It was just another gloomy day of autumn as I headed out of home wearing a jilbab for the first time in my life, being as quick as I could so my parents would not see me. But I wasn’t quick enough, because my mother saw me and I had to stop so that she could stare at me for a while. After the staring was done, she had the queerest expression on her face. It was more than apparent, without her even saying anything, that she didn’t quite like the idea of me going out looking like “those Muslims”, the ones who don’t obey public expectations even in the way they dress. I could almost hear her thinking, like I assumed most of my friends and acquaintances to be thinking too, “You were doing just fine in hijab. Hijab is normal. But a burqa? Isn’t that being a little too much?” or maybe “You’re just seventeen! You don’t have to look all extremist, that’s for older people!” However, my mother did not say any such thing out loud, and I did not worry about her at all; I knew that sooner or later she would be following the lead In sha Allah; guidance is hard to resist for some people. What I did worry about though, was how my friends would react; what they would say and how they would look at me.
I had been training myself for weeks if not months to not care about what anyone thought or said. I had kept telling myself again and again that people’s approval would not take me to Jannah, nor would their disapproval change anything in this life or the hereafter. But I am a teenager after all, and anyone who has lived through this age knows very well that teenagers absolutely thrive on the approval of others. I personally am (I won’t say was because then I’d be overestimating myself) one of those people for whom “being cool” is a priority in life. Anyway, to my great surprise (and relief), my first day in the jilbab went by with no one treating me differently. (I almost jumped up in delight when my friends at school just continued to speak to me normally after looking at the jilbab for a while). I had not become an alien to them. Phew. I realized, just like it did not matter for me if I wore what they expected me to, it also did not matter to them if I dressed differently than what they expected.
The hard part, however, was convincing my own self and fighting my own nafs. I have had intense battles with the part of myself that said I was doing better than a lot of other people; the part that tried to logicize my not wearing a jilbab by telling me that many girls didn’t even wear the hijab. At times I almost gave in to Shaitan’s waswaas and delved into Google’s archives trying to find a Hadith, or maybe a Fatwa saying that wearing the jilbab is not really necessary, or that a short one was good enough. But by the Grace of Allah, every forum discussion, Fatwa, Hadith explanation and tafseer that I read, only made me feel more guilty about not having started already. It is a wonder, and a great blessing of Allah on me that I did not come upon a single fatwa or even common-person comment online that suggested that the jilbab was anything less than essential (and I’m sure there are lots of them on the internet, considering how many people wish that what they wish were divine rulings). The next time I need a refresher on the meaning of “Ar-Rahman”, this is what I would look back to.
Regardless of all that, in the end it was only one thing that I needed to encourage me truly, the one thing that stared back straight at me until I went to the shop myself and bought a full-length jilbab. It was the 59th ayah of Surah Al-Ahzab:
O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over themselves. That is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. [Surah Ahzab, 33:59]
One final look at the words and all my doubts disappeared (or maybe it was Shaitan that disappeared). How could I avoid something that was there, bold and clear, in the Quran itself? I told myself, “You want the palaces of Jannah? You want the awesome fruits, the amazing drinks, the silk robes? You want the whole happiness-for-eternity deal, and you are having doubts and complains on wearing just one extra piece of clothing for the few number of years you’re going to live on earth?” I couldn’t be that irrational!
So here I am, going out everyday looking like “those Muslims”, the same ones I used to consider ‘uncool’ just a year or so ago. Now I know though, that they are the coolest beings on earth. They are the ones who have learned to not care about what people around them like or approve and have learned to rather live the way that Allah SWT lovingly bade us Himself. They are the ones who have internalized the fact that the silken robes of Jannah will make one look a thousand times more amazing and glamorous than any dress by any brand in the world ever will, no matter how ‘in fashion’ it is. You see, that is one of the many incredible things Islam does: changing the core of one’s way of thinking. It changes the definitions we always were so sure about. Being a person who found beardies and Niqabis a little weird or “extremist” for a major part of my life, I know this very well. I absolutely love how after getting to know Islam better, my definition of ‘cool’ has drastically changed from knowing the lyrics of famous metal songs to knowing long verses outside of JuzAmma by heart; from learning Spanish or French to learning Arabic; from wearing what my peers consider trendy or ‘chic’ to covering up whatever I’m wearing with a not-so-fashionable piece of clothing.
Although there probably is no better word and no better actions, yet “Alhamdulillah” seems like too little, the five prayers seem like too little, just thirty days of fasting out of three hundred and sixty five days seem too little ̶ to thank Allah SWT for the endless love and mercy He has shown me and all the unexpected ways of guidance He has opened for me. And still I know I will never be good enough at doing just this much. There will always be the times when my mind wanders to something else during Salat; there will always be the days I say or look at something wrong during a fast ̶ there will always be my mistakes ̶ and yet, throughout the same days, Allah’s infinite mercy, His Rahmah will also be there. My creator Himself will be there to forgive the biggest of my sins, to listen to my du’a whenever I call onto Him, closer than my jugular vein. How unbelievable is that? If knowing that does not take us aback and make us leave anything that comes between us and obeying Allah, then what will?