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Muslim Women and Liberation, a Personal Narrative by Nabeela Khan

Posted on June 14, 2013

This week's guest blog post comes from Nabeela Khan from Ontario, Canada. Nabeela is a university student double majoring in Communication Studies and Professional Institutional Writing. She enjoys reading and believes literature is a key component in learning about ourselves and the environment we reside in. She enjoys writing and finds words to be a powerful tool to articulate important messages to society. She enjoys discovering new places to explore, is a foodie at heart and encourages others not to give up on their dreams and journey in life. You can follow her on instagram @_NabeelaK.

I'm sure many people are tired of hearing from the media what horrible circumstances Muslim women live in. They cover up? They actually listen to their husbands? They have... obligations? Unfortunately, the dominance media possesses presents the extreme sides of incidents regarding Muslim women and their role to the public eye.

In a society where less is more, many are baffled as to why women choose to cover up. Yes, I said choose. To cover up is a choice Muslim woman make. Of course, there are unfortunate and sad incidents where certain families go to extremes. However, extremism is not limited to the realm of this religion. Extremism exists everywhere, but we only see what is shown to us.

So for those confused or curious, let me get one discriminatory remark out of the way: women do not cover up for the sake of men. Women cover for the sake of God. Muslims believe God loves beauty and God wants us to live in happiness, which comes in forms of moderation.

As a Muslim woman coming from a highly westernized culture, it was difficult to make the leap to modesty, but I couldn't be happier today. I once believed liberation was prancing around with my hair flying behind me, until I realized what liberation truly is. To me, liberation is knowledge, being heard and possessing confidence. Liberation is being involved, making a difference and putting others first.

At one point in time, I was blind to the freedom Muslim women, especially covered women, possessed. I thought my freedom was enduring in my own set of rules, carrying false strength based on the way I looked and knowing the reactions I would get. At the time, I wasn't aware that I was subjecting myself to society. I was allowing others to look at me in a certain way, I was nothing more than an object and no different from the rest of society. I defined beauty as the way I styled my hair and how high my heels were. I was sucked into a culture that told me this was beauty; I believed it and I thrived off of false pretenses.

After living a life of no strict rules set in place, what changed? I had the freedom to wear whatever I wanted, to go wherever I pleased and to abide by what I thought was right. Many people might think, why give it up? Sometimes in life, internal changes take place. A feeling enters your heart, which is not dismissible. You begin to question your actions, you look into your character and you ask yourself what am I doing? Why am I doing it? And begin to ponder on your meaning. 

These questions would fill my mind, until I could not ignore them anymore. I realized Muslims are told their purpose is to serve God. They are told to seek happiness, be good, help others, maintain a good character and do it for the sake of God. I realized, I was not serving God, but I was serving myself. I gave into my nafs, meaning lower self; desires. When I did an action, I did it for no one but myself.

This made a void enter my heart and I no longer felt satisfied towards my acts. This period of time was filled with difficult decision making and deciding to truly submit to my religion. The Prophet Muhammad (S) said, "Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded" (Bukhari).

Accepting Islam with my heart has encouraged me to be a person of better character. When I am in hijab, studying, working, traveling, finding new places to enjoy, I always have remembrance that it is because of God's mercy that I am able to indulge in His beautiful creations. I am far from perfect, I make mistakes and take steps back but it is my love and remembrance of God that helps me move forward and reminds me that when all else fail, when people may not always be there for you or understand you, God knows what is in your heart.

This has been my journey, but everyone is battling his or her own desires and hardships. I never thought I could detach myself from the world I was once living in and although hardships are ongoing, the battle becomes easier as you move forward. This is to say, no matter how large you believe your hardships or sins to be, no one is more merciful and awaiting than God.

If you are sincere and want to make a change, if you are searching for a meaning then let your fears go, drown out your doubts and put your faith first, where it is meant to be. This life is filled with temptation, but it is also filled with beauty. It is your choice on how to enjoy the beauty in moderation as a Muslim woman.

The battle lies with our attachment to this world. Although we know it is impossible to remain here forever, we simply forget. Prophet Muhammad (S) once said, "Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a traveler along the path" (Bukhari). Learn, travel, befriend good companions and relish in moderation with the remembrance of Allah and you will soon find that emptiness you once felt in this world beginning to fade as you find yourself prepare for the next.

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