The past few days, in the midst of discovering bus routes to avoid taking the Tube, work, and class, I have been anything a student continuing to learn about Islam and hopefully strengthening my Din, Alhamdulillah.
I had always known Al-Islam. but to accept it. To believe it as Truth. This is my new way. New to me. I just hope I can keep up with my own growth, inshaAllah. So, in the following post, I have just outlined some of my recent experiences and emotions.
Tuesday morning, I rise before the sun, mashaAllah. When I finally made it out the door, I thought I had dressed myself pretty well. Jeans? Yes, but loose and mostly covered by a gray long shirt that I’m so thankful I purchased a year ago. Like my other 2 long shirts, I find myself wearing it now every week in an attempt to fulfill the requirements of hijab. I had a purple-ish shawl to cover my hair, ears, neck and draped it over my shoulders and bosom. It was certainly a lot of fabric to organize in such a way. But, I felt fine because the beautiful purple made me look anything but drab.
Fast forward 1.5 hours on the bus, a class in which the teacher told me gaily “Each week I can’t wait to see what you’ll wear next,” and me replying, “Me too!”, and making it to work, and the tense feeling of being afraid of representing this new-found beauty incorrectly resurfaced. And I have so many examples to reference.
My job, in Brixton, is full of Muslim women and girls wearing hijabs, but usually a full jilbab, a long draping coat extending over the entire body. Many of the women who attend the Baytree Centre, are women who wear their jilbabs.
Well Tuesday I saw one sister. I smiled, not seeing any opening in her face for me to do anything more. As I walked past her, I could feel her eyes move down my ensemble grudgingly. I continued walking away, hoping it was just my imagining things. A few minutes later I walk back into the hallway and saw her speaking with another sister in full jilbab. Optimistic, I approached them smiling, when I was close enough, I said “As Salaam-u-Alaikum”. To my surprise, I received a grunting sort of nod from the second sister and I’m pretty sure the first just stared at me.
Furious, I returned to the IT Room. I tried to remember one lecture I was listening to about avoiding anger and seeking Allah when we want to get angry. It worked intermittently, mashaAllah, but then the anger turned to disappointment and then sadness. I guess, because I feel so new and I have so much to learn, any bit of criticism or negativity completely ruins my day. I thought, with a saddened heart, “Am I not your sister too?”
As I walked to the local market to get the cooking materials for our class this afternoon, I phoned my mom, asking her about this. She responded nonchalantly, indicating that this is quite common.
I told her that this was not reason to say this is a feature of Islam. No. Not at all. This is a feature of our humanity or lack there of. Not of what has been perfected for us.
We agreed to disagree.
“Mom I’ll call you back.” As I hopped on the bus.
My doubts quickly subsided when an elderly Muslim lady sat next to me. And not only faced and smiled me, but greeted me in the Muslim words of peace “As Salaam-u-Alaikum.” Ahhh, my heart filled once again as I eagerly returned, “Walaikum As Salaam.” God is good.
And to further that blessing, yesterday, I was helping in the adult class for job search. The two ladies I was working with were Muslims, one from Turkey, and the other from Paris. As I sat down to help them, no greeting was needed. I could feel the peace. Once I asked them where they were from, I shared that the end of this month I am going to Istanbul and that this weekend I will be in Paris, inshaAllah. They were both happy for me, and the French-Algerian sister even joked as she touched my knee, “You are going to Algeria too then? When I go back you can come with me.” She was so nice. I appreciated the kindness from the two mothers.
But then again, the other French-Algerian sister I had met, only a few weeks ago was probably the nicest person I’d met since I have been here, buying me sandwich and brownie as we sampled cheese in Borough Market. In addition to discussing London, Islam, and France, she told me of her struggles and of the overt racism in France. Again, I listened and learned, mashaAllah.
And then yesterday evening! Oh, by the grace of God, a sister I met through a facebook event group (Global Pink Hijab Day) invited me to her university’s Somali Society’s Soo-Mal. Last night at the event, they raised over 1,000 pounds to go towards Medinah Hospital in Somalia. It was absolutely inspiring to see the young women from Somalia speaking their British English and donning beautiful hijabs and bangles and skirts. At dinner, I met two of the sister’s friends and they were as welcoming as they were hilarious. I had a good time with them after everyone left, sharing my experiences of growing up in the Nation, being African American, taking Shahada a few weeks ago, Alhamdulillah. They were, surprisingly, very very interested. To the point where all eyes were on me and after the slightest interruption in our conversation, they replied, “Continue”. We discussed the many cultures and people who share Islam and I was happy to see how excited and positive they were. It was like, all the small joys I have been experiencign these past few weeks, they knew so well and were happy to remind me of how beautiful Islam truly is.
It felt good to be around good people. Two Somali sisters and one Malay sister and we chatted just like that (sisters) all the way to the Tube.
So much more in store, Hamdulillah 🙂