You take a long, hard look – a look into the mirror, into your books, into your own heart and soul. And because you’ve spent that time reflecting, you come away with a different view of the world.
Sitting in the salon, waiting for my cousin who was getting her hair highlighted, the woman at the counter who used to do my eyebrows asked me why I had stopped getting them done.
She was a Catholic, and I didn’t know how to convey my thoughts to her. I didn’t know how to start, and I didn’t know what to say, maybe because I’d never thought about explaining that decision to a non-Muslim before.
How do I tell her my story? I wondered. Maybe I don’t have to, maybe I should just pretend I never heard her? No, that would be rude. I should tell her that I’ve decided on a complete change in my life. Yes, that’s more appropriate. Now that I’m changing, I shouldn’t be ashamed of it. No one ever asked me about the haram in my life, what right do they have to question the halal I’m involved it? Not that I mind them asking. They can ask all they like, but that shouldn’t make me feel bad about anything I’m doing. I should be proud of my stance, I’m following the sunnah.
The thoughts ran rampant in my mind, a whirlwind triggered by what seemed a simple question. I realized I had to say something, so I gave her the most honest answer I could.
“I’m trying to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him,” I said. “I decided that I’m going to do what he asked us to do, and I’m going to stay away from the things he’s forbidden. You know, I’m trying to.”
“Ah, acha,” oh okay, she said. She added that I didn’t have to make them thin, just make them neat, get them “cleaned up” a bit. But I insisted that I wasn’t going to get them done anymore, except for the part between my two eyebrows, that was all. “Alright,” she said, and left me to my choice.
The decision to not pluck my eyebrows wasn’t easy for me.
But I had come across the hadith of the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam where he said, “None of you will truly believe until you love me more than your fathers, your sons, and all of humanity.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
And I had come across that tender story in the seerah when the Messenger salla Allahu alayhi wassalam placed his own blessed hand in the hand of Umar ibn al-Khattab radiya Allahu anhu. And Umar, unable to contain his emotion, said, “O Messenger of Allah, you are more beloved to me than everything except my own self.” The Messenger salla Allahu alayhi wassalam said, “No, by the One in Whose hand is my soul, (your faith is not complete) until you love me more than your own self.” So Umar, ever an example and model for the believers, said, “Now, by Allah, you are more beloved to me than my own self.” And the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam said, “Now, O Umar (now, your faith is correct).”
I immediately realized how far I was from that state, and I knew I had to make amends.
A feeling of guilt enveloped my heart as I started to think about all the things in my life which were in contradiction to the sunnah. I felt it would be impossible to give up my lifestyle for the sunnah, but I had hope in Allah, so I prayed to Him subhanahu wa ta’ala to make it easy for me. My du’aas were like the light at the end of the tunnel, and as I prayed, I realized what I had to do.
I found myself in the library, and I started reading up on the Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alayhi wasallam, because as someone once said, “First comes knowledge, then comes love.” You can’t love what you don’t know. And I knew that the reason why the sunnah of Allah’s beloved was missing from my life was because I didn’t love him to the extent that I should, and I knew that the love was missing because I had no knowledge of him.
All my life, I had neglected the sunnah because I thought that Allah ta’ala was sufficient for me. I believed in the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam as a Messenger of course, as the Seal of the Prophets. He had been sent to deliver the Qur’an to us, but I couldn’t see beyond that.
After my readings, I realized how wrong I’d been. I woke up to the fact that Prophet Muhammad salla Allahu alayhi wasallam was my key to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. I eventually learned from one of my teachers that the sunnah is the verbal description of that person who was the truest and most beloved to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and it becomes obligatory on us to emulate him in every footstep that he took by studying him and his life, salla Allahu alayhi wasallam.
I embarked on a journey that would help me fight all my temptations and slowly eliminate them so that I could implement the Sunnah in my life. I made a mental list of the things I knew were forbidden or doubtful and began to gradually replace them with better deeds – deeds from the Sunnah.
It was hard, initially. And it was hard when it came to not plucking my eyebrows.
I loved my face, I loved beautifying it. I mean, don’t we all? The mirror used to be my favorite object, and I would look into it for longer than I looked at my books. I knew, even then, that getting my eyebrows done was forbidden in Islam, but I told myself that maybe it was alright if I made one exception in my life. It was just my eyebrows. I could never think of not getting them done, that would make me seriously ugly, and I would just look strange.
So not getting my eyebrows done was out of the question.
But as my readings on the Messenger of Allah salla Allahu alayhi wasallam got more intense, I discovered the amount of sacrifices he made for us, and I felt like I didn’t love him much in return, certainly not enough. I was so ashamed of myself.
A voice inside me tried to push me in the right direction; it tried to assure me that it was just my eyebrows, and that people were just people. They would say whatever they wanted to, but they would go to their graves, and I would go to mine. Their influence on my decisions wouldn’t matter a bit to me on the Day of Judgment, I would still be held accountable for my own deeds. I had to rethink things.
This life was mine, why was I so afraid of living it in accordance with the Sunnah and Shari’ah? Why was I so afraid of people? Where were my priorities? Didn’t I want to impress the Messnger of Allah salla Allahu alayhi wassalm on the Day of Judgement, to be able to face him and say, “I followed your sunnah”? Didn’t I want to impress Allah?
It was still a hard decision to make, and there were so many changes, it was hard to handle. But I didn’t stop trying. From the small sunnahs to the big ones, I kept on trying.
And I remembered how my dear mother came over to me once, spontaneously kissing me on the cheek. Why, I asked her, wondering what was behind this sudden, beautiful gesture. “Your love for the Prophet Muhammad salla Allahu alayhi wasallam makes me love you,” she said. I realized that if my mum loved me for following the Sunnah of Allah’s beloved, how much would Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala love me? Again, I came to realize that the Prophet peace be upon him was my key to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
So I stopped getting my eyebrows done.
And the truth is, I don’t look ugly. My eyebrows may be larger than the average woman’s, but they reflect my love for Allah’s beloved. Whenever I look in the mirror, I see part of the Sunnah on my face.
I may seem like a small thing, but my dear sisters, just imagine how much Allah ta’ala would love you if you adorn yourself with the Sunnah and Shari’ah? Imagine how pleased He would be when He knows that you are struggling with small and big temptations.
This, my sisters, is our salvation, this is our identity. As Imam Malik once said: “The Sunnah is like the Ark of Noah. Whoever embarks upon it reaches salvation, and whoever refuses is drowned.” This is our success in both this world and the Hereafter.
You say “I can’t.” I say “Just try,” and insha’Allah, Allah subahanau wa ta’ala will make it easy for you as He made it easy for me. Alhamdulilahi rabbil aalameen.