The Hardest Year

11

Being an “outcast” in school is a painful experience that can affect people well into adulthood. For guest writer Bint Sadiq, her faith in Allah helped her understand this experience as an important life lesson.

I used to say that the eleventh year of my life was my worst one, but now I know that I needed to go through that year in order to be who I am today.

That year was the year my family moved to a new city. It was the year my mom returned to university for the first time since I was five years old, and the year my dad had to constantly travel overseas to visit his sick father. It was the year my grandfather died. But believe it or not, the thing that had the biggest effect on me was that it was the year that I made the change from Islamic to public school.

Very quickly, I realized I was the only girl in the entire school who wore the hijab. This might not have been as much of a problem if I had some friends. Sure, there were some girls who I played with at recess, all younger than me, but I couldn’t really call them friends. There were girls who I got along with at the masjid, but since I wasn’t able to go there much, I rarely saw them. My neighbourhood wasn’t the best for kids who wanted to play outside, so my brothers and I either played inside the house or in the backyard. From a young age, I was very concerned with what others thought of me, so my lack of having people there to offer the confidence I needed was hard for me.

I don’t believe I was picked on just because of my hijab. It was a combination of things; I was just different. For one, I only hung out with people who were a year younger than me because they were the only ones who I found some sort of a connection with. I had the highest marks in the class, and for some strange reason, some people thought I believed I was better than everyone else. But when it came down to it, the biggest thing that set me apart from the rest of my class was my hijab. Girls who saw my hair when I was fixing my hijab in the washroom would tell me how nice I looked without my hijab, sort of trying to convince me to take it off. Most of the problems I experienced were not outright; instead, I felt excluded, ostracized, strange.

Right now, I can only remember one incident where I was bullied outright. I was playing outside in the playground during recess and a boy came up to me and pushed me down, calling me a “stupid terrorist”. I was hurt and embarrassed, and I started to cry. When my older brother found me crying, he asked me what happened and I told him. He wanted to tell a teacher, but I refused because I was afraid of what the boy who had pushed me would think or do. It was a foolish thought. Finally, my bother convinced me to tell a teacher, and alhamdulillah, she dealt with the student. This just shows how I felt most of that year; I was so concerned with what others thought of me, even those who bullied me.

That year was a roller coaster of emotions for me. Generally, I’ve always been a happy kid, but my concern for other’s thoughts many times ruined my happiness. A lot of the time, I was depressed, sometimes even almost losing hope. My health suffered and I didn’t fully recover until over a year later. The only thing that stopped me from actually giving up all hope was Islam. I knew that to take my own life would be the worst thing I could do. Alhamdulillah, I also had my mom. She was always there for me, even though I didn’t tell her a lot of what I was going through. She encouraged me to write about my feelings, and that always brought me relief. My dad also helped me out a lot, offering me loads of love and support.

Alhamdulillah, we moved to a new neighbourhood the next year. My new school had loads of Muslims, and there were many kids in my neighbourhood who I befriended. Over the next few years and even into high school, I continued my journey of hijab. After moving, I made friends who weren’t the best and who didn’t have the best influence on me, but in high school, I met friends who helped to completely change my life. I went from wearing hijab with sort of loose-fitting clothing at eleven years old, to tight clothes while covering my hair at thirteen, to skirts at fourteen, and alhamdulillah, to clothes that do not show my figure, such as abayas, that same year.

From my experiences, I’ve learned the importance of having righteous friends. Throughout my life, my friends have had a huge influence on me and I know that that is the case for many people. It is reported that the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.” [Sunan Abu Dawud]

I also realized the importance of attaining knowledge and getting to know Allah and building a strong relationship with Him. When Allah is on your side, no one can hurt you.

Last but definitely not least, I learned the importance and the mercy of our parents. My parents have always been there for me, especially in my times of hardship. They gave me a strong Islamic upbringing so that I could face challenges later on in life. They even decided to bring me to public school at a young age in order to make me stronger, to teach me how to stand up for my Islam. My father told me later on that he had once suggested to me to take off my hijab, as I hadn’t reached the age of puberty yet, but that I had refused right away. I did not see my hijab as the problem, it was my school peers. I was strange, but sometimes strange is good, as the hadith goes, “Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” [Sahih Muslim]

I pray that Allah gives us all the strength and the help we need to deal with all the tests He gives us. Our tests can be big or small, whether it’s deciding when we will start wearing the hijab or what classes we want to take. The important thing to keep in mind is that in order to pass the exam that is life, we first must pass the little tests on the way. We can’t do this alone, but we need to turn to and ask help from the best source of wisdom and knowledge there is: Allah. My test at eleven years old was my hijab, and I became stronger as a result. As Allah states in the Quran (in ayah 2:216), it might be that we hate something that is good for us, or that we love something that is bad for us. Allah knows and we do not.

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Submitted to I Got It Covered for our May 2010 reader-takeover month. Bint Sadiq is 17 years old and will be starting university in the fall, insha’Allah. She comes from a big mixed family: her mother embraced Islam before she was born, and her father was raised as a Muslim. She hopes that her story will either inspire someone to take the steps to implement the hijab, or that it will provide strength and comfort to someone who needs it.