Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Bad Hijab Day?

Roaming in the streets of a famous commercial area, you keep adjusting your newly bought Turkish silk scarf covering one third of your forehead and ending in a triangle at your back. With a brooch in one hand and some straight pins in the other, you are trying to make the skin-coloured scarf stay on your head in this windy evening of January. This evening of January is not like any evening of the previous January or like any other evening of the Januaries before! Although, throughout the 17 years of your life you've roamed about these streets thousands of times in your long boots, furry coat and warm jeans with a muffler on, carrying shopping bags in one hand and a cup of hot coffee in the other but this day is particularly different. You are roaming about the same streets as a different person ( or may be the same person with a different appearance!). A black, warm yet loose, long gown covers you from top to bottom except for your head, the skin coloured Turkish scarf with beautiful black and maroon antique patterns is taking a good care of it (or struggling to take the care of it!).
You have a sudden flashback. The same you, the same streets and about the same part of the month.  A blow of chilly wind dispersed your twisted and pinned red hair and spread them over your face.
The wind has always made you struggle to keep your hair in place and now,  your Hijab! You smile unintentionally and come to a halt. The café on the right catches your eye. Excited on the thought of hot coffee and fruit cake, you enter the cafe with a thrill running through your body, the thrill shatters the cold already! It is your first time ever to be at your favourite coffee place with the Hijab on and with no company. Many workers at the cafe have formed an acquaintance with you because of your frequent visits and so have many regular coffee lovers .Although you have been trying to avoid the eyes of people on the street, the eye contact here is inevitable and so is the realization that people, even your acquaintance, are eyeing you out with a grim air. Pretending not to have noticed, you hide your nose in the menu for a few minutes (each minute feels like an hour under the circumstance) and call the waiter. Passing a smile, you order exactly the same coffee and cake as you always do (you are a person particularly sensitive to change, or perhaps were?).Noticing that the normally well-mannered waiter replied your smile with rather a grimace, you pretend to be busy with your smart phone. And another flashback strikes you hard like a solid steel rod...rather pierces you like a sharp knife...
A social person as you were, your entrance in the cafe filled it with a lively air. Receiving and returning greetings from and to everyone, be it the waiters or the visitors, and accompanied on the table by a friend or a to-be friend! Those chats, gossips and liveliness!
And here you are now, waiting for a greeting to return. How isolated you feel!
Returning to your phone, you press the button and a colourful screen swirls in sight cutting through the darkness, demanding an 8 alphabet password. With hard, cold fingers you fill the 8 squares one by one with the letters: M U H A M M A D.
"Sallallahu alaihi wasallam", you whisper. You don't know what strength these words contain. All you know is that with reciting these words warmth has flowed through your heart. You feel no more isolated. You realize that someone is there for you. Always. The omnipresent Allah, watching over you and Muhammad(SAW)'s everlasting love and dua'as guiding you. Satisfied, you thank the waiter for delivering the order and enjoy the evening coffee, wishing for it to last forever!
With fast steps, you proceed towards home, a small apartment just a few steps from the hustle and bustle of the commercial area. You used to live in a big house with a beautiful garden, in the same area. When you were 15, your parents had to move to another city leaving you behind for your studies and selling the big house, they bought you this apartment and the luxuries of life to have a care-free educational life.
Entering the cozy environment of your apartment, you take off the gown, perform ablution and offer Salah. It's Esha time. 'The best part of being home is, I can continue the book where I left it!', you think and slip into the comfortable armchair just beside the fireplace in your study. ‘Page number 394.’ You open the book (which has now become your new personal favorite), read the page with your mind wandering in some other dimensions, the dimensions you cannot locate, all you know is that they are far, far away from where you are now! You quit the aimless reading, advance towards the top most shelf, get a hold of Holy Quran, open a random page and reading the first line on which your eyes set makes you feel free of all the burdens of the day!
"إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ"
"InnAllaha ma as sabirin”
(Indeed, Allah is with the patient)
You feel light as a feather under the supervision of someone Who has a love for you 70 times greater than your mother's, instead of feeling like a vulnerable sheet of paper relying on a sudden gust of wind.
Half an hour of reciting (or half an hour of peace of mind) and you start wrapping the gift you bought for your friend. She has always been a source of inspiration for you, the friend that brought you towards spirituality and Islam. The only 'good' friend you have (since you don't believe in having more than one best friend, your own self is enough!).You stick the last piece of tape on the beautiful pink wrapping paper that holds an expensive, simple but elegantly stitched gown and a colourful Pashmina scarf when the phone bell rings.
"Assalam o alaikum child! It's mom. How are you doing?"
"Wa'alaikum Salam. As good as ever! How are you? How's Dad?"
 Happy as you are, you hold the receiver in one and drag a chair from the other to sit comfortably and talk.
"How was your 29th Hijab day? I was so eager to hear from you! I hope you didn't stay inside, reading books in these vacations of yours but went outside too!"
"Mom, I went shopping today and then to my favourite coffee place. I was in Hijab."
"May Allah reward you for your effort . It must have been hard. I know you don't like change, much."
"It was about to be a bad Hijab day but Allah showed me in time that he loved me and it became a pretty pleasant experience."
"Even if it had been nasty, you would still have coped with it nicely. I know my daughter not as the bravest girl but the most determined little sugarplum!"
"Love you Mom! Take care."
"I know you will! Fi Amanillah."
"Say my Salam to Dad, Fi Amanillah!"
You've always considered your mother  the biggest blessing from the Providence! And here she is today, encouraging you on your first day of shopping with a Hijab on. She's not a Hijabi herself but more consoling than any fellow Hijabi. Happy after hearing the sweetest of the voices, you place the gift on the table merrily, grab your diary and a calligraphy marker and advance to bed.
"InnAllaha ma as sabireen".You smile, re-reading the verse beautifully penned down by you with the fragrant marker on the page of an old dear diary whose pages contain that particular vanilla-like smell that old books possess.
Your eyelids are brightened by the thin beams of sunlight, making their way in through the small gaps in the blinds covering the windows. You open your eyes, unconsciously push the blinds to expose the window. The sun is already up. You look at the clock decorating the light pink-coloured wall. ‘Damn it! I missed the Fajr! Such a careless person I am!’, murmuring under your breath you wash your face with the icy cold water (it's somehow more difficult to wash your face with this cold water at the time of fajr) and eat your simple breakfast consisting of egg, bread and pomegranate juice. "Six days without missing fajr and here's the last day of the week! Poor me! Allah forgive me." A tear rolls down your red cheek. No matter how much you struggle to be regular in your prayer, some irregularity always comes. You check the mobile phone, in case it didn't ring the alarm. It did! No excuse left, no way to console yourself. You must have been deep in sleep when it rang. "Allah is the Forgiving", you make another attempt to console yourself, go to the study and spend an hour reciting Quran. It feels so much better now!
Stimulated by seeing the wrapped gift on the table, you send a text message to your friend asking her to meet you in the cafe at a particular time in the evening. Meanwhile, the sort of nerd you are, you cannot resist spending time in your study burning your socks in front of fireplace and exploring further adventures of the main character.
Modestly dressed in a gown and a long simple head-cloth tightly pinned over your head, you rush towards the cafe carrying a light velvet purse containing the gift and money. Your friend is already there. She is a thin brunette girl with a beautiful face, her long brown hair somewhat covered with a transparent white head cloth and the rest falling from her shoulders to her back like a stream of brown water. You greet each other happily. You notice her eyeing you from head to toe, probably surprised at your get up. You call the waiter, place the order and she speaks out in her heavy voice, "I was eager to see you in your new get up from the day you told me about your Hijab!" You don't know how to answer so you just look at her and try to curl your lips into a smile but fail! Seeing the confused sort of an expression, she continues, "Not that you look bad, it's just..." She thinks for a while and says abruptly, "You are looking nice, anyway!"
 Smiling, you slip your hands into your purse and take out the beautifully wrapped gift shinning in the numerous lights of the cafe. "Happy birthday!", you say and the waiter lays the big cake and coffee cups on the table. She responds thankfully and compassionately. You begin to enjoy the meal and the lively company of your friend! It seems like a treat; gossiping, chatting, laughing and spending a quality time with your friend. So far, it looks like the best day of the week!
"Let's see what have you brought for me. It will show how well you know my taste!", laughing , she speaks and a sudden wave of nervousness engulfs you. Biting your lips, you murmur, “I hope you like it."
With a 'kraasssssh' sound she tears the wrapping paper and your heart beat rises. Considering that she is not a Hijabi, you hope she doesn't mind your gift. For a moment you think about your old friendship and swallow. Only if that feeling in the pit of your stomach wasn't there!
She stares at the gift for a while and trying to sound courteous, utters with a smiling face, "Thank you so much! It must be expensive, you didn't need to spend so much money."
You can see the grimace behind her smile."Why not? I'll be pleased to see you in these."
"Haha you're hilarious, Hun!", she replies, laughing. Finding you perplexed, with no sign of laughter on your face, she continues, 'Seriously, don't tell me you mean it! Buddy, you know how much I hate the gown thing! I like it as a gift coming from you but.....God! You know me so well Hun, don't you?"
And true she is! Although deeply connected to spirituality and Islam, she never liked gowns and hijabs. She has always believed she is modest enough without them, thinking that modesty comes from within and a head-cloth loosely covering some part of head is for enough to express it. You and her were old friends but there was always a formality in your friendship. You never judged her, in fact, always deeply inspired and moved by her, you just wanted to add another good virtue to the bouquet of virtues she possessed.
You have a discussion with her just like you used to have in your non-Hijabi days. She keeps insisting how this way of dressing looks meaningless to her and you keep telling her how significant you think it is. Her statements offend you but you try not to argue. You narrate a Hadith summarized as:
"Hazrat Muhammad SAW said that he(SAW) saw a women hung by her hair suspended in the depth of Jahannam(hell), her brains were boiling. Hazrat Fatima (RA) asked the reason and he(SAW) replied that the woman walked outside freely, exposing and revealing her hair to strange men."
Hearing this, your 'good' friends grabs her purse and stands up in a fit of fury leaving the gift on the table. You realize that the discussion has turned into an argument - the thing you feared the most! She leaves the table with her words echoing in your ears, "Okay, end this up, I AM A KAFIR AND YOU ARE THE PIOUS OF ALL.WHY ON THE WIDE EARTH DO YOU JUDGE ME? YOU'VE GOT A HIJAB THING ON AND A BLACK GOWN AND YOU THINK THE REST OF PEOPLE ARE NOT MUSLIMS HERE."
Paying the bill and leaving the gift shining in the cafe light, you rush after her. But alas! She's nowhere to be seen. You stand still for a moment realizing what wrong have you done. "I missed my Fajr today. No wonder my day ended so badly!"
You remember having religious discussions with her even before but this time she labeled you as a 'judging person' just because you had a Hijab on. Warm tears roll down your cold cheeks and become ice cold. What if you weren't dressed this way? You wouldn't have to face people popping their eyes out at you. But you are all covered, what can they see staring at you? How long can they stare at you? Ultimately, getting bored they're going to turn to some other direction. ‘But my friendship wouldn’t have broken!” At the very thought, a fresh stream of tears flows.
You hurry to your apartment and hearing some melodious voice, come to a halt. A car passes by and you hear closely. "God bless the fellow!" you whisper. The car deck plays a recitation of Holy Quran and the clearest part that you hear is:
"Inna ma al usri yusra.”
(Indeed with hardship comes ease.)
Looking up at the dark sky you smile and see a bright star twinkling back! On reaching home, you offer Salah and directly go to your bed. There on the side table lies your diary, exposing a page beautifully engraved with:
"InAllaha ma as sabireen."