I don’t know, again, where to begin with this one. Or, where to end. But, we shall see what happens, Insha Allah.
As we know, this life is, ultimately, a test; we either pay heed and listen to our Maker, or we do not. And we can talk about how hard certain things are. But they are not impossible; they are not to be discarded, simply because we think they’re ‘hard’.
The requirement upon Muslim women – physically and in terms of behaviour – to cover, in public, for example. I know that many fellow Muslim women struggle with this one. I have my own struggles in regards to it. Namely, consciously covering the very things that would earn you more validation. And you know it would, because it has.
People do look better with their hair out, and with makeup on. And in certain clothes. And this is a big, big test for we women, whose self-regard tends to be heavily contingent upon (physical and behavioural) beauty [men, by contrast, more: strength].
I am really enjoying exploring, here and there, masculine ways of viewing the world, versus feminine ones. And, of course, we Muslims believe that to Allah belongs everything. And so, the different (where they are different) rules pertaining to men and women are supported with such great wisdom.
For men, I think I have really realised: they really are visual creatures [not dehumanising men, there. Please don’t cancel me: we’re all c r e a t u r e s.] Women have an ‘inner masculine’ part of us, too: physiologically reflected in how we ‘contain’ small[er] amounts of testosterone, within us. We, too, are ‘physical’ creatures. But certainly not to the same degree that men would appear to be. It really is strange but fascinating to come to understand that… we are different. We perceive the world through different lenses.
For men: a particular test is, to employ a Qur’anic expression, lowering their gazes. Because they are particularly sensitive to aspects of physical femininity. I think it’s how we women might recognise that a man is good-looking, but… it seems to be far more intense and frequent for men. High, high receptivity.
We women have also been instructed to ‘lower [our] gazes’, via the Qur’an. And: before non-Mahram men, we have been told to cover. Of course, it can be hard. Knowing that uncovering, more, and beautifying, more, in public (physically and in terms of behaviour) will earn you more positive attentions.
And I wonder if this is quite a shared thing, but: sometimes, in wearing the headscarf and more modest clothing outside [it really is my honour, and also:] I can feel a little insecure. Like… an old woman. Or a ‘frump’. Not stylish. In fact, relatively recently, my aunt gifted me a long, loose-fitting coat. And someone – a fellow Muslim woman, actually – looked at it disapprovingly and told me I really must get it more fitted around my waist.
My own personal journey hasn’t necessarily been going from no headscarf, to headscarf, from the dawn of adolescence. As early as Year Two, it was seeing a close friend of mine, wearing her pull-on headscarf. And I just really wanted to. And then it had been a very on-again, off-again thing. Lots of colours, clips. Netted headscarves, too, through which… my hair could be seen. So… why???
Makeup, turban-style headscarves. Now, in retrospect, I understand that these cannot really go with the actual requirements of hijāb. On this particular journey, as expected, I have erred, and I have (since) learned.
And, now: here I am. I do feel I look kind of plain when I am outside. That’s kind of the point. At the last family event[s] (my cousin-sister’s post-Nikkah party) I decided I would not wear any makeup [one of my aunts basically forced me to at least wear some]. Most of the other women there were wearing makeup – lots of it. And they probably looked far better in all the pictures, as a result, too.
Eid: just family. But my older male cousins are not my Mahrams. So: no makeup, again. And modest apparel. But I felt more comfortable in my skin that day, Alhamdulillah. I guess the most important thing to remember is that, physically and in terms of behaviour, home is where we are true. Everywhere else, we choose how we are going to present ourselves before various groups of people: everywhere else really is masks. And, ultimately, the thing I need to keep remembering [especially since my other cousin’s Nikkah ceremony is coming up; I’m meeting his in-laws-to-be tomorrow, Insha Allah] is that I ought to fear Allah more than I fear the people. Any people.
Dumb (no offence) boys who make dumb comments, also. As for the women who comment that I look “tired” or “dead” without makeup: ya look the same without makeup, homies. Or have you forgotten what your true faces look like? [That was mean. Allow me. I like to vent via writing, quite a bit].
Ultimately, ultimately, I much like that notion of ‘attracting what we are, and expect‘. You do you; the wrong people will respond how one would expect them to respond. The right people will prove themselves to be the right people.
You know, I so admire men, for example, who know they are quite intersubjectively good-looking. And they put conscious effort into lowering their gazes; speaking with modesty, with non-Mahram women. Even if some of said women, or others, come to think they’re “lame” or whatever else. They pray, they work, they eat, they learn, they have their hobbies and their friends and family; they know what the Meaning of Life is. Taqwa: cognisance of Ilaahi.
I much admire those men who put Allah first, and their families: they are certainly giving up certain things, in order to demonstrate their truenesses: it really is the definition of honourable. A real war against the Nafs. It is good, and it is beautiful, though those self-proclaimed ‘cool’ ones might disagree. But, then again: who are they? Human beings who shed tears, and who are weak, and who are living in this very Dunya reality, too. Might as well pick Truth, over all these lies, which leave. It does take a lot of restraining the ego, the Nafs, though. And this is, absolutely, what true strength is. I guess I am, Insha Allah, trying to be a female version of this.
To paraphrase something a reader of this blog had written in an email: you don’t need to renege on your principles, in order to have fun. In order to have friends. In order to live a good life. In fact, if you sacrifice for your Lord, He will return you with better. Even if you have to wait for it, for some time.
My own struggles might look considerably different to your own. We will never be ‘perfect’. But as long as we consciously work on managing our intentions: the blessing comes from the trying.
And the sacrifices – whatever they are, in your case – are (more than) worth it. For Dunya, and in Ākhirah.
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.