I watched with curiosity because we have talked about hijab before: why I wear it, why it’s a part of our faith, what I like about it and what I struggle with. She has always been fairly clear that she doesn’t want to wear it and I have not pushed her due to her age.
I feel very clearly that hijab is an important part of my faith and a command from Allah (SWT), so I did worry than when she reached puberty she would continue to refuse to wear it even though it becomes an obligation on women from that time. I also worried because some of the women in my family that she looks up to do not cover their hair and I wondered if this would have an effect.
So I was surprised when she donned her little two-piece Al-Amira scarf and set off. I asked her why she decided to wear her scarf and she told me she wanted to start now so she could get into the habit. She said that she wanted Allah (SWT) to be pleased with her and she thought he would be pleased with her. She thought it would be the right thing to do (my heart was just overflowing at that point).
I asked her at the end of the day, what people had said. She said that the girls in her school asked her why she wore the scarf. She explained that Allah (SWT) says you should cover yourself and that you should listen to Allah (SWT). She told them it was the right choice to make. Alhamdulillah I am sooooo proud of her.
This has been a very special and pivotal point in our relationship. Whilst her daddy has been away doing dawah work (he is back next week insh’Allah!!!), she has been sleeping in my bed (the three of us girls together – I , Little Lady and the baby) and we have been able to have lots of discussions and girly me-time together. I was worrying a lot about her temper, spikiness and the intermittent rudeness that she was displaying. I wondered how I could help her to deal with it and become a calmer person. I tried to be calm, to not let her push my buttons, to encourage her to talk about how she felt. I made dua for her and bought her stacks of Islamic books.
Over the last few months I have noticed a considerable change in her. She is still messy, shouts at her brothers and is an expert sulker. But mash’Allah I find that she is calmer, happier and less angry. She helps immensely with her little sister who is the love of her life at the moment. She finds lots of constructive ways to keep herself busy (reading, journaling, bead-weaving, drawing and painting). But most importantly Allah (SWT) seems to have found a central place in her heart and she often refers back to things she has read in her Islamic books or in our daily Islamic study circle and relate them to why she does things. I am finding it so humbling, because I know I was nothing like that at her age despite having a deeply religious dad.
I think there are a number of things which have really helped with encouraging Little Lady to care about her faith:
1. I made lots and lots of dua (supplication) and asked Allah (SWT) to make my children pious, gentle, kind, of excellent character and to spend all that Allah (SWT) has given them in his path and to serve his beloved Prophets (PBUH) ummah. I also supplicated to help me a better mother and role model and a calmer person. At the same time I begged Allah (SWT) to not let me fail at this most important test and privilege of being a good Muslimah mother.
2. I think it made all the difference that their dad was out in the path of Allah (SWT). My husband loves his kids and misses them so much, he is an amazing dad and has always stepped up and done more than his share in caring for the kids. It is hard for him to be away, but we believe that when we spend our time and effort in the path of Allah (SWT) with the intention to please Him, then he takes care of our affairs for us in a way that is so much better than we could have taken care of them.
3. I've been buying Little Lady Islamic books. Our local shop has a limited selection and they are expensive, but I have considered them an investment as all of the children will be reading them. I was inspired by the advice of the wonderful Sister Zohra Sarwari at the Mercy Mission Annual Sister’s conference last year, where she said that if her house burned down, the only thing she would regret the loss of would be her collection of books and that she saw Islamic books and CD’s as an investment in her children. Over time, I’ve found that Little Lady has built up her knowledge and that on many things she now knows more than me (i.e. details of the lives of the Sahabah (RA) and the Prophets (AIS).
4. The two of us have had lots of quiet time together. We would put the boys to bed and then share some chocolate whilst we watched a movie or talk together, or just read our own books in each other’s company.
5. We established the habit of a daily study circle (taleem) each evening. Little Lady would take the lead and read from the books we chose whilst I tried to get the boys to sit still and listen for a short while. Most of the time I despair that no-one is listening and we spend most of the 15-20 minutes telling the boys to behave. But over time, I have realised that it is soaking into the children’s mind. The one habit I have insisted on is for the kids to remember to send salawat (blessings) to the Prophet (PBUH) when his name is mentioned.
I think these are some of the main things which have really helped me with my children in the last few months and especially have had an impact on Little Lady.
We are lucky that we live in an area with lots of Muslims, so seeing a young girl with hijab is not a big deal. Lots of girls at my children’s school also wear hijab, so wearing it is not going to make her stand out. I asked her if she would take it off for PE and she said probably because they have to, although two girls in her class harass the teacher so much that she lets them keep it on during PE also.
I think it helps to have confidence when making choices like wearing hijab. Someone recently directed me to the TED talk video by Amanda Cuddy below. We watched together and it certainly seems to have impressed on Little Lady the need to take up space and be mindful of her body language in order to create confidence and a positive mental state.
I asked her if she tried standing tall at school. She told me she stretched her arms out and held her head up when she told a naughty boy in her class to leave her friend alone. She was amazed when he listened. (I had hilarious visions of her standing in class in the alpha monkey pose shown in the video). The next day on the way home again, she told me “I was taking up space today mum”.