Archive for category Niqabi Support Group
The unhappiest people in this world are the people who
care the most about what everyone else thinks.
“What’s wrong with wanting to please others?”
That’s what several people asked me via email in response to one of my recent articles. Today, I want to discuss why it’s not healthy to try to please everyone, and how to stop yourself from doing so.
Seeking approval from others is perfectly fine up until the point where you are compromising your health and happiness in the process. It becomes a serious problem if you feel as though widespread positive approval from others is the very oxygen you need to breathe. There was a time in my life when I felt exactly this way.
I literally felt like I was short of breath – almost as if I’d die if my peers didn’t approve of me. This is a condition that developed in my mind when I was very young, after kids in grade school teased me for being a “nerd.” I did everything I could to win their approval. And although I grew out of my awkward stage pretty early in my teenage years, the damage was done – I was left feeling insecure. I was conditioned to seek and beg for outside approval at all times.
The big problem was that, as a twenty-something college graduate entering the work force, I felt that anything I did or even thought only had validity if it was the “right thing” to say and think. And by “right thing,” what I really mean is “what other people thought was right.” I was terrified to step outside the box of acceptability – which was especially harmful to my creativity as I tried to nurture my passion for writing and blogging.
Once I realized what I was doing, I read several books, spoke with a coach, and focused diligently on healing this broken part of myself.
The bottom line is that constant approval-seeking forces you to miss out on the beauty of simply being yourself, with your own unique ideas and desires. If you are led through life only doing and being what you’ve come to believe is expected of you, then, in a way, you cease to live.
So how can you stop fearing what everyone thinks of you? Let’s take a look:
1. Get comfortable with not knowing what other people think.
When I first started writing on this blog, I’d agonize over whether people would think what I was writing was good enough. I desperately hoped they’d like it, and oftentimes I’d catch myself imagining they didn’t. Then one day I realized how much energy I was wasting worrying about it. So I’ve gradually learned to relax with simply not knowing.
Some problems in life, such as not knowing what others think of you, are not really meant to be resolved. How people perceive you may have more to do with them than you anyway. They may even like or dislike you simply because you’ve triggered an association in their minds by reminding them of someone they liked or disliked from their past, which has absolutely nothing to do with you.
So here’s a new mantra for you – say it, and then say it again: “This is my life, my choices, my mistakes and my lessons. As long as I’m not hurting people, I need not worry what they think of me.” (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” and “Relationships” chapters of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.”)
2. Know that most people are NOT thinking about you anyway.
Ethel Barrett once said, “We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.” Nothing could be closer to the truth.
Forget what everyone else thinks of you; chances are, they aren’t thinking about you anyway. If you feel like they always are, understand that this perception of them watching you and critiquing your every move is a complete figment of your imagination. It’s your own inner fears and insecurities that are creating this illusion. It’s you judging yourself that’s the problem.
3. Accept that someone else’s opinion is NOT your problem.
How many times have you looked at a person and initially misjudged their brilliance? Appearances are deceptive. How you seem to someone and how you actually are rarely congruent. Even if they get the basic gist of who you are, they’re still missing a big piece of the puzzle. What someone thinks of you will rarely contain the whole truth, which is fine.
If someone forms an opinion of you based on superficialities, then it’s up to them, not you, to reform those opinions based on a more objective and rational viewpoint. Leave it to them to worry about – that is, if they even have an opinion at all.
Bottom line: The opinions other people have about you is their problem, not yours. The less you worry about what they think of you, the less complicated your life becomes. (Read The Four Agreements.)
4. Ask yourself, “Does what they think even matter?”
People will think what they want to think. No matter how carefully you choose your words and mannerisms, there’s always a good chance they’ll be misinterpreted and twisted upside down by someone. Does this really matter in the grand scheme of things? No, it doesn’t.
How others see you is not important. How you see yourself means the world. When you’re making big decisions, remember, what you think of yourself and your life is more important than what people think of you. Stay true to YOU. Never be ashamed of doing what feels right. Decide what you think is right and stick to it.
5. See the benefit in being unique.
If you’re thinking like everyone else, you aren’t thinking. And if you aren’t thinking, you aren’t truly living.
It’s human nature to attempt to mimic other humans we look up to – perhaps a parental figure or a celebrity – especially when we are feeling insecure in our own skin. But attempting to be someone else will always leave us feeling empty inside. Why? Because what we appreciate about the people we admire is their individuality – the qualities that make them unique. To really copy them, we need to develop our own individuality, and in that way, we would actually be less like them and more like our true selves.
We all have quirks and unique perspectives. The more relaxed you become with your own differences, the more comfortable you will start to feel just being YOU. Celebrate being different, off the beaten path, a little on the weird side… your own special creation. If you find yourself feeling like a fish out of water, by all means find a new river to swim in. But DO NOT change who you are; BE who you are. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
6. Be fully present and aware of how you DO want to feel.
It’s OK to know how you do not want to feel, but that’s not all you should be thinking about. Imagine someone trying to learn to read by spending all their time focusing on how they do not want to not be able to read. It doesn’t really make any sense, does it?
Enough is enough! Forget what you do not want to feel for a moment. Work out how you DO want to feel right now in the present moment. Train yourself to live right here, right now without regretting how others once made you feel, or fearing the possibility of future judgment.
If you were delivering life-saving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on your mom in public, you’d be 100% focused and present. You wouldn’t be thinking about what bystanders thought of your hair, your body type, or the brand of jeans you were wearing. All these inconsequential details would vanish from your consciousness. The intensity of the situation would motivate you to choose not to care about what others might be thinking of you. This proves, quite simply, that thinking about what others are thinking about you is YOUR CHOICE.
7. Speak and live your truth.
Speak your truth even if your voice shakes. Be cordial and reasonable, of course, but don’t tread carefully on every word you say. Push your concerns of what others might think aside. Let the consequences of doing so unravel naturally. What you’ll find is that most of the time no one will be offended or irritated at all. And if they do get upset, it’s likely only because you’ve started behaving in a way that makes them feel they have less power over you.
Think about it. Why be fake?
In the end, the truth usually comes out one way or the other, and when that happens, you’re standing alone if you’ve been living a lie. So live your whole truth starting now. If someone gives you a hard time and says, “You’ve changed,” it’s not a bad thing. It just means you stopped living your life their way. Don’t apologize for it. Instead, be open and sincere, explain how you feel, and keep doing what you know in your heart is right.
A life spent ceaselessly trying to please people who, perhaps, are incapable of ever being pleased, or trying too hard to always be seen as doing “the right thing,” is a sure road to a regretful existence.
Do more than just exist. We all exist. The question is: Do you live?
I eventually realized existing without ever truly living was not what I wanted for myself. So I made changes – I implemented all seven of the points discussed in this article and never looked back. If you are in the same place I once was, seeking approval from everyone for every little thing you do, please take this post to heart and start making changes today. Life is too short not to.
How has the fear of what other people think interfered with your life? What has it stopped you from doing? How have you coped? Leave a comment below and share your insights with us.
My old “Eating in Niqab” post gets a lot of hits, and whenever I see that people have been reading it, I feel a little guilty. I wrote that back when niqab was still new to me, and it was probably the best I could do at the time. So maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.
In any case, eating in niqab is a lot easier than I thought. If you are googling this, you have probably just recently put the niqab on. May Allah swt accept from you and grant you steadfastness. Ameen
And if you’re just putting it on, then of course you are wondering how to eat in it. That might just be one of the main differences between wearing and not wearing niqab – the ability to eat in public with ease.
When I was new to niqab, I didn’t find myself in that many public-eating situations. If we visited family friends, I took myself inside a bedroom and ate in there. When I ate out with friends, we would not stay in the restaurant, instead we would either bring the food to our house or to an empty room — somewhere we could take our niqabs off and eat in peace.
Now, years later, I find myself in many more public-eating situations. I can no longer run to the MSA room whenever I want to eat. Well, I can, but then I would either have to be very late to my class afterward, or they would have to call security because Batman is running across the grass towards one of the buildings.
Beside that, I enjoy eating with other people and sometimes don’t feel like eating alone in a room.
Even before grad school, I was in many situations where it was much more convenient for me to eat in public, and I figured out pretty fast that like many things, Practice makes perfect.
So I’ll tell you what I mainly do nowadays. And I’ll make a list, because I know readers find that to be easier to follow, but it’s not in a specific order.
1. If you can avoid it, do that. If you cannot avoid it because it’s actually much more convenient in terms of time, etc. to eat in public (or if you are like me and enjoy eating on the grass every once in a while), then keep reading.
2. My Technique: I reach my left hand around the front of my niqab, latch onto the right of it, and pull it away from me, so that I can go towards my mouth with my right hand. This might have been a terrible description, but there’s no way I’m putting up a picture of that, so I’ll just make dua that you understand what I’m saying. :) Also, if you remember the hitting-the-chin trick (hitting your chin helps you find your mouth), I still do that. It works well with certain foods. Doesn’t work too well if you’re using a spoon. By the time you hit your chin with it, all of that food is in your lap.
3. Is anyone looking? This is where you find a balance between paranoia and not-caring. So if you feel like men will really see your face as you are eating, it might be a good idea to change tactics. If you feel like you’re probably safe, take it easy.
4. Sleeves and Napkin in Your Lap. The most important accessory to have are your sleeves. What makes eating in niqab difficult is that loose sleeves fall back exposing your arms during the process of eating. Wear long sleeves or those sleeves that are probably only sold in Islamic stores (the ones that don’t have the rest of the shirt attached). In addition, place an open napkin on your lap because if food is going to get on you, it’ll probably happen this way: you’re going to your mouth with food and some of it drops in your lap. If a lot of food is spilling into your lap, you might be doing something wrong, but the napkin should be useful for the little bit of food that might fall here or there.
5. Pick out your seat. Select your seat beforehand so that you can sit and pull at your niqab with ease. Now that I have a brother-in-law, I know I always have to watch where I sit so I can eat comfortably. The dining table in my house is familiar territory, but when we are visiting someone or we are at a restaurant, I just make sure I am sitting in a place that is comfortable for me. If I’m not, and it’s too late because everyone already sat down, then I ask someone to switch with me. Usually people figure out why and then move to accommodate you.
6. Not all foods. Listen, the fact of the matter is, you can’t drink hot noodle soup with niqab. Or maybe you can. But I can’t. Soups are one of the things I try to avoid if possible. It can still be done in certain settings, but it usually requires more than what I am willing to do. Last night, my bro-in-law was coming over for dinner at our place, and I knew soup was on the menu. I ate my soup before he arrived, and then joined them later for the main course of the meal. Problem solved. :)
7. Fork and spoon. When I want to eat rice, I use a fork and a spoon. I hold the fork in my left hand and spoon in my right. I use the fork to guide food onto the spoon. It’s easier this way. Before niqab, I could just use a spoon and sometimes enlist the help of my left pinky, but now this is messy.
Please remember me in your duas.
Love you all for the sake of Allah
wasalamu`alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh,
I have been wanting to say this for a long time, and yesterday I had that final push. That thing that happens that makes you wish you said something sooner.
There was an event at my University that was informing the masses about a movement to divest in a country that was oppressing Muslims. To make a long story short, the event became a huge controversy and some people had to wait in line for hours, in the cold, in order to attend. Metal detectors were set up. Protestors from both sides stood holding their signs and shouting their slogans. They were encircled by metal bars, with police officials surrounding them. There were news cameras left and right, and reporters were eager to catch a shot of the people waiting in line to attend.
Being one of the first people on the line and being very visibly Muslim, my friends and I were approached many times for an interview or a picture, etc. When we were asked, we thanked them for asking and politely refused. When we weren’t asked, we made sure the picture was deleted and the video camera did not have a shot of us (not quite as politely…). Later on in the day, when I had moved to another line (last minute change of rules), I stood with another group of sisters. I knew almost all of them from the college. They were my sisters in Islam and I felt comfortable standing amongst them. I was the only niqabi in the group this time. Usually that is of no import, but it is relevant to this story.
A man with a camera approached us for a picture. I immediately thought of what message he was going for (“a group of young Muslim girls waiting in line for the event”) and felt annoyed. To add to that, I experience instant annoyance at someone who is so eager to get a picture of Muslim women, being that the majority of us wear some type of obvious religious garb, because of the feelings it evokes (“I think you are strange looking, but oh so interesting!”)
“Could I get a picture of you?” he asked, drawing parentheses around five of us, outlining the frame of the picture with his hands.
My face, which he couldn’t see, immediately went straight and cold.
“No, not of me.”
I forgot everything around me. I forgot that I was standing with sisters and tuned everything out. I was focused on making sure he knew he wasn’t getting a picture of me. As I began to walk backward, away from his camera, one of my friends on my right shoulder spoke.
“I’m trying to remind you that you wear a niqab,” she said, smiling in an almost motherly-way.
I still couldn’t fully tune her in, I was focused on getting away. I continued to make my way to the back, while the rest of the sisters moved up to be in the picture. A second later, I leaned against the metal bars that surrounded the building and looked in, my heart breaking at the fact that these sisters had so willingly allowed this man to take a picture of them. Of their faces, of their eyes, of their smiles.
Later on I wondered why they did not stop to think to themselves, “if this sister whose face is covered is refusing to have her picture taken, there must be a reason.”
So this incident was the push. I need to get this message out there to all sisters.
I ask that Allah swt allow my words to enter your hearts, and that He swt protects us from the whisperings of Shaytan, who is an open enemy to man.
Sisters, regardless of what opinion you follow regarding the niqab, or of how you currently feel about abaya or hijab, regardless of what you think is correct or necessary in regards to a woman’s dress, regardless of what you envision your future to be (in terms of religion and dress), regardless of what you think of photographs; regardless of all of that, I advise you with the following:
- Don’t allow strangers (or even acquaintances) to take pictures of you.
- Don’t post your pictures on Facebook (yes, even if your profile is private).
- Keep track of who has pictures of you, and the best way to do that is to keep track of who is taking pictures of you.
- Be mindful of pictures that you have of other sisters, and what you do with them. If they are on your phone, put a pass code on it. Don’t post them up on Facebook, (yes, even if they give you permission to do so).
- If you already have pictures on Facebook, do what you have to do, but get them off of Facebook and any other social media site.
I’m sure more than one person reading this has already thought to themselves, “Wow, this sister has gone off the deep end.” So I hope that they will be open-minded, and that I will be given a chance to explain. This post is not written with the intention of convincing sisters to cover (if this is what you are looking for, you can listen to this); I have a different goal in mind today. I don’t know many of you who are reading this, but I love you simply because you have imaan in Allah swt and His Messenger, Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). So allow me to begin…
Six years ago, I would have never thought that I would be wearing a niqab one day. Never. I was an average Muslim girl in high school. Picture-taking was no big deal to me; in fact, it was a disgrace to not have a lot of pictures in the Yearbook. Posting pictures online and on Facebook was the thing to do. If your profile picture wasn’t a picture of your face, either you were unhappy with the way you looked or you were too religious. This was the mindset. (You know it’s true.)
When I began to cover, it was a process that took place over time. First the skirts, then the abayaat (long loose dresses), and then finally the niqab. Taqabbal Allah (May Allah accept, ameen). During the time this change was unfolding, I had a Facebook. I may have deactivated it here and there, but for the most part, I was on it.
And I mean… I was really on it – my pictures were on Facebook. Old pictures, from before I began to wear niqab. Of course, I had deleted the ones that were on my account; may Allah swt forgive me, He is the Most Merciful of those who show Mercy.
And I don’t remember now how it happened, but I had deactivated my account for a long period of time and when I came back on it, I saw pictures of myself, pictures that I was “tagged” in, on other people’s accounts… My heart sank. There were still pictures of me out there. I was mortified.
I still remember the winter mornings when I would sit at my desk and make lists in my blue spiral notebook. I would make a list of names of the people who had a picture of me on their profile, whether I was in the forefront or in the background. I would find the album name, as well. And I would send them private messages, asking them for their email addresses.
I would email them (or private message them if it was easier), ignoring the social unacceptability of what I was doing – I was asking people that I hadn’t spoken to for years, to take down my pictures, and for religious reasons. Many of them were understanding and compliant, but not all of them. I remember one old “friend” who just did not want to take my picture down (it was a picture of me and her), and we went back and forth. I had even gave her alternatives: “Okay, what if I just crop myself out for you?”
Finally, she complied as well. Another one, even after earnest requests, ardently refused, because the album was “private.” It just goes to show you, that there is a possibility that someone may refuse to take your picture down when you ask them to!
And whenever a picture went down, I crossed it off of my list. Some mornings, I would dread opening up my blue spiral notebook, and I would dread even more, opening up my Facebook account. But I knew I had to do it. So I pushed through the discomfort and ignored that annoying knot in my stomach.
And as a disclaimer, I actually did not have that many pictures on Facebook; much less than any average Facebook user today. Yet, this is what I went through to have my pictures removed. So what will others go through? Do you think you could take them all down in a matter of minutes? Because mine certainly did not come down that quick.
Anyway, the pictures were taken down one by one, walillahil hamd.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about it: what about all of the people who had seen them? I knew that couldn’t be undone. And I could only hope that Allah swt would forgive me and have mercy on me, and cause those people to forget.
What about you, my dear sis?
Do you want to go through what I went through? You may be thinking, “but I don’t plan to wear niqab, or to cover, and it doesn’t bother me that my pictures are on Facebook.”
To that I would say: I was saying the same thing just a few years ago. You don’t know what Allah swt has in store for you. You don’t know, perhaps Allah swt will guide you to Him, and will guide you to wearing abaya and then niqab. You don’t know, maybe one day you will wish that your pictures were not plastered in so many places. On this person’s account, and in this album. In the front of this picture, and in the background of that one. But by then, it will seem like an impossible mission for to you to take them down, and you may find yourself giving up before you even try.
And by the way, I know Facebook was mentioned throughout this post, but I am referring to pictures on any online source (WordPress, Twitter, yes even LinkedIn!) because the world-wide-web is exactly that – it’s a WORLD WIDE WEB – an enormous mass of disentangled boundaries.
Sister, you don’t know who is looking at your pictures (yes, even if your profile is private; this is 2013, please wake up!) and with what intention they are looking at your pictures. As shaykh Omar Suleiman once mentioned at a class: “You can put up the most decent picture of yourself, wearing hijab and abaya…but now, what if a 50 year old man is looking at your picture lustfully?” (paraphrased)
I know this is something that is so widely accepted in today’s world, and that to some, this sounds like the rantings of an extreme Muslim woman. For the record, I don’t know of a single person, Muslim or NonMuslim, who knows of me personally, who would call me “extreme.” I am your neighbor, your classmate, your friend and your sister. And I am a Muslim, so please don’t add any qualifiers.
And I am writing this to save you from what Allah swt saved me from. No one advised me of this, ever. Even up until today, I have never heard of these words coming out of another sister’s mouth. Do you know why? Because those of us who wish to say it, are afraid that others will be offended and will not wish to listen to anything we say in the future. We are afraid that you will just brush it off as just another thing that the “strict Muslims” don’t want you to do; just another pleasure they are trying to take away from you.
Think about it. What will I get from you listening to this advice?
And have you ever stopped to wonder why Shaytan places so much animosity in people’s hearts towards “strict Muslims” (whatever that means). Could it be that he will gain from that? Yes. Do you ever stop to think why there is so much shamelessness in the media, and yet, at the same time, the hijab is being banned? Did you ever stop and think about how insane that is? Did it cross your minds that today’s society is heading in a very specific direction, one that is far from what Allah swt prescribed for His slaves? When I stop to think of what is out there in today’s world, in terms of fitnah, I become depressed, but then I put myself together and push forward even harder. Don’t just follow the crowd:
“And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allah’s Path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie.” Surah Al An’aam
Be a leader and make the change, in yourself, and in others.
* * *
I do not normally request for my posts to be shared like this, but I am asking you to please re-post this and spread the message as wide as you can (you don’t have to include a link going back to my blog, in fact I prefer you don’t). Muslims are in a humiliating place today. We claim that we want the oppression to end. If we want victory for the oppressed Muslimeen all over the world, then we cannot have that until we change ourselves for the sake of Allah.
For each (person), there are angels in succession, before and behind him. They guard him by the Command of Allah. Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves (by committing sins and by being ungrateful and disobedient to Allah). But when Allah wills a people’s punishment, there can be no turning back of it, and they will find besides Him no protector. (Surah Ar-Ra’d, ayah 11)
Protecting the honor of the Muslim woman is a big step towards that change, a much bigger step than you know.
My older sister recently got married, so that means we have a new addition to the family. For the first time in my life, I have a brother-in-law.
During the months that I’ve known him, I’ve probably only had one conversation with him. It was in the presence of my father and sister, while he was sitting in the seat in front of me in the car, his back turned to me, and it was because I wanted help regarding my physical health because he is a doctor. It may already be apparent, I go to great lengths to avoid having to speak to him. And he knows this. He also knows that this doesn’t mean that I “hate” him. I feel like a lot of people assume that if you are not speaking to them, it means that you either hate them, or are too shy. My brother in law, let’s call him Fahad, knows that none of these is true. He has cracked the occasional joke, relayed to me from my sister, that I sound like a “robot” when I answer the phone, and that I speak monotone, but it seems that he’s picked up on the fact that I do all of those things intentionally.
The brother in law is death(1). And I know why. Regardless of the fact that I barely acknowledge his existence, I found myself becoming comfortable towards him and thinking of him as a brother. When I would notice this, I would quickly remind myself “this is why the brother in law is death.” The brother in law is the non-mahram that you have the chance to get the most comfortable with and the one that it is most dangerous for you to get comfortable with. If anyone is still skeptical, listen to this: I remember Shaykh Omar Sulaiman mentioning in a class “You don’t know how many phone calls I’ve gotten from sisters who say to me, ‘I don’t know what to do – my brother-in-law just made a pass at me.'” The Messenger of Allah (saws) spoke the truth.
The fact that I wear the niqab has helped so much subhanAllah. I don’t think there could possibly be any bigger sign, for him, that I am very serious about Islam. His family is from a Muslim country, so his sister also wears niqab, but it seems that she only wears it in that country. In the beginning, he had probably expected the same from me. I think he quickly got the message though. He’s seen me do things like leave a restaurant with loud music, rebuke people who are backbiting, and stay fully-covered around him, that if he had any doubt before as to kind of person I was (or would like to be), then the doubt was removed and he quickly accepted me as I was.
And I would hear from my sister that he said that he found me “scary.”
“She’s so focused.”
And he has said “I like her.”
“She keeps to herself and minds her own business.”
The fact that he cannot see my face, has helped a great deal because the truth is, I’m not a very “serious” person, nor is it easy for me to stay quiet while we are all at the dinner table talking, and he happens to be there. I’m actually very jokey in nature as well as quite social at times. The act of lifting my niqab in order to eat is my reminder at the table- “Fahad is here, careful.” And it’s a sign for him, because he assumes that since he can’t see my face, I am not smiling at the jokes and not interested in the conversation, and this is what I prefer for him to assume.
Before Fahad, I did not used to have to walk around my house in niqab except occasionally when we would have a plumber or electrician-type-of-person come by to fix things. Now, it’s become very common-place for me to be wearing a niqab at home. My family is all very used to it and no one comments on it, alhamdulillah. I even have a slip-on-hijab which makes it much easier, and I try schedule my wudoo in the bathroom before he gets there so I don’t have to do one of those take-off-hijab and socks-and-then-put-them-back-on wudooo. If I ever for a split-second find myself thinking that this is not fair for me to have to be covered even in my own home, I remind myself of how grateful I am to be able to wear the niqab, and all of a sudden, I don’t mind the least bit.
If wearing niqab were not “strange” enough, then wearing it at home or in front of family would take the cake. But a non-mahram is a non-mahram, just remind yourself of that, and it makes it easier. And stay firm in it. One of my parents still gives me a hard time, not in front of Fahad, about wearing my niqab in front of my brother-in-law.
“He’s like your brother!”
“I only have one brother,” I respond calmly.
Don’t lose your cool, but stay firm, it always gets easier bi’ithnillah.
(1) The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “No man should be alone with a [non-mahram] woman.” And he said: “Beware of entering upon women.” They said, “O Messenger of Allaah, what do you think about the brother-in-law [meaning the husband’s relatives]?” He said, “The brother-in-law is death.”
(Note: I’m using an alias for obvious reasons, so no, I have not revealed my real name here.)
How professors deal with niqab… lol where do I start
The most interesting response to the niqab that I’ve gotten from a professor, occurred yesterday. So I wanted to rush to get it down on paper (cyber-paper).
I recently started a Counseling degree program. I think it is safe to assume that I’m the first niqabi to ever be accepted into, much less to accept the offer of joining, this program.
I walked into my first class, just about a minute early. This is quite an achievement for me, so I was a bit disappointed to see that he had already skipped my name on the attendance.
“Ms. Rafique…?” said the professor in a super-polite way, (but I had already been warned that he was an extremely polite guy).
“Yes.” I took my seat in the front, true to my nerd-like self.
He finished up the attendance and began his lesson. He had joke after joke, until I began to think that he prepared jokes for his first lesson in order to make it less awkward. Appreciating a good joke when I hear it, I chuckled lightly under my niqab, as well.
At one point, he stood directly in front of me, and looking straight at me for about 2 seconds, he says, “If any of you are having trouble understanding anything I am saying, but feel too shy to stop me and say so, just wave your finger.” And he demonstrated by waving his own finger.
He’s talking to me, I know it… lol what should I do… It’s okay, he’ll figure it out eventually…
I continued to pay attention to his jokes — I mean, lesson. Since the class was a bit longer than a usual class, he gave us a ten minute break.
I pulled out my phone and checked my messages. Meanwhile, a classmate of mine asked about internet at the college, and being familiar with this college, I answered her.
The professor was not in the room when this exchange took place, so keep that in mind while you read the rest.
He walked back into the room and towards my desk. My head was down, looking at my phone.
“Ms. Rafique…?” lol this guy is so polite, it’s killing me
“May I please speak to you outside?”
I didn’t give any thought to why he asked me to step outside with him. I grabbed my phone, only worried that I might be robbed in my absence lol, and followed him outside.
He took a few steps away from the door and then turned back towards me and asked in a low voice, “Is English your native language?”
Keeping in mind that this situation was supposed to be an awkward one, and that he was a male professor, although quite elderly, I decided it was not wise to laugh. But I could not help smiling at his statement.
No way, he did not just say that…
“Okay — If you ever need to pray, you can just leave and do that, you don’t have to ask.”
“Oh okay, thanks!” I said, surprised at the courtesy. Later on I realized, he probably had to mentally prepare himself for asking me that question, and it probably went like this in his mind: “Okay, I’ll just ask her, and then I’ll quickly slide in something about her having to pray, and it’ll all look super natural. Yes, phew, I’m ready.”
We walked back inside and he began the second-half of his lesson.
I took my seat, a bit confused. I didn’t know how I should feel. Embarrassed? Offended?
All I could think about was how amusing it all was.
As he continued to talk, I began to get the feeling from him that he was in grave doubt. In grave doubt about whether or not I could actually speak English because so far my responses to all of his questions were so short, that I could’ve easily learned it in a week spent in the country.
I decided to put him out of his misery, and wow him with my English — the only language I’m extremely fluent in, mind you.
I raised my hand to answer one of his questions.
Looking super-excited, he said “Yes, ma’am?”
As I answered him, I became super aware of my accent — or rather lack thereof. I glanced at his face and noticed him squinting at me, as if trying hard to understand.
All right buddy, now you’re just playin
But he got to hear my English, and I got to sit back and relax the rest of the period.
He did seem like a genuinely nice and concerned fellow, may Allah swt guide him to the Haqq. Ameen.
And I had the chance to laugh about all of this that evening with my brother. He was cracking up even more than me, and giving me all of these funny suggestions for what I should’ve done to really confuse the poor guy lol.
Good times, alhamdu lillah :)
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Please watch and share. I wish that I had access to spread the new of the command of hijab to all of the sisters in the world… it frees the soul from so much evil. May Allah swt grant honor to Islam and the Muslimeen.
I tend to have long delays between when the idea of a post comes to mind (when something very meaningful happens) and actually writing it. This isn’t good because in that time, I may lose out on essential details, or enough time passes, I may never write it. So here goes.
I attended an all-sisters Ramadan event recently. It was very well organized and the atmosphere was amazing. Having just returned from travels abroad and being away from righteous company for so long, I felt so much happiness being in that room full of sisters who were striving for the same goals. Being unable to hide my happiness, I began to talk quickly and excitedly as I sometimes do. Every now and then, it would occur to me to take it down a notch, so I would try, but it wasn’t too successful.
Even as the speakers spoke, I would become distracted as a sister in niqab crossed the room, throwing her niqab down to cover her face because of a transparent door on the end of the hall. The chances of a man passing by and looking in were miniscule, but she had such hayaa’ that she didn’t care. And there were more just like her. The speaker, for example, was a sister in niqaab. She sat facing that transparent door which was, again, far down on the other side of the hall. It was far enough that even if a man were to stop and look in for some reason (and he would be looking in from the sidewalk), he would not be able to make out any features. But again, this sister had such hayaa’ that she gave her entire speech with her niqab on, only removing it she finished and came down from the stage to sit with the audience, with her back to the door. The environment was a fresh and much-needed dose of imaan.
As I was getting ready to leave, I stood at the back of the room, near the bathroom. I wanted to wash my hands so that I could shake hands with sisters before leaving. I don’t have OCD, but I had been ill and was afraid I was still contagious.
As I stood there, waiting for the bathroom, two sisters walked in together. They had missed both speeches but the event was still going on.
I saw them standing there, almost hesitantly, as if afraid of disturbing the event by looking for a place to sit. I pointed out empty seats to them, and in an encouraging tone, I told them they should sit.
From the corner of my eye, I saw one of the two sisters look at me, look away, and then look back at me. I did not look at her, but I could almost tell that she was deciding on whether or not to say salaam or to run and hope I didn’t notice her. She then smiled and gave me her salaam. I leaned forward to hug her and finally recognizing her face, I returned her salaam with a big smile.
Then as I pulled away from the hug, I was confused. I think I know who this sister is, but I’m not too sure because she is a niqabi so I’ve rarely seen her face. But what is making it even more confusing is that she is not wearing the niqab right now.
With a puzzled look on my face, I looked at the other sister, as if to ask “Wait, who did I just hug?”
She responded back in a whisper, because the event was still going on.
…Yep, it was her.
Okay, she’s not wearing her niqab. Immediately I began to make excuses for her. Perhaps she knew it was all-sisters event and she removed it at the door. Although this was unlikely because I had known her to always wear her niqab inside her hijab. No, maybe she changed her niqab style and now she wears the kind that are on the outside and easily removable.
Okay, you know what. It’s okay, don’t worry about it.
That lasted for about a minute, and it quickly went away.
My phone rang, it was my sister. “Come out, I’m here.”
I rushed back to my seat, grabbed my things and left.
Days went by and I did not give it any thought.
Just kidding :) So…what was the point of mentioning all of that?
Okay, so a sister removed her niqab. Maybe many of us have seen it (with niqab or with jilbab or hijab).
What’s the wrong reaction?
“Omg sister, astaghfirullah, how could you?!”
Even if no one really says it out loud, many people react this way in their minds. They should know that their thoughts will eventually manifest in their actions, whether they realize it or not. It could be something as simple as a fading smile, avoiding eye contact, awkward behavior, etc. And this sister will more likely than not, pick up on all of it.
What is the right reaction?
Well, it’s hard to give one answer for this. So I’ll put it this way:
- That is still your sister in Islam, you still love her for the sake of Allah. Be careful how you treat her.
- You don’t know what she is going through right now. Maybe she just needs a comforting friend, or someone who will be there for her at a time of difficulty. Maybe she needs you to assume good of her, and not jump to conclusions and assume the worst. You looking down at her is not going to improve the situation in the slightest.
- If you are truly concerned for her, make dua for her and talk to her about it (if you are close to her). Don’t talk to anyone else about it and don’t sit alone ruminating on it. Make a sincere dua for her when you are making dua for yourself. And if you can’t even talk to her about it directly, just make sure she knows that you are there for her if she needs you, that you assume the best of her, and that you are not judging her.
- The same way she removed her niqab, she can put it back on. It’s not a one way street. It is a struggle that lasts until you leave this world, just like every other act of worship. Treating people badly when they remove it will not make them want to put it back on. And it will lead to others being afraid to start hijab, jilbab, or niqab, at all, for the simple fear that they may take it off one day, and be shunned as well.
- What does her removing her niqab have to do with you? A lot of times, the reason for the harsh reactions is simply because we are afraid of being affected when a sister removes any part of her hijab. Your hijab, jilbab, niqab, should not be dependent on what the people around you are wearing or doing. Guaranteed, you will be in some places where everyone is dressed like you and you fit right in, and guaranteed, you will be in other places where everyone is wondering what on earth you were thinking when you got dressed this morning. Accept it. Your hijab should remain consistent regardless, and if it doesn’t, you truly must ask yourself: who am I doing all of this for? For if you truly wore it for Allah, you would know that He is always Watching, always present, regardless of who is around you.
Now for the disclaimer: I am not supporting that anyone remove their niqab, or remove anything for that matter, but I am enforcing that we be merciful and gentle towards the believers. This on our part will be following the sunnah of the Messenger, sallallahu alayhi wasalam. And I am enforcing that we all be sincere towards Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, because those who are sincere will be bound to the sunnah.
waAllahu Ta’ala Alam
An amazing talk by a brother who says it like it is. A MUST WATCH and MUST SHARE!
People think that religious people are always missing out on life. When I went to the UK this summer to attend a family wedding, I’m sure my extended family was thinking this about me. One lady even said to me, “You don’t like getting ready, you don’t even put any [makeup] on.” Right…I cover my face, but you want me to put layers of makeup on the only part that shows…good idea. Hey, when I’m done, can I borrow some earrings? I wanna hang them from my hijab. So I answered her, “No, I can’t get ready because it’s not properly separated.”
I would pray Salatul istikhara before every part of the wedding, to seek Divine Counsel on whether or not I should even attend. At times, some of the women would say things like “You’re not going, are you?” They probably meant well, knowing that I would hate the environment of the music and mixing, but it wasn’t their decision to make. The decision wasn’t always a simple one. And I knew that there were times when it was better that I come along, just so that I could pull my family away, and so that I could remind them when they forgot. So I would pray istikhara and then I would attend with these intentions in mind. I would put on my abaya, and my hijab and niqab. And I would pray and hope that the stereo system would break.
I attended 5 days like this, entirely covered, sitting away from the men, and often darting outside hoping to get as far away from the music as I could. Others may have looked at me, seen my discomfort with the surroundings, and felt pity for me. But I always felt more pity for them, because they didn’t feel discomfort. And I fully expected a reward from Allah swt for all of my efforts. And I fully trusted the fact that if you leave something for the sake of Allah, He will grant you something better than it.
But I didn’t expect to be paid back so soon.
Within the very same summer, and only weeks apart from these 5 days of struggle, I was invited to:
1 bridal shower
Total: 5 days
Five days…just like those 5 days. Except these were entirely separated and without music, and would be attended people I knew and loved.
“… And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things.“
Surah At Talaq, ayaat 2-3
Allah swt is Al Kareem, The Generous. And He swt rewards His believing slaves in this world and in the Hereafter (I still anticipate a better reward in al Aakhira, inshaaAllah!). And He swt shows them miracle after miracle to increase them in imaan. And yet the slave still hesitates to put forth those good deeds. You still hesitate to be different, and to be singled out, and to be seen as a stranger. You dread being left out and missing out on anything. Have you ever stopped and thought about the terrible agony that you would be in when you are standing on Yawm al Qiyaamah, and believers are pouring into Jannah in front of your very eyes, but you are held back from entering because of your sins? Wallahi, that should be enough to make you weep.
Mark my words…No one on this entire planet (or under it or above it) will ever appreciate what you do the way that Allah swt appreciates it; He is Ash-Shaakir (The All-Appreciative), Ash-Shakur (The Most Ready to Appreciate). So stop chasing people that you cannot please. Instead, chase Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala.
Surah Al ‘Ankaboot, ayah 69
And Allah Knows Best.
I’m sure many sisters think this to themselves, not just about the niqab, but about hijab (khimar) or jilbab.
Regarding this excuse (I know it sounds harsh to call it an excuse, but that is really what it is if we are honest with ourselves), I will quote what one of my mentors said to me. “If you are waiting for a day when your parents to be okay with the niqab, that day won’t come.” What she meant was, if you are waiting for a day when your parents will, for no apparent reason, wake up and announce to you that they would like it if you wore the niqab, then you’re living in a fantasy. And she was right, that day never came, and alhamdulillah that I did not wait long for it. And for the majority of sisters living in the West, that day will not come.
So what I would like to say to the sisters with this excuse is this: your parents worry about you and want what’s best for you, so that is usually a part of why they will try to discourage the niqab. I said usually. There are often other issues involved. For example, they may not say it, but it is likely that they are afraid of what friends and family may think. But I digress.
So instead of busying your mind with the hundred possible reasons you shouldn’t wear it, focus on the few simple and powerful reasons you should wear it. Wallahi, wearing niqab was one of the best decisions I made in my life. And in terms of making a decision to get closer to Allah swt, this has been, and continues to be, one of the most successful ways. If you are waiting for a day when the whole world will be accepting of you, that day will never come. There will never be a time when you are safe from the evil tongues of mankind. They even say evil things about their Lord, subhanahu, so what makes us think we will be exempt?
If you want your family to be accepting of you, and they currently dislike the niqab, then you simply have to hold fast to it. Be firm upon it, and make dua for Allah swt to turn your family’s heart. He has turned my family’s hearts, surely He is the Controller of the Hearts. And if you feel any doubt (perhaps thinking that my situation was just not that bad and as we all say “no one has it as bad as I do”), allow me to remove the doubt: I used to fear for myself when going home, after wearing the niqab. My family was very against it in the beginning. I would dread returning home after a day at the College. But every day that I entered, afraid, it was like I was seeing the intervention of Allah swt before my eyes. Everyone would be busy in their own affairs, and no one was reacting to the new cloth that hung from my neck as I entered. And now, the same parents who protested against the niqab, are proud of me. Even when they don’t say it, I know they are proud. You know, parents spend thousands of dollars in order to send their children to Islamic school, not because they want their child to be righteous, but simply in order to keep their daughters away from boys and their sons away from the girls. It’s much more of a cultural thing than a religious thing, but I digress. Parents spend thousands in order to ensure that their daughters will not talk to boys, but my parents’ daughter chose to close the door to boys on her own. I know they are proud… but I was never really aiming for that, nor did I expect it. And I mention it only to show you how much can change, if you only take the steps, and leave the rest to Allah swt.
Had I sat around and waited for them to be okay with the niqab on their own, I would still be walking around with my face uncovered to this day. It was only after I wore it, and then kept it on, consistently, walillahil hamd, that they begrudgingly accepted it, then slowly they began to see the bright side of it. Strange women will come up to my mom and praise me in front of her, and she’ll politely thank them. I come home safely every night, alhamdulillah. My character has improved, alhamdulillah. It’s difficult after all of that, for them to stay angry with me. Allah swt makes the people love to see obedience to Him, they love to see signs of imaan. It’s a fact. It’s true for strangers and for family members. Deep down, they like to see that obedience to Allah, although on the surface they will show resistance, because they do not wanted to be reminded of their own sins and shortcomings. Overlook what they show you on the surface, it doesn’t concern you… it really has nothing to do with you at all.
I have many examples of how my family has changed. Were I to sit and compare today with years ago, when I first announced that I wanted to wear niqab, I would spend a long time doing just that. And I could write a really long post about it, possibly boring a few of you (lol), so I’ll just mention a few examples.
My brother – Years ago, when I first decided to wear it, and had just started wearing it for perhaps a few weeks, he sat with me and debated with me for hours regarding the niqab. He was very annoyed and couldn’t understand why I was doing this. Today, however, if he brings any friends home, he will yell up the stairs to let me know they’re here, so that I do not come in front of them unexpectedly. And when an airport official asked me to uncover my face in order to identify me, after we walked away, my brother bitterly called that official a “jerk.” “No one else asked you to uncover,” he said, irritated with the man.
My father – He was most opposed to the niqab in the beginning. His reaction was one of pure anger; even I was scared. This was years ago. Today, however, we had a non-mahram male over, and I was in a room with my face uncovered. My dad came in, and gestured to me, and I knew that the non-mahram was about to enter, so I covered and left.
My mother – Years ago, when I first began to wear it, it must have been my second day wearing it, she saw me fixing it in the mirror. “I change my mind, I don’t want you to wear it anymore,” she said. But I was no longer waiting for permission at that point. Ignoring the knot in my stomach, I responded calmly “I’m wearing it,” and left for class. Today, if there is a non-mahram male in the house, she will tell me and give me a fore-warning. I once almost came in front of man, while following her into the kitchen. She quickly turned on her heels and gave me a look “Go back, there’s someone here.”
So why are you afraid? If you take such a step towards Allah swt, why do you not trust that He will protect you every step of the way? Why do you not trust that He will mend all of your affairs? He continues to support you from every angle, and you continue to doubt and be a skeptic.
The higher your imaan, the more difficult your tests…but the closer you will feel to Allah swt, and that will make it all bearable…trust Him.
Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise.
Surah At Tawbah, ayah 111
No one said it was going to be easy…but they said it’ll all be worth it.