Rafed English

The Road to Modesty Never Ends

Although I had a Muslim upbringing and went to an Islamic school, I didn’t really know Islam until very recently (I am now in my twenties). Sure, I knew some chapters from  Qur’an, wore “hijab”, and even “prayed and fasted” at times; but real Iman (faith) did not penetrate deep into my soul until I was about nineteen years old. What led me to this path? I would love to say that I accepted it from my own accord, but I had nothing to do with it since it was only through the Mercy of Allah that I consciously became a Muslim. We always say things like “I chose this religion” but it is in fact Allah who chooses us; it is Allah who guides us to the straight path.

When I was young, I can remember thinking that I was ugly. What began this thought process? I am not really sure how, but I can remember many instances in my childhood where the elders in my family would tease me about my “flat nose” or my chubbiness. Whenever my cousins and I gathered together for pizza or junk food, my relatives would address only me (most of the time) and tell me to stop eating. I would feel so embarrassed and would run to my room and cry for the rest of the day. As I cried, I remember really hating them for making me feel that way and vowed to never make any person feel this way. As a kid, such comments made me feel extremely insecure and left out. Although the little comments and teasing stopped as I grew up, the pain of it never really left me.

When I began secondary school, my low self-esteem issues and insecurity continued on with me. Although I wore the hijab on my head, I tried to wear tight-fitted clothing in order to fit in with my peers. Whenever I got compliments on how I looked, I would get extremely happy and my entire day would turn for the better. Because of my upbringing and because I never really understood the purpose of hijab, I wanted to look like all the cool girls who had boyfriends. This mindset continued even after I graduated from high school.

After attending an Islamic lecture in my local university during my freshman year, I felt kind of ashamed because of what I was wearing. Even though to the mainstream society I was dressed very modestly, I would still feel a twinge of shame whenever I saw a sister wearing an abaya. The sisters were very nice to me masha’Allah and did not make me feel uncomfortable in any way, but I just couldn’t help but feel different and inferior.  When I came home that night, I decided I was going to take the weekend course but I just could not wear my normal clothes. In the morning, as I rummaged through my closet, I found an abaya I had wore one time. I was so happy because now I didn’t have to stand out. When I walked into the class, everyone I knew was shocked at first because they hadn’t recognize me.

All the girls started giving me compliments and telling me how good I looked. This was really the turning point for me because I always used to think abaya’s were ugly and unattractive. But when I got all the positive feedback, it completely changed my view on what being beautiful entailed. When I went home that day, I made a conscious decision to wear the abaya from then on. It was a huge transition for my family and relatives as well because of how they used to view me. For the most part, everyone (everyone that mattered, at least) took it very positively. I did get some negative remarks from some aunties, but I didn’t let it ruin my happiest moment.

As I started wearing my abaya everywhere, I noticed that my behaviour started to change as well, since I couldn’t do the things I previously did when I wasn’t wearing a long abaya. So really, this simple cloth was the catalyst for my transformation, inner as well as outer. Gradually, I began to watch my actions more, like praying with concentration, keeping away from the opposite gender (including male cousins), stopped listening to music, and most importantly, I began to surround myself with practicing sisters.

There is so much to say, and I’ve skipped a lot of events in my story; but I just wanted to get to the important part and that is: modesty is a never-ending journey. Even though I wore the abaya (and still do, alhamdullilah), it doesn’t make me immune from sinning. The most important aspect of the religion is keeping steadfast after starting something good. How many people accept Islam and then leave it? How many girls wear the hijab and then remove it? It just shows us that eman is not something that is constant, but rather we have to work to keep it. Ultimately, the hijab (the physical aspect of it) should keep us in check and stop us from committing a sins against Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

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