ramadan, Uncategorized

Ramadan Countdown Day 12

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

Today is day 12 which means that we are getting closer and closer to the most wonderful time of the year! Are you ready? I’m ready! And if you’re not ready, I’ve got another tip for you so that you can get a little bit more prepared! Beware, this is about to get a little serious.

This morning I watched a really good speech by Yasmin Mogahed on the topic of love. I know that it’s showing 40 minutes but you only need to watch the first 20. If you want the short version: there are different types of love and there is a space in our hearts that is reserved only for our love for Allah (SWT). Now, love can turn into a form of worship very easily. A love of money or power can very quickly grow into an obsession that results in hurting ourselves and/or others.

If we don’t put Allah (SWT) first, that love that should be reserved for Him is directed at other things. And inevitably those other things bring us misery and pain because they aren’t supposed to be in that place in our hearts. This includes our children, our spouses, and our parents. If we try to replace our relationship with Allah (SWT) with our relationship with our spouse, that love will grow bitter very quickly. Allah (SWT) must always come first.

So all of that to say, take time today to reflect on what is at the center of your heart. What do you love most? If you have noticed that you’re dealing with resistance and emotional pain in your relationships, analyze that relationship. Do you put spending time with your loved ones over praying your salat on time? As Yasmin mentioned in her video, are you doing tawaf around your children? Is their football practice more important than dhuhr? And what about material things? Love for money can quickly turn into a desire to do whatever it takes and sacrifice one’s Deen in order to get it. Are you still making time to stay on deen while on your grind?

As I and everyone else has said: Ramadan is about worshipping Allah (SWT) and focusing on one’s deen. To get the most out of this, we need to have Him at the center of our hearts. When He occupies that space within us, it means that we are doing what is necessary to be good Muslims. It means that we are praying our salat on time regardless of what else is going on and what other people think. I means that we are reading the Quran, memorising it, and reflecting on it throughout the day. It means that we embrace halal and turn away completely from haram. I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Taking time to recenter your heart as Yasmin talks about, is essential.

Is there something that you love so much, it’s become painful for you? Has it distracted you from what truly matters and given you nothing in return? If so, I encourage you to take a quick peek at the video linked above. It’s worth the watch and will definitely change your perspective on what love is.

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Self Love Sunday, Series, Uncategorized

Self Love Sunday

Assalaamu alaikum, everyone and welcome back to another Honest Hijabi moment! Today I want to talk about self-improvement/self-love and how to begin. I put improvement and love together because I don’t think we can have one without the other. I don’t believe that self-love is solely accepting ourselves as we are and not pushing ourselves to be and do better. Showing love to our minds, bodies, and souls takes work and sometimes that work is not easy. So to begin, the steps below talk about the mental work we need to do. For a long time I didn’t realise how powerful having control over my mind would be. Oh how I wish I could go back to 14 year old me and drill that into my big stubborn head. But I’m learning it now and let me tell you that it comes with so much freedom that you never realised you could have. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Step 1: Set up a solid base to work from.

We all know the saying that goes “Without a solid foundation, a structure cannot last.” Or something like that. Same thing goes for us. If we try to glow up only through shallow methods while ignoring the deeper changes that need to take place, our transformation will be temporary. A shallow glow up would be buying new makeup, changing up your hairstyle, and buying new clothes. Fun? Yes. Trans-formative? Absolutely. Impactful and long lasting? Not so much. So for a glow up that never stops glowing, we start with mental and physical health. This involves strengthening our deen, meditation, practising mental self-discipline, therapy, getting your levels checked, getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, getting physical, etc. This can also go deeper into letting go of relationships, things, and habits that bring you down. From this we can create a much smoother canvas to start painting ourselves onto.

Step 2: Build your character.

This one should be simple but some of us, like myself, didn’t have the best role models in this area growing up so we have to learn on our own. Character basically encompasses your moral values and personality. Having good character can look like being kind, keeping promises, acting with compassion and empathy, being generous, following through, being honest, being loyal, etc etc. These are really good traits to build up in ourselves but come with a lot of practice. These will carry you forward in life and bring you across all kinds of people and situations that will allow you to grow your personality as well. When we have these traits in place, we can build our personality around it to be whoever we want to be. We will also make friends easily and gather up beautiful life experiences that add more to us.

Step 3: Get to know yourself and stop over adapting.

One thing with growing up shy is that you tend to form a habit of adapting to those around you in order to blend in and survive in social situations. Couple this with my parents’ lack of social skills and a smooth social life and I entered my 20’s so bored of myself. Of course I had a personality but I was always so concerned with stepping on people’s toes or messing up that I suppressed a lot of it. I only gave answers that I thought people wanted to hear and therefore, no one ever really got too close to the real me. It’s hard to make friends that way and only makes you feel bad about yourself. So, stop it. Stop adapting so much to the people around you that you disappear completely. You are beautiful as you and you have every right to be yourself and have opinions as they do. You’ve worked on your character so if you act and speak through that, you have nothing to apologise for if someone chooses not to like you anyway.

Also, start journaling so that you can become familiar with your inner thoughts and feelings. This is also a great way to ramble and get all of the word vomit out of your system (just in case you struggle with that like I do). You can also conduct mini interviews with yourself where you write down lists of simple, easy to answer questions about you and answer them as truthfully as you can. This really helped me figure out what I liked and what I’m like so that I can stop being a doormat who just says “I like everything” whenever someone asks my opinion.

Step 4: Detach from other’s expectations and criticisms of you.

Something I wish I had known a long time ago is that you cannot become attached to what other people think of you. You shouldn’t become attached to the people themselves either. Just think of this: if you didn’t care what other people thought of you, what would you go out and do with your life right now? Go write that question down and then answer it in writing and reflect on it. What would you do without all of the unnecessary attachments to unnecessary people and their opinions? If that person is not close to you and they’re not someone that supports and encourages you, then what their brain comes up with about you doesn’t matter.

I used to want everyone to like me so bad so I would end up so attached to how they perceived me. I wouldn’t even really care for these people myself but for some reason I still wanted to be a certain way so they would like me. I would still sacrifice my precious time to go bore myself hanging out with them just to get some kind of invisible reward. This isn’t to be mean or dismissive of anyone. This isn’t about being petty and snobby and nasty to people. This is about learning to set boundaries so that you can live your best life. If there are people that are freely putting you down or expecting a lot out of you without giving much in return, then they are not the people for you. Why are you so worried about what they think of you? What do you think of that person? Do you like them? Are they fun to be around? Are they worth your time? You are not at everyone else’s mercy when it comes to your own well-being and social life. These are things that you build up for yourself and it’s time to be more discerning about who we let onto the building site.

Step 5: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

This is so important because taking oneself too seriously can undo so much work and make things stressful and weird with those around you. While it’s important to set boundaries and make necessary changes, remember to have fun with it and maintain a good attitude throughout the process. When you need alone time, don’t just shut your loved ones out. Let them know it’s all good, you just need some time to yourself. If someone jokes with you about what you’re doing, don’t immediately take it to heart in a negative way. Usually they mean well and as long as they’re respecting your new boundaries, it can be fun to laugh about it and bond over it. People gravitate towards chill, easygoing people and the more you can laugh at yourself and have fun with life, the more you’ll be that person. So those are my 5 quick steps to starting self love.

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

Happily Ever After

Last night, my husband and I attended our first wedding together. It was a beautiful event and my first experience at an Asian wedding. There were so many little moments that took me back to the night of our own nikkah ceremony. We didn’t even have much of a wedding really; it was simple, held at his cousin’s house and only family were present. But it was perfect. I just remember the feeling of sitting beside the love of my life and feeling such excitement and love for him. The love that emanated from both of us was the best part of the entire thing. Seeing the love and happiness that radiated from the beautiful couple last night reminded me of that.

Once we had sat down at our table and had a chance to take in the atmosphere, my husband asked me if I would have an event similar to this one if I could go back and change what we did. It was such a beautiful venue, the decorations were tasteful, the bride’s outfit was stunning. It would be such a fun (even if it was stressful) experience but the work and money involved are a big factor that would turn me away from that kind of celebration (call it laziness if you want). I can honestly say that I would still choose to recreate every single detail from our original wedding. It was by no means extravagant, I wasn’t wearing my dream dress, my husband ordered his suit off of ASOS, my family couldn’t be there, and we didn’t have a grand banquet and loads of guests but it was perfect. And in all reality it reflected who we are and our values. Just as our friend’s wedding last night was perfect for them and reflected their personalities. We didn’t really set out to plan something simple, we just wanted to get married. At the time, I was in school and we were living 4,000 miles away from each other. I was unable to work and so had very little money at the time to put towards a ceremony. But the result was something really beautiful to both of us. It was like that feeling of getting your first tiny apartment and eating cold pasta on top of a cardboard box because you have no furniture. It’s not something you think you want but it ends up being one of your fondest memories.

I loved that the night was somewhat relaxed and that we actually got to enjoy ourselves. I loved that my husbands cousins love him enough and were so generous to not only offer their house for the venue, but to also plan out the entire night and provide food and gifts. I loved the 4 hour hour ordeal that was finding my dress only the day before. Traipsing through Southall for an entire afternoon trying to find a decently pretty dress for under 100 pound makes for one of my favourite stories from that trip. Keep in mind that this was my first time in London, I had never haggled before in my life, and my husband wasn’t accustomed to purchasing women’s suits so he wasn’t too practiced in haggling either. Needless to say, my mother-in-law still thought the 60 pound we paid was too much and took it upon herself to come with us when we went shopping for the dress for my walimah.

All this to say that a wedding, especially an Islamic one, is about uniting with your life partner, the person you love most and following the sunnah. I love that my wedding was simple with no frills because the sole focus was on our love for each other and worshiping Allah (SWT) through this union. I definitely wasn’t marrying him just to have a big, special day so there were no blinders over my intentions, alhamdulillah. And even now, we’ve kept to our tradition of keeping things simple and we are so happy because of it. The Prophet (SAW) even said that the best weddings are those with the least expense and hassle. These events should be happy times for both the guests and the newlyweds. Everyone should get a chance to chat to each other, share stories, take photos, eat good food, and make wonderful memories. After it’s all said and done, what matters and what is real is your new marriage. Finding the perfect dress (one that you will only wear once) won’t matter, planning the perfect menu won’t matter, no one can really tell the difference between professional makeup and makeup you’ve done yourself, most of the guests only come for a free meal, and most of the pictures will stay hidden away in an album on your phone.

In this day of showing off for social media, it is so easy to get distracted from what is real and permanent. Instead, let’s focus on our significant others and focus on having a happy, healthy, and loving relationship. You can have a big wedding if you wish or you can have a small one. It’s about the two of you and what you value There’s no right or wrong way to do it as long as you you do it in a way that honours Allah (SWT). If you can look at one another with so much love and pure intention like the beautiful couple did last night, you’ll be just fine.

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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