R'11 Day Seven: Sister Acts

I've chosen to address a touchy subject today, but I think it needs to be addressed and especially during Ramadan, a time when we're supposed to dig deep(er) and look inside at what needs to be changed so that we can act upon it. The topic I'm about to discuss, 'sister acts', touches upon observations I've noticed both in and outside of the community, with regards to Muslim women with one another and also with non-Muslims.

Observation #1: The Hijabi Spectrum?

I attended the University of Calgary at a time when the Muslim population was scarce, and the MSA was barely active. I knew of 2 hijabi sisters in the entire faculty of biological sciences, and maybe a handful of Muslims overall. During clubs week in the fall semester one year, I decided to approach the MSA table to see if I could meet other Muslims and get involved. There were 2 sisters there, both wearing hijab, and at that time, I did not. Let's just say I didn't get the light of day from them. So I forgot about it and didn't go back to the MSA again during the rest of my studies. 

I've unfortunately seen clicks form between Muslim sisters based on the type of hijabi CLOTHING they wear! So forget about the fact that we're all Muslim...but because one sister doesn't wear an abaya, and another doesn't wear a hijab, you're not let into a social circle and are judged at the same time. Really, how old are we? And since when does clothing dictate a person's Emaan (faith)?! If a sister hand picks her friends based on external characteristics (something which children do in Kindergarten until they learn about what qualities to look for in a friend!), that should be a red flag right away.

Having been on both sides of the hijab fence, I've experienced quite a few different scenarios. While in the states, I visited an Eid dinner party at another campus, and depite 98% of the girls all wearing hijab and my friend and I were not, we were embraced warmly and not given a double take. Yet I see situations here where a hijabi will snuff another sister for not covering her hair. 

So I'd like to re-iterate what we were taught back in school about making friends: do not judge a book by its cover. The physical hijab does not do everything to make someone pious...it's also about intentions and actions. And if a police officer can scoff at me telling him "I'm Muslim and don't drink" when I was pulled over during random Breathalyzer testing, saying 'I've heard that one before, a scarf proves nothing', there are most likely MANY non-hijabi sisters who are as and if not MORE devout than those who wear hijab for deceitful purposes.

Observation #2: It's Sunnah to Smile...at everyone!

A couple of years ago, I took my younger brother to student services at the U of C, and while we were waiting in line, there was a hijabi sister being tended to. She was stern looking, had her arms crossed over her bag which she huddled close to her, did not smile, did not make eye contact, and when she spoke, her lips barely moved as if she was performing ventriloquism. The non-Muslim guy helping her out was being quite friendly and trying to engage her in a HALAL way, but she seemed so tightly wound up. What type of image is this perpetuating about hijabi women? Aren't we taking 'lower your gaze' to a whole new level?

I believe there's a difference between OOGLING at the opposite gender and making conversation using social skills that are polite and justified (remember, it's intentions that count!). While hijabis are more common out and about in the city and people are getting used to seeing us around, there are still misconceptions present and really, not everyone knows what we're about!! So we can either perpetuate media stereotypes about being closed off, stern, and not wanting to interact with the general population, OR we can treat everyone in the same polite and friendly manner regardless of what faith or culture they belong to.

And why not take the opportunities we're presented with to let people know what we're all about and how actually amazingly human we are! For example, this may seem trivial, but stay with me! I was at a store a while back buying a pair of leggings for a girls' get together. The cashier remarked how much she loved them, she owned every colour haha, how comfortable they were, etc, she wears them ALL the time! I replied and affirmed her thoughts, and then remarked that as much as I'd love to lounge in leggings, I can't due to religious reasons, BUT I'm attending an all girls' get together where we can dress up and not worry about wearing a headscarf, etc. The cashier was intrigued and actually empathized with how awesome it must be to have a venue to do that every once in a while. She remarked that she knew a few Muslim girls too. I then went on to say how I went to an all-women's wedding reception and THAT was a blast, etc. So look at how a simple conversation turned into an educational opportunity about an aspect of what hijabis are about...and the fact that we also have the same needs and wants. What girl doesn't want to dress up and look spiffy for a girls' night umm...IN, eh?! And why not tell non-Muslims that a woman IS allowed to "beautify" herself, but only in the proper company. This also breaks down the stereotype that hijabis also shower and sleep with their scarves on :P

So I know that not everyone is going to agree with my point of view, hence the reason why this is a blog entry! I just know that personally, having been on both sides of the hiijab (looking in and out), a scarf on your head does not make you any more entitled than anyone else (Muslim or not) in this world. But it does bestow upon you opportunities for Dawah and breaking intra-Muslim barriers down. So, the big question is if you're going to take on these responsibilities or not? :)

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