After 9/11

10

Wearing hijab can come with its share of trials; guest writer Salvy Ahsan describes some of the difficulties she’s faced, and what she’s done to overcome them.

Living life in this dunya is not easy for the Muslims. Muslims face so many difficulties, right and left. I also faced many hardships in my struggle to practice Islam.

There is an ayah in the Qur’an:

Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, ‘When the Help of Allah come?’ Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allah is near!” [al-Baqarah, 2:214]

Often when I go out in public, I encounter very pleasant people who give me uplifting remarks such as, “I love your culture and traditions. I always wanted to know more.” Other times, people do not make feel as comfortable when they give me strange and stealthy stares. The first thing that people notice about me is my hijab, a scarf that covers my hair and neck.

I wear hijab because Allaah commanded us to; it is my identity as a young Muslim woman. Once I started wearing hijab, I became a walking, talking symbol of Islam. Being born and raised in America as a Muslim girl, I have faced many unique challenges, especially post 9/11.

From the age of seven, I was taught to read the Qu’ran, pray five times a day, be modest, be kind to others, and perform other righteous acts with pure intentions. Although I was always encouraged to be a good Muslim girl, my family never pressurized me, because as the Qu’ran teaches, there is no compulsion in religion. I’ve always wanted to wear hijab, but I was too scared of what people were going to think until recently.

Once I moved to McDonough, Georgia, it became even more difficult. I received comments just because of looking like a Muslim (tan, black hair, brown eyes). I was told by a peer, “Go back to your country; I don’t want you bombing my school.” Similarly, one time my mother was driving and she was called a terrorist by three young males. Without a doubt, comments like these are very insulting and humiliating, especially since these statements are not true. It’s wrong to judge any whole population based on the extremist actions of few.

Consequently, growing up in an “Islamophobic” society like ours, life can become very difficult for us Muslims. I always wanted to wear hijab because I knew it would protect me from the superficial eyes of society as people would focus on me as a person, not my physical appearance. Most importantly, Muslimahs should wear hijab because it is fard. Allah commanded us to wear the hijab and we should listen and obey.

As I got older, wiser, and stronger, I made the decision to wear hijab on my own. I wanted to do that which is fard. We may suffer while trying to obey Allah, but insha’Allah rewards and honor from Allah will be presented in the Hereafter for our struggles.

I also wanted people to know that I was Muslim so I could attempt to correct any misunderstanding others have of Islam. Muslims are feared for the ignorant actions of those who twist religion for their own benefits. I wanted to make a statement that Islam was not a religion to be feared.

Strangers often approach me asking questions in very loud and slow English, assuming that I cannot speak fluent English simply by looking at my hijab. To their surprise, I respond back in the same fluent English they speak. Also to their surprise, I am not a terrorist, nor am I an advertisement for oppressed women. Moreover, I was able to inform many that I do have rights because the Qur’an teaches that men and women are equal, that individuals should not be judged according to gender, beauty, wealth, or privilege. The only thing that makes one person better than another is his or her taqwa and pious character.

Allah the Exalted said,

Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has the most taqwa.” [al-Hujurat, 49:13]

Taqwa means the fear of Allah that makes a Muslim do what Allah has commanded and stay away from what He has forbidden.

I know some of these statements may seem obvious to be even mentioning, but I have been asked quite a few amusing and shocking questions. Hijab for me, like many other Muslim women in the world today, is for the sake of Allah. It is a personal and liberating decision because it gives us control over our own bodies and gives us the chance to represent our identity.

Through the years, alhamdulilah, I’ve learned to live Islam internally and externally. I am still growing. I’d like to point out that none of us are perfect, and we have all made mistakes in life, but never let those negative aspects get you down. The key is to learn from our mistakes, seek forgiveness from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and move on. Always remember to purify your intentions before doing any deed, insha’Allah. We may slip and fall, but we have to get back up and try, try again to continue seeking Allah’s pleasure.

Allah states in the Qur’an:

Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.”[al-Baqarah, 2:222]

May Allah make us of those who fall into this description. Ameen.

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Submitted to I Got It Covered for our May 2010 reader-takeover month. This story was also previously published by The Ideal Muslimah, here.