The Secret Hijabi

I first wore hijab when I went to the masjid to say my shahada. I had come to the decision I was going to embrace Islam and my friend and I had arranged to go to the masjid on the Friday evening. For me, there wasn’t any doubt when it came to the topic of hijab. In the process of learning about Islam I had researched the hijab – the reasons for wearing it and the evidences behind it. When I realised that the sole, primary basis for wearing the hijab is the fact that Allah commanded believing women to do so in the Qur’an; this in itself was enough for me.
I had come to accept that Islam was the truth, I wasn’t going to pick and choose which parts I embraced. At that time my imaan was so high, I had no doubts about anything and as I truly believed in Allah, Muhammad as His last messenger and that the Qur’an was revealed to him, then how could I choose to ignore this command from Allah.

I came home from the masjid, now a Muslim, wearing my hijab. I went to my room as discreetly as I could, not wanting to ‘rub it in’ to my mum but even that offended her and after that it became clear that she was not comfortable or happy with me wearing the hijab. Vague threats that I could not continue to have a relationship with my family made me much more careful. That is when I became a secret hijabi. Having to put my headscarf on in the car and taking it off just before entering the house. If I had been male, then my family would have generally had no problem with me becoming Muslim, the main issue has always been the hijab.

For the record, I am not judging anyone. There are many Muslim women who choose not to wear hijab for whatever reason and many people have their own understanding and interpretation. Allah knows best. But for me it was clear and simple that believing women should cover themselves in order to protect their modesty.

Some people state that you can dress modestly without covering your hair, and that is absolutely true. However, I think it’s about the level of modesty; there are without a doubt different levels of modesty. I have experienced this myself as I have developed more of an understanding and have become more used to dressing modestly, my level of modesty has increased. What’s more, I have had to gradually change my wardrobe with more modest clothing over time. Wearing the hijab is also about identifying oneself as a believing woman – as a Muslim. Wearing the hijab not only protects a woman’s modesty but it also tells everyone she sees that she is a Muslim and proud of it. This in itself portrays other notions about her. It says this woman obeys the commands of Allah who she believes in; it says this woman protects her chastity; it says this woman does not subscribe to demands and expectations of this society.

When I was seriously researching Islam in depth and came to the decision that I would take my shahada I was on a placement as part of my training to be a mental health nurse at that time. My mentor on this placement had already expressed rather strong views about Islam and his dislike of it. This made the transition much harder for me. The Friday came, just before the end of the working day I asked to have a private chat with my mentor. I told him that I was going to become a Muslim, that I was going to the mosque that evening. I said I was letting him know as from Monday I would be wearing a headscarf to work. I informed him that I was essentially giving him a heads up, as I had to work closely with him day to day, and I didn’t want him to be shocked on the following Monday. His reaction was somewhat surprised and patronising.

“Are you converting for your boyfriend then?” He had already jumped to his own conclusions, suggesting that I was brainwashed.
“Nope, I don’t have a boyfriend. I’m doing it because it’s what I believe in.”

Having to work closely with someone who was prejudiced and rude made the transition harder for me but it also helped me learn how to deal with certain reactions. After visiting a patient with a delusional disorder, my mentor even made the comparison that followers of any religion were believers of a delusion on a large scale. Offensive to say the least.
On the other hand, whilst on this placement I also had experiences at the other end of the spectrum. When passing through a ward, a patient came up to me and bowed his head down to me, saying “I respect you, I have a lot of respect for you. Muslim women I mean.” He also said something along the lines of ‘assalamu alaykum’ although didn’t quite pronounce it right. It warmed my heart though. I didn’t quite know how to react. It made me feel like a queen, or a princess at the very least.

Having been wearing the hijab for nearly two years now, my experience has been enlightening. There is absolutely no doubt that I am treated differently now that I wear hijab compared to when I did not, before I became Muslim. This includes positive aspects and negative. Sometimes people distance themselves, they avoid eye contact, they don’t smile at me as they would others. Generally this doesn’t bother me anyway, I am an introvert and I’m not a fan of interaction with strangers. On the other hand, I find men much more respectful now. People do not push boundaries or speak crudely in front of me and they apologise if they swear in front me. It feels liberating not feeling as though I have to please society (both men and women) with the way I dress. I don’t feel self conscious about my appearance or my figure because ultimately I don’t care what people think of my looks.

Muslim women who wear the hijab stand out from the norm, we do not conform. We only stand out to the extent that we do because of the times we live in. Even in recent years the standards of modesty and what is acceptable in this society has changed quite dramatically. It wasn’t that long ago when women were not expected to wear skirts above a certain length and in the 60s when women frequently wore headscarves. For different reasons, of course. The current attitudes and expectations of society are so different from what a Muslim woman represents and perhaps that is why we are more often the targets of hate crimes.

I was a feminist before I became Muslim and I still am and this was partly why so much of Islam appealed to me in fact. Ironic that Islam is so misrepresented with regards to every topic relating to women. More western young women are converting to Islam than any other demographic, I wonder why.

There are unfortunately women who are forced to wear the hijab and this is completely wrong and is based only in culture and abuse. It also completely negates from the purpose of hijab and only damages the representation of Islam.

I choose to wear the hijab. It is not an oppression, I am not oppressed. I have never been more liberated or empowered than when I chose to wear the hijab.

 

Stolen Moon

This is an excerpt from the novel I am working on, as of yet untitled. 


The conversation came to a pause… I had never felt such a connection, so at ease and so dangerously in love. “You’re too good to be true.” I told him. I could hear the awe in my voice and yet I did not cringe nor feel any embarrassment -despite the fact that it was so unlike me to be open or affectionate in this way. 

His response was a somewhat shy but endearing laugh and he told me that I was perfect for him.

***

Months gone by and now I look back at that moment and it makes me shudder. A shudder that begins from the cracks of my broken heart and echoes throughout my entire body and soul.

“You’re too good to be true.” I had said. The sick irony at how right I had been. How had that statement not rang alarm bells in my head. How had I chosen to blindly ignore my own statement. He was too good to be true because he hadn’t been true. How much, if any of it had been true, I would never know. That was what hurt the most. Every single aspect of his personality, every word he had uttered to me, everything I thought we had between each other, everything he said he felt for me, everything I thought I felt for him. I had no idea if any of it was real. And that was what I couldn’t move on from. I would never be able to understand why and how he could have done this to me. Not only had he broken my heart; he had messed with my mind, every single thought and every memory. 

I could not even get the tiniest grain of closure so how was I supposed to move on, how would I be able to. How could I ever let myself open up or feel something for anyone after this.

I thought he was my soulmate. The saddest thing actually, after everything, a tiny part of me still actually believed that he was my soulmate. Even though we were not together and never could end up together in this life now, I still deep down believed he was my soulmate.

How could I have felt so much and connected so deeply with another soul that wasn’t mine? Then once again I somehow felt numb yet all encompassing pain simultaneously as I reminded myself that it was all lie. Was it all a lie? I went in circles like this more than I cared to realise. 

He had truly messed me up. Got under my skin. Into my head. Embedded and engraved on my broken and shattered heart. He had ruined me. 

The only time I felt like my life had a future without him in my mind was when I was completely and utterly distracted. But then something would always remind me of him and a memory would hit me like a train. Like a punch in the stomach. It physically hurt me yet there was nothing to see except the pain in my eyes. Sometimes a tear down my cheek. 

One evening he had told me that I was his moon. He said he could only see the light of the sun, the light of this life, because I reflected it to him. He even stole the moon from me. I wonder did he think of me when he looked at the moon. I wondered whether he thinks of me when he tells her that he loves her.

Every night I poured my heart out to Allah. That was my solace. I prayed to Allah to remove him from my heart, to take away any attachment I had for him. I prayed to Allah to grant me peace in my heart and to remove the grudge I held. I prayed to Allah to help me to forget and to help me move on. And I still prayed for him. 

Before Him

Before I reverted to Islam, I truly and genuinely believed that the whole concept of love was a sham. I saw the world as black and white and my experiences had slowly ebbed away at any belief I had in love. I was sceptical about people and all relationships. I saw people as only living to survive and reproduce. It seemed to me that love was just an idea that people bought into along the way to try and get some comfort or distraction in this life. But where was the evidence of actual true love, I saw none. I questioned even the love of mothers for their children. People’s own desires seemed to ultimately take priority over anything else, whatever they may be.

Alhamdulillah Allah guided me and I found this beautiful deen.

The one thing that changed most about me after reverting to Islam was my perception of love. First of all this love for my Lord grew inside me and that changed my heart completely subhanAllah. Allah swt who loves us more than any mother loves her child and who loves us more than we could ever love Him. I learned about our Prophet ﷺ and the more I learned about him the more I loved him and was in awe of his love for this whole ummah.

My view about the people had for one another also changed, whatever the dynamics. I learned about the concept of ummah, brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam. There really is nothing else like it in this world that is similar to this.

There is a contentment in my soul that was not there before. Knowing that whatever happens in my life, whatever tragedy befalls me, it is by the will of Allah swt. And He is the best of planners and He is the most just, the most loving and the most merciful.

Read my ‘Revert Story’.

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Who was She

I wrote this a year and a half ago for my auntie…

Her generosity knew no bounds, she was overflowing with it

Her beauty shone both inside and out, although she didn’t know it

Her compassion and kindness encompassed all people and animals alike

This strong independent woman; feisty and competitive, always putting others first

The number of lives she touched we cannot put a number on

And so we are left with a hole in our hearts knowing that we will never see her again

But we also know that it would break her heart if she was the cause of a single tear

We must remember that although she is no longer with us, the imprint on our hearts will never fade

We must be grateful that our many fond memories of her can never be taken away from us

How blessed and fortunate are we to have known and loved you…

So forgive us K, for the tears we shed and know that we will carry you in our hearts always and forever

‘The Real Housewives of ISIS’

A comedy sketch entitled ‘The Real Housewives of ISIS’ featured in BBC 2’s programme ‘Revolting’. For those who haven’t seen it here is the clip on YouTube:

The Real Housewives of ISIS

The whole concept of this satirical comedy sketch is offensive, disrespectful and ignorant. I’m all for comedy and I love to laugh but there is a limit in all things and this is an extremely distasteful and inappropriate attempt at humour.

It is completely thoughtless of the victims of Isis, the women who have been through extremely traumatic and life changing experiences. Their experiences are essentially being mocked and turned into comedy – into amusement for the masses.

Would anybody dare make a comedy about the victims of 9/11? Nobody would even want to, nobody would be that distasteful and nobody would find it funny. And yet it has been deemed acceptable for a comedy to be made about victims of Isis. This is still so current and so raw and ongoing. I find it shocking that this concept has been thought of let alone actually made and is now being aired.

Women have been through abuse, rape, torture. These things are just so hilarious aren’t they.

For me a major concern regarding this ‘comedy’ is that it will just further ostracise Muslims in this country, especially Muslim women wearing hijab. Mainstream media and members of the general public, including political figures, are already unable to differentiate between Isis and Muslims. Muslims who, for the record, are completely against Isis. I find it hard to believe that people would not use this programme to further mock Islam as a whole and Muslims individually. People are already ignorant to the fact that Isis do not follow the the Qur’an or the lifestyle and teachings of our Prophet (peace be upon him). This programme could mislead people and further exacerbate their already warped stereotypes of Muslims.

Mainstream media continuously associate Isis with Muslims, and have even published false accusations about Muslims in this country and essentially fabricated stories relating Muslims to Isis. The media’s portrayal and coverage of Isis and Muslims in general even led to people arguing that Syrian refugees should not be welcomed in this country due to the fact that they may have links to Isis. Syrian refugees, the very people who are most victimised by Isis and are going through tragic experiences, trying to get away by any means necessary.

Muslims are constantly expected to do more to stop and reduce radicalisation leading to people to decide to go to Syria to join Isis. Muslims are endlessly expected to publicly vocalise their disagreement of Isis and express the fact that we do not support them.
I hate Isis and everything they do. Arguably Muslims hate Isis more than anyone else. Every time they commit an atrocity and kill innocent people, not only am I angry and upset for all the lost lives and the ripple of people who are affected; I am angry because every such violent act leads to people holding Muslims responsible which leads to more hate crimes against Muslims and it leads to more ignorance and discrimination.

Reflecting on Goodbyes

How many times in our lives do we say goodbye. Sometimes it’s a permanent and final goodbye, those can be the hardest. Sometimes you part not knowing if or when you may be reunited, that can be harder still. Most of the time goodbyes are for a short while, a day at work, a week away. But this is never guaranteed and always we are the ones who do not know.
When you squeeze your loved ones with a hug and give them greetings of farewell, sure of yourself that you will see them whenever you plan to, bear in mind that we do not own time, we do not know what is planned for everyone, not for ourselves, not even for a minute.
When we argue with someone we love, a friend, a sibling, a parent or a spouse, why do we hold grudges and hesitate to make amends. Be forgiving, be understanding and be patient. How would you feel parting on bad terms with someone and then a tragedy occurs permanently taking them from this world. How would you feel going to sleep without resolving an argument, without saying I love you, only for them to never wake up.
You don’t want to consider what that would feel like, nobody does, so save yourself from the possibility. Be kind to yourself as well as to those around you. Being difficult and stubborn will hurt yourself as deeply as it hurts others.

How many times in our journeys we say goodbye to different aspects and components of the puzzles of our lives.
We move on from people, who hurt us and put us down or try to hold us back. We outgrow friends as interests and values develop. Growing older, moving on from each school and taking steps into making your own life what you want to make of it. Trying to find your place in the world. Moving on from jobs and areas of interest, finding what suits you and what doesn’t. Finding someone to share your life with, moulding and adapting your life to make it one.

How many lives cross over never to meet again, while other times the threads of the lives of some will coincide again and again. In the most unexpected and extraordinary ways people are brought together again after years gone by. Some peoples’ lives are intertwined forever, even in some small way however insignificant it may be and even if nobody else knows it. Some experiences in this life tie you to people through the shared circumstances which brought you together.

The goodbyes which led us to the point in our lives at this very moment. The goodbyes that make us stronger as we learn to move on and grow, become better than we were. The goodbyes that we didn’t want to say, the ones that we didn’t know were coming and the ones we never got the chance to say. These goodbyes make us who we are. The goodbyes we will have to make in days to come, there will always be goodbyes.

But with every goodbye there is a new beginning, a new greeting. New people to come into our lives. New experiences, new homes and new chapters of our lives.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad

I wonder what you would think of me, of the woman I have become. I wonder if you would be proud of my achievements. I wonder would you be proud of my character, my personality and what about my principles and values.
I wonder how much of me is you. I know I have your eyes. But I wonder if my sense of humour, my shyness or my sympathetic nature came from you. I wonder if you would see yourself in me and would make you happy if you did.
I wonder if you would be outraged or scared that I became a Muslim. Would it bother you that I cover my hair now and I dress modestly. Or would that be preferable to you, would you have an overprotective nature, not wanting boys to look at me or to think of me in a certain way.

I’ll never know how you would feel about me being a Muslim, so I can pretend. I can tell myself that you would have been shocked initially but then seeing how it made me happy you would have accepted it wholeheartedly, buying me scarves and books about Islam and wanting to learn about it. A beautiful dream.

I wonder how you would feel that I got married, if you had ever envisioned walking me down the aisle. I wonder if you had ever imagined how I would turn out to be, what job I would have or when I would get married and if I would have children. I wonder did you ever think about my future the way I think about your past.

I wonder what you would think of my husband. I imagine the two of you laughing together and teasing me, teaming up on me. I imagine you as a grandad. Holding a newborn baby, delicately and lovingly. I imagine you at every milestone in my life.

Most of all I wonder what you thought I thought of you. I try not to go down that road because it breaks my heart. I wonder did you know that I forgave you everything and that I loved you. I know you loved me. I’m left with a lot of unanswered questions and I wonder a lot. I thought there would always be time.

But I’ll never know these things, wonder and imagination is all I have.

I remember as a little girl holding your hand, walking beside you, trying to match my footsteps with yours. No idea then how I would remember that moment years and years later. Something so simple and yet it stayed with me because it’s the smallest things which can leave a footprint on the heart.

With love,

Your daughter

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