Where is Allah?

Facebook, the endless spout of human consciousness, once led me to read a note by a muhajjaba who was considering not covering any more. She was writing to let the world know that she had decided to continue wearing it because she felt that it was part of who she was, part of her identity as a Muslim American and to remove it was to remove part of who she was from her being. Those are not her words but that was the argument made.

This summer I was in the midst of yet another conversation about hijab this time with an elder who was confessing to me how she constantly day dreams about being without hers. She made the argument that God never asks us to do things that are too hard for us and how it feels too hard to do nowadays because of the mean mugs and how it “just makes us look foreign and strange to our peers, the only people we share a culture with.”

I was struck. Never had I heard or thought of hijab as being something that tied me to people or identity. It was always something that was between nothing and no one but God and myself. Is it a struggle to put it on and cover myself when the rest of the world is flaunting everything they have to show? Why yes, yes it is a big struggle. Does it get hot under there like they like to ask? Why yes, yes it does indeed get hot under here but we endure – not because we feel like it will rip from us part of our identity if we stop wearing it; or that we may lose some tangible part of ourselves if we stop doing this thing. We continue on in this hijab jihad because Allah ordered us to- and that is all there is. To take the responsibility of assuming that we might be able to rationalize something that the Creator mandated for His creation is just a little bit…..well, arrogant. Hijab is not about modesty or identity. It is plain and simple a commandment and obey I must because when there is full trust that there is Creator, there is no doubt that His mandates are good, and that His right above all others, will be fulfilled. He has always taken care of me and my needs and never have I been let down, my provision is always there waiting for me and so shouldn’t I at least show the respect and love owed in that regard?

So my question is where is Allah in the conception of Muslims? Can He truly be the goal if He is not even a thought in the understanding of an idea as simple as a mandate? Where is the breakdown and where did we lose Him along the way and can we go back and relocate where we left Him? I think it is important to note here that we didn’t lose Him, rather we lost ourselves and true understanding of who we are. If we understand ourselves to be Muslim Americans beyond Allah, then what does it mean to be a Muslim? Who or what do we worship? Do we then worship our identities, or our selves and what we strive to make ourselves for other people?

This sparks in me the importance of renewing our intentions. The “classics” if you will, of the great scholars of Islam all begin their books with a chapter on intention and this is for one very important reason; our hearts change. We must constantly be in a state of checking in with it and renewing the purest of intentions that we can muster so that we don’t get stuck in an outdated malignant version of our original intention. It must be revamped and up to date because as time passes, we grow and so must our intentions and the actions that follow them. So whether hijab is something we do for our parents or for proof to whomever that we are indeed what we spew, it is all based in the heart and if the heart doesn’t even have a clear notion of the why, then the manifestation of that thing will too be convoluted and confused, right?

My mother likes to relate the tradition that says a worshiper falls into one of three categories. The lowest level is the level of the slave who fears her master and does everything out of fear of reprimand or punishment. The middle level is that of the merchant or trades person who is always in search of that bargain….if I do this, you do or give me that! And the highest level is that of the lover, who would do anything her Beloved wished because she believed her Beloved to be deserving and desires nothing but their pleasure. How can we dupe ourselves into desiring anything but that highest and definitely sweetest level?

Some say that the conversation about hijab is irrelevant because we need to get past it and other things that hold us back from doing the “real” work that needs to be done. But how do we go about doing that when our intentions and even when our understanding is incorrect? Is this an irrelevant conversation in the scheme of American Islam because we are beyond such labels or because we are too arrogant and/or afraid to truly submit? Where is Allah in this “real work?” Is He the goal? Is He our inspiration? Does He have a place in it?

The Prophet, upon him be peace said, “Islam began as something strange and will return as something strange so give glad tidings to the strangers.”

“بدأ الإسلام غريبا وسيعود غريبا فطوبى للغرباء”

I relish the opportunity to be strange. Allah is the Ultimate Glad Tiding; The hijab between He and I is the only one I pray to have removed.  May He unhijabify truth to our hearts and minds.

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