From the Old Blog: More Thoughts and It is Done

Disclaimer: I’m functioning on two hours of sleep as I had two large research papers and another smaller assigment due this morning, followed by six hours of classes.

I truly appreciate those of you who have supported me, if not my decision, then at least the exploration of the subject of hijab and it’s gravitational force over every Muslim woman and what it means.  ‘

If you truly feel that I am commiting a sin and am risking my immortal soul to hell, then by all means make mad dua for me.  This is appreciated also.  In fact, differing opinions are very much valued by me and I applaud and  love you sisters for keeping it civil in your disagreement.

Yesterday I walked outside with my hair blowing in the wind for the first time in seven years and it felt magnificent.  There is no guilt and no remorse.  I’ve made this decision and am truly at peace with it. Life continues and I am thankful and happy.

I’d like to address a couple of comments that were made both on this blog and on FB.  Some of them were thought provoking and beautiful: 

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“Maybe we’re on the track of something that happens to folks regardless of religious/philosophical context–the losing of the ways one has “defined” oneself while continuing to search for the roots. Interestingly, I keep coming back to a line in a song by Ani Difranco: “People talk about my image like I come in two dimensions/Like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind.”

Me: Yes, birth and rebirth is perhaps the gift/curse of the introspective mind…and so many Ani lyrics could apply here.  That alone makes me smile.

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“My advice is to do what you want. Follow Islam the way you see fit, and leave others behind. You will never be good enough for this person or the other. It is between you and Allah. Like you said hijab is not the main focus right now … if you feel that it hinders that relationship with Allah; then I would say take it off. Maybe you might want to put it back on, maybe not. But you will feel better about yourself if you make the decision for YOU and GOD. No one else has the right to say anything!”

Me: yes it has definitely become a hindrance to my spirituality. I have begun to resent it. It’s exhausting to always have to be an example of something pure and pious, a “symbol” of modesty, ever present.

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” I promise that when I read your blog, I felt as if those words could’ve come from me. When I read the words “salafi burnout”, I got tears in my eyes.”

Me: it’s a very real and genuine phenomena.  It’s best to face it head on, be honest, and come out of it with my faith still intact.

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“Dear sister, you are going through an Imaan crisis, this is a serious matter, I’ve seen reverts going through such a phase and they have left Islam (May ALLAH SWT guide them, Ameen).”

Me: My imann crisis is past alhumdulllilah.  The connection between the two concepts of hijab and faith are not interlinked in my opinion. In fact, as odd as this probably sounds to you, I’m taking off to increase my iman.

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“Exercise your choice, take it off and if it feels better so be it. If you miss it then by all means put it back on. It is a choice to be made and it is not black and white. There is gray in-between. Removing it does not have to mean forever, just as putting it on does not have to mean forever. Hijab is all about what it means to you, what it symbolizes for you.”

Me: Rarely are things black in white in this life. You wouldn’t know this talking to your garden variety Muslim though.

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As I progressed on my journey, was inundated and admonished with rules and regulations, after the euphoria of having found my enlightenment and a faith that seemingly answered all of my unanswered questions, I began to feel a little spiritually bankrupt. Why was everyone so concerned with the rules, so willing to treat you decently if you merely “looked” the part? This drives some to live “two” existences, donning the hijab/abaya while around other muslims and discarding at other times. Why do some find it so threatening when others seek knowledge and education instead of blindly following, isn’t this what the Quran and the Prophet (pbuh) encouraged us to do? I began to wonder why some where so critical of those who sought to have honest thought and discussion, those who wished to put the principles of our faith to work in the community, to have a dialogue that was not based on a “my God is bigger than your God” but on the commonalities that draw us together as human beings. I began to see that sometimes those who might have “looked” the part, those who were often the most judgmental and critical, were hiding behaviors and actions which had nothing in common with the character of our beloved Prophet (pbuh). If you beat your wife and kids but show up in public for every prayer does this make you a good Muslim? If you wear a scarf and abaya but never learn how to pray does this make you a good Muslim? If you don’t celebrate birthdays, Mothers Day or Thanksgiving but collect welfare, steal cable or cheat on your taxes does this make you a good Muslim? If you wear niqab and spread rumors or insinuate haraam about others children, if you try to cast doubt on other Muslims who may wish to serve the community or their families in a way that you don’t understand, does this make you a good Muslim?

Me: I’ve got nothing to add. It’s perfect as written.

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“You know, that time when one believes that muslims are perfect and its so easy to play the part of the salafist without question? Music haram? no problem. Mother’s day haram? no problem.
Until the day you wake up and, as you’ve mentioned, you’ve lost yourself. Then there’s the long path back to finding yourself and navigating the religious/political/cultural trappings…while desperately trying to hang on to that innocent faith you once had. This is my struggle.”

Me: Yep, mine too…but I just quit fighting.

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‘What you wrote was like a reflection of myself. I too have been thinking about a lot of things, just as you have, and what you wrote was like a reflection of myself. I am paralized by shame to speak about it. However, your speaking out inspires me. I really appreciate the thoughts and ideas and advise you have received in response to what you have shared.”

Me: I’ve thought about being or not being the “role model” and how others will perceive me as a bad example.  And yet, I believe that we should all be able to express our thoughts without fear and shame. Sometimes being brave is simply going forward with something that you believe in, especially when you know you’ll face adversity and resistance.

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“When we want our Imaan to get higher, we should think about the punishment of the grave, and the Day of Judgement.”

Me:  Wow somehow that didn’t increase my iman. If you reread what you wrote, perhaps you can see why.  It’s essentially saying in order to increase our love for Allah and Islam we should focus eternal damnation and hellfire. I prefer to focus on his love and mercy and make dua that our creator, the All forgiving, can overlook my bare head.

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“if you take off the hijab, you will please the ennemies of Islam, Shaytan and your nafs (your own desires), but you won’t please ALLAH SWT.”

Me: I really can’t comment on the “enemies” of Islam or Shaytan, but you’re right I am following my nafs. Sometimes, when something causes such a rift in your consciousness and the thoughts surrounding it are so heavy and abject, it’s best to discard that thing for your own sanity. I will not sacrifice happiness in this life for some abstract idea of what the ideal Muslim woman should be. I am not a martyr for all womankind. I am only myself and I will not allow myself to feel like a hypocrite.
Sorry sister I’m truly not trying to pick on you but it’s this mindset that I’ve come to dislike.

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Oh and it hides my double chin. LOL 😉

Me: Yep, gonna miss that one!

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A couple of you suggested I seek nasiha from a “respected” sheik or imam.  It’s as if you are assuming that I don’t know what he would say! First he would say that the hijab is clearly obligatory and then give me some very unclear verses.  The irony of the fact that this “expert” would most certainly be a man, well equipped with a patriarchal interpretation, having absolutely no idea of what it’s really like to wear the hijab.  I really can think for myself, weighed my options and came to a decision.

Several of you expressed concerns for my utterance of allegiance to the “progressive” or “reformist” groups and told me to be myself and not feel the need to belong to a group.

My statement that I now “belong” to these groups is purely ideological. i don’t believe that conservative Islam is compatible with my life and I definitely feel that the community as a whole is sorely lacking in the spirituality that is so intrinisic to any exploration and attempt to understand our Creator. If that makes me progressive or reformist then so be it.

I don’t follow any group anymore. I’m too old  for that. Part of  my initial attraction to Islam and even more so to the hijab was to belong to a group, to feel some type of commraderie with an entity larger than myself. 

And as is easily seen, that really backfired.  So yes, I will always try to be myself. I truly don’t care much about what other humans think anymore.

 

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “From the Old Blog: More Thoughts and It is Done

  1. never been better…truly.

  2. It takes a great amount of strength and courage to make such a difficult choice, but I'm glad that you made a decision that you feel is best for you and that has brought you peace.

  3. Im going through the same thing, except I will never take off my hijab. Why? because even if theres 0.00000000001 percent that this is what God wants, then there is no way, its coming off. I will hold on to that 0.01 percent if it means pleasing Allah.

  4. wow, as some of these posts show, it is easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations, the "outside" image of a Muslim with no regard for the inner spirit. It's like believing that Allah cares more about how straight your prayer line is than your actual prayer. This type of sheep mentality is how organized religion is used to control people. Islam is a blessing and a mercy for mankind, not a burden or punishment. The "scarf" is barely mentioned in the Quran and the focus is on modesty. There is no punishment given and the word hair is not used at all. Women were advised to cover their cleavage because at the time it was common for women to walk around completely naked on top!!! Yep, I said it, in addition, while their chests were naked, their heads were covered or "draped" with cloth because otherwise their heads would be scorched by the sun(which is the same reason men covered their heads as well). If you study the history of clothing, you will see that loose cloth that passed as clothing was due to the lack of sewing equipment or supplies due to the times and (gasp), no one wore underwear!!!!

  5. I would also argue that Muslim women and their clothing are even more of a political tool for Muslims. It's as if the future and dignity of the ummah rests on whether or not a woman has her hair covered up. I've never felt the pressure and judgement from non-Muslims as from within the Muslim community.

  6. I expect prejudice to come from men, as a woman I am at least used to that, but when it comes from our fellow sisters it makes me feel ashamed of how easily they can fall in line with the status quo and help hold up such a patriarchal view of religion and what our priorities should be. I am standing up and clapping and cheering for you Stephanie, if there is one thing our daughters and ourselves should know, it is to think for ourselves, and to speak with our own voice, not the voice of others. This is what being a role model for women is all about. Being real about who we are is a difficult path, but our intentions are pure, and God knows our intentions. This is what matters. And no one can take that from us.

  7. Stephanie- I am not Muslim but I am a Christian. Perhaps I do not understand but I feel that any "symbol" that becomes more important than the "walk" is false idolization. I feel that if something is not enhancing your internal faith then it is unneeded and becomes a distraction. Miss you and our rocking woodwind trio 🙂

  8. Happy Birthday my dear friend! It's hard to believe we've known one another since third grade. Love you!

  9. I think what you do and don't do is between you and Allah swt. I wear the niqab and I have had my run ins with various groups who either feel that because I am wearing it means I am trying to impose it on them (which am not), try to bash me because they think that I think its fardh (dang didn't know they could read minds and no that is not what I think), or think that because its not a dark color (preferably black) it defeats the purpose. I ignore them as usually they are just regurgitating what they have read online from a sheikh they can't verify. We can never please the creation so instead we should try to please the creator. Also don't let a group of people ruin it for you, sometimes you just need to cut them off.I love you for the sake of Allah swt and I make du'a that Allah swt grants us all hidayat, understanding of His deen and the strength to practice it properly. AMEEN

  10. Stephanie, you know that I am on a different plane with regard to religious beliefs, and I make no apologies for that. That said, I have so much admiration for you. You are a strong, beautiful human being, and I am glad to know you. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  11. @ Ahlam– your imagery is profound and it did have an effect on me. What's hard to understand is that I'm doing this to increase my iman, I want to start over and focus purely on the spiritual and loving Allah SWT. As counter intuitive as that seems, if you knew me better it'd make sense. Sometimes feel like a walking oxymoron.

  12. @ Umm Zakariya– No worries dear. I do feel that you have the greatest intentions and may you be rewarded for that. Like I said I value opposing opinions, especially when one is able to express them politiely. Thanks again.

  13. It's always interesting to go through things with a person… To follow them along in their life journey. So happy you found what was right for you.

  14. tuttie– thank you dear@ Lisa–I think our little online friendship is wonderful because we are living proof that two people with views that are essentially polar opposites can still find common ground and respect for one another. Much love to you.

  15. @ Muslim Hippie– truly on some level I wonder if I have failed some type of test. However, my jihad right now is again retaining some of the profound sense of spirituality and childlike wondernment in contemplating our deen. I've lost that along the way. I'm truly not a pious Muslim and can't honestly wear a symbol that represents . It feels wrong and dishonest.

  16. Oh Stephanie, I wish you the very very best in your journey =)A lector once shared that she, before she started exploring Islam further, confessed as a young girl to an uncle: "Uncle, I think there is no god." Her Uncle told her "Masha Allah, you have discovered the first half of the shahada." I'll look forward to standing by you as you insha Allah rebuild your relationship with Allah, and hopefully find some inspiration from you. *hugs*

  17. You said that you just quit fighting. I may not know you very well, but from what I can read from this heartfelt experience and your blog overall, I see you as continuing your fight and reflecting so much strength.You're building up from scratch, regrouping, searching and working on your love for God and spirituality. This is positive and a wonderful outlook. You've said that you can't wear a symbol when you can't represent. That's honest, raw and beautiful.God doesn't want anyone to be miserable and we all approach Him in our own way. Religion is supposed to be easy, right? But we make it so hard for ourselves. You're my hero for the week!

  18. @ Ayesha–that is a very beautiful story, thank you.@ Muslim Hippie– yes, sometimes I wonder if I failed the test. And yet my jihad now is to regain some of the love for Allah, his Messenger, and his Deen. I've lost that along the way and now completely returning to myself and rebuilding seems like the only option.

  19. @ Woodturtle– :). I guess what I was trying to say is that I want to feel peace, not like I'm doing battle everyday. It's a heavy burden to carry your faith and all that it represents on your head all of the time, especially when you've already realized you don't buy into at least 50% of the Orthodox views. I don't want that burden anymore, so I'm letting go.

  20. I may not be the kind of person you want to hear encouragement from (being not particularly religious, myself), but when I read the end of your post about "not much caring what human beings think" I wanted to cheer "you go, girl!" It seems like for women there is always someone, religious or secular, trying to fit us into some little box or other that doesn't allow us a full expression of humanity.And the short version of why I'm not religious anymore is this: Some years ago it occurred to me that if God had literally "formed me in the womb" as the Bible says, and if He really did want me to follow all the rules my church said He did, well, He has some serious design flaws to work out. Because He gave me a personality that is utterly miserable following those rules. I don't know; maybe my faith isn't so strong as yours. I know for sure I'm a lot happier not trying to impress the church, though.–Charlene

  21. @ Charlene– i so know what you mean. I'm also "utterly miserable" trying to be what conservative Islam says I should be. @ Sha–I'll email you inshallah.

  22. @ Sarah– much of what you say is true, except the last part made me cringe a little because I'm consciously trying not to concentrate on the hijab. I don't want to start thinking about it again right now. I want to think about Allah alone.As always thanks for the comment.

  23. I apologize Stephanie, I could never believe hijab itself is patriarchal, but the reasons people love to give me for wearing it, are. They never have to do with God, always I am told "you need to protect yourself from men." Really? huh…… So….that would mean I am doing it for men, or out of fear of men, and where does God come into that equation?Anyway, that was my thought process when writing that reply and I apologize for putting my own inward struggles onto your situation.. Sometimes I am good at doing that! lol.. I read some of the comments on here and forgive me, but that is what it reminds me of. Can you tell I am fed up? 🙂 lol

  24. Yay! Good luck as you explore God *yourself* and try to be yourself.

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