Beyond the Hijab

A real dissection of our hearts and our loyalties to this worldly life.

There is a thick layer of grime that encrusts the walls of my heart. I know this isn’t a great way to start an article, but for this piece I couldn’t come up with anything that was more apt. To be sure, I’m a hijabi and I mostly offer salah with punctuality, but my inner self is an unfortunate combination of doubts, sins, ego, self-love and love of dunya.

Take a moment to look inside your heart, and if you find your eman glowing and shining like a hidden pearl, I envy you.  If you find stuff that disappoints you or embarrasses you, I guess you could say you and I are in the same boat. Because when I stand at the fringes of the circumference that is me and my life, and like a detached viewer assess all that’s happening within me, look into my heart, peruse the pages of my mind, and gauge the depth of my soul, I shudder. I want to look away.

Like many Muslims in this age of fitnah and trials, I am a contradiction unto my own self. My eman is like a flame that suddenly sputters to life when I read or come across something inspirational; at other times, it flickers weakly, and at its lowest ebb, it nearly stops giving off any light at all. My heart is weak and vulnerable, and certainly not like one a believer should have. What’s my problem, I ask myself.

The first step to curing this problem inside the heart is identifying it. Well, I do believe this love of dunya could be a major issue. In the age of Facebook, social networking, and blogging, it isn’t very difficult to consider yourself something of a news-maker. We lose sight of what’s important as we obsess about ourselves, our opinions, our ideas, our refreshing approach to life, and whether or not people like us. I know the dangers of Riyaa (showing off), but I can’t help feeling gratified when someone tells me how wonderful it is that I wear the hijab. Small compliments then seem to matter to me – they feed that forever-thirsty phenomenon called the ego. When they come, I’m happy and my self-worth rises like mercury on a hot day. When they don’t come, I deflate like a flat tire.

I’m already feeling slightly lighter – at least I know what’s keeping me from being one of those believers to whom Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will say:

[To the righteous it will be said], “O reassured soul! Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him],” [89:28-29]

The next step of course is to rid myself from the love of this fickle friend called dunya. But how? Well, for starters, this ayah really hits home as it defines to us what this dunya is all about:

“Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children… the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment.” [57:20]

So does this mean that when I get all excited when someone tells me I’m looking great, or have this amazing phone, or whatever, the happiness I feel is a deception? Hmm… that would explain why the ‘high’ we experience from compliments is exactly like fizz from a soda – short-lived and unhealthy. Purification of the heart and soul is a process, one that must go on until the day we die. After all – remember Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah al Shams:

He has succeeded who purifies it [soul]. And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]” [91: 10-11]

So success, according to the Qur’an is in purifying your soul. What about – a great job, a thriving bank account, respect from the people of this dunya, an awesome car, a great figure, a house of my own? Isn’t that what success is all about? Well, that’s what we are made to believe, but it’s actually as far away from the truth as you can get. You mean all my worldly stuff isn’t important at all? Are you serious? Well, yeah, big time! As the following hadith shows to us its true worth:

Jabir (radiAllahu ‘anh) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) went through the market with people on both sides of him. He passed the dead body of a deformed sheep, took it by its ear and then said, “Which of you would like to have this for a dirham?” They said, “We would not like to have it for anything. What would we do with it?” He said, “Would you like to have it?” They said, “By Allah, even if it was alive, it would be defective since it is deformed, and now it is dead.” He said, “By Allah, this world has less value with Allah than this has with you.” [Muslim]

So there goes this dunya. Worthless like a dead animal in the eyes of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and His beloved Nabi (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). And it’s true too, isn’t it? Ever notice how all the lovely things of this world – wealth, respect, attention, beauty, and others – we can never quite have enough of them? There is no real satisfaction for anyone in them, regardless of whether you’re a believer or not. Get admitted to an Ivy League school, write for the world’s best publications, and work in the world’s most prestigious companies – and yet after a period of time it fails to make you feel complete, even as you strive for something better.  The same goes for wealth, same with relationships that we form for ourselves – that are all not for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and for earnign His Pleasure.

‘Ibn Abbas (radiAllahu ‘anh)) reported that the Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “If the son of Adam (i.e. the human being) had two valleys of money, he would wish for a third, for nothing can fill the belly of Adam’s son except dust. And Allah forgives him who (repents to Him)- begs for His pardon.” [Al-Bukhari]

The second part of this hadith says Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala  forgives one who repents. So here I am, caked in an unfortunate quagmire of the worst kind, making my repentance for my blatant adoration of the dunya and rejecting the ways of Prophet Muhammed (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), despite my claims that I love him. I hope the tears will come and wash away the stains for which I have made excuses, and have tried my best to deny. I pray that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala  grants us true success in both the worlds and elevates us, and that our hijab becomes a symbol of real purity that gleams from within.