Hijabi of the Month September - Tayyaba Syed
Posted on September 30, 2016
This month's HOTM Tayyaba Syed was nominated by her friend who had this to say about her, "She's taken to the no makeup revolution movement and impresses upon young Muslim girl fans who look up to her that hijabi beauty and elegance can be attained by simply being true to your own self and confident in your skin."
Award-winning author and freelance journalist Tayyaba Syed is research specialist for Daybreak Press. She has written for numerous publications, including a feature on National Public Radio on what it means to be Muslim in America. Islamic Writers Alliance awarded her first place for her short story called “The Blessed Banana Tree.” She has co-authored three books for the Jannah Jewels chapter-book series for kids. Tayyaba was selected by Georgetown University - Qatar as a panelist for their Writing Women’s Lives Conference. While there, she was also a guest lecturer at Texas A&M University and the American School of Doha. She regularly leads workshops and seminars on writing and publishing at various schools, libraries and community centers. Tayyaba is an active volunteer for Rabata and a youth adviser for Sisters Steppin’ Up. She is pursuing her Islamic Studies certification through the Ribaat Academic Institute. She lives in Chicago with her husband and three young children.
You can visit Tayyaba's website at www.tayyabasyed.com and be sure to follow her on Facebook and Instagram @tayyabawrites.
1) When did you start wearing hijab? Tell us a little about your journey.
My childhood and most of my adolescence was detached from the deen. Hijab was a very foreign concept for me, and I only met a handful of women who practiced it when I was growing up. I was brought up with more cultural values than religious ones, which was confusing at times as I wasn't always able to differentiate the two. In college, I took a plethora of classes and truly began to learn what Islam was about and what it meant to be a Muslim. Even though my teachers were non-Muslims, each of them had a respect for Islam and helped me develop an appreciation of my own faith. The more I learned, the more I felt inclined towards covering myself as a woman of God. One night, I prayed to Allah to guide me and to show me if hijab was right for me. I dreamt that I was happily wearing it and was surrounded by children. The next morning, I walked out of my house with hijab. I was just a few days shy of age 19. It wasn't easy, though. I had to quit my job, because my boss (who was a Muslim) wasn't accepting of it. My father was also not happy with my decision to wear it. He worried I wouldn't get hired or married because of it. Alhamdullilah, hijab has been nothing but a blessing in my life -- never a hindrance.
2) You are an award-winning author, freelance journalist, writing coach and mom of 3! Tell us more about what you do, your motivations and what you hope to accomplish.
I believe writing is a tool to reach the masses. I write as a form of dawah to show the beauty of our religion through words and to bring diversity to the literary landscape. We need to share our voices and stories with the world, so people will hear us and know us for who we really are: peaceful servants of the Creator of the universe. If we aren't doing the writing and speaking, others will do it for us and not always in the way that truly defines us. My children appreciate reading and writing so much more, because they see how passionate I am about it. Through books and stories, we can meet people at a human level. The most receptive audience is a group of children as well as the youth, who are more willing to accept diversity and co-exist within it. I hope to help kids and adults see the richness each of us carries as individuals and to use the power of words to create love and bonds of unity amongst all groups of people.
3) You've taken to the no-makeup movement, tell us why and what it means to you!
I started wearing make-up as an early teen and never left home without it. I was always worried that people would not like me without it. It wasn't until recently that I realized if I want people to accept me for who I am, then I need to accept myself first. I hope from my example, other girls and women will feel confident in the skin that they are in and be proud of the way that Allah has created them.
4) What is your favorite hadith of the Prophet (S) and why?
This is a tough question to narrow down. If I had to pick one, it would be where the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, stated that "part of the perfection of one's Islam is his/her leaving of that which does not concern him/her." I feel so many of our problems would be reduced if we just learned to mind our own business and focused on bettering ourselves as individuals.
5) If you could tell your 18 year old self one thing, what would it be?
I would tell myself to busy myself in good work, make sure to keep good company and true happiness is in service of others.
6) If you could give one piece of advice to someone struggling with hijab, what would it be?
Hijab is a shield of goodness, which will only bring you closer to your Creator. Wear it as a representative of Him on this Earth and know that each second that you step out into the world wearing it, it will be rewarded as a form of worship insha Allah.