The Thoughts of a Liberated Woman

This is a post by Guest Blogger Anila Qasim. Anila is currently completing an Undergraduate Degree in Forensic Anthropology at the University of Toronto.  

The Thoughts of a Liberated Woman  

“You’re liberated; you can do anything you want.”

“Because I’m not married and you are?”

“No, because you wear hijab.”

That conversation – that up there, that you just read – actually happened. It wasn’t in as serious a tone as it seems here on paper. My cousin and I were just putting together a day bed, and I was just saying that I was capable of constructing things despite my inability to do “masculine” things, as per my little brother. But she said that to me, nonchalantly, in the middle of the prayer room at her house: she told me I was a liberated woman.

Those words she said to me meant nothing that moment in time, but they have since triggered a great deal of thought. I, Anila Qasim, am a liberated woman.

Indeed, my liberation is ostensible. It is merely a cloth, this liberation of mine – sometimes matte and sparkly, sometimes brightly coloured and patterned. Perhaps it is of a paradoxical nature. In isolating my physical self, I liberate my physical and spiritual being. To some, I may seem like a fool swaddled in cloth in the August heat. (Just like that man at the SuperStore, who told my mom she was crazy, wearing her hijab and aa’baya when it was 30 degrees outside.) But I don’t know, it’s amazing, subhan’Allah, what some hidden locks can do for you.

It’s one thing to say you’re a Muslimah and another to embody your faith. It’s another thing to stand in a crowd and have someone know immediately what you are and what you stand for, and another to have someone look at you and pass you off as a “regular girl”. That being said, wearing a hijab does not make a woman better or more pious than another. Allah knows best whose intentions are purer and whose actions are more righteous. Wearing Islam on my head is a reminder to me of what I am. My hijab is for me, for me to remember that Allah is watching my every move.

I am a Muslim, Alhumdulillah.

I stand for piety, peace and submission to Allah. When I look into the mirror or a puddle or a window, I see a girl with deen on the outside, and that motivates me more than ever to strengthen the ima’an that is within. Before I say something, I think: is this what I need to be saying, is this what I need to be doing? Is this how I should behave being a symbol of Islam? Am I just going to fuel the misconceptions that the media has about my deen by acting against the tenets of my faith? What do I need to do, to demonstrate to others that Islam is really the religion of truth?

If there are things out there, rumors in the Western world that label us as oppressed beings, why don’t we awaken the world to the truth? I cover myself, because I belong to me and Allah. No one else. My body is mine. It is unassailed. Not physically, not visually. I’m a mystery aren’t I? And why should you, who has no right over me and what Allah has granted me, be able to see what does not concern you?

I, I am not oppressed. But yes, I was forced to wear hijab. YOU, the one with a narrow mind, forced me to free myself from the highly sexualised society that we’re both a part of. And now I am oppressed because I choose to stand out and deviate from the societal norm? I am oppressed, because I refuse to show you how beautiful Allah has made me? I am oppressed because I refuse to be an object of desire, the subject of your discussion and I choose to let Islam permeate every aspect of my life?

Now you may say that Islam enslaves me, enslaves me. But I ask you, are you not enslaved by the lungs and the heart that helps sustain you? Would you not do everything in your power to maintain them, to keep the blood coursing through your veins and the air entering and leaving your body?

My faith in Allah is the only thing I need to survive in this world, the only thing that will bring me contentment in this dunya and success in the hereafter, insha’Allah.

What this piece of cloth does is tell the world that there is more to you than the curvature of your hips or the pout of your lips. You are a woman, and you demand respect. And that’s what the hijab does.

Being hijabi in public is proof:

One winter’s evening, around 6pm, I got on the TTC. It was a snowy day. The bus was wet and packed. A number of people were standing, I amongst them. I was slipping and sliding about, with the weight of my bag making me unbalanced. This guy got off his seat, and told me to sit down. I said it’s alright but he prodded. Through this whole exchange, another woman was glaring at me, perhaps because the guy wasn’t making eye contact with me as he spoke. I sat, nevertheless, and when I got to my stop, he said “Allah Hafiz” and that was the last I saw of him.

Where that brother is now, I don’t know. I don’t think I could even recognize him, but I will always believe that he gave me his seat because I was a Muslimah. Or maybe he was just a Good Samaritan. Maybe he just picked me to be kind too.

I never really got to thank him, but I guess this is it. Wherever he is, may Allah reward him, jazak’Allah khairun.

Maybe getting a seat on public transit isn’t the greatest motivation for donning the hijab but I must say, it might just be the icing on the cake, no?  I remind myself before I remind anyone else, and I ask Allah to guide me and those in my vicinity, insha’Allah. I do not intend to offend. This is just how I see it.

These are the thoughts of a liberated woman.

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