Probably one of the most exciting things we’ve done together. Probably something we would never do if we had too much time to plan. This was over a year ago but we were too caught up to post, oops.
We got an invitation to Masjid al Bara’a from F. Pango, a current student at Umm Al Qura University in Makkah. Our daily commutes together in her family car gave us time for a lot of discussions in between cramming for exams or desperately trying to translate an antiquated piece of Arabic poetry or prose; the letters, words and vowels slipping off our tongues. Every single day was exciting and different for each of us, the only thing that brought us together was the zeal to master this language with perfection. It was one of these days when our discussions took a random turn to the hijab. We sort of touched on our hijab stories, and how our cultural variations affected our ability and motivation to practice this essential aspect of Islam. I think we probably got really side-tracked by this particular topic because its so big with us, especially as Niqabis (and as odd as it sounds, no, it is not easy even in Saudi Arabia.)
Talking about some of the excuses and baseless refutations made by women who just cannot bring themselves to practicing Hijab, most of us having made the same ones but finally overcoming them, we verbalized some counter-arguments and came up with some awesome resolutions and conclusions that would never have crossed our minds otherwise. All of us had started Hijab a long time ago but it’s never just a one-step process. There’s a lot more to the Hijab than just covering your hair, or wearing longer, looser clothes, or even covering your face! Some women have roller-coaster Hijab stories, while some find it to be a smooth transition. There are incidents that make you doubt your decision, and incidents that make you feel like an ambassador of Muslim women all over the world, and then there are just some random, uneventful and boring incidents such as not finding a Hijab pin and getting frustrated. There are people that make you feel unworthy, backwards, and even… ugly, and then there are people that treat you like a queen. Sometimes these are people that you really care about, and sometimes they are strangers that leave an impression and a mark that will never leave you. In the end all of these bits and pieces need to be sorted and sifted through to come to a final and concrete resolution about why you choose the Hijab as a lifestyle and not just as a religious obligation.
F.P told us about a group of women and girls that her family had volunteered to teach at Masjid Al Bara’ situated in their neighborhood. The Filipino community is so well-known for their characteristics of unity, open-mindedness and a motivation to learn. F.P and her family had been administering Quran halaqas for age groups starting from about five onwards.
The invitation was an event that Fatimah wanted to plan for WHD at the Masjid. Yes, we don’t need a singled out time of the year to raise awareness about the Hijab, but seizing this opportunity to have an open discussion with her group of girls at the Masjid seemed like a really good idea. I got to work immediately. Limited resources, limited time, limited abilities. Niqabinja and I brainstormed over the phone since we didn’t have enough time to have a face-to-face discussion. I took up responsibility for handouts, while Niqabinja took up our speeches (and transport!), and F.P was all set and ready with event coordination and supplies.
The talk was hurried and we were both really flustered, since we hadn’t practiced anything. We got there at around Maghrib time and gathered everyone right after Salah. It was an altogether exhilarating experience, standing there watching young faces ease into the speech as we made it a point not to be preach-y. 🙂 We acted out a play and then took up questions for discussion, most of which demanded a lot of vulnerability, openness, empathy and support. To make these girls IDENTIFY themselves as devoted Muslims, to help them find freedom, honor, dignity, respect, empowerment and FAITH, to make them understand that it’s not an easy step but it’s definitely worthwhile. We had a short Q & A session and had discussions with the girls about Hijab in extended family gatherings, Hijab in the West, faith and fashion, and the criteria for correct Hijab according to Shari’a principles.
The best part is that they catered to a minority group that actually wants and is in need of valuable, authentic Islamic education and an environment in which they may learn and grow as Muslims. This is always a huge problem for foreigners living in Middle-East countries, and there aren’t many options available due to language barriers. This hinders some people and slows them down, while it gives other people the opportunity to innovate and be an asset to their minority group just like the entire Pango family is. Having learnt and obtained substantial knowledge of Arabic, Tajweed and also having Quran memorization experience; they fit into the teacher roles perfectly and do their job so faithfully and diligently, it is inspiring beyond belief, masha Allah. It was such an honor to interact with them and connect at a deeper level-hearing their views and concerns, getting to know their struggles and experiences.
Yeah so that was awesome. 😀 A lot has happened since then. We’ll pour it in slowly I guess. Right, Niqabinja? Psssssssssssstt.. hadith circles.
“Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.”
It seems like it was only yesterday when we were at the door of the Dean’s office in Umm Al Qura University, all our paperwork in hand, nervously praying to be granted admissions and hoping that this would be our way in. By the grace of Allah, we relished the wonderful days at the Language Institute, in the company of esteemed professors and students from every corner of the globe. Two years whizzed by and before we knew it, it was all over and here I am witnessing the unforgettable graduation of Um Saifullah and Aye K. Congratulations! May Allah shower you both with success in this life and the Hereafter. -Niqabinja
Pictures: Umm Saifullah at Fakieh Aquariam
Captions taken from “Men and the Universe- Reflections from Ibn Al Qayyim”
“One of the most striking signs and capturing miracles of the Lord is the seas which surround dry land, in the form of inlets and bays from the great ocean which engulfs the entire land. It is so extensive that the exposed land with all its mountains and cities is, in comparison with the water body, like a small island in the midst of a great sea. The rest of the land is submerged under water. It is only the Power and Will of the Almighty Allah that holds water from submerging land and rising over it – to rise like this is in fact in the nature of water, and that is what puzzles the more sensible naturalists who are baffled by the reason that causes the rising above the sea of a certain part of land, though it is in the nature of water to rise over it and submerge it. They have no explanation of this but to attribute it to divine wisdom and the eternal mercy of the Lord who willed that circumstances should be smoothed for the land animals to exist. This is a truth, but it should lead one to submit to the Ability of the Lord; to His Will and Destiny; to His Knowledge, Wisdom and all His Attributes of perfection. The proofs are compelling in that respect.”
“It is a source of exceeding wonder to observe the sea and all the wondrous creatures in it, displaying a very wide diversity of species, shapes, sizes, functions, benefits (and harm) and colours. There are in the sea animals that seem like mountains, so huge that nothing on earth compares with them. Some of these seem to voyagers like an island; the similarity is so close that they actually land to rest there, and start a fire; and when the animal feels the heat it moves, and it is only then that the travellers realize that it is an animal. There is no species on land but it has a counterpart in the sea, even man, the horse, the camel and so forth. There are, besides, so many species that have no counterparts at all on land. In addition to that are its precious stones, pearls and corals. You see how a pearl is encased in a casket, the shell, that serves as a nest for it, providing it with protection and safety. Some pearls are hidden, never touched by hands. Observe how the coral has grown at the bottom of the sea out of solid rock below water, similar to a tree. The sea also contains other things like amber and valuable things that are thrown out by the sea, or are fished out.”
“Such a sign is this and such evidence! It is for this reason that this blessing is so often repeated in Allah’s Book. On the whole, the sea’s wonders and marvels are so numerous that no one but Allah is capable of making an inventory of them.”
“Think now of the fish, and the message embodied in it, the way it was created! That it was created without legs, as it does not need to walk, since it lives in water. It was not provided with lungs, as lungs are for breathing, and the fish are immersed in water. In place of the legs, it was provided with sturdy fins, which it uses to row on its sides, in the same way as a boatman uses his oars to row on the sides of the boat. Its skin is covered with scales that are overlapping to protect it from injuries in the same way as a chest is protected in other organisms. It was endowed with the sense of smell to compensate for its weak vision, and the water blocking its sight. However, it smells food from a far distance and moves towards it. It is mentioned in some books on animals that a fish has a canal that connects its mouth to the outer ear canal, so it takes water in its mouth, and passes it out through that canal, which gives it relief, in the same way as a land animal inhales a cool breeze into its nose, then exhales it, to refresh itself. A sea animal is similar to a land animal. The sea and the land are in fact two oceans, distinguished from each other in the extra softness of one in comparison with the other. The ocean of the atmosphere is the place for the land animal to float, and the sea is the ocean for the sea animal to swim in. Each would die if transferred to the other ocean. A sea animal would suffocate with air in the same way as a land animal would suffocate in water. So glory be to Him whose wonders are beyond the calculation of all creation, nor can any creature encompass the marvels of even a single wonder. If we get to know some miracle, we still are ignorant of others!”
“Reflect, then, on the compelling wisdom embodied in the fish breeding more than all other animals! You see in the abdomen of a fish more eggs than one can count. The wisdom in that is to produce enough for the many animals that seek it for nutrition. Most animals eat fish, even wild animals; they prowl on the edges of jungles, in proximity of clean water, and if they fail to catch land game, they lie in ambush for the fish to snatch them. And so, since wild animals eat fish, birds and humans eat fish, big fish eat fish, land beasts eat fish; all by the will of the Lord Almighty are given fish as food; He willed in his judgement to provide fish in that abundance! If a human were to see what the sea contains of diverse animals, precious stones, and other things that none but the Lord can keep count of, and which humans know only a scanty number of, nothing compared with what they ignore, he would be overwhelmed with what he had seen, and would realize the expanse of Allah’s kingdom, and the multiplicity of His troops, which none but Him can keep count of!”
I cannot begin to describe how grateful I was for this trip. The whole experience was exhilarating. I learnt that a sincere dua’a is never rejected by Al-Mujeeb… the One who responds.
These are long overdue snapshots from an average trip to university. Enjoy!