Published in  
Matters of the Heart
October 15, 2020

You're Not Alone: An Open Letter

Dear Reader,

How are you doing?

How are you really feeling these days, amidst these turbulent and uncertain times we are living in? If you’re overwhelmed, anxious, unsure, and confused, I assure you, you are not alone.

Recently, a Muslim influencer whom many young men and women followed or considered a pioneer in the world of business and ‘modest’ fashion, decided to take off her Hijab. The internet exploded, with comments ranging from hate and disgust to ‘inspiring!’ and ‘you do you!’

Many were hurt and disappointed, embarrassed and angry. Some were elated and felt empowered. If you are of those who felt the confusion, disappointment and anger…then this letter is for you.

If you are trying to understand this world of social media and influencers, not sure who to take knowledge from, who to follow and who not to follow, and what boundaries to put in place, then this letter is for you.

If you are new to practicing Islam and exploring the intricacies of it, and have been really wanting to wear the hijab, but you just don’t know where to find your stance amidst every other opinion, then this letter is for you.

After all, we are one Ummah, one community, and it is our duty to reach out to one another and pull each other out of the darkness. We are a people who believe in the power of reminding and advising each other, enjoining in what is good and forbidding what is evil.

In a world where it seems to be getting increasingly harder to hold onto faith, with a few even leaving Islam and doing anything possible to hide their “Muslim-ness”, of course, you’d feel hopeful to see a famous Muslim woman holding onto her hijab while being quite out there and getting things done. Even if what they’re wearing cannot be termed as “Hijab” in its true sense, they have at least managed to withstand the pressure that comes with being in an exposed and high-profile society; it makes you feel assured that “if they can be expressive and proud of their faith, so can I”.

Unfortunately, this bubble of reassurance bursts when the same influencers take off their hijab, and add insult to injury by explaining that it is their choice. But is it, really?

It is absolutely normal for you to be doubting yourself; because planting seeds of doubt with a triggering event is exactly what Shaytan loves to do. Moreover, with the floodgates for opinions wide open, you might be fed with a plethora of your own thoughts:

As long as my heart is pure, Allah isn’t going to question me about my Hijab right?”

“Isn’t it hypocrisy if I continue wearing the hijab if I don’t feel like I’m being true to myself when I’m wearing it?”

“Wouldn’t Allah want me to be true to myself? I just don’t feel like I’m up there to start wearing the Hijab, I’m just not noble enough!”

Before you allow Shaytan to mess with your mind further, stop, and remember that we are no one to assume what Allah will or won’t question us for, especially after He has given us clear guidelines, sent a Messenger with mercy and compassion, to show us how to lead a life that would ease our path to Jannah.

Rather than questioning, we need to work with what we do know; which is that Allah has made the hijab fardh (mandatory) upon us, just as He has made it obligatory to perform the five daily prayers, fasting in the month of Ramadan, and many more acts of worship. The ultimate rule you and I must remember even when the storms hit us wildly, is that hijab is an obligatory act of worship.

Our Iman will fluctuate, as is the fundamental nature of us human beings. But this fluctuating Iman and the grit to hold onto Faith is what determines your ultimate destination in the Hereafter. A shaky Iman only suggests that we hold on to what we know dearly and try our best to follow what Allah has taught us, and even if we slip, we must always remember that nothing is more beloved to Allah than a person who does not despair of His mercy; so we get back on our feet and entrust our heart to Allah.

When we feel low and demotivated to pray, we still pray. We continue praying and keep making Dua that Allah lifts our Iman through some means or the other; but whatever be the case, we shouldn’t leave our Salah, ever. The same goes with Hijab- whether your favorite influencer put on the hijab or took it off, we take it in stride. We don’t let them or their actions affect our Iman.

At the end of the day, it is our heart and soul that we must take care of. We are going to live with it, and die with it. Allah is going to hold you accountable for your actions as long as He has given you the intellect, free will and emotions to make decisions rationally. So why depend on another human, who is by nature created with flaws like you and I, on something as huge as performing an act of worship?

No matter how religious any Influencer is perceived, we need to remember that opinions are not fatwas, and humans don’t make perfect laws.

We don’t blindly follow the trope of “My Body, My Choice”. Yes, it is our body, but Allah is the One who has all rights upon it, especially when it comes to the commands He has issued upon us. Let’s be objective- is it logical in any way to cite the reason for not performing a divine obligation as ‘my body- my choice’ when both the physique and free will have been given to us by Allah? Especially, when by the definition of our identity (i.e. by calling ourselves Muslims), we have submitted our entire being to Him?

Yes, we all have a choice in this world- in what path we choose to take and leave, but let it be made clear that some of these choices will please Allah and some won’t. Some will break us, and some will make us. Free will doesn’t give the right to commit sins openly, preach or justify them. It is a trait and gift given to us to make choices between the good and the bad, to lay the pathway to Paradise or Hell. If one chooses to sin, then it is their choice, but that does NOT justify it, or call for “don’t judge me” statements.

When a Muslim genuinely advises a brother or sister, they’re not judging you- rather reminding you of the responsibility you have towards Allah, yourself and others. So when an Influencer does something wrong openly, thereby un/intentionally influencing others to follow, and also comments that it is their choice, hence no one can question them about it- here’s what we do:

  • Pray for their guidance and ours.
  • Don’t question your own choices by measuring it against theirs. You are wearing the hijab for the sake of Allah. You know the struggle it took to wear and hold onto it. Remind yourself that Hijab is not just a piece of cloth. It is an adornment of protection and pride Allah has given you.
  • Try to advise the Influencers in a good manner, without foul language or bullying. Do not ridicule them. We don’t know of Allah’s plans for them, and it is not upon the Sunnah to speak harshly to a fellow human being.  
  • Don’t further bring their names or sins to the spotlight. Many might have not known about it, but by exposing, the negative influence might spread more, God forbid.
  • Take care of those around you. If someone you know is influenced by their actions, remind and guide them towards the true path and essence of Islam.

So who are the Influencers we can choose to trust?

Here’s what is important to look for when following an Influencer:

  • Genuineness: Ensure that they are not after fame, money and popularity. How will you know that? Through their content, how much of their posts are ads or sponsorships, through their reactions and responses to those who lend them sincere advice, to how easily they can move further away from the Deen, when it draws them closer to something in this material world, like money, fame etc.
  • Abide by the Deen: Those who abide by the principles of our Deen. The only way you can know this is if you are well versed in your Deen. If you know what is right and wrong, you will be able to recognize what is right and wrong. It’s so important to know your stuff, and if you don’t know, look to the scholars to guide you.
  • Consistency: One of the biggest red flags of following an Influencer is when there is a lack of consistency and discipline when it comes to following their principles. An Influencer who knows the importance of Hijab will adhere to it, come what may. Someone who isn’t principled will be inconsistent. They may talk about Hijab being modest and an act of covering one’s beauty and not showing one’s figure, but then they will go ahead and post a picture of wearing a form fitting jumpsuit with Hijab the very next day. It starts with covering the hair and neck, then suddenly they wear a turban-hijab with their neck showing. Then the arms get revealed, and then a few years down the line the Hijab is completely off.

These are patterns of red flags. Set principles for yourself on the grey areas- not halal or haram- so that you do not end up falling into something that’s impermissible just because a ‘Muslim influencer’ has done it.

  • Say no to Feminism: Islam doesn’t need a Feminist Movement. 1400 years ago, women were already empowered through the Messenger and the revelations of Quran. Both freed women from oppression and mistreatment that was prevalent in the pre-Islamic era. It gave us rights, freedom, raised our status and protected us with Shariah law. Unfollow Influencers who preach misconstrued aspects of Feminism, gender equality, or equate freedom of choice to having a choice in our obligations to Allah.

Can’t find such Influencers today in Social Media? We have some exemplary examples in our own Islamic history, who we can forever be committed and loyal to.

These were the real influencers who perfected their faith. One was a righteous and chaste single mother, another was a devoted wife and business woman, the third was a beloved daughter and home-maker, the fourth- an eager and youthful student of knowledge and finally, there was the courageous, brave and patient Queen. All these women had varied roles, responsibilities and positions in the worldly life. Why? Because we are all created differently. Someone we relate to and seek inspiration from may not be whom the next person does. And so, Allah has given us different kinds of personalities and women of different roles, colour, background, responsibilities and struggles to choose and learn from.

So who exactly are these amazing women?

“From among the women of the world who have reached perfection and who are worthy of following are (the following four): Maryam the daughter of Imran; Khadijah daughter of Khuwaylid; Fatima daughter of Muhammad and Asiyah wife of Fir’aun”

Many amongst men attained perfection but amongst women none attained the perfection except Maryam (Mary), the daughter of ‘Imran, and Asiya, the wife of Fir’aun (Pharaoh). And the superiority of Aishah to other women is like the superiority of Tharid (i.e., and Arabic dish) to other meals.”
[Sahih Al-Bukhari]

Finally, my dear sister, take care of your heart. Don’t attach it to the wrong people, or even to the right people! Because we are all flawed, and when we get attached, we begin to idolize, expect, and when the person errs (which is inevitable), we are heartbroken, deviated, and lost.

Attach your heart to Allah and you will find the ultimate peace and contentment. His guidelines are enough for us. The role models He gave are enough for us. Busy yourself with things that are good and halal that serve a greater purpose.

No struggle is forever. No storm is permanent. This world and its moments are temporary. So hold on tight to the rope of Allah and never let it go; read, learn, educate, grow, blossom. For the light always follows the darkness.

Yours truly.

- Joint Article by Madiyah Rana, Nabiha Khan, and  Naseema Mariyam

Missed Part 1? Read: My Hijab: My Choice? The Divine Reality of Hijab

Missed Part 2? Read: The Rabbit Hole of Muslim-Influencer Culture

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