Okay, so first off, this entry is wayyyyyy over due and I deeply apologize for that! I’ve been super busy this past week – my brother-in-law recently immigrated from Pakistan so we’ve been showing him around and getting him settled in.
But anyways, without further ado, let’s get to the real stuff. My Hijab Story (Part 1) talked about getting yourself off of a timeline, putting trust in God (Tawakkul), and trying your best but also praying at the same time. Although all of this may have been in my subconscious since I was young, I only truly learned its significance during my diagnosis. Since this is a story about how I started wearing hijab, you all should know that I started wearing it a year and a half (ish) after my diagnosis. I guess you can say I’m a bit of a slow learner haha.
After my diagnosis and two surgeries, I started getting back into my normal routine (Alhumdolilah). I took a few courses in the summer and fall semesters at my University, preparing myself to graduate in the summer of 2015 (but this time, I was definitely a lot more relaxed about it). And truthfully, my grades were significantly better during these semesters than all of my previous semesters at University (being calm and relaxed is so important guys!). I am a huge procrastinator, and this didn’t change much post-surgery, so it just goes to show what de-stressing and faith can do for you ;)!
A few months into the fall semester of my 5th year, came the news of my sister’s upcoming marriage. However, her now husband and his family were all in Pakistan (along with much of my mom’s side of the family), so a grand trip to Karachi was planned for the wedding. During the time of my surgery, because it was a very delicate and difficult matter, my mom and I decided that we wanted to go for Umrah once the surgeries were over and I was feeling better (as a way of thanking Allah [SWT]). Umrah is basically a mini-Hajj (a lesser pilgrimage made by Muslims to Mecca). Where Hajj is mandatory and a lot longer (with many steps involved), Umrah isn’t mandatory and can be performed at any time throughout the year (except during Hajj time). We thought it would be best if before going to Karachi we stop over in Mecca for a few days to perform Umrah, and then continue onwards to Pakistan.
I should probably also share with y’all that I have performed Hajj before. When I was in grade 12, my parents saved up money so that we all could go to Mecca and check off the one-time obligation box off on our being a dutiful Muslim list. I remember so desperately not wanting to go because it was my last year of High School and I would be behind in my courses. Also, I made a bunch of new friends in school and at my workplace, and I didn’t want them to forget about me or forge new memories without me (since I would be gone for 2 months this was completely possible). Yes, it all sounds so childish now, but I was a teenager okay, the smallest problems seem to be the biggest during those times (a main one being making friends and how you’re perceived by them). I ended up going to Hajj of course, and I actually thoroughly enjoyed myself – enjoying myself so much so that I didn’t want to come back to Toronto. I just felt like everything – school, work, people in general – were so trivial, and the promised land was where I wanted to reside forever.
Unfortunately I came back to Toronto, but my friends still loved me and wanted to stay friends with me haha. There was a particular comment made during this time that hit me hard (and I still remember it to this day). “How come you’re not wearing the hijab now?” Friends, family, even acquaintances, would constantly question me as to why I hadn’t started wearing the hijab after performing Hajj. Aren’t you a changed person now? Shouldn’t you wear the hijab? Don’t you have to wear the hijab now that you’ve completed Hajj? Honestly remembering these questions just boils my blood. And I’ll tell you why:
Hijab is mandatory for all Muslim women (nowadays this in and of itself is becoming controversial in the Muslim community, but as far as my knowledge goes, I believe it to be a must in the religion). Men and women both have their own special duties and requirements in Islam. For example, men must grow their beards (minimum the size of one fist), have the bottom of their pants end above the ankles, etc. etc. But for some reason, the requirement of hijab for women is the one that has people talking (and not talking positively either). Anyways, I’m starting to go off topic, but what I’m trying to get at is, the hijab is mandatory regardless if you perform Hajj or not. Just because I went to Hajj, doesn’t mean that Allah (SWT) has now put me on a list of people that must follow his orders. As long as you’re Muslim (if that’s what you want to be), then what goes for me is the same that goes for you.
Another thing that bothered me was the judgment that came with these questions. They definitely made me feel guilty (which was a little good because then I started to question the type of person I wanted to be and where I was at that time), but they mostly made me feel angry (which is bad). It was like they were disappointed in me, or I was the first person in the world to come back from Hajj unchanged. But that was the problem: I wasn’t unchanged, I definitely learned a lot from that trip. But what changed was not visible to the naked eye. I changed on the inside, and although it may not have been much, it was enough for me to start wanting to make the changes to become more involved in my religion.
I don’t like blaming other people for the decisions I make in my life, but those comments and questions really did affect me negatively. It made me feel guilty for a tiny bit, but it flipped the script and had me judging them. I started seeing all of their faults, and wondering how hypocritical they were. Don’t they know the most important lesson of all as a Muslim is to not judge anyone even in the slightest? If they were really concerned about me and Islam, then they would’ve talked to me privately, they would’ve been kind, they would’ve tried to educate me in an appropriate way. Instead, they humiliated me in public, made me feel dumb, and felt better about themselves while doing it (I pictured them thinking “atleast I’m not the girl who went to Hajj and came back as the same person”).
I got so caught up in thinking about the wrong that they were doing that I forgot about my own spiritual journey.
People are always going to talk. They’re always going to say something so hypocritical, so judgmental, so unbelievably rude, but that’s their problem. They’re ruining their own character – don’t let them spoil your journey, your colourful life. I let them ruin mine (for a few years actually). I was so annoyed by what they said that I didn’t even want to look into the topic they judged me about. I didn’t want to go near it. I’ve always wanted to wear the hijab, it was never a question of if, it was always a question of when. But I allowed their negativity to not let me explore the when until I was diagnosed with NF2 (4 years post-judgment incident).
We all have to get this notion of judging others out of our system. It’s not good for anyone (not good for the person receiving it, not good for the person saying it, not good for anyyybody!).
I wanted to wrap up my hijab story with my trip to Umrah and what I learned during that time (as well as my time in Karachi), but I got caught up in my issue with others’ reactions of me not wearing the hijab after I came back from Mecca (sorry!). But actually I think this is also important to share because it is a part of my hijab story in a way. Don’t allow anyone’s negativity to bring you down. And especially, don’t let their negativity stop you from your journey. Don’t let it stop you from tapping into the very thing they are judging you on. You could be on the cusp of a whole new direction for yourself, but this judgment shakes you so badly that you don’t want to go near anything related to it. Don’t let that happen.
I’ll hopefully wrap up this story in my next entry (INSHALLAH!). And this time, I’ll come back sooner my fellow bloggers and readers (INSHALLAH!)!!
Stay tuned for part 3!