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How I Became A Proper Hijaabi

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Assalamu alaikum Wa Rahmatullah Wa Barakatuh

My name is Sameera, I am Lebanese and I was born into a traditional Muslim family 28 years ago. It was a wonderful environment to grow up in, although my whole childhood and adolescence was accompanied with the civil war as our young men fought the falangist militias and battled against Israel as well. I was a child when the Israelis invaded and I can recall their armoured cars in my home city .

Although it seemed the war would never end and it halted many things that are taken as normal in most countries, I grew up as do most young Muslimah. I went to nursery school, and I attended Quranic school at our local masjid where I learnt to recite the Holy Quran and where I was taught about our wonderful deen. However the fighting made it safer for me to be home-schooled until I went to our equivalent of High School. Like many schools here, it was 'single sex' but this did not seem to matter. I remember enjoying those classes but I was not specially devout young girl, although my parents were religious and they made sure I prayed when I should and fasted correctly when I grew old enough to do so. Also, from about the age of 11, they decided that I should dress 'properly' which meant that I covered my head and wore jilbabs or long gowns that covered me decently. As many of my friends were doing the same at that time, it seemed perfectly natural, although I still wore jeans or ordinary dresses when safe at home. When it came to playing sports, I wore a track suit which covered me decently enough as far as I was concerned.

I was 13 when one of my friends came round to see me at home wearing a proper hijaab. I was surprised even though I knew her family were religious and her mother covered her face when she left her home. Thinking back I see I was not all that surprised when I saw Nur wearing a proper hijaab; I could still recognise her from her eyes and the way she moved, and after a day or two it seemed normal to see her like that when we were away from our homes.

I progressed through High School and trained to become an industrial designer as I had always had a liking for drawing and design. But, when I was eighteen, my parents were put in touch with another family. They had a son who, reluctantly, was seeking to marry again. The reason for his reluctance was that his first wife had tragically died of complications after childbirth. Alhamdulillah their daughter survived and has grown up into being a intelligent and charming girl.

Her father was not anxious to marry again but his parents wished him to do so, in order to have a mother for the young child, and to also be his loving companion and wife. However he did say that, if a suitable young woman could be found, he would become engaged with the intention of marrying when he felt himself prepared to do so. My wali put forward my name and, after our parents met, it was agreed that we could see if we liked one another in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Qur'an. I had already been engaged once before, and I think I was not too keen on the idea of getting married but I agreed to meet Khalid. He impressed me greatly and after a while I felt sure we would be happy together. Over the next three and a half years we grew to know each other a great deal better, mainly through letters and telephone conversations, and two days after my twenty second birthday we were married.

But in the period between first meeting my future husband and marrying him, I was to also get to know his family extremely well, and it was under their guidance that i came to see the need for 'Proper Hijaab'.

I have already said that my own parents were good Muslims and made sure that I grew up as a properly behaved Muslimah. But, although by the time I was engaged several friends of mine were wearing proper hijaab, I had never seen any need to do so. My own parents attitude was that I was an adult and, as such, I should make up my own mind of such things. I know that my mother viewed the wearing of proper hijaab as being perhaps mustahab, although she never veiled her face, and never tried to persuade me to either. I was undecided and, to be honest, I did not bother to consider the problem much. It was, I felt, hot enough in my country without covering my face as well as wearing long gowns and hijaab scarves. Also I am ashamed to admit that I liked it when people told me I was very pretty.

It was my future mother-in-law who first talked to me about proper hijaab. Whenever she left her house she covered up completely and she took time with me to explain why she did this. I am sure that all the daleels will be known to the readers of this article and, anyway, they are available elsewhere so I will not cite them here. But it was these proofs that my future mother-in-law explained patiently too me. Wearing proper hijaab was never made a condition of my marriage but it was clear that it would please my new family if I did dress more discreetly than in the past.

Some months after I became engaged I started wearing an opaque proper hijaab when I went outdoors. To my surprise I soon became used to it and, although I found all the usual minor problems when wearing it - how to eat or drink, how to persuade people who I was - I soon discovered that it was (as the Americans says) 'No big deal' from a practical point of view. But I was finding out the very real advantages of wearing proper hijaab in a male dominated world. It is sad to say that, even in a principally Muslim city like Beirut, young men act the same the world over; they make silly remarks aloud when their see a pretty girl, and some of them will go up to her and make unworthy suggestions to her. I was used to that sort of behaviour and I had learnt to ignore it. But, as soon as I started veiling my face, I notice how all this harassment stopped and I felt far safer when walking in public with my family or with other sisters. It will not be denied some people stared at me but the stupid remarks from young men and boys stopped.

This was a wonderful benefit but, FAR more important was the belief that, by covering my face, I was both obeying the precepts of the Qur'an and Hadith and also pleasing Allah (swt). I still felt that proper hijaab was just mustahab but I was beginning to see that it was right for me to wear.

When I gained my qualifications as a designer, I started working from home, taking in commissions from companies with whom my family had contacts. Although I was fortunate in the amount of work I got, it did leave me time to study Islam more thoroughly than I had done in the past. The sheikh at the local masjid gave me the titles of books I might want to read and I was able to borrow the books. It was from these studies that I slowly came to see that covering fully could be fard.

I used to write almost daily to my then fiancÚ and I told him about my studies. He wrote back saying he was pleased that I was seeing things as he did. For it turned out he felt that it was right for a young woman to cover herself properly in public. He had never pressured me into veiling myself, but it was plain that if I did so he would feel that his wife-to-be was acting in keeping with his wishes.

It was arranged that we should meet one last time before our wedding to discuss one or two things with both our parents present. It was that day when I first dressed in what I now see as being PROPER hijaab. I not only wore proper hijaab but I wore a long khimar and had veils lowered to conceal my eyes as well as wearing gloves and black socks to watch the rest of my dress. My parents previously knew what I intended and my mother had helped me obtain the correct coverings. But my in-laws did not, and Alhamdulillah they were all so pleased that I had decided to dress in a manner that they felt was fard. My studies had led me to believe just as they did and I take pride in saying that I have always worn such coverings in public since that day. From this followed on other improvements that insh'Allah will continue to make me a better Muslimah in the eyes of Allah (swt). I no longer talk to men in the open manner that I once did, I keep to my home unless it is necessary to go out, and I observe hijab of the eyes when I am with strangers or out of doors. I am far from being a perfect Muslimah but adopting full veiling was the first step in a journey that will take all my days. My humble efforts at improving my behaviour has not always been easy but it is one of the most worthwhile things I have ever done. I will continue to struggle with my own weaknesses but I have never regretted the decision I made when I was led into realising that full veiling is fard.

No one has ever forced me to adopt either proper hijaab or full veiling. It was a decision I made for myself after I had studied and come to the conclusion that I HAD to conceal myself fully. That this decision pleases my husband and his family is a bonus, and I hope that my step daughter, who is now 12, and my own daughter who is five, will be as enthusiastic about covering themselves decently as I am. I know that being dressed correctly in public makes me act in a completely discreet manner, and I hope this will be the case with my daughters. If that is the case I will believe that at least in part I will have done my duty to them as a loving mother.

Sister Sameera