Beyond the Hijab

First published in I Got it Covered

There is a thick layer of grime that encrusts the walls of my heart. I know this isn’t a great way to start an article, but for this piece I couldn’t come up with anything that was more apt. To be sure, I’m a hijabi and I mostly offer salah with punctuality, but my inner self is an unfortunate combination of doubts, sins, ego, self-love and love of dunya.

Take a moment to look inside your heart, and if you find your eman glowing and shining like a hidden pearl, I envy you.  If you find stuff that disappoints you or embarrasses you, I guess you could say you and I are in the same boat. Because when I stand at the fringes of the circumference that is me and my life, and like a detached viewer assess all that’s happening within me, look into my heart, peruse the pages of my mind, and gauge the depth of my soul, I shudder. I want to look away.

Like many Muslims in this age of fitnah and trials, I am a contradiction unto my own self. My eman is like a flame that suddenly sputters to life when I read or come across something inspirational; at other times, it flickers weakly, and at its lowest ebb, it nearly stops giving off any light at all. My heart is weak and vulnerable, and certainly not like one a believer should have. What’s my problem, I ask myself.

The first step to curing this problem inside the heart is identifying it. Well, I do believe this love of dunya could be a major issue. In the age of Facebook, social networking, and blogging, it isn’t very difficult to consider yourself something of a news-maker. We lose sight of what’s important as we obsess about ourselves, our opinions, our ideas, our refreshing approach to life, and whether or not people like us. I know the dangers of Riyaa (showing off), but I can’t help feeling gratified when someone tells me how wonderful it is that I wear the hijab. Small compliments then seem to matter to me – they feed that forever-thirsty phenomenon called the ego. When they come, I’m happy and my self-worth rises like mercury on a hot day. When they don’t come, I deflate like a flat tire.

I’m already feeling slightly lighter – at least I know what’s keeping me from being one of those believers to whom Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will say:

[To the righteous it will be said], “O reassured soul! Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him],” [89:28-29]

The next step of course is to rid myself from the love of this fickle friend called dunya. But how? Well, for starters, this ayah really hits home as it defines to us what this dunya is all about:

“Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children… the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment.” [57:20]

So does this mean that when I get all excited when someone tells me I’m looking great, or I have this amazing phone and feel like ‘I’m all that’, or whatever, the happiness I feel is a deception? Hmm… that would explain why the ‘high’ we experience from compliments is exactly like fizz from a soda – short-lived and unhealthy. Purification of the heart and soul is a process, one that must go on until the day we die. After all – remember Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah al Shams:

He has succeeded who purifies it [soul]. And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]” [91: 10-11]

So success, according to the Qur’an is in purifying your soul. What about – a great job, a thriving bank account, respect from the people of this dunya, an awesome car, a great figure, a house of my own? Isn’t that what success is all about? Well, that’s what we are made to believe, but it’s actually as far away from the truth as you can get. I can’t help it as a voice inside me screams: You mean all my worldly stuff isn’t important at all? Are you serious? Do you know I just bought this awesome, amazing top worth $$$??

Well, yeah, big time! As the following hadith shows to us its true worth:

Jabir (radiAllahu ‘anh) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) went through the market with people on both sides of him. He passed the dead body of a deformed sheep, took it by its ear and then said, “Which of you would like to have this for a dirham?” They said, “We would not like to have it for anything. What would we do with it?” He said, “Would you like to have it?” They said, “By Allah, even if it was alive, it would be defective since it is deformed, and now it is dead.” He said, “By Allah, this world has less value with Allah than this has with you.” [Muslim]

So there goes this dunya. Worthless like a dead animal in the eyes of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and His beloved Nabi (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). And it’s true too, isn’t it? Ever notice how all the lovely things of this world – wealth, respect, attention, beauty, and others – we can never quite have enough of them? There is no real satisfaction for anyone in them, regardless of whether you’re a believer or not. Get admitted to an Ivy League school, write for the world’s best publications, and work in the world’s most prestigious companies – and yet after a period of time it fails to make you feel complete, even as you strive for something better.  The same goes for wealth, same with relationships that we form for ourselves – that are all not for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and for earnign His Pleasure.

‘Ibn Abbas (radiAllahu ‘anh)) reported that the Prophet (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “If the son of Adam (i.e. the human being) had two valleys of money, he would wish for a third, for nothing can fill the belly of Adam’s son except dust. And Allah forgives him who (repents to Him)- begs for His pardon.” [Al-Bukhari]

The second part of this hadith says Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala  forgives one who repents. So here I am, caked in an unfortunate quagmire of the worst kind, making my repentance for my blatant adoration of the dunya and rejecting the ways of Prophet Muhammed (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), despite my claims that I love him. I hope the tears will come and wash away the stains for which I have made excuses, and have tried my best to deny. I pray that Allah grants us true success in both the worlds and elevates us, and that our hijab becomes a symbol of real purity that gleams from within.


16 thoughts on “Beyond the Hijab

  1. Pingback: Beyond the Hijab | Tea Break

  2. Purifying the soul is a great lifetime project, I found out a little bit too late in life.

    This is beautiful piece, sister Mehmudah, you wrote it for a whole lot of us out here. Thank you. Ameen to the du’a.

  3. Ameen… internalizing the info in the Quran and Sunnah is the first step for me… it’s so easy to lose direction in life, may Allah show us the way.

    Jazak Allahu Khair for the feedback!

  4. Mehmudah, more than the subject of Hijab itself you have talked about your own feelings, emotions and your fears for disobedience towards Allah, His Rasool and His Book that you think you may have knowingly and unknowingly not followed it by your own standards.

    First of all you should know that you are neither a Prophet, nor a Saint or, a Wali that you would not make a mistake in your life. As the expression goes, ‘to err is human,’ is true.

    One thing you must remember for sure is, you and I as humans are the best of Allah’s creation and He has said this very clearly in Surah At Tin:

    Surely We created Man of the best stature
    Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low.

    HE also says:

    Along with the feelings or emotions, the man is also given the discretion by virtue of which he is capable of disobedience at the time of his birth and these accompany him through his life span (15:36, The Qur’an).

    All you should remember is to keep doing the good deeds all the time and that is one of the reasons Salat is so important in Islam i.e., because it keeps one on the right track.

    The Qur’an has described the results of misdeeds as the torturing fire! As the fire burns everything, so the bad deeds burn the human personality and stop its growth.

    According to the Qur’an, life is a continuous process and has to go a long way. If life is led according to the laws given by its Creator, Allah, then its latent potentialities are developed and enable it (life) to continue progressing and going from one stage to another.

    IF the potentialities/capacities are not developed, it doesn’t have the strength to travel or, grow further and stops at one stage or point. This process of stoppage is called Al-Jaheem in the Qur’anic terminology.

    Life is like an ever-flowing stream, the moment it stops, it turns into a pond, then gets stagnant. Out of dust rose Adam, and out of good deeds would rise the Man for the world hereafter. The word Man is being used here as human beings without any gender superiority in mind.

  5. Since you have talked about heart, feelings and repentance I would like to add something more on the subject and the intention is not to flood info (As you consider my feelings and expression of those feelings via comments on the blog as — INFO.)

    A few years ago we were also discussing the subject of hearts, feelings, emotions etc., on our blog and I did some research on the subject and you will still find that (info) on our blog but, for your convenience – what I wrote a few years ago – I am copy pasting it below:

    The question always arises, what the heart is all about? The answer is it is not a piece of flesh in our body – but the center of all our feelings, emotions, motives, rives, aspirations, remembrance and attention. It is the hearts which soften or harden and become stony.

    It is they (people with stony heart) who go blind and refuse to recognize the truth for it is their function to reason and disagree. In hearts lie the roots of all outward diseases, they are the seat of all inner ills. Hearts are the abode of faith and hypocrisy.

    It is the hearts again which are the center of every good and every bad thing. Whether it is the contentment of peace, the strength to face afflictions, mercy, love, or doubt, hesitation, regrets, anger etc. Even in the holy books and as well as in reality, the emphasis is on hearts and hearts only.

    Because, it is the heart for which we shall be accountable before Allah. A sound and whole heart will deserve to be saved from the evils and to the fire of the hell. Allah will not take us to task for a slip, but He will take us to task for what our heart earned.

    “The Day when neither wealth nor children shall profit, only he who comes before Allah with a sound heart will be saved.”

    All we need is the dynamic of inner participation and we should understand that well. How is our heart seized by truth?

    First, you come to know the truth.
    Second, you recognize and accept it as the truth and as relevant to your life.
    Third, you remember the truth, as much as often as you can.
    Fourth, you absorb it until it soaks into the deepest recesses of your inner self.

    The truth, thus becomes an ever-alive state of consciousness, an enduring posture of heart. Once a truth so permeates your inner world, it must pour out in the world of words & deeds as well.

    It is also important to remember here what we do outwardly, by tongue and limbs interacts with what we are inwardly. It is possible that words and deeds may be false witness to the state of inner self. But, an inner state, like faith must necessarily find expression in words and deeds, which in turn must help in engraving our knowledge in our consciousness and turn it onto an abiding condition.

    A mind will make mistakes – but, feelings won’t.

  6. Reblogged this on Footprints in the Sands of Time and commented:

    Hi there!
    I came across this post a while back, and I suddenly realized this was exactly what I needed.
    It’s easy to get lost in the flashing lights and pull of this worldly life. Sometimes, all I seem to care about is “me”. Is there a greater purpose in life than just looking amazing, having fun and making loads of money, and being popular? And if all that is achieved, is there any true peace in it? What’s the greater purpose?

  7. Very thought provoking Mehmudah! The world with all its beauty and attractions pulls at our hearts, but a firm Emaan in the Hereafter and accountability to Allah helps us to keep a balance between the love of the Wordly pleasures and the requirements of Shariah. Being a good Muslim is not at all easy in the times we are living in but we can at least try and seek Allah’s help through prayers!

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