Do we all have that common longing for a time and place of perfection?
Sir Thomas More described utopia in his 14th century novel as a society that was the pinnacle of perfection. A society in which evil didn’t exist and the very social, idealistic and moral foundations it was built upon, were, as he put it simply, “perfect”. His mentioned fictional characters were assumed to be accepting of each other and that even door locks weren’t a necessity as the trustworthiness of the island’s inhabitants was picturesque.
He never failed to mention that the island was but a figment of one’s imagination and that no such place existed. Cries of “why couldn’t such a place exist?” and “why aren’t we striving towards a utopia?” could be heard from many cities, areas and countries after the publication of his novel. Although many people’s questions were left unanswered, today I want to take the chance to give the answer from the perspective of a young Muslim woman.
Growing up in a small Canadian city where the Muslim population was dismal and hijabs were scarce was always a challenge. My public elementary school consisted of a total of three Muslims, two of the three being my own siblings and the third being myself. It’s no surprise, then, that when I began wearing hijab, the other children in my school didn’t quite understand why the hijab was such a vital part of my faith. “Who’s making you do this?” they would ask. Some thought I had intentionally cut all my hair off over the summer, some thought I had been diagnosed with a disease that prevented my head from being exposed to the sun, and some even imagined as far as to ask if my ears had been removed due to an excessive case of swimmer’s ear. You list the thought, and I can almost guarantee I’ve heard it. My small town hijab experience was often a means of entertainment for my family, and we always managed to find the humour in the general public’s inquires while giving them dawah.
Yet in the back of my mind, I can’t help but think back to a time when my hijab was the fuel in a battle of discrimination; a time when children in my class would poke fun at my hijab at no one’s expense but my own. As a child, I always thought that my hijab would stop being an issue for so many and that I could go back to being just me and not “my hijab and I.” I always dreamed of that Hijab Utopia, where my hijab was accepted and where everyone respected both my hijab and I. A place where I wouldn’t have to answer the question, “Aren’t you hot?” several times a day, or be asked why I hadn’t “assimilated yet”.
My Utopia was a place where the social and moral fabric of the people was based on similar ideals, and we all appreciated our varying differences. I knew that no such place existed and that my Hijab Utopia was merely my own thoughts running circles in my head, but it wasn’t until I got to high school that I realized this. It was in those vital years that I learned that my hijab and I were but one side of a coin, and that people would always see me as such. It was one of my high school teachers (who once cracked a joke comparing my hijab to what she called a large napkin) who made me realize this. I wish I would have thanked her then, but let this article stand as a thank-you to her.
It was on that day that my dream of a Hijab Utopia died and I realized Sir Thomas More was right. Utopia wasn’t real, and I had been forcing my mind to run down the endless road of wishful thinking. I let it pace past the multiple dead-end signs and in that moment, I had hit a wall. I went home that night and etched down all of the competing thoughts and feelings I was having. I made wudu and prayed to my Lord, asking Him to make my heart firm and for Him to ease anything I was going through. When I was finished, I opened up my journal and began flipping through the pages, eager to find an ayah I had penciled down or a quote that could ease the ache. My fingers traced the pages and finally landed on what my heart had been searching for.
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” [Surah Al-Baqarah:186]
My Lord was with me. My worries evaporated, my fears stroked away as my head brushed my cheek, and my desire to live in the fantasized land of Utopia now gone because I knew Allah never lets the efforts of His servants go to waste. Everything is collected and accounted for. Every trial, every thread of patience and every dua are known to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He aided and protected our Beloved Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wasallam who faced hardships and trials we could never dream of facing. There is a great wisdom behind Allah testing us and sending trials our way. With the patience and passing of trials, Allah is raising our ranks in Jannah; He’s cleanings us of our sins and He is bringing us closer and closer to Him, subhanahu wa ta’ala.
My struggle in achieving my Hijabi Utopia had been a long, winding road, and at the end, I found Allah’s promise. That He would always answer my call and that He was indeed near. I had let my thirst for acceptance cloud who I really was, a Muslimah whose hijab did indeed define who she was.
You, my sisters, are all women of modesty and of taqwa, bi’ithnAllah, and if Allah grants us such, our Utopia is awaiting us in Jannah inshaAllah. We just need to remember that our hijabs are a test and a responsibility. We are symbols of Islam and many look to us to emulate what Islam represents. Yes, there will be days when some don’t agree with your hijab and what it stands for; but there will always be twice as many days when you bring someone closer to Islam just by being who you are – a Muslimah. We just need to hold onto the only perfect thing we have and that is Allah.