A Story About Waiting

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Guest writer Selma‘s transition to hijab was a long time coming, and she tells of the various steps that led her there.

My journey to hijab is a story about waiting. About months and months of waiting, wishing to wear it and still not doing it out of fear of others. I was waiting for the perfect moment, but one, day I simply got tired of waiting.

The beginning

I grew up in a non-religious family in an upper middle class district of Berlin, Germany. My father being Turkish and my mother German, I always felt I had to prove to my German friends, teachers or people in general that I was just as good as them. Maybe this is why I always valued others’ opinions too much.

After finishing school I began studying at university to achieve my goal of becoming a high school teacher. During my first semesters, my little brother began practicing Islam and was soon joined by my father in his daily prayers. Although I loved their beautiful recitations, I could not admit it. I secretly envied them, being convinced that Islam was no option for me because I thought that women had no rights in the religion. After all, they had to cover more than men, right? Besides that, I didn’t know anything about this matter, and all I had in my mind was the blurred, dark picture of “man-made oppression” presented to me by the media.

Some years later, I visited a friend in Bonn and saw some men making da’wah on the street. My friend got a booklet called “Women in Islam” and lent it to me, which I probably never would have touched again, had I not become sick after my return. So when I had to stay in bed for three days, I decided to read it out of pure boredom. And – I couldn’t stop! I was so surprised, reading about Muslimahs’ rights to work, own property, inherit, chose their own husband, be provided for by men and wear the veil as a sign of value.

I was astonished to learn that Allah makes that command in the Quran, and that therefore covering is a submission to the Creator and not to human beings. I had always thought that covering was meant to say that a woman was not worth looking at, but now I could see that it meant quite the opposite: that she was so beautiful that not everybody was worth seeing her! That really was the turning point for me. The most “unfair” part about Islam, the hijab, had become beautiful to me, and around one year of reading and researching later, I finally took my shahadah.

The struggle

After becoming a Muslim, many obligations were easy for me. I prayed my regular prayers, fasted for the first time, abandoned non-halal food and places. I had stopped wearing tight clothes and make-up long before becoming a Muslim, but putting on the hijab seemed impossible to me. I was terrified! What would my parents say (after a huge fight and many tears I knew my parents wouldn’t like it)? How would strangers and, even more importantly, my professors react? And how would I find a job? After all, I had chosen one of the few professions where there was an actual law prohibiting the hijab in most parts of Germany. I felt that I had to chose between my faith and my existence as I still didn’t have enough trust in the concept of “rizq.”

As time went by, I slowly changed. First went the love for becoming a high school teacher. I still enjoyed teaching, but Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala replaced that love with a much greater one, namely the love for Him. I wanted to be recognized as a Muslim, I wanted the whole world to know how much I loved Islam and I wanted to show men that I was no longer available. I used every free minute to find out more about the hijab and almost forgot my studies…

The change

Many months of thinking and fearing had passed when Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala decided to bring me into action. At the beginning of April, spring had arrived in Berlin and I was really upset that I had to stop wearing the cap I had worn all fall and winter. And although I had already told my friends and family that I would start wearing the hijab in June (after finishing university), I felt that I couldn’t wait any longer.

On the 6th of April, I had one of many final exams, and some days before that, I realized that I had not studied enough. Seeing that it was too late for me to do anything about it, I prayed very hard, asking Alla subhanahu wa ta’alah to let me pass that exam. After salah, I continued sitting on my prayer mat and looked out the window. The sky was glowing with different colors of the evening sun, ranging from blue to red, and I was amazed at His creation. I felt so bad about being unprepared for the exam and regretted my actions so much, knowing I would have to appear before the commission like that. I would be held accountable for my bad preparation and now I could only hope it would be enough.

“That’s how one must feel before the ‘real test,’ the Day of Judgment,” I thought. What if I realized on that Day that I had not done enough? “I not only have to be responsible for this tiny exam, but for my whole life!” I thought. I started crying and asked Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to forgive me and make me strong enough to put on the hijab.

Putting on the hijab

The exam went well, elhamdulillah.

After that, I had one day off before I would have to go to another exam preparation course at university. Knowing that I would see my fellow students every week, I could not delay my decision, as I didn’t want them to see me uncovered one week and covered another. I wanted them to know from the beginning. So on April 7th, I stood in front of the mirror putting on a blue hijab and trying to find the courage to leave the house. The moment my foot crossed the doorstep, I felt as if I was in a film, seeing everything in slow motion.

I couldn’t believe it! I had panicked almost one entire year about this day, and now I was standing on the street!

Saying “bismillah, bismillah” silently all the time, I went to the bus stop and took the bus. To be honest, people did look (maybe because I actually look very German). But it was not bad at all, and although I had sweaty hands, I felt good! I started smiling and couldn’t stop as happiness rushed through my entire body. There I was, sitting on the bus, being the happiest person on earth! I went to two libraries, then to a big shopping street, bought something and was surprised that people were being extremely nice! I called my little brother and told him I would come home with hijab and then called my father and went home. What can I say… he and my mother were not happy at all, but they didn’t say much…

From there on, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala constantly made things easy for me. So far, I haven’t had any problems at university (although it is a very small university and I am probably the first and only hijabi in my particular faculty), I even didn’t lose my job (giving private lessons). Men don’t look twice, my friends and sisters gave me support, and after one week, my father told me he was proud of me. I was so happy, I thought I would explode! I couldn’t stop smiling and I was so thankful that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala had given me an easy start so that I would be prepared for harder times.

Today

Today, about two weeks after my first day with hijab, I am facing those harder times. I also want to wear the jilbab and had a huge fight with my parents. I cried a lot, but I know this is my test. As a friend put it, “It shouldn’t be easy.” If it was, everybody would do it, and if it wasn’t difficult, the reward would not be as high as it is. Insha’Allah I will be strong enough to go through this phase and insha’Allah some door will open for me. There is one Islamic private school where I want to apply as a teacher and I also pray that my parents will realize that it is my own life and my own happiness I have to decide on.

May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala allow me and all Muslims to pass the tests we receive so that we will become stronger in our eeman. May He make us realize that we have to be patient and hope for the reward in the afterlife, no matter what happens to us in this life. May He remind us of the hardships of our Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam and his Companions, and may Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala make our hearts restful at the thought of Him. Ameen.

To my sisters

So for all my sisters out there who are just as terrified as I was: Let me tell you that if I could do it, you can do it, too! The fear will go away if you follow your heart. If you know what is right and don’t do it, you will have all those fears; but if you do what you feel is right, you will feel good about yourself and you will, insha’Allah, be able to face the difficulties. And, as it was with me, you might be surprised that there are fewer difficulties than you might have expected. Always remember that Allah is Al-Rahman and that He will never leave you alone.

Only you can do it if you want to. If you want to wear the hijab, you will have to put it on with your own hands. Make yourself happy, not others. Be true to your own heart and to your Rabb, and be accountable for your own life. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala  help you and me always. Ameen.

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