When I Asked Allah to Help Me

13

Guest writer Mariam Sabr shares her thoughts and journey to hijab over the years of her life.

Some 25 years ago, I was growing up as a teenager in Midwest America like most teenagers were. Although I was more conservative than other girls my age, I was accustomed to wearing jeans and T-shirts and occasionally a nice dress.

I lived in a small community, and although we were quite secluded from other cultures, we did follow movies with great interest. During high school, the need to be “cool” was very important to me and my friends, and we had to wear the right clothes to fit the part. In the early 80’s, we tried our best to dress like the stars, and the “in” style was tight jeans, leg warmers, and short T-shirts, or silky pants with revealing blouses and high heels.

As I got a bit older and went to college, I saw that styles differed from person to person and began to see people from other cultures wearing clothing I had been unaccustomed to seeing. It was there when I saw my first muhajjabah (a woman wearing hijab). Looking  back, I faintly recall wearing a scarf on my head as a child but have no recollection of why I did that or if I had seen something that provoked me to do it – all I remember is liking it. In college, I had no idea why this woman I saw would cover her head. I only thought it must have something to do with some strange religion.

As Allah had planned without my realizing it at the time, I was to meet a Muslim man in one of my classes, who was later to introduce Islam to me and then become my husband. As I learned about his country and this different religion, I became so impressed by the ideals and morals of Islam that I was compelled to accept it as my own. I was intrigued by the love embodied in Islam, both in social and family relationships, as well as by the care and protection it gives women. When I took the shahadah and became a Muslim, I was suddenly given so many rights that many Western women still struggle to achieve today, including women in my own family.

After about three months of being Muslim, I realized that as a follower of Islam, I was commanded to wear the hijab. Although I felt very apprehensive about the idea, I knew it was an order from Allah that I had to obey. One night, I decided to begin wearing the hijab starting the following day. I was frightened that someone might harm me, or laugh at me, or that I might get fired from my job. I worried about what my friends and classmates might say to me. I prayed to Allah to make my way easy and to assist me in this endeavor, as I was doing it to please Him. I went to sleep hoping for Allah’s mercy.

In the morning, I prepared for my day, but in a slightly different way this time. Before leaving home, I tied a small bit of cloth over my head and went out to work and school. As soon as I arrived, I felt a sense of peace come over me. Rather than scornful remarks and laughing, I was an object of respect and interest. Instead of harm and hateful looks, I received admiration and reverence. When I asked Allah to help me, He really did. The same people who I had been with the day before as a normal American girl were now asking me about my new religion. My boss seemed very relaxed about it, and when I told her I would need some time to pray every day, she was very accommodating. Several people even told me that I looked more beautiful in hijab! To top off my day, an unknown man opened the door for me. In the US, this is a sign of esteem: only gentlemen do such things for women they deem to be respectable ladies. I was so amazed.

The blessings did not stop there. Over the next days and months, I saw a definite shift in the way others treated me. Where they used to tell me crude jokes, they now only talked to me in the most respectful manner. Where men used to walk up and hug me, there was now an obvious barrier between me and them. Where I used to walk down the street and be whistled at by construction workers, now I was shown the utmost respect; it was as if they suddenly realized I was a pious and conservative woman. I welcomed all of this with open arms, because the way I had been treated before was not in congruence with my conservative beliefs.

As time went on and my hijab became longer, wider, and covering more of my body, all of these changes that I mentioned above became even more prominent. I occasionally received a rude comment or gesture which I ignored as it usually came from an ignorant person. On my last trip to visit my family, I wore a loose jilbab with a large waist-length khimar and a matching face cover. I worried that I would be harassed or that I would be physically harmed, as my visit was less than a year after 9/11. Once again, I prayed to my Lord to make the path easy, and I was not bothered by a single person during my entire one-month stay.

I thank Allah every day for my hijab. I see it as freedom from the shackles that enslave Western women. Yes, it can be hot at times, but I would never even consider trading it for Western clothing, which invites crude speech, lust, and even unwanted touch. I feel sadness when I see some of my Muslim sisters rushing to the call of “women’s liberation”, because I know the stark reality – they are not free but are nothing more than mere slaves to the media and those men who are pleased with their dress.

O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [ Al-Ahzab, ayah 59]

I pray that each sister will see this truth. I pray that she will recognize the respect that Islam has granted her and that she joins me in this glorious religion. I also pray that my sisters in faith, my Muslim daughters and sisters, hold onto their hijab as if they are holding onto their lives. I pray that they realize what a blessing they have, and that Allah’s command to wear hijab is not a difficulty for them, but a source of benefit and ease for their lives. I pray that they realize this before it is too late…

_______________

Submitted to I Got It Covered for our May 2010 reader-takeover month.