A Year with the Hijab

It has better to have tried, than to have never tried at all.

First off I am a Muslim. Not a very good one, but I am trying to be. Life is a struggle. Especially if you are a Muslim in a Western society. It’s filled with temptations, failure, disappointment and tests. But the thing is, it’s meant to be that way. It’s how we respond to challenges that let us keep on living with our lives. 

It has been a year since I had started wearing the hijab. And what an interesting journey it has been. I have learnt a lot about myself and who I really am. I realised that I’m a girl with confidence, a girl who always follows her heart, a girl who always tries to do things with love and sincerity and a girl who has values and principles.

Fundamentally, wearing the hijab does not make you a better person. It doesn’t have that power. It’s literally just a piece of cloth that sits on top of your head. Rather, it’s your intentions, your actions, what you say and what is in your heart that makes you a better person. 

No one really knows what is in your heart except for yourself and God.

Mufti Ismail Menk (an Islamic Scholar) had once said:

“When you see a female dressed in a manner that is unacceptable Islamically, do not for a moment think that she is lower than you spiritually. If you do that, you are lower than her. Believe me, that is the teaching of your religion. She might have a link with her creator that you do not know about. She might have a heart that is a lot better than yours. She might have one weakness that is outward, and you have 50 weaknesses that are hidden.”

A couple of weeks ago, I put up an old picture of myself on Instagram saying that I felt like I was more religious when I wasn’t wearing the hijab. I still think that it is true and I think I got it to my head. Just because I looked religious, I wasn’t as religious as I wanted or used to be. Before wearing the hijab I would always do extra prayers, fast every Monday and Thursday, gave more to charity, read and watched or listened to religious books or videos and podcasts and I constantly did dhikr (remembrance of God) but slowly I would do less of them until I rarely do them anymore. Maybe it really did get to my head, that wearing the hijab was enough and that it compensated for the things that I had stopped doing.

I am not saying that this is the experience for everybody who wears the hijab but this is my own individual experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I love God and I am proud to be a Muslim and I love how the hijab liberates me from the norms and beauty ideals of the western society. But I do not love how I don’t feel sincere wearing it anymore. And I want to be sincere with everything I do.

It is definitely not because I want to get attention or flaunt my beauty. I just want to be real with all of you guys and myself. I would rather please God with my actions, character and pure heart, rather than please Him or other people with what I look like.

Although it was an extremely hard decision, I am confident that this is the right thing to do for now as I have really thought about it for the last couple of weeks.

I am very sorry to disappoint anyone and I know that I will but I have come to the decision to stop wearing the hijab. I know that people might talk and they can say whatever they want to say but I know in my heart that now is not the time. I can promise that it won’t be forever but I can’t promise to when I will start wearing it properly again. Maybe it will be in a couple of weeks or months or even years. Only God knows.

Hopefully, I don’t come across as a hypocrite; everything I have said in my blogs in the past was all genuine and all of my words are sincere to this day. I am still the ‘Girl in the Wine Red Scarf’ and I still hold all the values and principles that I have. That girl is still here and she is not going anywhere.

Surprising Myself

I have been surprising myself lately, with a lot of good things. Things that makes me happy and proud of myself because I did it for me and no one else.

For starters, I have a lot more motivation than I used to. I just do things. Every time, I convince myself by thinking: “You just got to do it Yantie.” Even when I have low mood and I have no energy or all I want to do is lay in bed, I just needed to convince myself because I finally realised that the only person that can really help you is yourself. Once I finish doing something, I feel proud, simply because I just did it. Now instead of dreading to do things such as studying or exercising, I actually get excited because I have seen the benefits of consistency and doing things that are good for my health and future.

With that being said, I have been studying more and going to all of my lectures (have I mentioned that I LOVE and enjoy all the papers I am taking?). I’m so grateful that for this semester, I chose papers that I am really interested in and they are even better because all of my lecturers and tutors are amazing as well. I’m surprising myself because my attitude towards my studies has changed dramatically. Before, I had so much doubt with myself and that I will never be good enough to attain my dream. Now I feel confident that I can achieve anything if I set my mind to it, do my best and give my 110%. I used to make my education as a top priority and now I have realised that I need to be grateful and make it my priority again.

Then yesterday I had really surprised myself. I went on the scales for the first time in a long time and I was surprised to realise that I had lost weight instead of gaining weight. In the last three months, I had managed to lose 10kgs. I haven’t been this weight ever since I was sixteen. And I feel great. I’m not saying that by being skinnier, I am happier. What I would like to point out is that I gave myself the motivation to achieve something, which kept me busy and helped me focus on myself and my health. I would be lying if I said that I always went to the gym and counted my calories. All I did was got up, from my seat or my bed and took a nice long walk, every day. Not only was I exercising (even though it was just walking), it helped me to slow down my thoughts and it actually made me breathe as well as calm myself down. I also changed my eating habits, I made my portion sizes smaller and only ate until I am almost full. Also, I drank a LOT of water, as well as green tea and ate fewer carbs. Nonetheless, I’m proud of myself for not neglecting my health and so now, I feel so much better. Another point I would like to make is that by not going on the scales every day (which would have made me even more insecure about myself) and by just going how I felt about my body (energetic and happy=healthy; down and low energy=something needs to be changed) or how my clothes or even rings fitted, I was able to achieve my goal. Remember, the scale does not define you or your worth, only YOU can do that.

Lastly, I had surprised myself because one day I just woke up and I stopped overthinking. I was calm, I still am and I will keep choosing to be. With my being calm, I am able to start being the best version of myself. My mind is clear so I am able to think positively and I am in the process of deciding what I want and who I want to be. By being at peace, I feel more accepting of everything that comes my way and in turn, it makes me optimistic and excited about life.

Remember, don’t be so hard on yourself and never give up because you will be surprised with what you can accomplish. Along the way, remind yourself of all the things that you are grateful for and the goals you want to achieve and hopefully, that will give you the motivation to continue living life positively.

To Die Before Death

At the start of last month, I started re-reading the book: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. It is by far one of my favourite book as it is very spirtual and life changing as well as full of wisdom and most of all, full of love.

Although I had started reading it last month, it is only today (9th of April) that I had finished reading it. It is not because I am a slow reader- the majority of the book, I had read within a couple of days, but for some reason, I just kept putting it off and now I know why. Just like how I have been talking about how things happen at the right time, I am in awe to realise that finishing the book today was perfect timing.

This is because, in the last couple of pages, there was a rule that fit in perfectly with the state I am in. The rule had said:

“It is never too late to ask yourself, ‘Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?’ Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.” 

It’s funny because lately, I’ve been wanting a part of me to die. Such as old habits that aren’t good for me or my toxic overthinking. It was only when I felt at my lowest, those things had finally died off. And when they did, I found clarity and I found peace.

Then in a paragraph, it felt like the book was speaking to me as it said:

‘You think you cannot live anymore. You think that the light of your soul has been put out and that you will stay in the dark forever. But when you are engulfed by such solid darkness, when you have both eyes closed to the world, a third eye opens in your heart. And only then do you come to realise that eyesight conflicts with inner knowledge. No eye sees so clear and sharp as the eye of love. After grief comes another season, another valley, another you.’ 

It is also funny because it then reminded me of the blog post I wrote just last month called: Looking at Life Differently and how I talk about having closed eyes and having an open heart as well as some of the Forty Rules. Also, hopefully, with the changes I am making with my life and character, there will be ‘another me’ which I hope will be a better if not the best version of myself.

Nonetheless, The Forty Rules of Love is an amazing and beautiful book which I will certainly be reading again and again in the future. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book and highly recommend it to anyone.

(P.S: Much love to Shahirah for gifting this gem of a book into my life.)

Sixteen.

At the start of this year, I talked about finding the old me again. Well, in all honesty, it has been four months and I have been stuck until recently (as in the last couple of days).

Tonight I decided to take a trip down memory lane and it was interesting to see the things that I had treasured. I literally have three memory boxes filled with photographs, diaries, letters, achievements and even receipts.

There were so many things that made me smile, that made me cringe and even made my heart beat faster. Nonetheless, they made me grateful for the life that I have had so far. And they made me realise that life is so precious.

Unfortunately, it seems that life is going so fast and I couldn’t believe that I was looking at pictures from two years ago because it felt like they were just taken yesterday.

Nonetheless, out of all of my years, sixteen was the year. It was just a year where a lot of good things had happened which I am so grateful for.

While going through my memory boxes, there is one diary that stood out the most, mainly because it is bright pink and it is the only diary I have ever managed to finish writing in. And as you might have guessed it, the diary holds everything and anything that had happened when I was sixteen.

I was surprised to read that amongst all the cringeworthy entries, there were a couple that was actually kinda wise. When I was reading them, it was like the sixteen-year-old Yantie was talking to me.

On the very first page of the diary, the sixteen-year-old Yantie wrote: “Some things are meant to be forgotten and some things are meant to be cherished. This diary holds many memories that will be remembered. When I reflect on this, everything seems to be determined by Qadar- Allah’s will and with that, I embrace my fate. Now I am more grateful for the good things that have happened and patient for the bad. I have grown to put all of my trust in Allah because He is the best of planners and He has planned what is best for me.”

Even then I knew that everything will be okay because God loves me. And that humbles me.

InsyaAllah, with the guidance of God, I will try to be the best version of Yantie. It may not happen tomorrow or next week but it will happen and I trust that it will happen beautifully.

Paua Series: 14/11/2015

I have been reluctant to write a breakup post for the Paua Series because it has always been hard for me. But I found this short letter I wrote to myself.

“Dear Self,

You take breakups pretty tough. You feel. But you feel everything. You think. And you think of all the amazing times and what could have been. But that’s life. What had happened I mean. It was part of it. Just a part. So it is not the ending for you or your happiness. People will always come and go and if they are meant to stay, they will stay. It will be fine. Sure you have cried your little heart out for the past couple of months but it will get better. This is because life is always changing. And maybe you should change to be a better person or by taking better care of yourself. Learn to be happy on your own. Let go. Because you need to in order to be happy again. Remember you are a beautiful person. You will find someone or they will find you and you will love again. Because you just will.”

Looking At Life Differently.

Or not looking at all actually.

In all honesty, the first week of university was not how I expected it to be. Things happen so fast that I still can’t comprehend what has happened. It feels like everything is just a dream and right now I have no idea what is real and what is not real. But the sun keeps coming up and the night falls with the stars glowing with compassion for me to sleep. However, it feels like I haven’t been awake for the longest of time. Until recently with the death of someone I knew.

Now after all the events that have occurred recently, there is no picture of myself that shows more accurately to how I responded to them. It is exactly how I am now and how I would like to stay for a while. Closed eyes, a big smile on my face and an open heart.

They say that ignorance is bliss and it cannot be any truer. Right now, I am constantly thinking about what matters in my life and what doesn’t. I now think that if it doesn’t matter to me anymore, I should just ignore it instead of it letting get to me or even hurt me. With closed eyes and an open heart, I tried being nice, even to those who are not nice to me because I realised that at the end of the day, being the bigger person makes you the better person. Also with closed eyes, I want to stay less judgemental of other people and see them for who they really are. I have always believed to never judge a book by its cover because everyone has a story that wants and needs to be told. And you will always be amazed to hear the stories that people have to share. It doesn’t matter what they look or dress like, if the person is young or old, male or female, rich or poor or any other social factors. We are all human. Nothing less and nothing more. Each and every one of us matters.

Rule 18

 “If you want to change the ways others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses.”

This past couple of months I try to be happy but people or events beyond my control keep bringing me down. And it sucks. I try so hard and with every step I take forward, there is always someone or something that takes me two steps back. Life really does seem unfair to me but I keep reminding myself that everything is written. Everything I go through and feel is meant to be that way in order for me to grow and be a better person. And again, God knows what is best for me. Nonetheless, because they are God’s plans I still have a big smile on my face. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and being miserable, I also choose to also keep smiling because I still have this life, I still have some time to change and make good choices and most importantly, I still have the opportunity to be the person I want to be remembered as.  I realised that you can always change your perception on things or your own story. Like I said, we all have a story, how you tell your story is how you perceive yourself. There is no need to lie about your story but you could always change the tone of your story.

Rule 29

“Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to leave everything to the fate and to not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance. The music of the universe is all pervading and it is composed of 40 different levels. Your destiny is the level where you play your tune. You might not change your instrument but how well to play is entirely in your hands.”

Talking about stories, I have recently been re-reading ‘The Forty Rules of Love’ by Elif Shafak which is exactly what I needed (where I have included some rules in this blog post). It reminded me to keep my heart open to the idea of love. Not love for someone from the opposite sex but love for God, for my family and friends, for myself and for all the beauty there is in this world. So with an open heart, I want to try to do everything that I do or say with love and sincerity. Right now, to me, life is really too short to live any other way.

Rule 40

 “A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western. Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”

Paua Series: It is Written.

“No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of worrying can change the future. Go easy on yourself, for the outcome of all affairs is determined by Allah’s decree.

If something is meant to go elsewhere, it will never come your way, but if it is yours by destiny, from it you cannot flee.” – ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab

Last year I thought I had lost my MAC Velvet Teddy lipstick at the zoo but a year later while I was on holiday doing my makeup at a hotel in Indonesia, I found it, or more like it just somehow appeared right in front of me. And a couple years before that, my gold bracelet had somehow broke and I searched high and low to find the small missing pieces and it was only when I said ‘bismillāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm’ (“In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the most Merciful”) the pieces appeared right in front of me. Stuff like this always happens to me. And it makes me really believe that if something is meant for me, it will come back to me or that nothing in this world can stop something from coming my way.

In Islam, we call fate or Allah’s decree, Qadr. Our fate was already written for us even before we were born, however, our prayers or the duas we make are always fighting with our fate. It is said that our prayers will be answered or granted in three ways: in this life, in a better form or in heaven. Nonetheless, we as humans have plans but God has bigger plans for us. And we need to have full tawakkul or trust in God’s plan.

I have to admit that I have gone through a lot of hardships in my life, however, God will never burden a soul in which they cannot bear. And it’s true because, with every hardship that I have gone through, I always end up okay or even better at the end. It might have taken a lot of time to heal but through the process of healing I learnt how to be more patient, to let go, to forgive, to be stronger and to move on with life. And so whatever comes my way, either good or bad I have trust that there is underlying wisdom that I can learn from or grow from.

Even when you tear its petals off one after another, 

the rose keeps laughing and doesn’t bend in pain. 

“Why should I be afflicted because of a thorn? 

It is the thorn which taught me how to laugh.” 

Whatever you lost through fate, 

be certain that it saved you from pain.

~ Rumi, Petals

To be honest, my previous boyfriend had always accused me of wanting to break up so easily. And it is true because it has always been that way. If I am honest with myself, the idea of breaking up is easy. It is because I love God more than I can ever love another human being and also because I believe in His plan and the destiny he has for me. Therefore, letting go is easy for me once I remind and convince myself that if something is meant for me, never in a million years will it be for someone else and nothing in this world can stop it from happening. If it is good for me in this life and for my religion, it will be easy and it will always be meant for me. However, if it is bad for me and for my religion, I pray to God to turn my back from it and let my heart be at ease once I let go.

Nonetheless, I still have no idea what God has in store for me. Looking back at my past, it feels like anything can happen. I have no idea if I am prepared for things that might happen or how I will respond but what I do know is that all the things that have happened in my life were meant to happen. In ways, I am really excited as well as optimistic with the plans written for me. No matter what happens, I will keep smiling through the good or the bad and I will keep having faith and hope because God knows a lot better than I do.

“No matter what you’ve been through, it is written. No matter what you know, it is written. No matter what you do, it is written. Put your trust in Allāh ﷻ” -Unknown

And so the person I will end up with or who you will end up with is already written.