Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Before converting to Islam, I used to watch the behaviour and practice of the other Muslims. It was my first time to really see anyone truly practicing a religion. (Actually, Islam is more than a religion. Religion itself is an English word which is a poor translation of "deen". Deen refers to "way of life.") Where I grew up, it was rare to see anyone with a way of life that was as beautiful, and all-encompassing as Islam. The muslimahs I worked with at the time prior to my conversion had extremely interesting character and personalities. I found them also to be so loving and nurturing. Even though they had never known life as I once had, they seemed to just "get" me. I mean, they didn't judge my mistakes in the past, but had some kind of understanding about the world even though they didn't experience it the way I had. And finally, the way in which their lives were disciplined through prayer and fasting, I felt was something I needed in mine. I wanted to build a stronger character. I wanted to develop my INSIDE. And somehow, I knew Islam had the answers.
Another aspect of Islam, that intrigued me was the hijab. Actually, I learned about Islam in the United Arab Emirates. There, it is custom for the women to wear black abayah and a black shaylah (hair covering). Where I worked, many of the women were from other Arab countries and did not wear the traditional gulf clothing, but I really loved it. I thought it was extremely elegant. I started to think about my own imperfections and how self-concious I had always been my whole life. My hair out of place. My make up. From the beginning I even thought about the niqab. Maybe not for myself, but I watched the women around me, trying to figure out the mystery of the hijab.
What I felt was that, if I could cover as they did, I mean REALLY cover, in loose clothing, and a simple scarf, maybe I could actually relax. I don't know why I thought that. I just knew it was the truth.
After converting, alhumdulillah, I began to feel some subtle, and some not so subtle changes, in me, my thoughts, my feelings, my life. In the beginning, I wore a loose blouse and skirt with a shaylah. I remember shopping for my first hijab and how ridiculous I thought I looked. Then, subhanAllah, after a couple of months, I exchanged it for the abayah.
I knew the purpose of hijab was to cover my beauty. But I just couldn't give up the make-up and trendy sunglasses. Actually, subhanAllah I felt more beautiful then ever in my life, with my abayah and shaylah and little make up and accessories. I did know in my heart, however, it had to go. It didn't make sense, to cover your beauty but beautify your face. So, slowly I got rid of the make up one by one. Until I was just wearing a little eyeliner and lipgloss. The transition was a little difficult, because I have always worn makeup. I didn't know or like that face without a little extra sparkle. A dear sister told me though, that if you give up something for the sake of Allah, He will make it easy for you, and in shaa Allah, He will reward you with something better. So, that is how I started to think. And one day... Khalas!
And subhanAllah... I began to see myself again. I started to look at me from the inside. I started to see the changes in my life, and felt like a big weight had been lifted.
After marriage, a lot more change was too come. Things like, not going out without a mahram. Not hanging out in public (for example, coffee shops). Not laughing too loud or showing affection in public. Someone who knew me prior to Islam, looking in, might think, "Oh, how sad." But, the truth is, I have never before felt more free. It is so strange, being concious of my behaviour and hijab has helped me to develop the INNER me. My heart. My soul. And those things don't belong in the public sphere. Whatever I give away outside of my home is lost to me, and those I love the most.
With each step I take in Islam, for the sake of Allah, I believe I am given a true blessing. It is not something you can really see. It is like a part of me, deep inside... maybe it is love, or truth. But it is definately a gift. One I wouldn't trade for the world. Literally.
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