In Case You Don't Know, You Are Her Role Model; 26 Nov 2019

by - Agustus 28, 2021

 بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful


Assalammualaikum Ladies,

During one of the Open Sessions that I hosted in my home here in Tangier, the girls and I were discussing the topic of "Self-Confidence". The conversation then steered towards how travelling really helps in building one's confidence because being in a foreign environment really pushes us to get out of our comfort zone and to try new things that we would never have considered attempting in our home country. 

A Sister who attended the session, D, agreed that that could be true but she also brought up how when she travels, people are quick to judge her as she's a Muslim from an Arab country and that she would sometimes be stereotyped. She shared how when she was travelling in Spain, for example, she could feel the cold stares being thrown her way and it made her feel incredibly uncomfortable and unconfident.

When she shared her experience, a few ladies chimed in and agreed that something similar has happened to them as well - that people would stare because they either wear the Hijab or because they are travelling with their family members who wear it.

I then curiously asked, "have you ever tried, just smiling at them?"

---

When I was in Seoul a few years back for the first time, I did feel the hard stares. And whenever that happened, I retreated into my own "cave" and would feel super small with the blatant "what-in-the-world-is-she-doing-here-and-what-is-she-wearing-on-her-head" looks.

K however, told me something that I would never forget. He told me that instead of getting irked by it, I should be kinder.  

I pondered about it and I realised that he's right - they are probably staring because the Hijab is a foreign concept to them and whatever they know of Islam and Muslims are only limited to what they see and read in the Media / Internet. I cannot blame them for not knowing much about Islam - because let's be real here, even born Muslims don't know much about Islam, so how can I expect non-Muslims to know about it right?


But!

I could try smiling! 

I learned that when I smiled, it completely threw the other party off guard.  One genuine smile could break a million barriers. So I started smiling more - and if they smiled back, then that's awesome. If they didn't, I did a good deed (and got a "pahala" / hasanat! lol).

When I shared my "smiling experiment in Seoul" with the rest of the girls during the Session, I also shared that it's up to us to take over the narrative of what it's like being a Muslim woman. Because who better to break the stereotypes of what Muslim women should look like / act / behave, if not us, Muslim women? Who better to stand up for Muslim women, if not us, Muslim women?

The truth is, if we don't start first, if we don't smile first, if we don't engage in conversations first, if we don't make the first move and put in the effort to represent ourselves in the world, then we cannot complain and be angry when other people start filling in the blanks of what a Muslim woman should be because we left that definition open in the first place. 

All of us can do this - by starting with just the people around you - your colleagues, your Grab Drivers, your neighbours, a fellow Sister in the street. 

Try smiling at them - I can guarantee you it will make you feel lighter and happier, In Sha Allah!

--

Now, I'm sharing with you this because whether you realise it or not, you are a role model for other Muslim women around you. Human beings are impressionable and we mimic and are easily influenced by the people that surround us (which is why the Prophet SAW always advised us to have good companions) - so if we carry ourselves with grace and always practice kindness, then In Sha Allah, we might encourage the rest of our Muslim sisters to do the same.

When we raise one another, together, through being good influences and role models to each other - we can change how the world perceives us to be. 

--

Someone told me that there aren't any role models for us young Muslim women which is why our younger sisters are looking up to online personalities and celebrities instead. And for a while, I thought that might be true, but I realised that it's just lazy to push this blame on others and not ourselves. 

If we think there isn't any role models for Muslim Women, then we should step up and embrace that role. Not for our ego, or for fame or for pride, but for Allah. And we do this by constantly bettering ourselves - in terms of our Akhlak, in terms of our work ethics, in terms of our relationships with the people around us, in terms of increasing our knowledge (and the list goes on!). 

Because when we are busy striving to be the best version of ourselves, the people around us, will, In Sha Allah, start to catch on to this positive energy and aura and personally for me, the best role models are the ones that don't even know they are role models! They are too busy improving and bettering themselves that they don't waste their time trying to "preach" about the Deen, rather they show it through their actions and their mannerisms.

So the next time you think you can't affect change - think of your younger sisters, think of your daughters, think of your nieces, your students, your companions. They see you, and they look up to you.

And if every single one of us can remember that, then I have complete conviction that the next time they speak about Muslim Women, they will have a completely different picture painted in their minds. If every single one of us believes that we are each other's role model, then "Grace", "Kindness", "Strength", "Honourable" and "Believers" are the words they will choose to describe all of us. 

Here's to changing the world together!

x,
A

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My reflection:

Sesimpel tersenyum, pun saya seringkali masih mengharap balasan dari apa yang saya amalkan ini. Padahal senyum adalah salah satu amalan paling ringan, dan harusnya saya melakukannya bukan sekadar ingin dinilai sebagai orang yang ramah atau demi menjaga image di hadapan manusia. 

Senyumlah engkau hanya kerana Allah
Itulah senyuman bersedekah

I don't know why lagu itu sudah saya dengar sejak lama sekali tapi baru sekarang saya merasa benar-benar memahami maknanya. Jika kamu tersenyum pada orang lain dan dia tidak membalas senyummu, so what?! Kalau kamu mengharapkan balasan senyuman dari orang itu, bisa jadi itu adalah pertanda bahwa kamu belum ikhlas dengan senyummu.

Saya benar-benar harus mulai lebih peduli dengan apa yang saya lakukan dan bagaimana saya merespon hal-hal yang ada diluar kendali daripada sibuk memikirkan apa yang orang lain pikirkan atau lakukan terhadap saya. Dan lebih banyak tersenyum dengan niat yang benar; melaksanakan perintah Allah dan menebarkan keramahan Islam ke sesama manusia. That's all.

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