Before Hijab, I Was Scared

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Having made a decision that brought many blessings, guest writer Shuma looks back at all the fears – all the unfounded fears – that once held her back.

Before hijab, I was scared. I was scared of what people would think, I was scared of what people would say at work, I was scared of scaring away potential husbands, I was scared of losing friends, I was scared of not being beautiful anymore and standing out in the crowd. All of these things stopped me from wearing hijab sooner, and now I wish, so much, that I had done it sooner. Because I could have saved myself from a lot of fitnah and lot of confusion had I done it sooner.

Over the years, all those fears got smaller and smaller, as one fear – and one love – got bigger. That fear was the fear of displeasing my Creator, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. And the love was also for my Creator, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Forgiving. I realised that despite my shortcomings and all the sins I had committed, I could go back to Him, and He would take me back. That insha’Allah, He would forgive me. And He would give me the guidance and inner peace that I was making dua for and yearning for so much inside.

I was twenty-four when I started wearing the hijab. The feeling I had after I started wearing it, and the series of events that have happened since, have never ceased to amaze me and make me feel the love of Allah inside me.

One such event occurred only three weeks after I started wearing it. My hijab saved me. It identified me as a Muslimah so a kind brother with pure intentions came to my aid when I was in need. My car had broken down and I was stuck on the side of a busy junction by a big roundabout. It was well into the evening on a cold winter’s day. As I stood there waiting for the AA to arrive, a man whizzed passed in a motorbike. A few seconds later he came back, got off his motorbike and said “salam” to me.

I had been wearing the hijab for only a few weeks and was not yet accustomed to people recognising me as Muslim and saying their salam to me. I responded, and before I knew it, this kind brother was helping me move my car to a safer area and getting me help so that I did not have to wait alone. He let me know that when he went past and saw a “muslim sister in need,” he could not bring himself to leave me by myself and came back to help me. And once he saw that I was safe, he disappeared as fast as he had appeared.

This one act of kindness has had such a profound effect on my life. He could possibly have saved my life that day, only because I was wearing hijab. Had I been standing on the roadside with my hair all out – as I would probably have been a month before – if anything, I was likely to attract someone with the wrong intentions. That very day, I was feeling fed up from having to have my head wrapped up and feeling hot and uncomfortable all day long. Just at the moment when I was feeling weak, Allah showed me a sign – yet another benefit of wearing the hijab.  Being recognised as a muslimah has been one of the best things about the hijab. I have received salams from fellow muslims from all parts of the world – from New York to Sao Paulo.

For all my fears, the benefits I have gained since wearing hijab have been numerous. Before I wore hijab, I went through a period of feeling lost and confused in my life. My friends and cousins were settling down into careers or marriages, I wasn’t settling into either. I could find peace in nothing. I turned to Allah in my dua’s, and remembered coming across the following verse in the Qur’an…

Surely Allah changes not change the condition of a people, until they change what is in themselves.” [Quran, 13:11]

And I wondered in my heart, what am I doing to help myself? Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has promised to help me if I help myself, how can I expect His help if I am not fulfilling His commandment? No wonder I couldn’t find peace in my life. I would go out looking “hot” – hair done up, make up, clothes to match – heads would turn in my direction, people always commented and I would feel beautiful for all of five minutes. And then the emptiness would creep in: what good did it do to allow all these people to see my beauty? I just allowed them to sin with their eyes, I became the cause for their sin! Instead of earning my Lord’s pleasure, I was increasing my balance of sins!

This was a wake up call. My love for Allah and fear of displeasing Him was my number one reason for wearing hijab. And once I made that decision, for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, slowly all the fears dissipated one by one.

What will people think? was my first fear. And suddenly, I had the answer: Who cares what people think, what Allah thinks is all that matters. I will have to face Him one Day with everything I have done in this life – what do I want to go to Him with? A life where I have knowingly ignored His commandments? Will “people” help me on that Day?

What will people say at work? Most of them are not even Muslim, this can be my chance to showcase what Islam truly is. Besides, I was sick of being misunderstood. Being a non-hijabi, people assume you must be a “liberal” Muslim and so men will be lax about how they talk and behave around you, and they assume you’ll be fine about going to the pub and other such places. At least if they could see that I was a Muslim, and that I took my Islam seriously, their behaviours will change. And slowly by my example, their attitudes will change also, insha’Allah. And this is what has happened. My colleagues have learnt about my discomfort with certain jokes and behaviours. They understand about my need for prayer time, my aversion to things relating to alcohol, the fact that I am not comfortable with physical contact with men. They are even beginning to understand why I don’t celebrate mother’s day! I still have a very long way to go, as my colleagues are adapting to me as I become more practising, but I pray that insha’Allah, I am portraying a positive example of a modern Muslim woman, with a free mind and strong personality, just as the great Muslim women before me did.

Were potential husbands be scared away? I didn’t want the ones who didn’t want hijab, anyway. Did I lose friends? Possibly, but I have made so many more amazing friends on this road that I don’t miss the old ones. My hijab was the first step for me into a whole new world – entering the mosque, being invited to sisters’ circles, knowing about lectures and courses and Islamic institutes. I was introduced to a whole sisterhood I had only heard about, and the love you feel when you meet someone purely for the sake of Allah to learn about His commands is incomparable to anything else.

Do I feel beautiful anymore? Do I stand out in the crowd? Girl – those are some of the best things! I am even more beautiful now, because Allah has ordered this and Allah loves beauty. My beauty is private, saved for those who I care about and who care about me, not for the whole world. My beauty is not the cause for my sin anymore, and insha’Allah not the cause for other’s sin anymore, either. And do I stand out in a crowd? I’d be upset if I didn’t! If standing out in the crowd means being known as the one who is following the commands of Allah, then I want to be at the front of the line!

The journey has not always been easy. But alhamdulillah, it gets easier every day. I remember some advice I had read at the very beginning, some very simple but powerful advice. Take each day as it comes. It sounds so clichéd, but I really held onto that in the very early days of wearing hijab. The first say at work was the most nerve wracking, but I just reminded myself that it was just one day. If I can get through this day, insha’Allah I can take tomorrow if and when it comes. Because sisters, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Shaytan is here, whispering to us all the time, helping us make excuses to stop us from following the commandments of Allah. Chase him away girls, don’t let him distract you to the extent that you die in a state not following the commands of Allah because you were waiting for the “right time.” Make now the right time, and take each day as it comes. Show your obedience and submission to your Lord – walk towards Him one step at a time and He will run towards you – and you will feel it, insha’Allah.

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

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