A Letter to Farah Ann Abdul Hadi

Dear Farah Ann, 

First and foremost, let me congratulate you on winning a gold medal at the 2015 South East Asian Games. I admire you for having the determination, discipline and dedication to become a world-class gymnast. As a fellow Malaysian, I am proud of you because I know not anyone can do what you have just achieved. 

Secondly, I would like to apologise on behalf of your nay-sayers and harsh critics. While I would not encourage a woman to dress immodestly in public I would also never condone the way some people have spoken about you. Why? Because being a woman myself, I understand what it must be like to be in your position. I myself have only made the decision to don the hijab around five years ago. However, I know for a fact that just because I wear the hijab it doesn't make me a better person than you or any other woman who chooses not to wear it. The hijab may be a symbol of piety for some women but for an ordinary woman like myself who has many shortcomings, the hijab is an expression of faith and a manifestation of my desire to become closer to my Creator by trying to embody humility. It is by no means a representation of my level of piety which is only for God to judge.

I can assure you that perfecting the art of covering myself is something I am still working on. It is not easy, especially when my faith is tested by my encounters with Muslims who have disappointed and hurt me terribly. That is why I am not on the side of those who have tried to humiliate you with their words and lack of adab (etiquette). In fact, I am ashamed of them because this group of people are predominantly Muslim and they should know better than to treat or speak of a woman this way. 

A true gentleman or lady, Muslim or not, would never, ever disrespect or humiliate a woman - be her attire a bikini or a burqa

Thirdly, I hope you can find it in your heart to understand that contrary to the behaviour of some Muslims, Islam is not a religion that promotes or fosters misogyny. In fact, modesty was prescribed to elevate the status of women in society and empower them so that they may be valued for their faith, intellect and good character above all else. Ironically, so many of these women and men who have created a brouhaha over your uniform appear to lack modesty (in their speech), emotional intelligence and adab (etiquette). Somewhere along the way, some of us Malaysians have forgotten to be careful with our words especially when the intention is to give advice. As the Malay proverb goes: Seperti menarik rambut dalam tepung, rambut jangan putus, tepung tidak berserak. In other words, do not create a 'mess' when dealing with a delicate matter. And what a mess this has become.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself said, "A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand others are safe" (Sahih Bukhari). I think this can be applied to those 'keyboard warriors' who think they are right to mock you on the Internet. Perhaps they need to be reminded of this ayah in the Qur'an:

"O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith. And whoever does not repent - then it is those who are the wrongdoers." (49:11)

Finally, on behalf of many Malaysians, I wish you success in all your endeavours. You are my sister in Islam and I pray for you to be successful in this life and the hereafter. I would like to leave you with a beautiful poem to reflect on. It was written by Hafiz, a 14th Century Muslim poet from Persia. My interpretation of it is that if we want someone to grow and blossom we must show them kindness and compassion, not contempt, especially while giving advice.

May you always feel His love and mercy and be surrounded by people who can show you the light in trying times.

It Felt Love 
Did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give this world 
All its Beauty? 
It felt the encouragement of light 
Against its Being,
We all remain too frightened. - Hafiz


B2Yousuf said…
Very well written and I totally agree.. May Allah (Swt) guide us and protect us from going against His words Ameen. Way to go Farah Ann!
sealed said…
Alhamdulillah, love this ! Well said :)
Unknown said…
Thanks...nice words
Bil hikmah
Ramadhan Kareem
Well said, sis! Love the poem.
Unknown said…
Well said. Bravo Cempakan.
Anonymous said…
MasyaAllah ...
very well said, Shahirah Elaiza.
Jazakillahu khairan katheer ya ukhti.
Congratulatuons Farah Ann.
let us all be reminded that everything good comes from HIM, Allah 'azza wajallaa, whilst all else not, comes from us ...
may HE have mercy on us and guide us all to HIS path .... Ameen YaRobb
Irnie said…
Anonymous said…
Shahirah... you are a true Muslim. Alhamdulillah.
Truth.be.told! said…
Agree with you to certain extend. But for me, respect is earn not asked for. When someone dares to say 'empty cans is the loudest', I don't think he/she need any soothing words from anyone, coz clearly he/she don't bother at all..
Anonymous said…
Love this sha,beautiful and well written as always.among a responsibility of a muslim is to spread the word of Allah, but not overused by give a judgement to others. It is Allah who the only One that have the authority to give judgement and He the only One that can give hidayah too.
purplelurve said…
Good write up, sis. Everything we say or write is actually a du'a, thus to say good beautiful things is absolutely what every Muslims should do especially in correcting someone mistakes. Manners and adab in giving da'wah is truly important. :)
Unknown said…
Well said, well written
_sL19_ said…
This is indeed beautiful. It is beautifully written. A reminder for me and all muslims.
Such a nice entry. Well done sister. :)
Anonymous said…
well written. masyaAllah.. thank you so much . everyone should read this..
Anonymous said…
I am not a muslim and will not hide the fact that i sometimes do not agree or see eye to eye on certain issues.Thank u dear for this article...every little gesture helps in sorting out misunderstanding,misinterpretation n accusations.God Bless.

Anonymous said…
salam. this is d first nite of ramadhan. some people wear hijab to cover their bodies, but tbey've done nothing to cover their mouths, what more their hearts from evil, wicked thots. as far as i'm concerned, even upon seeing a fat/ugly person, we are forbidden to have nasty/degrading THOUGHTS EVEN IN OUR MINDS/HEARTS, what more of expressing things which would only degrade/humiliate others IN PUBLIC for the WORLD TO SEE... n d funniest thing is a lot of em use 'a'mal ma'aruf nahi munkar' as a foundation/excuse which in a way 'LEGALIZE' their actions n verbal assaults. really??? has out Noble Prophet taught us that? humiliate others??? hmm...
Shahirah Elaiza said…

In response to your comment: "Agree with you to certain extend. But for me, respect is earn not asked for. When someone dares to say 'empty cans is the loudest', I don't think he/she need any soothing words from anyone, coz clearly he/she don't bother at all.."

Why must we disrespect someone who has made different choices than us? Why must we be intolerant towards someone who has not affected our personal lives? Has it occurred to you that she may have said those words as a form of self-defence? When it comes to da'wah I live by this principle: When doing da'wah we must be humble and assume the person we are talking to is better than us. So if you think it's acceptable to shame a woman be it publicly or privately then you need to reconsider your intentions in the first place. We need to stop stating all the problems in the world without thinking of ways to solve them. The question shouldn't be 'How many flaws can I find in others?' but it should be 'How can I help them find their way to God?'. How many people have we dismissed or ridiculed for being less 'pious' than us only to discover that months or years later they have actually become better than us?
Shahirah Elaiza said…

Only He can judge whether I am a true Muslim or not but like someone else said here, the words that we say can be a form of prayer so ameen to your prayer :)
mairay said…
A lovely and well written piece which I just had to share during this Ramadan. :) Thank you.