by a sister at IGotItCovered.ORG
Time and time again, we must remind ourselves that our actions and words are constantly on display, so that we are able represent Islam wisely.
Some call them “dinner ladies,” a few call call them “lunch ladies,” but at my school they’re called “midday supervisors.” Sometimes, one of them comes to our table during lunch for a little chat. She’s a short, bubbly, blonde-haired woman who can always make us laugh and is very friendly – so I like her!
One day at lunch my friends and I were talking about the different ways we tie and pin our hijabs for school. The midday supervisor suddenly took a great interest in how we draped and securely pinned our hijabs around our heads. I was gesturing the way I tie my hijab when she abruptly said, “Who are you promised to then?” It was loud and busy in the cafeteria, so I thought I heard wrong.
“Sorry?” I replied.
“You’re promised to someone now, aren’t you, ’cause you wear a scarf…?”
I took a long, hard look at her face and confirmed that she genuinely thought the reason we observe the hijab was because we were apparently betrothed to someone. My friends and I looked at each other in silence before we involuntarily broke into giggles. I was just about to tell her that this was not the case and tell her the truth about hijab when a group of boys started a fight and she was whisked away to deal with the problem. I felt bad for not saying anything as I walked out of the cafeteria to pray Dhuhr before lunch ended.
After I had praised my Lord in salah, I was walking through the hallway when I met my younger sister and briefly spoke to her. Once we went our seperate ways, I saw the midday supervisor again. She asked me if that was my sister and I replied with a nod. “Yeah, she’s my younger sister.”
I awaited the usual reply people give when they find out my sister is younger than me: Oh my gosh! But she’s taller than you! Instead, the midday supervisor said, “How come she doesn’t cover? She’s not betrothed yet?”
Once again, she was genuinley questioning this – I could see the curiosity in her face. I answered her question. “She hasn’t decided to cover yet. She’s still young – she hasn’t made the decision.” A look of confusion clouded the woman’s face so I carried on explaining. “Muslim girls choose to cover so that they are seen for who they are, rather than what they look like. We dress modestly because God told us to and to be honest, it’s pretty cool,” I smiled. “It has nothing to do with betrothals or marriage, Miss. They’re not connected in anyway whatsoever! It’s our own choice to cover. I’m not forced into anything and with this choice I haven’t felt more free!” I said, outstretching my arms.
Her smile met mine before I noticed I was getting late for class. As I walked to Chemistry, I found it so strange that she actually thought that, when a good number of the school population was Muslim. She had confused culture with faith to such an extremity.
While I was trying to get my head around the chemical process we were studying that day, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated at the fact that people could be so confused about Islam. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much Chemistry done that lesson, as I reminisced back to a conversation I had with a classmate the previous Ramadan. She had kindly offered me a Snickers bar, while we were working. Naturally, I said, “No, thanks,” with a smile and told her I was fasting.
She didn’t know what fasting was, so I had explained to her about Ramadan. She had never heard of it, even though at my school it’s compulsory to learn Religious Education, which covers many religions and practices to develop tolerance and understanding. I was sure we had covered the 5 Basic Pillars of Islam in class quite a few times, but I explained them anyway. She was suddenly quite confused. She uttered the words that I hate repeating, “But I thought Muhammad was your God?” Astarghfirullah! I was amazed at that Catholic girl’s complete and utter misconception!
My mind then wandered to another incident with one of my classmates. She had said, “Muslims are meant to be peaceful aren’t they, because your religion teaches peace? So how come it’s usually the Muslim boys who swear and get into fights? Why is that?” I remember I had been very shocked when I was asked that.
There I was, sitting in Chemistry, contemplating the many misconceptions I had faced regarding my religion. The sadness and frustration I felt was truly unimaginable because some of the misconceptions were due to the ignorance of others, while other misconceptions were the fault of our very own Muslims.
I zoned back to the class and realized the teacher had told us to write the homework in our planners. As I found the page for the relevant day, I saw something else. It was the date for a show which was being held at school, where Muslim poets and artists were coming in to talk about Islam and the youth. It was an event organized by a group of seventeen to eighteen year olds who called themselves the “Ambassadors of Peace.” I caught my reflection in the window and noticed something which made me smile in the stuffy Science lab. I realized that I am an ambassador of peace with my hijab. As are all the other hijabis around the world who strive - and when they do good, it is conveyed upon the whole Ummah and the face of Islam.
There are always people who try to deface the name of Islam, but groups, like “Ambassadors of Peace” and “I Got It Covered,” work hard to give the rightful, true message. And these are the lanterns of truth, which overcome the darkness of misconceptions.
As hijabis, it is more important than ever to be ambassadors of our faith and strive, even if we have to strive more than others. Allah subhanu wa ta’ala has given us, the women, the most beautiful right – our hijab. And when we have pinned our hijab and walk out the frontdoor, we need to remember who we are – all the time.
Hijab is not only about wearing loose clothing, it is about speaking, walking and acting modestly. It is important to remember that everything we say and do should reflect who we are, even if it’s lending a pencil to a classmate or holding the door open for your teacher. We must remember that as hijabis we are special in society, always special, so please believe this – and smile.