The Islamic Garden
The Difference of a
While I was getting ready this morning to take my children to the park, I thought it would be an ordinary day just like any other. My mind was busy with a typical mother's concerns...how many sandwiches to take, making sure that everyone had his jacket and packing enough diapers for the baby. As usual, my daughter (who is three) was watching everything I was doing. I didn't notice it when she disappeared for a moment while I was adjusting my hijab (Islamic head-scarf) in the mirror....until she returned with a decorative piece of cloth in her own hand along with a request: "Mama I want to wear hijab, too."
At first I just smiled and told her how cute she is, but she insisted: "Mama I want to wear the hijab!" I tied the scarf around her head and let her see in the mirror. She was obviously very pleased with herself. I was pleased, too, to see the beginnings of Islamic consciousness forming inside her heart. To give her encouragement, I told her that she could look forward to wearing hijab all the time when she gets bigger as hijab is not required of Muslim girls until they reach the age of ten or puberty (whichever is earlier), although they should begin training at the age of seven. Still thinking about leaving the house for the park, I began untying the scarf from her head.
But she would not be dismissed so easily. "Mama! I want to wear it outside! Don't take it off!" By this time she was screaming and I knew that this was one of those moments when I would have to comply or risk killing her spirit. After all, there was no reason why she should not wear it....but I had not wanted to burden her with more than she could handle at her young age. So I fixed her scarf in the proper manner, and we left for the park. And I never saw her so happy as she was in that moment.
I remembered the first time I had worn hijab outside and how strange I had felt. Twenty years old and a new convert to Islam, I had imagined the whole world was looking at me and my scarf and making a judgement about me as a person.....I worried about so many things at that time, especially about how my non-Muslim family and friends would react to this piece of cloth on my head which represented a faith and way of life which was extremely foreign to them. I lived in fear that ordinary citizens on the street would start asking me questions I could not answer about Islam, and I felt the whole legacy of Islam on my shoulders as an obvious representative of Muslim women all over the world. Talk about burdens!
But as I watched my hijab-clad daughter playing carefreely in the park today, I realized that none of these feelings apply to her.....unlike me, she has grown up in an environment which has made her proud to be a Muslim, and she will not have the same inhibitions and difficulties which I experienced in the initial stages of my conversion, simply because she is not a convert to Islam but a Muslim by birth! For her, Islam is the norm, and that's the way it's always been.
And all of this has made me realize what an enormous responsibility I really do have on my shoulders: to raise all my children to be proud and confident in their faith. They are watching everything I do and they will learn to cope with the non-Muslim environment based on whatever I model for them in my own behaviors and attitudes. And you cannot imagine what it means to me that my three year old daughter can wear hijab with pride if for no other reason than she wants to be like her mom.
No, today was definitely not an ordinary day.....it was the much-needed chance for me to reflect on the past and to thank Allah for the growth I have experienced in the years since I embraced the Islamic faith. And without a doubt, having children has greatly contributed to the process of self-discovery and understanding.
Originally published at Suite101.com. Reprinted with permission.