Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Thoughts About Myself vs Other People's Thoughts About Me!
Growing up as a muslim, I was raised differently from anyone who grew up in an integrated muslim community. I was raised in a country that back then was probably about 5% muslim. Whereas we were taught the basics, i.e. pray, fast, read the Quran, there were many things about the islamic lifestyle that we learnt later in life. The teachers were available, but with limited time so they focused on reciting the Quran, and without translation. Although I am ever so grateful for my parents who ensured that they give us this knowledge.
The one thing I grew up hearing from my dad is that I was muslim and nothing else. Prior to sending me off to high school in England he constantly reminded me that he was not going to walk me down the isle in a church. And having been branded the “favourite” by my siblings, I couldn’t fathom the thought of disappointing my father. I sincerely obliged.
Fast forward, early 2010 I started my journey to discover me and more about the religion that was so entrenched in my being. In 2006 I co-founded a business with two others, which turned out to be a success. Late 2015 I realised I wasn’t quite fulfilled. I became a little more curious about my spirituality. It was the void that I desired to fill then. During this transition I found more conflict than I was willing to deal with. The most significant of all was the veil.
My whole life of 30+ years the veil was never part of my dress code. Never. Except at the mosque. So I embarked on a journey to research ‘veiling in islam’.
My sister-in-law recommended a book, The Sweetness of Hijab by Safiyyah Zaghloul. Around July 2010, I bought the book and read it. It was very enlightening and such a friendly read with evidence from our teachings of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) and the Quran. It sure did help clear a lot of my doubts and conflict Now a few weeks later, while on a flight from Los Angeles to Dubai, a 23-yr old young lady sat next to me. Se was dressed in an Abaya (the all black muslim dress) and a Burka (the face covering with only eyes in sight). I was carrying my 3-month old son. The young lady sat next to me and asked “what is his name”, while pointing to the baby. I said “Rayyan”. She replied; “Oooooh how sweet, in my religion it means the gate that opens in heaven for those who fast a lot”. Of course she did not recognise that I was muslim. I was dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt, ideal enough for a 14-hour flight, dress with baby in mind incase he decides to so some damage on my clothes. After her response, I recalled, that in the book, Safiyyah Zaghloul reminds us that the veil should be viewed as a symbol of Allah’s love for us, not only to protect our beauty but that veiling lets others acknowledge our faith. Feeling the guilt of not being recognised as muslim, I defended myself by explaining that "I really wanted to veil but I was still struggling with the decision". Her response, “In Shaa Allah (God Willing) if you want it He will make it happen, He knows what’s in the heart”.
Wow! I thought! "She’s a God send.” That young lady was the only person who had ever said something so profound and without judgement, she left me mesmerised. She did not lecture me on the importance, which is what we do every chance we get, right! I absolutely believed that God was speaking through her. We each learnt a lot about the other’s spiritual journey. It was so refreshing for someone to understand my struggles and to give me nothing but hope in my quest to find myself. The next morning I found that veil, threw it over my head, albeit loosely. And I chose not to take it off ever since.
However I recently learnt that my actions at that time were not 'all-in' intentional. The self-judgement that I was carrying with me was evident. I was afraid of what everyone might think. And many couldn’t tell wether the veil over my hair was Islamic or simply fashion.
I learnt that my journey to self-discovery had so many thoughts about what others might think when I change. I learnt that I made a decision but yet tried to 'people please'. I learnt this;
That in Self- Exploration, while I embarked on a journey to discover who I was and what I stood for, that I struggled to make up my mind so I took on the veil in strides. I was conflicted with cultural differences having not been raised in an Islamic community. I was lurking in indecision, and as such my actions were telling everyone that I did not have what it takes to embrace my decision fully.
I learnt that as I tried to be more Self-Aware my emotional state had everything to do with my decision. I was not willing to be uncomfortable and I wasn’t willing to defend my decision. So I wore it decided, yet undecided.
I learnt that I needed a little more Self-Kindness because making a life changing decision can be very difficult at times. I was too busy judging myself over what others will say. I spent so much time in the mirror trying to make it look as trendy as possible.
The truth is Islam was at the core of my values then, as it is now. I believed it and yet I was not respecting my own boundaries. Self Respect was much needed at this time of transition.
I learnt that my own Self Doubt was walking ahead of me. I was half-true to myself. I believed that what others think about my dress code really mattered. And so I would frown upon all comments I thought were negative. But because I appeared undecided I allowed comments like, “are you veiling because your husband asked you to” or “why are you veiling like an old woman?”. Then I frowned like a problem!!
Hence, because of my own victimisation, I projected how I wanted to be treated. With doubt! I got several comments like "who's going to give you business in a veil" or "you are no different from a catholic with a cross" and many more than I careless to remember.
I also learnt that I spent so much time focusing on the negative comments rather than the uplifting ones. Yes I did have people who loved the courage I took to transition. But I couldn't even see my own courage nor the cheerleaders.
I have learnt that I was allowing my mind to be occupied with negative thoughts and expectations from others. As a result, that is what I manifested.
The good news is that with every journey there are lessons, and if we acknowledge them, we grow. My journey into coaching has been an amazing story. It has allowed me to love myself, along with my past mistakes. Life is a journey and with every steep climb, we have to remember that everything is happening exactly the way it was ordained. Every steep climb is an opportunity for growth.
Believing new things can be difficult. I believed I was muslim. I believed in the veil. But I did not believe I could pull it off. I learnt that the price of growth requires one to be uncomfortable. But most importantly, that compromising our core-values brings tremendous unhappiness in our lives.
It is for these reasons that I enjoy working with high-achieving women who are conflicted in decisions that may contradict with what they were taught in childhood. Women who are struggling to break through the cultural stereotyping while staying true to their morals and values. I help them overcome the self doubt, self criticism and all the conflict they struggle to overcome, as they figure out who they want to be at work or at home. I help ambitious women create the lives they desire. I love all my clients for their courage to grow.
But most importantly I am so grateful to the Almighty, Al- Raheem (The Most Merciful), who made this journey possible and for my parents who instilled those morals and values that are core to my being today and for all the many that I can't name here who have walked with me and showed me what's possible. May HE, The Al Alim (The All Knowledgeable) give us beneficial knowledge and keep us steadfast in HIS path. Ameen.