Author: Nora Ammar
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ ٱللَّهَ فَٱتَّبِعُونِى يُحْبِبْكُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْۗ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [3:31]
After I returned from Hajj, I made a decision to transform completely. I changed in innumerable aspects, but perhaps the most apparent of them is the way I dress. A few people asked me why I changed my dressing style and wear these abayas now. The answer to this question requires a long, deep and elaborative response, but the short, simple answer is this: because I truly love Allah, more than anyone and anything this life and this world has to offer. This is the story of how I found true love— love for Allah and His Deen.
The past three years of my life were the most unstable and difficult years I’ve had. During this time I went on a mental and spiritual journey to regain a happiness I had lost. Every time I thought I had found it and that the light had finally shone on my life again, it wouldn’t last, as I would be plunged back into darkness soon afterwards. It happened over and over and over, with me losing a little more hope every time. I kept pinning my hopes on different things, but almost everyone and everything proved to bring me pain. The light at the end of the tunnel only appeared when I finally established a strong connection to Allah.
The mistake I made is that I kept depending on certain things I shouldn’t have depended on for my happiness. Certain people. Certain places. Certain times. Certain activities. Certain goals. You see, all these things are transient and unguaranteed. All these things could be taken away at any moment. People could leave you, move away, or pass away. Imagine that someone you love dies. Does your happiness die with them? You could be forced to leave a certain place, or you could return to it to find that it has changed and will never be the same dear place you remember. Imagine that you have no option but to leave your hometown for a job opportunity. Does your happiness leave you with it? Imagine that the city of your dreams is obliterated by an earthquake. Is your happiness obliterated with it? Times are always evolving, and yesterday is never quite the same as today, just like tomorrow will never be quite the same as today. Imagine that tomorrow brings bad news, or that the good old days of a specific phase in your life are gone. Is your happiness gone with them? A particular activity could become something that you can no longer practice. Imagine that you are injured in an accident and can never play the sport that you’re passionate about again. Is your happiness over? One of your ambitions could become unattainable to you. Imagine that your dream was to become a singer but you develop vocal cord paralysis. Does your happiness end there? I came to the realization that everything in life— and life itself— is temporary. Nothing ever lasts. Everything has a beginning and an end.
Except Allah. Allah is the one and only permanent and eternal Being. When your source of happiness is something impermanent, then once it’s gone, so is your happiness. But when your source of happiness is Allah, it will persist forever. No matter what you lose, no matter who goes away, as long as you have Allah, you’re satisfied. I’m not saying that you can’t love certain individuals, pastimes and places, or that you can’t have goals and dreams, and that they can’t provide you with joy. Of course not. Spending time with your family and friends pleases you? That’s awesome. Playing basketball is something that brings you thrill? Great. You have a passion for medicine and your dream is to become a successful doctor? Good for you. All these things can bring a smile to your face, of course. However, you can’t rely on them as your ultimate source of ecstasy. While you may derive pleasure and delight from them, you must understand and accept that they can vanish in an instant, and if they do, that doesn’t mean that your sense of contentment has to vanish along with them. You could be miserable and devastated for a while, but at the end of the day you recognize that it is Allah who brings true elation and that just because these things are gone doesn’t mean that your life is over. Allah will bring other people and things into your life that will make you experience glee again.
I can’t possibly count the number of times Allah has given me a miracle and the number of times He has saved me. There were times when I was in utter despair, and I could only cry and beg Allah for miracles— miracles that I didn’t even think were possible. And guess what? He granted me miracles. He answered my prayers. He gave me more than I could’ve ever asked for. Every single time. He gave me everything. He gave me life and love and bliss. Isn’t it enough that every milliliter of blood my heart pumps is at His command, every molecule of oxygen my lungs breathe is at His command, trillions of biochemical reactions in my body occur every second at His command, and every single cell in my body is alive at His command? I don’t think people really ponder this, but they should. Do you understand the magnitude of what Allah really does for us? A single malfunction could occur in your body at any second that could give you a disease or kill you. But you are kept healthy and alive by His will. Isn’t it enough that He has given me a comfortable life, good health, a loving family, more than enough food, shelter, safety, a good education, and access to healthcare? What more do I want?
Not to mention that Allah directs our lives and fates in ways that we could never even begin to imagine. Have you ever tried to connect the dots in your life and understand how things would’ve been drastically different if this certain event hadn’t happened or if you hadn’t gone through that particular experience? Every little thing that happens in your life happens for a reason. Allah made you run into this specific person because they would have a positive influence on you. He made you start that career because it would change your life. Even things that might seem random are not. He made you not feel hungry on that specific day because the food at the gathering you went to was spoiled. Even the things that are apparently bad for you at first turn out to be good later, whether you realize it or not. He made you go through this pain so that you could become stronger. He made you miss that flight because the plane would crash. He made you get rejected by this university because the other one would be better for you. He made you ill on that day because an unpleasant incident would’ve happened to you at school. Literally every little seemingly irrelevant occurrence in your life is meant to play a certain role and have a certain effect on you. Perhaps most people don’t notice these things because they’re not deeply reflective the way I am. But I see Allah in my life everyday, in everything. Bear in mind that this is only a tiny fraction of what He provides us with; these are only the things that we know of. 99.9999999999% of the blessings that Allah bestows upon us are things that we’re not even aware of. Knowing this, how could I not be grateful? How could I not love Him? How could I possibly disobey Him, or at the very least not feel extreme guilt and shame when I do? Allah gives us so much and only asks very little of us. What He asks of us is nothing compared to what He gives us. We owe Him everything, yet we can’t even obey His simple commands. And it’s not like what He asks of us benefits Him in any way; in the end it’s for our own good, whether we understand why or not. I made a vow to Allah that I would change, and I have. I’m never breaking that vow. Life is the ultimate test and I’m not going to fail it. I’m never going back now.
Words can’t describe how glad and comfortable I am to wear abayas. People might say that hijab restricts freedom, but it doesn’t. If you think you’re “free” and wear what you want, think again. What you believe is what you want is not actually what you want; it’s what the fashion industry wants. Let’s be real here. You’re not wearing those Nikes because out of the all the shoes in the world, they happen to be the ones that you like or find most comfortable. You’re only wearing them because they’re Nikes. You’re only wearing those jeans because everyone else wears them. You’re only carrying that purse because it’s the latest trend. You’re only wearing that dress because the media brainwashed you into thinking that you look gorgeous in it. You only have that outfit on because you’re trying to impress someone. You see, whether you like it or not, whether you’re aware of it or not, and whether you acknowledge it or deny it, the media and fashion trends shape what you “want” to wear, on some level of your subconscious or conscious. They determine what you consider to be beautiful or ugly. Yes, you’re brainwashed by all the content you’re exposed to and what you take in on a daily basis. And this doesn’t just apply to clothes; this is true for everything in life. You’re not free; you’re a slave of the media and of society and of bandwagons and of people. If I’m going to be a slave of someone or something anyway, then I’d rather be a slave of Allah.
Even if you truly do what you want, you’re still a slave of your own desires. You give in to them and allow them to lead your life. You don’t control your desires; your desires control you. These yearnings are a weakness Allah put inside of us. You’re weak against them. You can’t resist their temptation even when you know they’re bad for you. Just look at the unhealthy food you can’t stop eating and the cigarettes you can’t stop smoking and the alcohol you can’t stop drinking. Just look at the toxic relationship you can’t end because of your attachment to that person. Just look at the girl or guy you can’t stop chasing because of your desperate longing for them. Just look at the bad habits you can’t get rid of and the addictions and obsessions you can’t free yourself of. Desires chain you, and your love for Allah and willingness to obey Him sets you free and makes you strong against them. You’re not even aware that most of the time these cravings aren’t even really your own thoughts but merely the whisperings of Shaytan (you just can’t tell the difference), which means you’re only fulfilling Shaytan’s wishes.
I’ve confirmed that following my desires leads me nowhere and ultimately destroys me. I’ll wear what Allah wants me to wear, because what Allah wants has become what I want. I’d rather submit to His will than succumb to my own yearnings. Because the truth is, Allah knows us better than we know ourselves. You think you know what’s good for you but most of the time, you really don’t. Obeying Allah is what grants you true freedom; you don’t have to blindly follow the crowds anymore, you don’t have to worry about your appearance and reputation anymore, and you don’t have to impress this person and that person anymore. All you have to worry about is pleasing Allah and no one else. If that’s not ultimate freedom and peace of mind then I don’t know what is. Plus, I genuinely do feel happier and more comfortable like this. I love abayas. In a society where women have become sexually objectified, I feel more empowered covering up. Now you can no longer judge me by my physique or appearance; you can only judge me based on my character. I don’t want people to notice, analyze, or comment on my body, especially since I started working out. I want to feel like I work out for my own health and fitness and out of honest love for it and not just to build a more attractive body and show it off like most people do. I don’t want to try to get attention from people; I want to try to earn Allah’s love instead. If people think you’re beautiful, yes it’s flattering; but if Allah thinks you’re beautiful, it’s the greatest honor.
I know that some of my friends are not happy with the new me, and that’s fine by me. I don’t expect everyone to understand. I can talk about Allah and Islam for the next ten years, but the truth is that people will only truly understand when they reach the level of faith that I have reached. This is something that can’t be taught or passed on; this is something that you must experience on your own in order to grasp. I know that I’m on the right path and that I have changed for the better. I’m a far happier, stronger, healthier, more confident, and more tranquil person now. I’m a more forgiving, respectful, polite, and honest person now. And I aspire to become kinder, more generous, more loving, and pure-hearted. To me, religion isn’t just some sort of obligation like it is for a lot of people. It’s a way of life and a means of developing a genuine relationship with Allah. I don’t pray just because I have to and to get it over with like most people do; I pray to speak to Allah. I don’t read Quran just because it’s some sort of task I have to complete and get out of the way; I read it because Allah speaks to me through it. Life is a journey to Allah, and I know for a fact that Allah made me go through all these experiences so I could find Him. I couldn’t be more grateful. Being who I am today is worth all the suffering.