Muslim


It was the end of a very long, trying day.   It was time to break the fast, and since I was not fasting- I prepared everything, fed my charming spouse and guests and scampered off to a quiet room for maghrib (sunset prayer).  I was sweaty, tired, stressed out and craving this moment of brief silence to re-center myself.  I could hear the muffled cling and clang of utensil on plate, chuckles and cheer.   The room was dark and cloaked in black I made takbir and paused.  Folding my hands over my chest, I drew in a deep breath- when suddenly  I heard:

“Bismeewah Wahman Waheeeeeeeeem

Hamduweewahee Wabeel  Ameeeeeeen

Wahmann Waheem

Maweekee Yawmee Deeeeeen”

My three year old apparently felt I needed guidance in that moment.  I will never forget it, as long as I live.

As stated in my last post, I am continuing to process my thoughts on hijab….I have written this a dozen times, and to my surprise ive discovered it’s like peeling the layers of an onion. My last edit to this draft was back in September. Looking back I see I was in a royal funk. I’m still in hijab and have no desire to remove it 🙂

How awful. I meant it when I said I have no strong desires to increase my endeavors in the area of practicing physical hijab. It may sound stubborn or off-putting; but it is the honest truth. Here I am, in my life, in my reality with questions and internal conflict about covering, modesty and how unfair it feels for the burden to be on me as a woman. Furthermore while I think it is helpful that I am extremely thankful for all the good things in my life, I don’t really believe that minimizing my own issues by comparing them to someone who is worse off is a healthy solution. It may help restore or create a better perspective, but it does not bring me resolve or change. While I will never say never or close the door to increasing my own modesty (even emotionally), I cannot ‘get there’ until I bring myself to a better understanding of my own feelings and where they are coming from. For those of you wondering- my husband has not asked me to cover more, or wear traditional garments or anything like that. Part of this post is triggered by the summer heat and my lack of participation in the things I love, because I can’t tolerate the heat and humidity, or because the environment isn’t hijab friendly. I feel irritable, sticky, dehydrated and worst of all, un-clean. The other part of this post is triggered by fear and insecurity and likely ignorance.

Why did I put hijab on? I wanted to do it for God, and God alone. I do think it has meaningful beauty. I like the tradition. I like the symbolic image and I do believe that being modest is important and required islamically. The problem is I feel it’s unfair and unbalanced even though I know it’s in the Quran and Sunnah and supported by so many scholars- so what does that make me? On the fringe of being a bad Muslim? A picking-and-choosing Muslim? I do not like feeling this way, and I am surprised with myself because I know God is not unjust, unfair or unbalanced. Interestingly, I did not have some of these difficulties until I became a mother, especially to my second child, a baby girl.

I am asked why I question the true purpose of hijab, and still abstain from pork and alcohol. I can’t articulate how agnry that question makes me! For starters I am Muslim and I do my best to live by the laws of God,and Im human! Dietary restrictions are for ALL Muslims, and it’s easy to do. Alhamdilillah I was never a big pork fan nor did I care for alcohol before my conversion.

Wearing a head scarf identifies me as Muslim. Before I became a mother, this had no effect on me. Since having children, I worry for them. I feel vulnerable all the time. Will someone hurt me or say bad things to me in front of my children? Would someone hurt all three of us? My two precious littles depend on me to feel safe, secure and happy. Can my children sense my fear? I hope they never do. I want my children to see me as a positive and strong female role model. Will someone target my husband because of my hijab? Will my children be ostracized? Or bullied? InshaAllah they will not. Im afraid my children will be targeted for being muslim and yet I want them to be secure in this faith that my husband and I truly believe in.

The hijab itself is clumsy. Even after four years of sporting hijabs, I am always surprised when I look in the mirror. I just don’t recognize myself, it doesn’t register. I miss my swinging ponytail and on-the-go routine. I always wear the boring Al-Amira two piece; it limits the amount of readjusting I have to do (every hour instead of every 10 minutes). I have tried, squares, oblongs, Kuwaiti and countless youtube tutorials. I’ve parted my hair in funky ways to create friction so they won’t slip off, I’ve tried under caps- lace, lycra, cotton, polyester and none at all to prevent slippage and nothing works. If I opt for a nice shayla, it looks nice for about an hour, and then the fiddling starts. The pins need readjusting and eventually I have to unravel and re-do. I feel like an un-done and sloppy mess. Having to do this while sweating makes it even more loathsome! The other day I seriously thought I should fashion a chin strap onto my under caps. This has gone way to far!!!

You know, the more I write, the more disorganized and ridiculous this all sounds. I just wish it all made sense, and that I could once again be in my comfort zone. I want to feel like the old, strong me. I want to feel well put together and confident once again. When fall approaches, some of the issues will disappear until next summer, but the others need to be dealt with.

Sigh.

God, please show me the way, and make me an awesome example for my children, Ameen.

Following are my very opinionated thoughts; my intention is not to insult or criticize, but to come to terms with my feelings regarding young girls and hijab.  Feedback and discussion are welcome and appreciated.

Several years ago we attended an ICNA conference  and I could not believe my eyes: an adorable eight or nine month old baby in a hijab, perched on her father’s lap.  Until this very moment, partly due to the fact that I am the mother of a five month old daughter, I often wonder why a Muslim parent would resort to donning an infant in a hijab.  Aside from my visceral reaction of borderline disgust (I know– harsh.  Just being honest.), it looked totally ridiculous.  She didn’t even have teeth.   A baby girl in a hijab seems as twisted as a toddler in a beauty pageant.    Excessive.  Seeing a baby covered in this manner, has triggered some emotions regarding my own children and their Islamic education and upbringing.

We are planning to send our kids to Islamic preschool, and if we find that the Islamic elementary schools in our area are dynamic, reputable and meet and exceed the standards for education– we will send them.  I find myself feeling anxious that my daughter will be required to wear a little hijab.  Sure, it’s cute.  Anything she does is cute, and anything she wears is cute.   Pre-K through second graders are required to wear hijab.  Third graders and older are required to wear khimar and jilbab!   I must ask, what message does this send?  Will Tiny Girl  chalk it up to ‘girls cover and boys don’t’ ?  Will she grow to love it or be turned off by it because it’s mandatory?  Will my son grow to be biased toward girls and young women  based on whether or not they cover?  As a matter of fact it is only mandatory when menstruation begins.  So why start so young?    I absolutely cringe when I hear another Muslim offer this explanation: “well, if she only starts wearing it to school when she gets her first period, everyone will know she has it”.

Spare.  Me.

As a Muslim parent, I do have concerns.  I want my children to grow to love God and to realize that living a well-balanced life is totally compatible with Islam.    Furthermore, I want my children to be in an unbiased and fair environment when it comes to schooling,  learning how to be social creatures and making new friends.  I want both my son and daughter, to understand and find internal value in the practice and preservation of modesty.   More importantly, I’m feeling like my parental right and duty to introduce my children to modesty and it’s practice are being taken away from me.  Why should I let an institution determine how or when my daughter practices hijab?   I take hijab-wearing seriously and it doesn’t mean a thing, if it’s not done for the right reasons. I find it hard to believe kids  will learn to embrace modesty if it’s forced upon them.

Is my logic grossly flawed or is  this a typical concern amongst other Muslim parents?  What are parents of Muslim teens saying?  I would love to know how they deal with this issue, and what the outcomes are.

I have some things on my mind, as most mothers do: how can we ensure that we will always be able to provide for our children, and when they are grown, ourselves?  As I have mentioned before, both my husband and I work full-time.   We don’t roll around in extra dough in our spare time, we are not obsessed with material objects and don’t have any expensive habits (read: we both work because we have to).  That said, we are blessed to have good, rewarding careers in healthcare.  We are compensated fairly, receive very good benefits and are treated respectfully.  Can it get any better?

As my 40th birthday looms over the horizon, the ticking clock gets louder and louder.    I’m hoping that my husband and I can retire at age 60, this way we are completely free to roam the universe, explore new hobbies and spend plenty of quality time with our grandchildren.    Since, as muslims, we are forbidden to receive (or pay) interest, wealth building for retirement seems pretty impossible.   Most of my female colleagues who are either single or nearing retirement age are constantly discussing their financial portfolios, and basically their future wealth is based on interest.  This just is not an option for us.  We could just leave it all in God’s hands  or we can start  searching for a halal solution now, and do something about it.  I choose the latter.

First and foremost I am a mother of two really stellar kids.    I yearn to work part-time or not at all, but this happening is just as likely as a pig in my frying pan.    The challenge when leasing a residence is saving a mammoth down payment for the controversial sharia complaint mortgage while still living and meeting all the basic needs of a family with children.  How could I not work?  We would be leasing for-ev-er.  So I work.  We work.  Very hard.  Once we get the house, we need to pay it off, so I will continue to work.  Very Hard.  Then inshaAllah our kids will go to college on our dime (I believe that education is one of the best investments).  By the time said house is paid in full, I may have 10 years left in the workforce.  Even if we lived only on my husbands salary and I saved every penny of my salary for that 10 year period, it would not be enough to sustain a retired couple of two, healthcare, property taxes and other expenditures of daily living including spoiling our grandchildren!

Where does that leave us?  In a spare room at my son or daughter’s house?  I don’t want to do this to them.  When they are adults, I want them to be financially stable, and have thriving personal lives.  I do not think that would be possible with my husband and I taking up residence under the same roof.  Perhaps my views are a result of my culture; but I find it very difficult  to believe that a healthy and loving marriage can stay happy  with parents living in the house!  I love my mother with my heart and soul and  as long as I am on this planet I will always be here for her, and she will never be alone.  Would I take her in if she needed us?  Of course, but I would much rather have a two family house so she could have her own apartment with all the necessities. 

My question is, how do muslims do it?  There any many single income muslim families here that own their properties, and I cannot figure out how they manage the financial burden of it all. 

I recently contacted the investment company that manages retirement funds for my employer.  They have socially responsible funds, i.e. stocks and investments that are not fueled by tobacco or alcohol; this isn’t enough.  I explained my religious observances and they claim I am not alone, and have other muslim clients who invest in the stock market without collecting interest.   I hear the word “stock market” and a hundred red flags go up in my mind.  I have no desire to risk loosing what I work so hard for.  Wouldn’t that be akin to gambling?

If it isn’t too personal, if any muslims are reading this, what is your strategy?  Can you recommend any resources where we could gain sound, halal compliant advice?    I am really curious.