Hey You're Back! But Something is Different About You... Hmmm...
Salam and a big hello to everyone!
I’ve been back in Dunedin for a week and I’m so sorry for neglecting my blog during the entire time. I missed the first week of Uni therefore there was a lot of catching up to do. I’m all settled down now and I have my first Pol Sci quiz this Thursday. My holiday is officially over! But I’m happy to report that I love being back in New Zealand. This country is truly a 2nd home to me and I appreciate how peaceful and relatively laid-back life is over here. Plus I'm very relieved to get away from the blistering heat of Malaysia. I can tolerate Dunedin's warmest days but not Kuala Lumpur's!
I’m also delighted to tell you that I’ve worn the hijab (headscarf) for an entire week as well! I’m honestly very surprised with myself. I’ll tell you why. Firstly, a year ago I never would have imagined myself sitting here in the library or anywhere in campus with a hijab. I mean, I’d wear it to the mosque for prayers but to wear one full-time outside the comfort zone of the Al Huda Mosque is quite an achievement for me. Secondly, for me to seriously consider wearing a hijab at this time in my life and in a Western country is quite a challenging feat. However, I’ve decided to think of it sort of as an adventure and try it for 2 weeks to see how I feel about being a hijabi before I commit to it. At first I was extremely afraid of what other people would think of me. Friends, lecturers, classmates, the lady at Countdown supermarket… you name it. But I keep telling myself that I’m doing this for myself and for various reasons as I have utmost faith in the Almighty.
So how did this whole thing start in the first place?
Well, I’ve been thinking about it for the past 3 years but I became more serious about it recently. Ever since I came to New Zealand I started learning about Islam more than I ever did in my life. I guess being born as a Muslim made me quite a passive Islamic ‘thinker’ and I didn’t question or think much about it when I was living in Malaysia. I used to say religion is for the later part of life but slowly this has changed. The more I learned about Islam the more I saw its beauty. A lot of its teachings made sense to me therefore Islamic values weren’t hard for me to incorporate in my life. Having said that, the hijab was still something I thought I’d never be able to wear full-time because I was afraid it would make me stand out way too much in a Western environment. No one in my family ever told me I had to wear it so it was never forced on me. That itself shows how Islam is not about compulsion.
Anyway, after my recent trip to the Holy Makkah (Mecca) I went back to Malaysia and went on with my usual life. However, I started to feel uncomfortable for me not to cover up in front of random people in public. I asked myself, “Why am I showing my hair and my sensuality to these people?” The answer was pretty straightforward. I wanted society’s approval. The common perception is: If you look beautiful everybody likes you. I was at a point in my life where I was over dealing with superficiality - friends, fashion and just people in general. I no longer wanted to be the kind of person people wanted me to be. I just wanted to be me and have people like me for who I am - my values and personality. My sensuality has nothing to do with people liking me for me.
A lot of people have this misconception that hijab is just about covering the hair. It isn’t. Hijab encompasses everything from our speech, behaviour and the way we dress. It’s all about being a modest and self-respecting person. So okay, why not just dress modestly then? For example, stop wearing short dresses and show less of my curves when I go out in public. Why must I cover my hair? There is a debate that covering the hair is not obligatory for Muslim women as the Qur’an states that women should cover their chest. But the Qur’an also states that Muslim women should also conceal what is beautiful except in front of their family and close relatives. A woman’s hair is her crowning glory. I love my hair and I treasure everything that I like about myself therefore I want to be modest about it. It really is as simple as that. And as my dear friend, Chloe, mentioned when we met last week, back in the good old days women did cover their hair but as time progressed their dressing became more and more revealing. Women started to show their cleavage and what not, therefore that verse in the Qur’an telling women to cover the chest is due to the fact that women were already covering their hair then.
My decision to seriously consider donning the hijab has nothing to do with my family or a man forcing me to do it. In fact, I asked my mum what she thought of it and said she doesn’t mind either way as long as I don’t dress revealingly in front of men (who are not family). My late father also never mentioned I should ever wear it. I think it’s also really important for me to highlight that I haven’t changed much as a person. I’m still the same old Sha who is friendly and outgoing, loves fashion and make up, and hanging out with my friends. The only difference is that my priorities have shifted a little bit. I no longer place superficial needs above what really matters in life. That includes being friends with fake and superficial people and trying to make myself to be someone I am not.
My belief started in my heart and slowly it started to materialise physically. The more I had faith in Islam, the more I believed in the importance of honesty, kindness, compassion, sincerity and prayers. All I’m doing now is adding modesty and humility to that list. When I was in Makkah I prayed for God to make me a better Muslim and now here I am doing what I thought was impossible. Most importantly, I have to note that I’m happy to wear the hijab. It’s the kind of happiness you find after sincerely doing a good deed for someone else but different in a way because that someone else is me =) Anyway, I hope that answers some of your curiosities if you had any. I’ll write a post about my experience and the different reactions I received by the end of the 2nd of week of my ‘adventure’, so stay tuned for that. Adios amigos!
P.S. Thank you for all the lovely comments you’ve left on my last post. You guys are just fabulous and your kind support means the world to me.
"A lot of people have this misconception that hijab is just about covering the hair. It isn’t. Hijab encompasses everything from our speech, behaviour and the way we dress."
Exactely! A lot of women just assume that putting on a head scarf is hijab. They dont realize a hijab is not just a head covering/body covering but a way of life which includes ones way of thinking, behavior, etc. I have known a lot of hijabis who still flirt and act seductive with men, pile on the makeup, skirts with boots and short tops with see through sleeves and pair it with some tight hijab and think its ok because they are wearing a head scarf! They dont realize that hijab is not just for the head but for the body (wear loose clothing that hides ones shape instead of revealing it). To me its mocking the religion! When I first started wearing hijab I realized that I have to change my mentality and it also served as a protection from haram things (mixing with men, going out at night, etc). I found that hijab made me less concerned with what people thought about me (physically) and I started focusing on my inner self!
Im glad your home safely from your trip, seems like you had a fabulous time!
Im glad you mentioned this!
Im not familiar with any scholars who claim hijab is not fard, im sure there may be some men who have a degree in islamic studies who claim it isnt obligatory, however I would not consider them scholars! I would also assume they arent fluent in arabic. Sadly some men who go to university and obtain a Ph.D in islamic studies consider themselves "scholars" and misinterpret the quran and mislead others!
[Chapter 24, verses 30-31] Also, "O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons...that they should be known and not molested." [Chapter 33, verse 59]
*the arabic word here is Jalabeeb (plural of Jalbaab), which is the loose outer garment that covers all a woman's body. It says here to use the Jalabeeb to cover all, and scholars say this means to use it to cover her head (agree upon by all scholars) and her face (agreed by many scholars, not all) and one or both eyes, in order for it to be known that she is a free woman and so not to be exposed to any harm.
In one tradition (hadith), the Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying: "...If the woman reaches the age of puberty, no part of her body should be seen but this --- and he pointed to his face and hands."
From these and other references, the vast majority of Muslim scholars and jurists, past and present, have determined the minimum requirements for Muslim women's dress:
1) Clothing must cover the entire body, with the exception of the face and the hands. (there is a debate between scholars if the woman should cover her face as well)
2) The attire should not be form fitting, sheer or so eye-catching as to attract undue attention or
reveal the shape of the body.
There are similar, yet less obvious requirements for a Muslim male's attire. 1) A Muslim man must always be covered from the navel to the knees.
2) A Muslim man should similarly not wear tight, sheer,revealing, or eye-catching clothing. In addition, a Muslim man is prohibited from wearing silk clothing (except for medical reasons) or gold jewelry. A Muslim woman may wear silk or gold.
Good luck =]
I'm happy that you are finding yourself little by little and becoming comfortable in your own skin, as your essential and beautiful self.
I know how you feel as far as making a decision to live a more authentic life.
I think this is an important aspect of a girl becoming an intelligent, thinking young woman.. So many women never go through that process, and we have all seen the women I am talking about.. I am glad you are living for yourself, not others.
Im so proud of youu Shahirah! this is wonderful news.
May the Almighty make it easy for you and may He keep you safe and happy, always. Ameen.
Looking forward to the next part! :D
lots of love
Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us (hopefully it will one day inspire me to follow in your footsteps to Him, inshaAllah) and thank you ever so much for your very kind comments over at my little corner of the internet :-) (If only I had the discipline to write more often!) xo
i did perform the mandatory five prayers,fasting in Ramadhan, recited the Quran.im not gonna wear tudung because everyone else is. but now, i'm so happy. the least i can do as a small offering to Him since God has given me so much..
Thank you for sharing your experiences and your story with hijab. InshAllah, I hope that others who are so skeptical of hijab and of dressing modestly can understand the importance and protection it provides.
I especially agree with your passage about how hijab is not just about covering your hair, but about guarding your modesty in all manner of behaviour, whether it is the way you speak, the way you act, or the way you dress.
May Allah reward you for your decision and make your tribulations easier, ameen!
Thank you for such a truly wonderful, inspirational blog, my dear :)
Lots of love