The Last SMS?


Guest writer Anonymous highlights for us a very crucial issue: the importance of having hayaa when dealing with the opposite gender and its pitfalls.

Yesterday was an insightful day for me. I have recently started to cover my face at college – it’s been three months only and alhamdulillah it has been pretty effective at keeping me protected from unwanted attention. I am not haggled by males passing random comments, they keep an appropriate distance, and I don’t encounter any staring while I am making a presentation – which is a frequent complaint of my sisters who do not cover. (May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala grant us all guidance and attract us  to the beauty and modesty of hijab. Ameen.)

But something went wrong yesterday. My hijab backfired on me. Usually I keep a distance with males, and I speak only when it is necessary and avoid engaging in random chit chat. When I do converse I maintain a stern demeanor and try to lower my gaze. But over the last two weeks, I had been working with a guy on a project and I guess I let my guard down. I don’t know when the work related text messages became less work-oriented and gradually became more personal.

And the thing I’ve learnt is that it’s easier to maintain a physical distance. But when you are communicating via SMS the barriers break down and emotions flow freely. There are definitely way more “smileys” than in a face-to-face exchange (and even if I am smiling he doesn’t get to see me behind the veil). So somehow, bit by bit, the messages changed from “Please edit the slides and add pictures” to reminisces about childhood or an exchange of stories from our undergraduate days.

In class, the guy acts like a buffoon – he is the butt of all class jokes. Behind SMS he is smart, intelligent, sensitive, and fun to converse with. And suddenly, I started looking forward to his messages. I found myself thinking about them after reading them. And this is when warning bells should have started ringing in my head.

And alhamdulillah, they rang. But it was still very hard. I would tell myself, “Okay, this is the last SMS I will reply to.” But the last SMS is never really the last SMS, is it? I would reply to his text and he would respond with a witty or insightful comment and there we would go again. We had entered into this vicious cycle of free messaging and I said goodbye to sanity and effectively silenced the voice in my head which was screaming out “DO NOT REPLY TO THAT SMS!”

And this absurd situation which I found myself in made me wonder, ‘But what about my internal hijab, my hayaa?’ I am not just supposed to maintain a physical external distance, but what about the intellectual distance? Admittedly, I don’t know what he looks like as I try to avoid looking at his face and he doesn’t know what I look like because of my veil, but despite that, I am attracted to the person within – to his mind.

Moreover, I consider my intellect to be a gift from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. It makes me a fun and cool person to hang out with despite my religiosity. Alhamdulillah, I can engage others to hold stimulating conversations with me for hours on end. Is this then not a blessing – a gift from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala? Does this not add to my beauty as an individual, thus making me attractive to others? Should I not then reserve this for my husband and guard my modesty in terms of my thoughts, my emotions, my feelings, and the ability to mesmerize someone with my words instead of giving free access to the person within and exposing my soul?

Should I not then avoid replying to that message and put an end to the messaging before I fall down this slippery slope? If just a week’s worth of SMS exchanges can affect me so much, and if this were to continue, will it not have a snowball effect on my Iman and my connection with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and moreover be a mockery to the very reason I began to practice hijab in the first place?

The answers are simple; it is just hard to take that action and make the decision to do the right thing. But being Allah’s slave, I know I have to do the right thing even though that causes me temporary unhappiness in the short term.

May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala grant us all the strength to adopt perfect inner and outer hijab and grant us firmness on our path. And may He forgive us when we slip and help us get back to our feet so that we may be true daughters of this beautiful Deen. Ameen.