Perfect your 5


Guest writer Ola Alghazzouli shares with us the key that opened up the door to her realization about the hijab.

My story may relate to many people because my search for answers is also someone else’s. This semester at my university has taught me very important lessons, and I wanted to share my thoughts on this subject of how I came to wear the hijab. I hope my words don’t offend anyone in any way, but I wish the readers to take me sincerely and to hear me out.

I know people will always judge, no matter what we do. We judge others from the outside, and we always want to know the reason behind everything, don’t we?

So for the hijab, some might say, “Well why should I cover my hair?” Some may say, “Yeah modesty is a beautiful thing” and yet some may say “yeah guys like modest girls.” While others may still say, “I believe that it’s all in the heart, and all we need is the right intention” and so on and so forth.

However with me, ever since I started taking biology courses in high school, I always wanted to know the truth behind my life, the reason behind the creation of this world, the reason behind what is happening and has happened in the past, and I wanted answers to everything.

But the moment that truly opened my eyes was my car accident a few years back. Alhamdulillah, due to Allah’s Mercy, I was saved, but not my car and the cars in front of me. The fear that entered my heart at that point, forced me to reflect, “Am I really ready to die?”

Then after that incident,  I started to question my inner self and my ways, and slowly approached the Qu’ran. Although Arabic is my mother tongue, I had to read it in English, with the full translation and tafseer (explanation), to fully understand the message behind the verses.

Before this, I had never really asked myself, what does my Creator want from me? What pleases Allah? What is going to happen after I die? Will my grave truly be my “resting” place? What will the consequences of doing a bad deed or even a good deed be?

Also, I had always known that women in Islam are supposed to wear the hijab and be covered, but I never really felt like I was ready for it. But once a teacher advised me with an excellent piece of advice: “Before wearing the hijab, focus on your daily prayers first.”

I took that advice to heart, and I would carry with me my prayer clothes, abaya and head scarf, and a prayer rug wherever I went! That meant, I literally had to stick to my daily prayers at any place and any time –no excuses. I even took it with me to the gym, when I went out with friends, and to work.  I will be honest: in the beginning, it was little intimidating praying in public; but alhamdulillah it felt so peaceful after every prayer prayed on time.

So once I was praying ‘Asr, and suddenly a spark came, and I felt like I was ready for the hijab.
At first I thought “Oh how convenient! Now I will be able to pray wherever I am and at any place –I’m all set!” (i.e. that I have my prayer equipment ready). Yet, I felt like there was more to it than just that; more to the hijab than just covering the hair and body for prayer.

I decided that I wanted to represent my faith and practice it right.

Family and friends reacted overseas by saying, “Oh how nice of you to wear that in America!” But then I thought: how does living in America make it different than any Muslim country? Are we following culture or are we following Islam? Is Islam just a religion where we pray and believe in God and then do whatever we want for the rest of the time? If we properly study Islam, study what our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to do and what he called to, we will come to realize that it is the WAY OF LIFE.

Therefore, my passion for my hijab doesn’t just stop here –it continues. It continues by passing on the same advice to my brothers and sisters that my teacher passed on to me: Focus on the 5 daily prayers first.

It is true what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala’s says in the Qur’an:

Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book and keep up prayer; surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil. And certainly the remembrance of Allah is greater, and Allah knows what you do. [29:45]

Also, I have come across people that say “Well I do good deeds here and there, and isn’t that what a good Muslim does? Doesn’t intention count?” Yes and yes and yes. But then what caused Iblis (Shaytan) be pushed out of paradise? Not prostrating to Allah and becoming arrogant. He was too arrogant to prostrate down despite His Lord’s command. So what does that make us?

This is why I can’t judge anyone, looking at where I first was and where I am now. Who has guided me but Allah? However, if it wasn’t the first step I took of keeping up with my Salah, I wouldn’t have end up here. With every step you take forward towards Allah, tests and challenges will come facing you. But that’s not because Allah doesn’t love you, but because He wants to help YOU become stronger.

In addition, I started out taking it slow, one step at a time. Every Friday prayer I would wear the hijab to the Masjid and listen to khutbah as my “learning” time. I personally like to take baby-steps and not push myself into something, while forgetting the rest. Just as the Qu’ran says to wear the hijab, it also contains other commandments that we shouldn’t neglect. So when I wore the hijab, I asked myself, okay, now that I’m following one thing, am I also following the other orders?

It’s funny though, how in this normal struggle to come closer to Allah, people closest to me may label me as “religious” or whatever term they want. But I smile and think to myself, I am just a typical human who is trying to search for truth and  work hard to learn about Islam, something which I’m already born into. I see some converts and mashaAllah, they are much ahead of me in following and keeping up with knowledge about the Deen, so I think, where does that place me?

Why take a gift, an honor, the privilege to be a Muslim for granted? Why turn away from Qu’ran when it’s right there, easy to reach to just open and read once in a while, not just during Ramadan?

Moreover, I met a convert at an event through my MSA, and she said to us, “I used to look at Muslims and judge them. But then I came to realize that they are not perfect, Islam is!” To me, that was thought-provoking because it is true: we are not perfect. But why shouldn’t we work on our weakness and improve and implement our knowledge into actions –and not to please other people, but to please Allah?

So in trying to implement this I took the example of working out. Just as I keep track of my sets and reps, and I keep track of my cardio in weekly goals, I started keeping track of my prayers and my weekly goals that I needed to work on myself and just do a self-check.  Because after all, I thought, before I pass judgment on any one, I am being judged at every moment.

And further, what actually opened my eyes were the days I went to court for my driving tickets and when I had to stand all alone in front of the judge with  my own “record” and evidences to prove me innocent. Nervous as I was, I thought to myself, isn’t it going to be the same thing on Day of Judgment? Aren’t I going to be responsible for my own actions and careless mistakes that I’ve made? My only evidence to prove me innocent will be my own record in this life.

Life is so precious, and I hope I never ever take anything for granted; it’s hard because I too, sometimes attribute my success to myself, but that is not true. My success didn’t come from me, it came from Allah.

I’m grateful I had parents and family members reminding me to get up and pray, and hearing the adhan in my home country served as a constant reminder. Here, though, it’s different, but not difficult. At college there is more freedom of choice, and actual prayer places are available. Alhamadulillah Allah also sent me the right people to remind me and support me, and I was surrounded by righteous friends. I could not have done it on alone –but together, as one ummah, and as true friends, we can stick together to remind each other of the truth.

From Surah al ‘Asr: “By time, verily Man is in loss. Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.” [103]