Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hijab Holdup

I wanted to get your opinion on this issue i've been having for a long time. I cover my hair all the time, but I've been thinking about not wearing it anymore. Growing up my parents always stressed dressing modestly but covering our hair was never a big issue. I started covering my fresman year of college 2005, but not for the right reasons. I had decided to stop perming my hair and decided the best way for me was to shave all my hair off..completey bald. I loved it, but was to self conscious to walk around campus with a blad head and it was winter so it was too cold :) So I decided to wrap my hair temporarly until my hair grew enough to wear it out. Well I guess I just kinda got lazy b/c I didn't want to do my hair so I never took it off. I had met my husband then as well and he liked me to wear it and bought me all these beautiful scarves so I felt gulity if I never wore them. My parents were also proud of me b/c I started covering, so I didn't want to disappoint them either. So for 5 years I've been covering for these superficial reasons and I feel like I'm not getting the benefit/blessings/rewards for covering b/c I'm not doing it for the right reasons. I've tried to purify my intentions for wearing it, wearing for the pleasure of Allah and I've tried all different types of styles from the 'traditional' to a bun style and everything in between, but I alwasy feel like a fake, like maybe I'm disappointing Allah by wearing when I'm not dong it solely for the love and pleasure of Him. So what do you ladies think?

Mina says: Peace and Blessings, dear sister--thanks for inquiring.  (Btw, I can totally relate to a time when I wore my scarf so I wouldnt have to worry about my hair! LOL)

You're right, its not good to feel like you're soley doing something for others, because it will get to the point where it feels worn out, stale and inauthentic. Its only through making a logical  and conscious decision for oneself, and feeling conviction in your heart, that you'll feel excited about doing it--or at least sincerey, even if stoically, committed.

Seperate from what everyone else thinks, and get clear about what you think.

What do you mean when you say "love and pleasure of Allah"? Examine why you think Allah is pleased that you wear it. Is is because it identifies you as a Muslim or because you think hair is enticing for men and immodest? Or some other reason? Get to the bottom of its benefits and the benefits it may have provided over the course of you wearing it. Because one thing important to remember is, if something really is pleasing to Allah, there is definitely a very real benefit for us.

Try to keep this close as you examine...

The other thing to confront and consider is--is this indeed something you feel God is asking of you, or people?  And what role does that play--People have different opinions about whether wearing head covering is mandotory, but I think most settle that its not mandotory, as it doesnt state so in The Qur'an, but preferred (as a way of distinguishment).  But again, it's not mandatory. 

Consider your reasons for not wanting to wear it. Is it because you haven't found it personally meaningful and you feel smothered, or because your hair looks cute and you want people to know it! And then think about how not wearing it factors into the bigger scheme of things--would it be a sin in your opinion? If so--major or minor?

The point of me asking these questions is so you can get to the root of what you desire and believe to determine, obectively for yourself, where you stand. 

I do think your husband's opinion is important. As your protector, does he want you to cover for safety reasons, or is it just something he would prefer (i.e: how serious is it to him)? Maybe something can be worked out where you cover if you're alone but wear your hair out if you're with him or others...Either way, you should talk to him honestly about how you feel

What I think is happeening is you're having a desire to take it off, naturally because you want to go through the process of making this decision for yourself (you may decide after weighing all factors, that not wearing it is no biggie. Or you may be confronted with new information that can make you appreciate covering more)...But ultimately you should be given time to do this. The Qur'an states "there is no compulsion in religion" and I'm sure God will be pleased if you're truthfully looking to re-examine and feel congruent in your behavior.

Nad says:  Ah, the hijab question. It was bound to come up. As a person who has been on both sides of this issue, I can definitely relate. I think the reason this is such a controversial issue is because 1.) the Quran uses somewhat vague term to address clothing and doesn't state specifically that a woman's hair has to be covered  and 2.) the hijab is such a noticable mark of Islam and has been misinterpreted by non Muslims. 

I notice that when the topic of hijab is discussed, it usually become a heated debate over whether or not it is required. I don't want to get into that debate. (There are plenty of ahadith you can read for clarity on this issue.) I'd rather turn this into the type of discussion that we have about any other issue believers find themselves struggling with.

Despite your reasons, I love that you've covered for 5 years. I'd like to know more about that experience. I know you said you just did it to get out of doing your hair, but beyond that, did you like it? Do you have positive experiences/memories attached to wearing it? Do you like the way you feel when you wear it? Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? These may sound like superficial questions, but they greatly affect the way a woman experiences the act of wearing hijab.

As Muslims, we know that hijab isn't a tool of oppression. It's a protection, a mercy, and a reminder of who we are and what we must do. Every time a hijabi woman sees herself, she is immediately reminded of her Islam. Every time another Muslim sees a hijabi, they are immediately reminded of their Islam. Every time a non-Muslim sees a hijabi, they are immediately made aware of Islam. We women have a hefty job. Quite literally, we carry Islam with us for the world to see. And depending on what you're feeling at the moment, that's not always easy to do.

Your statement that you "feel like a fake," stands out to me. Makes me wonder if there's more to it. 5 years is a long time. Even though you started for superficial reasons, you could have grown accustomed and attached to hijabing, but you didn't. That means something. I can't say what, because I don't know all the details, but a struggle in one area often denotes a similar struggle in another.  No one part of us is separate from the others.

I know when I went through the same issue, it meant something. It actually had little to do with the wearing of the hijab and more to do with what that meant and how I felt about it. Now, after much prayer and self reflection, I've been able to pinpoint why I was feeling that way.

Examine that "fakeness" youre feeling. See if it goes deeper than the reason you named. I think if you get more in touch with what you're really feeling, uncovering those subconscious thoughts we don't even realize we have, you'll have more of an understanding about which way you want to go with this issue.

ALSO, sorry to make this response longer than it already it, but I can't close this out without addressing the fact that your husband likes that you cover. As a fellowed married woman, I gotta get in on this. Of course we never want to feel like we're living our lives for others, but marriage is about balance and compromise. If you continue to cover because your husband wants you to, there are blessings in that (in the same way that the sacrifices he makes for you are blessings for him).

The Qu'ran talks about guarding what he (your husband) would have you guard in his absence, <---paraphrase.  I'm not saying this to force you in any one direction (I try never to give concrete, "you should do..." answers in these responses), but I am saying this to make the point that even if you only do it because he wants that of you, it wouldn't be "fake," but would actually speak to your devotion to and love for your husband.

Since he bought you a lot of beautiful scarves, I imagine him to be a kind man, one with whom you could discuss this issue. The last thing you want to do is make a decision without consultation and then end up with a lot of discord in your home. Talk to him about how you're feeling and see where the conversation goes. That way, you won't have to worry about him being caught off guard and feeling ignored. Sorry this is so long, but I really wanted to be thorough.

Hopefully, you'll find your way.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sister in Distress

I need your advice badly. For the past few weeks I have been trying to renew myself. You know the saying, new year a new me. Well, It was working out terrifically. Each week I set a goal and the following week I would accomplish it. It was amazing I lost weight, my clothes fit great, but just this past week a guy from my past had come back. We are only 16 and I would like my past to go away. I want to be a better muslimah and I want to be a better me because I hae the potential to be that person, but seeing the relationships in my family and how destructive they are, I dont want it and I keep going back to the same path. My goal this week was to become more religious. Alhamduallah I wear the hijab full time, but I would like to pray more and I also would like to be more strict on the hijab as well, but become more into it. I dont know what to do. I say your blog and I need advice. Please if you could help me, please do.

Sister in Distress

Nad says:

Dear Sister in Distress,

Congrats on working to achieve a new you in this new year. Don't be surprised that the progress you first experienced is starting to wane. That's part of the challenge of this mortal life. Only in paradise will things be perfect. Here on earth, shaitan (devil) works overtime to distract and derail us from our goals. So even though this guy from your past is an unwanted character, he’s right on time.

You said you keep going back to the same path. That’s usually what happens. It’s hard to change, because habits are comfortable. They feel good. To actually do things differently takes a plan and a lot of focus and determination. You know how the old you would handle this situation, but how would the new you handle it? How would the person you want to grow into deal with this guy? Think about the future you want and then do what you need to do to make it happen. If this guy isn’t part of that future, you know what you have to do.

If there are a lot of destructive relationships in your family, it will be even harder for you to change, because those are the types of relationships you’ve been around and are used it. That makes it even easier for you to fall into your old habits. I’m not saying this to discourage you, but to let you know what you’re up against. You have to know this if you want to succeed. Knowing how hard something will be lets you know how much preparation is needed.

Your goal to become more religious is a beautiful one, but it’s not something you can do in a week. Striving to be the person Allah wants is a lifelong journey. If you need to pray more, that’s the best place to start. Implementing regular prayer in your life is the best way to get closer to Allah. When you’re on top of your prayers, you’re more conscious of everything else (the things you say, do, wear and think). It can be overwhelming to think of all the things you need to do, and then try to do them all at once. Start with the one thing that is most important—prayer—and work on that.

Yes, it may sound too simplified, but getting regular prayer in your life works wonders. You have to schedule it into your life just like you do anything else that is important. Set your alarm for fajr (morning prayer). Get a prayer clock. (You can download free ones online.) Ask a friend to txt when prayer comes in. There are a lot of things you can do to make it a habit. After a while, it becomes natural. And you really do feel the difference.

After you’ve gotten that in place, move on from there. Just remember that no one is perfect. When you make a mistake, which you most certainly will, don’t get caught up on it. Pray that you learn from it and don’t repeat it. Then get back on that halal (lawful) hustle! Hope this helps.

Mina says: Sweetheart, I apologize for sounding so chipper as you experience this distress, but I have to admit--I'm very proud of you!
1) For sincerely DESIRING to elevate.
2) For being so clear and motivated on that path that you REACHED out for help.

The above steps ignite the formula to success--so long as you keep it up. Stay sincere, and reachout: to God, to right minded people (positive friends), and to the best information.

God and all things in creation will work to assist you. Nad is right--this guy coming back is a good testing ground and opportunity for you. It seems that since you've become adamant in your convictions, God is giving you an opportunity to solidify this new strength and fight the temptation into old ways, so that you can keep getting stronger.

In the Qur'an it says that only GOOD comes from God, anything else (negative) comes from our own selves. There are probably layers of meaning to this, but I take it to mean that any situation that may arise, no matter how distressing it looks and feels on the surface, is an opportunity for "good" and growth. If we dont see it and use it as such, then we wont get the benefits. If we do, we will, because it truly is that.

Please please be pateint with yourself. Remember God looks to your heart and intentions...and we are always reminded in The Qur'an that God is The Merciful Benefactor, The Merciful fact we have to begin every surah by saying this...this aspect of "Mercy" is the most stressed and repeated attributes of God. There are lessons and signs in that.

We are also told that we've been given faculties of "hearing and sight" to make use of.  In my opinion, this means that we've been given a mind and heart--and have the ability to think, reason, have insight--so we can use it regularly. We should be confident in these abilities!

Rely on your common sense, your intellect and what makes the BEST sense in a given moment. This will save you from doing things you regret. No matter how hard it feels--do what makes sense and know that you're creating the best results for your future.

To summarize:
1) Pray--it all starts with your sincerity and talking to/asking God directly.

2) Read quality, encouraging books. The Quran being the first. When I was your age, 16, is when I FIRST developed a personal relationship with this book for myself--it helped in tremendous, transformational ways--if you want to stay consistent with anything let it be prayer and this. God's words are comfort when there is none, you'll learn about yourself and life. And it will increase taqwa. Important: read whats EASY for you--even if its only a sentence. but think and reflect on that sentence.

Ask around for good book suggestions, about young women and renewal and finding themselves. I just found one on Amazon that sounds like a good one: Dont Give It Away! A Workbook of Self-Awareness and Self-Affirmations for Young Women by Iyanla Vanzant

3) Surround yourself with positive, practicing people! What we're around most of the time will influence and rub off on us--hang out with the sisters you aspire to be like (this is big and will be a tremendous HELP)...if you can't find them near you, find like-minds online (thank God for the internet.)

You're soooo doing exactly what you should by simply seeking, simply striving...stay connected sis!! God is with you.

To all our readers and participants, THANK YOU

Hey, everyone. Nad here. I had to stop by and let you all know how much we appreciate everyone that has taken that leap and submitted a question to the site. Even with anonymity, it's not easy to talk about and expose your deep feelings. We also want to thank the readers who (hopefully) are benefitting from the bravery of the sisters who have posted.

It can be easy to get lost in your own thoughts and think you're the only person feeling that way. The beatuty of a site like this is that it dispells that myth and shows just how much in common we all have. In one way or another, I've been able to relate to every sister that has posted here so far. I'm sure Mina feels the same.  We often segment ourselves, pointing out the differences between US and OTHER, never realizing that all these boundaries not only keep others out but box us in. Who wants that? I'm trying to be free, happy, alive, raw, untouched by the darkness. I bet you want the same.

Thanks again for the participation. Please continue. Pop us a question. Tell a friend. Get involved. It's therapy. For all of us.