Posted in Motherhood, Religion

Worries

“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands…” (Holy Qur’an 24:31)

Eight years ago when I made the decision to wear my hijab, there was a certain worry that came with the decision; I lived in a society where very few Muslims existed and out of those Muslims, none of them wore the hijab full time. I already stood out as a black girl in a predominantly white community. So, as you can imagine, wearing my hijab was not the easiest decision. As anyone would, I worried about how people would see me and relate with me. However, it was a decision and a way of life that I had thought long and hard about and I was ready to commit to, regardless of society’s views.

Fast forward to a couple of months after having my daughter… My mum returned from Nigeria with various gifts for us including the smallest hijabs for my daughter. I thought they were the cutest things, especially as they made her chubby baby face look even chubbier. I also saw it as an opportunity to introduce the hijab to her at an early age hoping that when she came to make the commitment at a later age, it would be much easier for her than it was for me. Just like every mother, I wanted to set her up to succeed in every aspect of life and it felt good to think this was another step towards achieving that. As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t any different from emphasising the use of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at a young age so that she hopefully grew up to be courteous.

Every time we went out, I’d dress my daughter up and made sure she had a matching hijab to her outfit. At the time, I didn’t really have a lot of places to go aside from the familiar places within the Nigerian Muslim community; mosque, visiting family and friends. These places were my safe haven; they were filled with people who knew the true meaning behind the hijab and understood my intentions for my daughter without me having to explain myself. And just like me, they all thought she looked cute in her hijab and liked the idea of getting her accustomed to it in the hopes that it’d make life easier for her.

Things changed when I ventured outside of my safe haven. That morning, we had a doctor’s appointment and as usual, I got my daughter ready making sure that her hijab matched her outfit. As I parked the car and struggled to get the car seat out of the car, I couldn’t help but feel like I did eight years ago when I first left my house wearing a hijab. I was worried. I worried about how my baby might suddenly be viewed because she was dressed differently. I almost wanted to take it off but this was an important step for me. This was a step I’d hope that my daughter would take one day. If I was too scared to take it myself, how could I expect her to do the same?

To my surprise, everyone that came in contact with her saw just how amazing she was (and still is). They saw what I saw; a beautiful and smiley baby girl. Those that commented on her hijab had nothing but positive things to say about it. Like me, they appreciated the fact that it matched her outfit and actually thought she looked ‘cute’ in it. They especially loved the little diamantes that were attached to it. I immediately felt at ease and all my worries were almost forgotten.

However, every so often, due to different reasons, these worries come crippling back and I cannot help but think about my daughter and her hijab. Now at almost 3 years old, the hijab has become a part of her. Although she doesn’t understand the meaning behind it, it is something she is comfortable wearing and chooses to wear most days. I hope that when she comes to the age of understanding that it is something that continues to be a part of her. But with that hope, comes the question; when does she stop being a baby, a person and instead, becomes a threat because of what she chooses to wear on her head?

Till next time

-A

Posted in Religion

Ramadan Prep.

Hi everybody! It has definitely been a while- I made the decision to take a loooong break because I felt it was needed. I won’t go into it now but I plan to do a separate post on self-care/mental health soon.

Today’s post is about Ramadan!!! Two years ago, I had the best Ramadan ever. I came out of it feeling renewed and accomplished. You know that feeling at the end of an exam, that feeling of ‘I tried my ultimate best’? That’s the way I felt. I’m hoping to be able to achieve that again, so I’m looking back at the few things I did.

  • Make a list- I don’t know about ye, but I always find that Ramadan always seems to come at the best time. It comes around just when you need it. I found that I had so much to talk to God about but I could never remember it all when I was actually praying. So, I made a list. A list of all the things that I wanted to discuss with God. This way, nothing was left out.

 

  • Be present- For most of us, we don’t always have the opportunity to take time off during Ramadan. So, we fit it into our everyday lives. To be honest, I quite like this because it allows an easy transition after Ramadan; it allows us to continue with the acts that we have taken up during Ramadan after Ramadan. However, because we are fitting it into our daily lives, it is easy to go about the day fasting without actually thinking about the act of fasting or the reason behind the fast. Being present earns us more reward and allows one to really connect with God.

ramadan

 

  • Take full advantage of your time- Be conscious of your time and try to do something productive with it. Although busy, I find that I am most productive during this blessed month. I tried to fill gaps in my day with different acts of worship. For example, I used to get public transport back and forth from work, rather than sitting on the bus for an hour in total doing nothing, I used that opportunity to read my Qur’an. This might not work for you if you need complete silence to read. However, I am sure there are other acts that one can fill that time with such as saying ‘astaghfirullah’. Remember every little helps.

 

  • Have a realistic plan- Each year I set goals for Ramadan, each year I struggled to achieve them until two years ago. I was able to achieve them two years ago because they were realistic. Do not mistake realistic for easy. My goals were realistic but they were also challenging. Don’t plan to finish the Qur’an 10 times when you struggle to finish it once in a year. Know what your capabilities are and plan with that in mind.

 

May Allah make it easy for us, allow us to get the best out of this Ramadan and give us the opportunity to see many more.

Till next time

 

-A

Posted in Empowerment, Religion

2016!!!

Bear in mind that if all the people combined together to grant you some benefit, they would not be able to do it unless Allah has determined it for you. And that if all of them combined together to do you harm, they would not be able to do it unless Allah has determined it for you. The pens have been set aside and writing of the Book of Fate have become dry.” [Tirmidhi]

If anyone told me that I’d get married in 2016, I would have literally said “LIES”. Having just called off an engagement that year, getting married in that same year just wasn’t a thought that I entertained.

2016 was a rollercoaster of a year for me. It started off great. I had just moved to a new place which I was really happy with. I was planning  ‘my dream wedding’ which was to be held that December. I was picking flowers, bridesmaids, colours, styles. The biggest worry I had was finding a venue big enough for all my 300+ guests.

rollercoaster

Fast forward to a couple of months later, I painfully realised that the wedding I had spent all that time planning was not one that I wanted. So, I called it off. With that, came several different emotions. The most prominent being pain. I felt pain like I had never felt before. With pain, came loneliness. No matter how much everyone tried, no one completely understood how I was feeling.

Then, came Ramadhan. The month included in-depth discussions with the only being who I felt understood how I was feeling. Every day I had a list. A list of things that I wanted to discuss. He (God) became my best friend. I wasn’t so upset anymore. I started to actually laugh. Not pretend to laugh. I made peace with the whole situation. It was now in the past.

I was back to my old self. I prayed to God and asked him to give me whatever He thought was best for me. I entertained the idea of getting married at some point. There was no rush. Maybe 2017. Maybe 2018. But definitely not 2016. That’d be ridiculous!

A couple of months later, I was planning my dream wedding with a man that I was 100% sure about. No second thoughts. No circus. No bridesmaids (sorry girls). Just our family, close friends and God. I was the happiest I had ever been. And all the pain that came with 2016 almost became irrelevant. I got married in December 2016, to the man that was meant for me.

But if anyone had told me I’d be married in 2016, I’d have said ‘Lies’.

So, what did I learn? I learnt…

  • We plan but He plans best.
  • What it really means to have faith.
  • What’s yours won’t pass you by.
  • There is light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Always listen to yourself.
  • When one door closes, another one opens.

I made plans to get married in December. Then, I was like ‘nah, this doesn’t feel right’, so  I cancelled it. I took a leap of faith, knowing there would be consequences, but not knowing what was ahead of me. Then, God was like ‘here you go, this one is yours’. So, I was like ‘alright then’.

Thanking God for 2016, I walked into 2017 a married woman.

Till next time

-A

Posted in Religion

The Good Muslim..

Hi everybody,

The biweekly posts don’t seem to be working. My last post was a month ago. I’m sorry, I really am…  Uni is taking over my life BUT I’m going to try a little harder to be more consistent.

Today’s post is going to be quite short. A couple of weeks ago,  while having a conversation with my housemate in the kitchen, my prayer alarm rang on my phone. I excused myself and left to go observe my prayer. When I was done with my prayer, I went back down to the kitchen. When she saw me come down, she called me a ‘good Muslim’. She compared me to her friend who was not a ‘good Muslim’. Her friend, who is a Muslim, doesn’t wear the hijab like I do and she does not excuse herself to go pray as soon as the prayer is called.

My first instinct was to say ‘thank you’ or the usual ‘I try y’know’, but then I thought about it again. Yes, I do wear the hijab and I do try to pray as soon as the prayer has been called but these are only two out of  several obligations that we have as Muslims. So, how can one say that I am a ‘good Muslim’ based on two things that they have seen me do? And how can it be implied that a person who doesn’t do these two things is a ‘bad Muslim’?  Having thought about this, I started to tell my housemate that she shouldn’t brand people solely based on the acts that her apparent to her. We do not know what happens behind closed doors.

There are people who might not appear to be the best of Muslims but their struggle to gain the love of their Maker is far greater than those who may appear to be the best of Muslims- Mufti Menk.

Later that evening, I reflected on my conversation with my housemate. I realised that my housemate only did what we all tend to do. We judge. There is a lot of shaming in the Muslim community these days. I guess my friend could be excused as she isn’t a Muslim. Not that non-Muslims should be judging. But what excuse do we have, as Muslims? Shouldn’t we know better? The world already makes it difficult to practice our religion, why do we make it harder for ourselves? Who are we to decide who a ‘good Muslim’ is? Who are we to brand someone a ‘bad Muslim?’ What right do anyone of us have?

Several Muslims have told me that they feel isolated from their Islamic communities because of the way they have been treated by other ‘religious’ people in the community. These acts are not necessarily verbal or physical. Sometimes, all they have to do is look at you. You know that look- the one that makes you want to put your head down in shame. The one that makes you avoid going to the masjid. I think it is important that we realise how our actions affect other people. There is a huge difference between encouraging and judging. Wearing your hijab and staring down at someone for not wearing it is not encouragement. Wearing your hijab and talking down to a person for not wearing it is not encouragement. Wearing your hijab and rolling your eyes in disgust, is not encouragement. Deciding to not acknowledge a person because they are not on the same ‘level’ as you, is not encouragement. It does not make you a ‘good Muslim’. In fact, I think it says otherwise. We each have our own struggles. It might be a good idea to focus on yours rather than pointing out everyone else’s.

Yes, my housemate’s friend does not cover. But her relationship with Allah is between herself and Allah. It’s not my housemate’s place to judge and it most definitely isn’t mine. We either encourage each other or we mind our business.

Remember that actions are always judged according to intentions. What are your intentions?

Till next time

-A.

Posted in Relationships

What went wrong?

Hi everyone,

Recently, I was out for dinner with a few friends. During the dinner, we came on to the subject of relationships. Everyone spoke about their different relationships, both past, and present. We spoke about the issues that may arise and how one might possibly deal with them. One way or another, the discussion eventually lead to my broken engagement.

DUN DUN DUN!!!

Nah, it wasn’t actually that big a deal. The discussion, I mean. Not the engagement. The engagement was a massive deal, as you would expect. Anyways, during the conversation, one of the girls wisely asked me what I would do differently the next time someone decides to put a ring on it.

So, today I am going to answer her question. After one broken engagement, what would I do differently next time? This is a question that I have asked myself several times. I feel that every situation has a lesson in it and this one isn’t any different. You cannot expect to get different results using the same method. In order for it not to happen again, there are two things I plan to do differently.

heartsickness-lover-s-grief-lovesickness-coupe-50592

The first thing that popped into my head is to recognise and be certain of how I feel about the person before allowing everyone else to tell me how to feel. In Islam, we don’t do the usual dating. We don’t date for years and then get engaged. When a guy approaches you and your family, it is with the intent of marrying you. This means that everyone that is important to you is aware of this new guy in your life and wants to give you their opinion, as you would expect. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I mean, they care about you and are only looking out for you. However, I found that I was making decisions based on what people were saying. When someone asked me how I felt, I’d say “Oh he is nice and so and so (who I hold in high regard, and I know wants nothing but the best for me) thinks he is perfect, so he must be…” Yes, it’s great that so and so liked him, but how did I feel about him? It sounds silly and if it didn’t happen, I’d probably wonder how one starts planning a wedding without realising how they feel. But it did happen. I found myself making decisions based on how everyone else felt. I remember I kept thinking to myself “Everyone thinks he is amazing, so there must be something I’m missing”. If everyone thinks he is amazing, I must be wrong to think otherwise. It was not until I stopped and contemplated on how I genuinely felt, that I decided to no longer continue with the wedding plans. What everyone saw in him mattered, but how I felt mattered more.

Second thing is to listen to myself. I was constantly making Du’a (Prayer), praying to God for guidance. If I’m completely honest, God was answering my prayers. He was guiding me, I just didn’t listen. I mean, I listened in the end but things might not have turned out so bad if I had paid more attention. While I was engaged, things didn’t feel right, I was constantly cranky. Like, constantly. To a stage where he (the guy) mentioned it, and pointed out that I wasn’t like that in the beginning. I had no patience and everything annoyed me. He just couldn’t do anything right. And this was the person I wanted to marry!! Firstly, I put it down to poor communication. He was as Nigerian as they come, having only lived in Europe for a couple of years, and I having lived here most of my life, so It was to be expected right? Secondly, was the idea that “the love will come” at some stage. He was everything I wanted on paper, so why on earth would he not be perfect for me? Because he just wasn’t.  Love doesn’t just come from nowhere. It grows from something and that something was not there. I kept waiting for it to come. But it never did. As time went on, I began to dislike him even more. Things that I wouldn’t usually care about made me angry. It got to a stage where I had to check myself. I literally had to ask myself why I was being so unpleasant. It was in checking myself that I realised I wasn’t happy. I was lashing out because I wasn’t happy. If I wasn’t happy going into it, I most likely won’t be happy in it.

So, there’s my brief story. It took a while for me to realize and accept that things just weren’t right. But I’m so glad that I listened to myself in the end.

Till next time

-A

Posted in Empowerment

But nobody is going to see it..

“Happiness comes from within. It is not dependent on external things or on other people. You become vulnerable and can be easily hurt when your feelings of security and happiness depend on the behavior and actions of other people. Never give your power to anyone else.”

 Brian L. Weiss

I am a girl, who likes to take care of herself. I like to feel pretty. I like to wear clothes that emphasises my figure. I like to get my nails done. I love to wear jewellery. In fact, I would cover myself in jewellery if I could. I actually go to bed with my jewellery on. I exercise frequently to keep my body in shape, in order to look good naked. I take care of my hair, most of the time (It’s a struggle). I cut my hair, because I feel it suits me short and I also plan to dye it.

I am also a hijabi, which means I cover my body as much as I possibly can in public. Thus, no one gets to see my washboard abs (I wish!). I try not to wear figure hugging outfits in public. So, no one notices that my squats are really starting to pay off. When I cover, most of my jewellery is hidden away behind my hijab, so nobody sees them. Therefore, I don’t get comments about how gorgeous my necklace or earrings are. The same thing goes for my anklet. My ankles are safely tucked away under my pants or skirt, so I do not get complimented on the beauty that is my anklet. My hair, although fabulous, cannot be viewed by the public. But yet I do it all anyway.

This begs the question “Why do you bother, nobody is going to see it?”. This is a question that I get asked a lot and every time someone asks me, I still feel a little surprised. However, my reply generally goes like this; I bother because it makes me happy. I do these things for myself. I was tired of my hair, so I got a fabulous haircut that suited me better and made me happy. I wear jewellery in places that people can see and people cannot see, because I love jewellery. It makes me feel pretty. I exercise because I want to be healthy and fit. I want to keep my body in good shape and I use exercise to achieve the look that I want. To those of you that might be thinking it, I am not married. I am not doing this for my husband. I am doing it for me. When I do get married, I hope that my husband will appreciate the trouble that I go to, to stay in shape. But that is only the icing on the cake, it is only a plus. I do what I do, because it pleases me. The fact that the public does not see the effect of any of these things does not decrease the satisfaction I get from doing them or the results I get from doing them.

I have always believed in the idea that, you should do things because you want to do them, and not for the satisfaction of others. So, I can’t help but think it absurd when people insinuate that there is no need to engage in some things because no one is going to see it. Don’t get it twisted, I appreciate positive comments just like everyone else. Positive comments can be very encouraging, but doing things merely for the sake of others can be self defeating. It is your life, and the only opinion that should matters is yours. Doing things merely for the sake of the comments you might receive from other people, is giving people the right to dictate your life. A right, which they should not have. It is your life, not theirs. Many of us look outside ourselves for happiness, and by doing this we basically give away the power to create our own happiness. We fail to realise that happiness comes from within.

Till next time

-A