We are at a wedding, and a lady comes up and compliments me “she looks very attractive in her hijab” she says to my companion.
The response is vehement “No she does not, this hejab is very unattractive, I dislike it and I disapprove of it”……… All the guests standing around us are stunned into silence. One of the ladies tries damage control by saying ‘don’t worry she will soon be taking it off…there comes a time…” this is insult over injury…(she is alluding to the ayah which says and I paraphrase…… old unsexy women do not need to wear hijab)
It would be easy for me to say that when my son died, I donned the hijab to cover my grief. But it would not be true.
I did not don the Hijab after Hajj like most women who have Hajj e Mabroor do. They never take it off after they return from Hajj. I took it off remembering the words of my daughter at the airport: “Dad will freak out”.
Most intelligent women will read the Ayahs of Hijab and it is a no brainer for them to go ahead and don the hijab, but not me………..I had every intellectual rationalization why I should not: “it attracted more attention in a western country, I looked ugly, my husband would freak out, my patients would be scared, I would be harassed at the airports and on and on and on……….”
It was not until I was studying the downfall of Iblis and the first act of arrogance in the history of mankind that I realized what was holding me back in shackles from hijab covering my hair.
It was not any of the reasons that I had intellectually rationalized but it was the arrogance I had of my looks, my glossy hair, cut stylishly to the point that men stopped and stared even at my ageJ When I gave lectures men and women remarked what beautiful hair I had. Women in the airport restrooms and conference halls would stop and ask me how I did my hair to make it so beautiful.
I was proud of my hair, it was my crowning glory and I knew it, relished in it and found confidence in it. I felt it had sprung me into acceptance into the highest levels in the halls of academia despite being a foreigner.
…………….And then Tariq died and my whole world came crashing down around me, everything I had cherished and enjoyed and worked for became dust in my mouth. I wondered what was the goal in my life, why was I still alive and what was I supposed to do with my life of what was left of it.
Most of all was the pain, what did I need to do to make it go away. I looked at the bottles of Chivas Regal in the airport shops and wondered what it would be like to seek oblivion in the golden liquid, I looked at you tubes of people smoking pot and looking silly and happy, and wondered what it would be like to drown my grief in the smoke.
At a deeper level I knew that I must not anger Allah. I knew that by disobeying Him flagrantly by doing the forbidden I would incur His wrath and thus despite the pain and the desire to get rid of it, the Fear of His (Subhanawataala’s) anger stayed my hand.
The face of my mother would rise in my mind disapproving silently at my thoughts of seeking oblivion in the haram and forbidden.
Thus the door of chemical oblivion closed while the pain of grief grew every moment instead of settling down with time.
Sitting in a halaqa with a Christian friend of mine………..the imam said “The source of arrogance in men is power and for women it is beauty………..”
Beauty I thought to myself I am not beautiful, thus I do not have to worry about having arrogance.
As my friend and I walked out of the mosque, she took off the thin veil she had covered her hair with to attend the mosque and said “ Now I understand why beauty makes you arrogant” I looked at her in surprise…….” When my hair was covered I felt ugly” she said. I looked at her wavy shiny tresses cascading over her shoulders and then at the slim georgette scarf that had barely covered them and wondered…
Meanwhile an internal struggle was going on, I was asking Allah Subhanawataala to ease the pain and to help me and in the final moments of anguish I was just asking him to help me………
Then people started to appear in my life as if sent to help me. Help educate me lovingly and with empathy and compassion, help me voice my grief; even to go with me to the cemetery as none of my immediate family wanted to go there.
They came to help me on my path to obedience to Allah unflinching in their support which I now know was fi sabillallah otherwise with my attitude of ungratefulness they would have left the effort long ago. Despite my ungrateful stubbornness, they persisted with love and compassion.
A door had opened into a garden ………and now I am reminded of a hadith of our Prophet pbuh and I paraphrase… He asked the sahaba to visit and walk in the gardens of Jannah on earth. “ Where are the gardens of jannah on earth?” they asked astounded. “The Halaqas where the name of Allah is mentioned are the gardens of jannah on earth”
Inside the garden were people who were non judgmental of my extreme gauche demeanor and high level of discomfort of being in a place and with people I was not familiar with.
Slowly I laid down my defenses and my offences and one day I laid down my arrogance. The final straw was the hadith of Rasool Allah which said and I paraphrase: “ no one will enter Jannah if they have even an atom worth of arrogance in them” That was my epiphany, I saw the FIRE and I saw the GARDENS and having known pain I knew what I wanted.
He (Subhanawataala) helped me with the transition…my hairdresser said my hair had become more lustrous since I was covering it…perhaps protecting it from air pollutants…. she remarked. My patients were affectionate and supportive and one little girl wanted to know if I was related to her Auntee up north who was a Moozlum. A parent wanted to know if I had shaved my head to take the veil. Men in the grocery store would stop and open the door for me; the cashier would pull out coupons and ask me if she can use them for my groceries.
Initially my “friends and my immediate family” snickered and thought this would be a passing phase, a woman crazed with grief would come to her senses soon.
My friends or I should say my ex friends and some relatives looked askance as if seeing a giraffe amongst them, I was dropped from their social list, and de-friended on the facebook especially from relatives who thought I was too “religious’ or “not enough political”.
Basically my social circle decimated and inside the home my husband tolerated me as long as he did not have to go out with me where his colleagues would see me.
His colleagues who had always been competitive became gentle with me and respectful.
That is the upward struggle, now is the challenge how to stay on the tight wire of Deen without falling over. I am pulled in all directions, past friendships, relationships and a vacuum of current relationships, life history wiped with one swipe of the veil.
Unfortunately with the donning of the hijab and tafseer study has come an eyeglass which is like an Xray, which allows me to see my inside as well as others, As I struggle to cleanse mine I try not to be appalled and judgmental by what I see in others.
Life is in limbo as I try to proceed forward………..My Hijab covers my grief, takes me out of the rat race, and gives me the opportunity to walk the gardens of halaqas and meet the lovely people in it. On the other hand I have lost most of the people I was friends with and still have to associate with them with my giraffe outfit while they try not to make eye contact.
This is my personal journey to please Allah.
Hijab is just one small aspect of it. However since it is the most visible it is blamed and credited for more than it’s due.
Please keep me in your prayers!