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.