Thoughts, Uncategorized

It's Been Awhile…

Salaam, everyone!

Wow, what a long break it’s been. I didn’t even mean to take one, but it seems like there were other things I needed to focus on since I’ve been gone. I realized the other day that it has been over a year since I became a Muslim, alhamdulillah. So much has happened in one year that it feels like it’s been a lot longer. I’m so grateful.

My first full year of being Muslim and my first full year of being married has been crazy. So much newness was going on that I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I didn’t have the best attitude at times and there were plenty of pity parties and tears. I was so glad my husband wasn’t around to see the worst of it. See, long distances has its perks sometimes! As beautiful as this year has been on the outside, there were a lot of growing pains on the inside. So much mental struggle and adjustment to my new life that I honestly wasn’t prepared for. But it was a part of growing up and completely normal. I’m sitting here today at peace and truly happy with where I am at. I know that I have so much more growing to do and my life circumstances are not ideal but right now, I am really happy to be where I am. Something happened over the past couple of months. It all started with a hijama session (more on that later!) and then culminated this past week when I undertook a mini challenge to be more mindful.

Ever since then my head and heart have been so clear and so calm. So much mental and physical clutter has been thrown out or reorganized and it feels really good. Instead of approaching my life and myself with negativity, I’ve been shown by the mercy of Allah all the things to be grateful for. I’ve stopped trying to control when He has always had control and always will and I’m trying to focus on my deen and my relationships. These are the things I make dua for every day, that Allah will constantly remind me of my place and all the wonderful things He has done for me so far. I don’t know what the future holds right now but I am ready for it and insha’Allah, I will continue to grow in my deen.

Thank you so much to those of you still reading (may only be two of you but that’s ok :)) and insha’Allah I will have so much more content for you in the near future.

Nahlah

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beauty, Uncategorized

Modest Shopping Hacks

While I am all for a conscious and ethical approach to our purchases, sometimes we can’t find what we’re looking for. Most of the ethical companies that I used to love don’t carry clothes that I would choose to wear now that I dress more modestly. So, I’ve resorted to searching elsewhere for clothing and learning to take care of the items I buy so that I can get the most use out of them. Today, I want to highlight some of the hacks that have allowed me to find inexpensive, modest clothing that is still stylish.

  1. Boohoo/Pretty Little Thing/Fashion Nova: Okay, here me out. I know that these retailers are the last one to come to mind when one thinks about modesty but they have some hidden gems. They have quite a few basics such as long sleeved jersey maxi dresses that can be layered up. They have plenty of longer, tunic-like shirts, especially in the button up category. And they have a hefty selection of kimonos that come at a much more affordable price than most abayas. They also carry a number of gorgeous skirts that can either be worn alone or layered over leggings. They frequently hold sales with the most recent one being 50% off the entire site!
  2. Shop XL+: So many “regular” sizes still fit tight even if they are larger than your size. Shopping in the plus size department for items such as dresses, tops, and jackets allows you to find pieces that fit loosely and are long enough to cover all the necessary areas.
  3. Check out thrift stores: Modesty was a little more popular back in the day so on a good day, you may score big at a vintage or thrift shop!
  4. Buy mini dresses: This one didn’t occur to me until later on but there are so many mini dresses out there that make perfect modest shirts! Seriously, how did I not realize this before? Most of my tops are marketed as dresses but I tend to buy them a few sizes up if they are fitted so that I can have a basic, modest top. It works out perfectly!
  5. Marshall’s/TJ Maxx: These are two of my favourite stores to buy clothes from. They’re super affordable and when you go at the right time, they have some of the cutest styles available. I’ve found that if you go right before the season starts (I went at the beginning of September right before Autumn officially began), you get your pick of all the new arrivals.
  6. Amazon: Hijabs and maxi dresses galore! While the site can’t beat Southall prices for scarves, it’s decent for the styles and materials that can’t be found in American stores. They also have quite the selection of long-sleeved casual maxi dresses that are perfect for travel and lounging around.
  7. Modanisa: A crowd favourite for their affordable, hijabi-friendly fashion and countless different styles to choose from; Modanisa is the online center for modest fashion. They also guarantee the fastest, most efficient shipping no matter where you are in the world at no extra cost. However, I must warn you that their customer service can be a little tiresome to deal with and getting a refund can take awhile after a return. I suggest only ordering hijabs and more affordable things from them just in case you are in need of making a return and to stay on their case about receiving your money back.

These are only some of the many modest fashion hacks out there. As I stated above, I know that some of these options, like the fast fashions sites, are not ideal especially when it comes to their treatment of factory workers and their impact on the environment. Where you shop is up to your discretion. For me personally, I only order from these sites if they are the last place for me to find what I’m looking for which is usually a basic piece. Alhamdulillah, I’ve been able to build up a wardrobe from many vintage and thrift store pieces as well as bits and bobs from TJ Maxx. I’ve also finally graduated to that stage of adulthood where you realize how to wash and dry your clothes properly so you don’t destroy them (insert feeling of worth and accomplishment here). This was mainly out of financial necessity and heartbreak over losing some of my favourite pieces. But seriously, if you love your clothes look into how to wash them to preserve them and consider line drying instead of using a dryer. This prolongs the life of some of your favourite outfits and keeps you from having to spend more money than you want to on a new wardrobe.

What are your hacks for finding modest clothes? I’d love to hear about them!

Thank you,

Nahlah

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

What to Expect When You Cover Your Hair in America

Every revert’s story is different. We all come from different backgrounds and lifestyles which can greatly determine the level of ease our assimilation into this new life will have. This is such a deep and individual process that for this article I will stick to the basics of what a female revert will probably experience when she starts covering her hair. What can you expect from the world around you? From your friends and family? From future employers and strangers?

I’m going to be real with you. As I’m sure you already know, there is a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering surrounding Islam that I hope to dispel as I continue writing on this blog. Your decision to embark on this journey is not going to go down well with a lot of people. It is very realistic to assume that your family will express disappointment in you, maybe even go so far as to cut you off. You will see friends that start to avoid you or pretend to be interested but slowly fade away. Coworkers will question your decision and, perhaps crack jokes or make you feel silly for it. If you choose to cover your hair, you can expect to have to learn how to control every word that comes out of your mouth. People will feel uncomfortable around you and you will be subjected to a level of surveillance that no one else has to go through. You will get dirty looks while you’re in the grocery store minding your own business. If you work with the public, you can most certainly expect comments ranging from curious to ignorant to downright degrading.

People will all of a sudden think that it is appropriate to discuss topics with you that they would avoid with anyone else. There will be people who think that simply because you cover your hair, that you are open and comfortable with discussing hijab and women’s rights in Islam. All of a sudden, you will become a poster child for hijabis and Islam, whether you like it or not. You will also meet people who feel that it is their own, personal mission to “save” you. They will see you as oppressed and confused, in need of confidence and freedom. They will feign concern for your well-being and worry about your own personal decisions. They will attempt to be saviours who debate with you until you see the light. And there will be some people who won’t talk to you at all and some who will be a little too friendly.

I will also advise that you use caution if you are going out alone in certain areas of the States. I don’t recommend going out alone once the sun has set and use your discretion when going into certain places. The key is to know where you are welcome and to use common sense. I live in the southern United States which means that there are certain restaurants and stores that cater to a group of people who have a tendency to hate Muslims. There are certain cities nearby that have a very small population and consist of the same type of people. I will not find any allies in these areas so I stay away. 9/11 didn’t just hurt and kill the Americans in those buildings. It brought on terror, threats, and death to the Americans who just so happened to be true followers of the religion that an evil group of men used as a scapegoat to commit terrorism. While American Muslims prayed, provided aid, and condemned the acts of these men, America turned on them and has sought to hold innocent people accountable ever since. There are too many stories of Muslims being harassed and killed here to take anything lightly now.

Life as a hijabi in the States isn’t a living nightmare but it does require some adjusting to how you would normally interact with others and carry yourself. I have personally chosen not to talk in depth about my faith with others. If they ask then I will answer, but it stops at that. Don’t make apologies for your beliefs or try to explain or justify any of your decisions. You don’t need to prove to anyone that you are an empowered woman with your hijab. You don’t need to reassure anyone that you are free or that you feel beautiful and confident. We should have love and patience for everyone that we come across, but we should not sacrifice our beliefs or well-being to cater to the ego of someone who chooses to remain ignorant and hateful in a world that offers plenty of opportunity to be the opposite. I love America and I am so grateful that I was born here, but this love for my country doesn’t mean that I should refrain from reality. Islam has given me so much more freedom and passion for life than I’ve ever had before. I cover my hair proudly now and I am so proud of each and every one of you beautiful women who have chosen the same path. This is a beautiful journey that brings so many benefits and as with every beautiful thing, there are those who try to stifle it. Trust in Allah (SWT), hold your head high, be prepared, and speak the truth.

Ps: And you know what else you can expect? The flood of support and love you will receive from other hijabis whether it’s on the street, in the store, online, in the masjid, etc. You are going to face some negativity but you will always have a support system of other Muslims behind you. Don’t forget that.

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

Imposter Syndrome: Revert Edition

When I first reverted, I was alone. I found myself in an area that was very much lacking in a strong Muslim community and so resorted to internet research and books to grow in my deen. It wasn’t until I met my husband, that I finally had the opportunity to connect with other sisters and brothers in Islam. I traveled to London to meet his family and felt like I blended in as soon as I landed. There were women in hijab EVERYWHERE. No one was giving me dirty looks, I was invisible, and I loved it. But something also happened, I started to feel like an imposter. Sitting there with my husband’s wonderful family, getting to know everyone, I realized how little I actually knew about Islam and how underdeveloped my iman actually was. I had so much to learn and part of me began to feel almost foolish due to my lack of knowledge. How could I sit there wearing hijab and claim to be Muslim when I knew so little?

Another factor that I believe contributes to this imposter syndrome, is how synonymous culture has become with Islam; specifically cultures arising from Asian and Arabic countries. Growing up in America, raised by a Black/Native American mother and a German/Welsh father, I shared a similar upbringing and lifestyle with many of my fellow mixed, American peers. Our culture here typically derives from a Christian background with a primarily secular lifestyle. Joining a new family and being surrounded by beautiful people from a completely different culture and a faith still new to me was fascinating and I am so grateful for it. But I cannot lie and pretend like I felt I belonged here. Just as the hijab set me apart from most people in the southern United States, my background and nationality felt quite alienating in my new Muslim family. Naturally, people who claim the same culture have a much closer bond. When I come across other mixed girls or other members of my family’s tribe, the connection is so much stronger then in my interactions with others. It’s simply how things are. So being a fairly new revert with distinctively different features from those around me, a Christian upbringing and an American accent felt so uncomfortably visible in a primarily Asian and Arabic community.

I began to feel the same way on social media as I followed more and more Muslim women. In every post I saw gorgeous traditions and cultural practices, and it seemed like everyone connected over these things so much more than anything else. Everyone I met had been born into a Muslim family, so all of this was so normal and essential to who they were. They were well-practiced Muslims who were familiar with the lifestyle and the teachings to back it up. I felt like I was playing dress up, trying to join the party. I didn’t have much in common with anyone around me here, no familiar life experiences or similar upbringing, simply a shared faith. Could I ever belong? Probably not. I can appreciate this culture but it will never be my culture. I can love the people so dearly but I will never be one of them. I can be obsessed with the traditions and the style of dress but it’s not my style. And that’s okay. Because being a Muslim has NOTHING to do with culture.

Islam is a religion, a set of beliefs that are set apart from culture. Anyone can be Muslim because you don’t have to be born into it, Alhamdulillah! Allah (SWT) has brought you into this faith, so you do belong no matter how you feel. The key is to remain humble. You will not know everything when you revert, you won’t know everything one year after you revert, and you STILL won’t know everything 50 years after you revert. It is about being humble, pursuing knowledge, and putting that newfound knowledge to practice over and over and over again. You are not joining a new culture, you are joining the Ummah (Muslim community). This community encompasses so many cultures from all over the world. It is a very intricately woven, vibrant web of people coming from so many different backgrounds to join together in worshiping the one true God. It is very easy to come across cultural traditions from primarily Arabic and Asian countries and think that this is what Islam is. And when we focus on these cultures, it becomes exclusionary. That is one of the many great beauties of Islam: that so many different people can come together and share this faith and this struggle. Islam does not exclude those that God has brought into it, Alhamdulillah.

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

Lonely?

Assalaamu Alaikum.

Today I want to address a more emotional topic: loneliness. As a revert you experience this in a way that is so completely different from any other. I’ve lived alone in a new city, so I feel like I have a pretty solid foundation to compare this feeling to. Loneliness as a revert Muslim can isolate you even when you are surrounded by loved ones. It can be scary and frustrating, it can eat away at you and threaten to take you down. Being alone in this way most commonly means that you find yourself living in an Islamophobic area with very few, if any, fellow brothers and sisters in Islam.

It’s an isolation that is all-pervading and can be almost impossible to explain to anyone who was blessed to grow up in a Muslim family and/or in a strong Muslim community. How do you even begin? It’s as simple as this: it’s just you and Allah (SWT) and it can make or break your iman (faith). When you are lonely like that, the only One you can rely on is Allah (SWT). Your family may not understand you, you may lose friends, you may receive dirty looks in public, you may face harassment, and you may know no other Muslims in your area. You are tempted at every turn and it is easy to lose control of doing the right thing. Often times I find it far too easy to slip up with very little positive influence in my life. If I am not making a conscious and self-disciplined decision to study Quran and Hadith and practice what I learn, I don’t stand a chance. I HAVE to pray five times a day or it won’t happen at all. I have to structure my life in a way that pleases Allah (SWT) in every way, or temptation will take control.

Alhamdulillah, I have an amazing husband and family in London who I can talk to at any time and who have already taught me so much. I just joined a writing group called Hijabies Hood that I am so blessed to write with and learn from as well. And I was born in the age of the internet so I have almost unlimited access to information on Islam. When you are feeling this loneliness creep up, look at what and who you do have. Check with your local masjid to see if there any women’s groups or classes you can join. Look for ways to give back to the community that will also bring you in contact with potential friends. And above all else, cling to your iman! Dedicate yourself to sincere prayer and study. Don’t let up even when it gets difficult. I can promise you that it will get difficult and you will question everything, but that is only a sign that you are going in the right direction and you must keep pressing on. And if you have no one else to talk to and you desperately need someone to listen, drop me a message. Your sisters in Islam are not going to let you down, we’ve got you.

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Islam 101

Hijab 101

Assalamu Alaikum, guys!

Today I want to talk about the oppressive rags we Muslim women are forced to cover our long gorgeous locks with…just kidding! Well, we are going to talk about the hijab but this will be an enlightening conversation and one that stresses greatly that most of us aren’t being forced to wear it. Contrary to popular belief, the word hijab does not mean headscarf. The most accurate translation would actually be “barrier” or “partition”. I know I call my headscarf a hijab and so do most other muslimahs, it’s just easier that way. But, as you can see, the term itself has a much deeper meaning. You can find a very well written, clearly explained article by the BBC here. This article highlights verses supporting modesty and the wearing of a headscarf as well as a few hadiths on the various types of dress. Definitely worth the read!

So for those of you wondering where you can find evidence of modesty and hijab (in this sense, simply covering) and also questioning why men don’t have to abide by it, I give you An-Nur 24:30 of the Quran where Allah (SWT) instructed Muhammad (SAW) “Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.” (24:30)

Men don’t get off so easily here. In their case they must be covered from below the knees to just above the navel, cannot wear gold or silk, and cannot wear clothing that drags on the ground.

And to the women, “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste) and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they should place their khimar over their bosoms…” (24:31)

“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” (33:59)

And for the history of how hijab came to be and an in depth look at the controversy of hijab vs. no hijab, I suggest listening to this very informative TED Talk given by Samina Ali. Obviously, there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the question of whether the Quran actually commands women to wear the hijab. We’re not touching that one with a ten foot pool in this post, that’s for another day…maybe. I’m not ready.

Needless to say, I love my hijab. In one of my earlier posts, I talked about the reasons why I chose to wear it and how it has empowered me. I also enjoy educating people about it if they want to know. I’m sure we’ve all heard or seen ignorant comments concerning the way Muslim women choose to dress. You’ve got uni-lingual Betty from Alabama who thinks we should all be jailed for our burqas, speak American, and go back to Shania Twain law (I wish I was kidding but this sentence was constructed from pieces of real comments made by real Americans). I’m aware that talking about the different types of hijab won’t conquer bigotry in one fell swoop but it’s a start.

Below is a nice little graphic on the different styles of hijab or veil.

Veils BBC News Web ArticlePhoto taken from here.

Here in the States, I’ve witnessed most of these styles except for the niqab and burqa. As I’m sure many of you can imagine, these wouldn’t go over so well although some women still choose to wear it, mash’Aallah. There are many different reasons for why women choose to wear a certain style. For many it’s cultural and for many it’s based on their interpretation of modesty and what they believe the Holy Quran has instructed. For most of us, the veil is not a symbol of oppression for we wear it proudly and it is a part of who we are and a symbol for what we believe. It is not a garment meant to confine us to shame but one that commands dignity and respect.

What most people here don’t realize is that Islam and Muslim women are complex and detailed. It’s not what you see on TV and it’s certainly the farthest thing from what Betty posts on Facebook. There’s a tendency for people to see a veiled woman and refuse to see the woman. Instead she’s a walking symbol with no thoughts, feelings, passions or fears. At the end of the day, we are normal, we’re simply trying to live our lives and practice our faith in peace. We aren’t untouchable or scary or violent. The misinformation and violence of radical groups shown on TV is not an accurate representation because, frankly they are not a part of Islam.

The true representation of Islam lies within the kind-hearted and dedicated Muslims in your community. And instead of making rash assumptions and listening to people who have no first-hand knowledge, take some time to go to the source. Read the Quran, talk to the Muslims you may interact with, ask questions, and learn about the culture and why things are the way they are. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Thank you and assalaamu alaikum!

Nahlah

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

The Truth About Hijab

I didn’t have a strong conviction to wear the hijab until after I began wearing it. There was no defining moment for me where I made the decision to cover my hair and my body, it just happened little by little. It began with wearing longer trousers, then longer sleeves to wearing my hair in a turban to lengthening my hemline to wearing full hijab. Now, I cannot imagine going out without it and feel significantly more comfortable covered up. Once I began, I found so many reasons to love it: it is a way of honoring Allah (SWT), it holds me accountable for my actions and words, it distinguishes me as an unapologetic Muslim, it keeps my focus on what’s important rather than seeking others’ approval on my appearance, and I am sure there are many other reasons that are not coming to mind at the moment.

With all of this in mind, for some women the hijab is a little more complicated. For them, it is a symbol of the oppression they must face every single day. They did not get to make a decision to wear it, that decision was made for them and their rebellion could have traumatic consequences. Their perspective on the hijab is just as valid as the one that sees the hijab as empowering. On one side of the world, women fight to cover themselves and on another side of the world, women fight to uncover themselves. These struggles may seem so opposite to each other but at the end of the day we as women are all fighting for the same thing: to make the choice for ourselves. The way we dress should not be forced upon us by anyone and the opinions of others should not influence our decision or the consequences of that decision. For too long, the way a woman chooses to adorn and dress herself has been a political concern. Why?

If we cover too much, they come after us. If we cover too little, they come after us. There is a strong push to whitewash everything and everyone to establish an environment of comfort. Comfort for who? Reality is not plagued by comfort no matter how hard we keep attempting to infect it. Reality is that we live in a world of many different sizes, shapes, colors, beliefs, nationalities, lifestyles, and definitions of comfort. If we seek peace we have to let people be who they are (within the confines of the law and human decency, of course).

We are told time and time again not to judge others. A woman’s decision for how she wants to portray herself and live her life is between her and Allah (SWT), whether she is aware of it or not. It doesn’t mean her decisions will be right but it is not for us to control, it is not for us to look down upon. And personally, I have found that if you want to spread the truth it is best done through being an example and treating others with compassion and respect.

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