in secondary school. At thirteen, I knew nothing about how to wear a hijab, and for the first month, I walked around school clad in a clumsily worn hijab, like most of the other first formers around me.

I moved through adolescence observing the hijab, but to me, it was more of a custom than an act of obedience to Allah. In a predominantly Muslim populated country such as Malaysia, you’re bound to meet women clad in hijab anywhere you go. I understood why we had to wear it, but never truly embraced the wisdom in its entirety. I saw women clad in hijab outside their homes, yet I also saw them uncovered when the mailman came knocking. It wasn’t until my husband-to-be pointed it out to me that I realized the irony of it all.

What is the point of wearing hijab when leaving the house, when you don’t even bother to cover in front of non mahram men? Is the hijab just a customary attire observed by whoever chooses to do so?

I began to scrutinize and delve into the very reason of covering. Hijab, to me, is a symbol of respect and modesty for Muslim women. Though flaunting our beauty is rather fulfilling to our vanity, the hijab serves as a protection from our vanity, unwanted attention, lurking desires and even our human nature. Many a time the thought had come to me, I wish I could go outside, let my hair down, and have the wind caress my hair.

Then, something would always stop me right dead in my tracks. Thoughts of Paradise, its beauty and promise would infiltrate my mind, reminding me that life on this earth is nothing compared to the everlasting life in the hereafter. Am I willing to trade a few blissful moments on earth for an eternal life in Paradise? Honestly speaking, I have to say that wearing hijab is not all fun, though it becomes second nature once one gets used to it. I have throughout all these years, acquired the reflex of running for cover whenever a non mahram man knocks on my door, which can at times be exasperating for the mailman who has to wait while I get dressed.

The realization that Allah is All-Aware and the very knowledge that we are created to worship Him are more than enough reason for me continue to strive to please Allah to the best of my ability. Even though I’m given free will, my way of life is dictated by Allah, in a general manual that has been around for over 1400 years; the Quran. Why would I live by a way other than that which Allah has deemed the best for His creations?

In 2005, I had tagged along on my husband’s conference trip in Hawaii. Thanks to my husband’s search for Muslims on the island, we were invited to a home in which I witnessed a conversion of a family. The mother had put on the hijab when she uttered her shahadah, and as we all looked on, her five-year-old daughter said,

“Mommy’s a woman now.”

The implication of that innocent statement coming from a child raised in a non Muslim environment is solid proof that the hijab is more than a flimsy covering of the head. It is a piece of fabric that carries with it Muslim identity, respect, modesty, spiritual fulfillment and most importantly, humility and obedience to Allah.

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and protect their private parts and not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent, and to draw their veils all over their Juyub and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim)women, or their right hand possession, or old male servants who lack vigor, or children who are not aware of the nakedness of women. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful. [An-Nur, 24:31]

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Article was originally published for Al Ummah, a South African based newspaper, Vol 6 Edition 9, September/October 2005. Appears here with some modification.