I Did Not Trust Enough…


Guest writer Azlin Ahmad follows up on her earlier article – “My Cover Up” – and delves into the deeper analysis of the thought process and arguments against hijab that she battled with.  

On hindsight, now that I have taken that step, I find it puzzling that, out of all the commandments of Allah, wearing the hijab is probably the most discussed and often, the most resisted. I am making a broad assumption here – that sisters who are considering the hijab are more or less cognisant and accepting of the other commandments of Allah – such as prayer, fasting, abstaining from certain actions and are otherwise steadfast (or try to be). Hence, they accept the truth of Islam. Yet when it comes to complying with something related to appearance, there is massive hesitation.

The issue of hijab is one that many practising Muslimahs find difficult to implement. We do not see forums which discuss people’s personal journeys towards Salah, or journey away from backbiting, envy, stinginess or riba; these things are not extensively discussed, simply because we accept them as the absolute truth. There is nothing to discuss, and implementation is done on a personal level. One would be quite astonished to stumble across posts proclaiming that “for twenty years, I have understood the importance of charity, but resisted, and now I accept and just made a donation!”, or “Gossip free for 3 months now, Alhamdulillah!”

Yet, in the issue of hijab, it seems that extra persuasion and support is required.

I am not judging or criticising anyone, because I too resisted for the longest time. I figured out that if I could comply with most of the other commandments, then maybe I could get away with this one sin, and on the balance (literally speaking) my good deeds will hopefully mitigate the sins caused by my lack of hijab. Hence I went out of my way to somewhat over-perform in other aspects of Islamic behaviour in order to counterbalance and compensate. Of course, on looking back, I was trivialising the issue greatly. In my mind I was convinced. I sort of hoped for Allah’s mercy to let me pass through the eye of the needle.

Also I had never been a publicity seeker. Religion was a very personal thing to me, something to be practiced discreetly and in private. Wearing the scarf would be equal to shouting your affiliation in the middle of the street. It would draw unwanted attention towards you, put your private beliefs under public scrutiny and provoke reactions that you might not want to deal with. And, even though I lived in a Muslim society where the hijab was accepted and not seen as some sort of grotesque terrorist headgear, it was something that I would rather not do. Why wear my religious heart on my sleeve, when Allah knows the contents of my heart?

Deep down I also stereotyped and subconsciously assumed that hijabi sisters were wired differently – as if they were genetically designed with an inbuilt head covering from birth! Or taking it to a less ridiculous level – they didn’t care about their looks as much as I did, due to their better upbringing, lack of the vanity gene, or whatever other reason I concocted in my head – so it would be easier for them than it would ever be for me, to conceal their beauty.

Somehow the threat of hellfire and all the prescribed punishments did not instill sufficient terror in my heart as it should have. The human mind is amazing, it can sweep bits of information under the carpet and have selective amnesia on certain issues. I now recognise it as a lack of faith.

I could not compare myself to the first generation Muslimahs, whose faiths were so strong that if an order came from Allah, they would immediately submit out of sheer devotion and obedience. They were in a different league, and to me, constituted wholly unrealistic benchmarks.

Going to the other extreme, I looked at some of my hijabi friends and acquaintances. Their behaviour was rather bewildering; some of them did not perform the salat at all, others behaved with men in a pretty sordid manner, and yet others had weaknesses like being judgemental, racist and prejudiced. Not really the kind of people I wanted to be associated with, through dressing or otherwise.

The strange part was, if asked by a skeptical non-Muslim, I could take them from A to Z, of all the pro hijab arguments, and how this piece of cloth is not to oppress Muslimahs, but to elevate and protect them, how it prevents the erosion of modesty and chastity. Yet, every time I contemplated putting one on myself, I would hesitate. I rationalised and gave excuses. Surely Allah will understand that deep down, I meant well and behaved modestly? Is He not the Merciful, the Beneficent, the Forgiving, the Eraser of All Sins?

If some of you are cringing at this, then I know I was not alone in my thought process!

Hence I continued this way, convinced of my own warped logic. Until one day, as Ramadan was approaching I was asked something along the lines of–

“Are you sure that whatever good deeds you do will not be erased by the way your dress?

Are you sure that you have done enough good deeds to counterbalance your clothing?

Can you really be sure that all your efforts and good deeds are not being wasted?”

Now, those questions struck a chord, and I was stumped. Totally floored. There were no counter argument to these questions. The truth was, I did not know. No one knows. Only Allah knows the weight given to each sin and each good deed. We do not know how the “point system” works when the angels record our conduct. We do not know the gravity, magnitude and implications of each of our actions. If a prostitute is granted jannah for a single merciful act of giving a dog some water, then it demonstrates that Allah’s mercy is boundless and immeasurable. So can we be sure whether or not certain sins will be recorded on a similarly exponential level if we deliberately and continuously choose to disobey?

I realised I had been fooling myself into a false sense of security all along. Given the stakes involved (i.e. the final destination of my everlasting soul), that was one wild card that I didn’t want to take chances on.

Suddenly, my thought process accelerated. All the excuses that I had been giving myself over the years sounded hollow and unimpressive. I was willing to let my face be painted pink for a breast cancer awareness causes, follow the latest clothing trends, wear t-shirts and carry absurd banners of the teams, performers, causes that I believed in. I was willing to make a stand through my dressing in support of these things, and yet, was unwilling to do so for Allah? Why?

And the shame struck me. I realised that what held me back all the years was – I did not trust Allah enough to take this step!

Astaghfirullah. The One who had given me life, taken care of me all my life, given me sustenance, health, provision, contentment, happiness, intelligence, comfort, the One who I could always turn back to no matter how many times I strayed. The One who answered my prayers all my life, the One to whom I proclaimed during every Salah– “Verily, my prayers, my way of life, my life and my death, are for You, the Lord of the worlds …” and yes, the One who bestowed me with the very hair and body that I was too proud to cover.

I trusted Allah with my life, I trusted Allah to extract me from illnesses and difficult situations, I turned to Allah whenever I had problems, but did not trust Him to take care of me if I covered my hair and body to please Him?

The questions came thick and fast, and just as quickly, I knew, without a doubt, what the correct answers were.

Who cares if the other hijabi sisters did not behave well. Could I really use that as an excuse if questioned by Allah? Was what they did any of my business, as long as I did not follow suit? It would be like abandoning the Salah just because I had been affected by a minority of people who observed the Salah but behaved badly. And also, if others set high benchmarks of steadfastness and devotion, shouldn’t I at least try to emulate them instead of writing them off completely?

Was I ashamed to display my Islam publicly, hence the reluctance to don the scarf? Was I more concerned about what people thought of me, at the expense of disregarding Allah’s opinion of me? Would I deliberately disappoint Allah in return for all the favours He had given to me?

If I trusted Allah enough to know that all His commandments towards mankind are for our own good, was it my place to second guess whether or not the hijab would be suitable for me? Was a piece of cloth such a significant price to pay if it were to invoke Allah’s pleasure, get me closer to jannah and protect me from jahannam, insha Allah?

Realisation after realisation hit me like a hammer and demolished all the arguments and justifications I carried in an instant. And after that, there was no choice, really. It became obvious what I should do next, without prolonging it any further.

Alhamdulillah, with Allah’s guidance I have never looked back since.

  • Abu Yusuf

    Salaam alaykum, the author hit the nail in the head when she summed the internal struggle against hijab as a “lack of faith”. People often confuse faith to be belief only but it is both belief which is complemented by action to conclusively demonstrate that the belief is real. The struggle to wear hijab is one between vanity & lack of faith versus presence of even a mustard seed of faith. And the latter usually wins as good always overtakes evil eventually. So we find young aunties who bedazzled our eyes with beauty follow that up with strict observance of hijab when they grew old. Sure, the timing was a little off and the tease excruciating for a full blooded young man Muslim man trying to lower his gaze, but hey, they got to it eventually. So on a sidenote, kudos to the aunties who I run into but don’t recognize anymore because you are hiding beneath the face veil.

    I’m befuddled though as to why the author thought that she would be deemed a publicity seeker or deemed to be wearing her religious beliefs on her sleeve if she were living in a Muslim society where hijab is not out of the ordinary? If she were visiting a friend and it was salaah time, would she then neglect to pray because religion is a private matter and she did not want to show her friend and aunty that she was needing to make wudu and a place to pray within their residence? I don’t quite follow this logic. Regarding her noting of some hijabi sisters who behave sordidly with men a la hijabis gone wild syndrome – this is a purely western phenomenon. Eastern girls are much more reserved generally speaking so much so that a shalwar kameez clad girl raised in a Muslim country who does not even cover her hair is more modest and more likely to be a ‘bikr’ than a hijab wearing western Muslimah. For this reason, british Muslim men import 12,000 Muslim brides from the east each year because the western abcd and bbcd sisters are way too modern and care for their careers more than their husbands or children (generally speaking). If you think this is an extreme opinion, I’ve got 12,000 British Muslim men (per year) and countless American Muslim men to back me up. I can personally attest to two abcd sisters confessing to me during my college years that they lost their ‘treasure’, one of them to a fellow MSA brother!

    I must say though that the self-introspection that the author went through and the constant tormenting her soul went through due to the heaviness of not wearing hijab and the questions she posed to herself were highly impressive and demonstrated a high degree of maturity and capacity for reflection. This is one of the most well written posts on IGIC this year.

  • http://azizooooo.blogspot.com/ Aziza

    JazakAllah Khair dear sister, very motivating. :)

  • miz

    regarding the comment above. Abu, you are male, your opinions are regarded as null here because you will never know what it feels like to wear hijab; so why do you comment on Muslimah matters as though you have any idea what truly lies in a sister’s heart. You jumped straight to your own presumptions that sisters who arent wearing hijab is due to a lack in their faith. Just because there is something of measure there regarding a piece of material, does not give you any right to jump to that conclusion. Also, the hijab is completely different from other forms of worship; I couldn’t measure how well you’re praying or reciting the surah in prayers, or how much you mean it; so what right, again, do you have to judge the sister who wears hijab or no hijab. Your talk of “torment” and “befuddlement” is a complete JOKE! So go and concentrate on your own hijab and that includes whether you are way too judgemental to be even saying the things you said above. Salam

  • Azlin

    Asm, thank you for your comments.
    There are a couple of things that you do not realize. It is very easy to work my timetable around my salah, and I can arrange my wudhu and salah in private areas, as do many of the muslimahs do. The scarf is a full time commitment, and is worn in the public eye at all times.The sordid behaviour is not a western phenomenon, but you have to widen your horizons and wake up to the fact that “eastern Muslim” does not mean only those raised in the Indian subcontinent. If you want to be technical, where I grew up is far more eastern, geographically speaking, and this is where I witnessed many examples of the sordid behaviors of hijabis (and born muslims at that) I was referring to.As for imported brides, from what I observe of my Pakistani male friends, it is not the reserved behaviour that they are importing, but rather submissive, uneducated women who are easy for their husbands to intimidate and control. I’m sorry to stereotype, but there are far way too many live examples that I have witnessed. And this, has absolutely nothing to do with hijab or piousness. This does not mean I support women abandoning their roles of mothers in pursuit of the careers, nor am I condemning the idea of imported brides and arranged marriages, but one should not make such sweeping statements in such black and white terms. But this is a separate topic which does not belong to this forum. WS, and I apologize if my comments caused offence.

  • Azlin

    WS, sister Aziza, thank you for your encouraging words.

  • Abu Yusuf

    Salaam Alaykum, I was not the only one who stated that not wearing hijab is a lack of faith. The author herself did (please re-read the article). Usually what causes a sister to delay or refrain from wearing hijab are issues of vanity. If the faith outweighs the vanity, then they wear it. If the vanity outweighs the faith, then they don’t wear it. Again, the author herself stated a lack of faith as a reason. This is just the reality of it. And I am not judging anyone. As I said, the hijabi sisters in the west are more likely to be non-virgins than the demure sisters who grew up in the east who don’t even don the hijab because some things are considered much more sacred and holy in the east than in the west where free mixing is much easier. I have heard several western Muslim speakers in the west in Islamic conference mention how tons of hijabi sisters come to them asking about how to repent from zina. And they are usually young unmarried sisters.

    Sr. Azlin, I understand your comments. But I disagree that British Muslims import 12,000 brides per year most of whom are uneducated. A lot of these imported sisters are highly educated but prefer to be domesticated and homely rather than be obstreperous and rebellious. Muslim scholars have noted how the modern Muslimah is more rebellious and likely to talk back at the husband as if he is just a ‘buddy’ or ‘colleague’ from work and they are far likelier to neglect the household and husband than a Muslimah raised in the east without free mixing.

  • random muslim sister

    masha Allah dear sister. I like to tell people that I started wearing hijab because I ran out of excuses, and I can relate to your article! :D

    don’t be afraid sisters I love hijab, almost 2 years of wearing it now alhamdulillah! :)

  • Syaz

    Assalamualaikum Dear sis Azlin,you just potrayed a true depiction of my exact thoughts prior to my hijab days. And now I totally regret not doing it earlier;afraid&worried of everything else except Allah. :(

  • Azlin

    That’s the point Syaz!!! Cos now that I’ve done it, I’m kicking myself for sweating over the wrong stuff all these years … :) May Allah forgive us and accept us, ameen.

  • Azlin

    JazakAllah, sister. You are spot on, don’t be afraid sisters. There is nothing to fear. Allah will take care of you.

  • Lady Wisdom

    Good for you, I cannot comprehend why your creator who supposedly loves you with all mercy and compassion could hardly be bothered with what you wear. You obviously think it matters, so good for you.  Tell me, does profiling you at all?

  • Abu Yusuf

    Hello Lady “Wisdom”,

    I take it by the phrasing in your message (“your creator”) that you might not be a Muslim. Your connecting God’s love for us and His mercy and compassion, has everything to do with His guidance of how we live our lives and how we dress. He knows us better than we do ourselves. Can a mother who loves her child with mercy and compassion be bothered by whether her child goes out on the streets to play naked on a warm day? What’s really wrong with that? The weather elements won’t harm the child. So we find this mother full of mercy and compassion for her child dicating to the child to dress a certain way for a plethora of self-evident reasons. If a mother has a right to dicate to her child, and she is full of mercy and compassion, then our Creator has an even greater right for He knows what’s best for us. I hope this very elementary form of argument sufficed in assuaging your concern. If not, we can get into an ivy league level of dialogue and debate, theological, sociological and psychological, as to why hijab is the best form of attire and most dignified and honourable for a woman. Although I hope you see the logical fallacy in your argument as plainly as I do.

  • Azlin

    To Lady Wisdom
    I respect your questions, but please let me know what your intention is. If it is to learn more about Islam, I would be happy to explain it to you. If it is for a purpose of a debate, then I’m afraid I really don’t have the time or inclination. The root question is, do you believe in the Creator? If the answer is no, then it’s not a big deal how a being that you do not believe in loves or is merciful. If the answer is yes, and as I mentioned, you are keen to learn more, I am happy to be of service. Meanwhile, I do not follow your last sentence? 

  • Lady Wisdom

    There is nothing wrong with a mother who allows her child to go out on a warm day and play naked. I agree with you. Clothes does not make the person.  I hope you see the logical fallacy in your argument…your appeal to authority is somewhat disturbing.  If you want to get into your ivy league debate about hijab your going to have to do much better than simply it is about what you wear.

  • Lady Wisdom

    I don’t want to debate, I hardly care what anyone wears.  It is not the gift wrapping which makes the present so wonderful.  I simply stated to the author that I was happy she made a decision in her life that she was proud of.  My creator does not worry about gift wrapping, I made the comment because it is a valid point to the subject of how one dresses.  As for my last sentence, profiling an individual has much to do with what one wears…if your only thoughts are a woman wearing hijab has to be a good muslim, what do we do with the con artists who wears hijab and then commit lots of crimes?  Do we just think they are special and above reproach because they wear hijab?  What you women here are really saying is only the truly dedicated can wear one, that is a very dangerous premise to believe.

  • Azlin

    Dear Lady Wisdom
    I don’t understand what you are doing on this website, which is clearly on hijab and modesty. Maybe one on nudist websites is more suitable for someone of your views – for no one compelled you to visit this one.

    You arguments, unfortunately, are just too shallow to justify with answers, so I will not be responding any further. As I said, if your intention is to learn, I am happy to help, if it is to argue and debate, I simply have no time to indulge.

    By the way, in terms of profiling, please, send your child to swim naked on a warm day in the public pool, and if you see a couple of old men in dirty trenchcoats leering by the side, leave your kid there unattended, and come back in a couple of hours. If we do not profile people based on their mannerism and appearance, as you claim, there is nothing to worry about, your child will be safe.

  • Azlin

    The short answer is that the ummah is in a lot of trouble. The problem is not an Eastern v Western debate, it is more about the lack of iman in our hearts. Colonisation, to a large degree, is responsible for brainwashing women into thinking that success is measured by career achievements, and that full time motherhood is somewhat a second class status. But on a bigger picture, it is the lack of iman that is causing the social ills, including the rampant zina that we now witness (not literally, one hopes) amongst our sisters. It is the lack of understanding of our roles in life, both men and women. Hence we have domineering husbands and rebellious women – and both are wrong. And lack of iman usually stems from lack of knowledge – and no amount of headcovering and coy behaviour can solve that problem. I currently live in the Middle East, and I can attest that iman has no geographical limitations, for I have not been in a country where the Muslims on languange, paper and appearance have so little Islam in their hearts and behaviour. The things you mentioned – imported brides, free mingling, zina – these are all symptoms of a much larger problems, which is the general ignorance of the ummah.

  • Spookyfish

    To Lady Wisdom
    “if your only thoughts are a woman wearing hijab has to be a good muslim … Do we just think they are special and above reproach because they wear hijab?”
    I don’t know where you got these ideas from – did you even read the article before plastering your comments?

  • safa tli

    If some of you are cringing at this, then I know I was not alone in my thought process! ” … Actually you described so well step by step and exactly my way of thinking! Pray for me so I’ll join you inshallah and be able to wear it soon! Your sister Safa.

  • Azlin

    Asm Safa.

    Up till the minute I wore it, I had a million doubts screaming in my head. What will my friends think of me, how will this affect my job, I will be discriminated against, I will look so ugly, this will be so difficult, I don’t want to do this, this is not me, I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this. I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror for an hour, crying and struggling. You know what? Once you put it on, all the doubts will vanish, insha Allah, and you will see that all those doubts were not based on reality, but rather the provocations of Shaitan. Make niyyah, put it on, and you will find unbelievable peace. May Allah open your heart and make the hijab beloved to you, and easy for you, amin.