Words Umme Salama M.
Header Credits Ruqaiyah G. (@ruqs_g)
Since my early teenage years as a tinkering ‘feminist’, I’ve always struggled with the act of covering in the Western world.
I spent most of my high school and early college in constant worry and self-doubt about what others would think of me. Would they think I’m oppressed? Would they wonder if I knew how to speak English properly? Or would they not consider me on par intellectually because I dressed conservatively?
To fight these obscure and made-up narratives about myself in my head, I fret and cried over how others seemingly treated me while the only person treating me as such was myself.
Tugging and tossing, I made it through high school and college, but the wavering intentions and doubts surrounding Rida easily crept up to me every so often, pushing me off track. I felt stuck in the constant cycle of guilt and shame around Ashara; made up for by renewed commitments and bold promises that only seemed to wither away soon after the 10th day of Muharram each year.
I became accustomed to these patterns very well and so did my family and friends, who knew the heightened sense of reflections, insights, and proposed changes in lifestyle were only to remain temporary. Although stories of the mistreatment of the Ahle Bait in Karbala during Ashara would fuel a burning sensation and hatred upon those who ensued it, I could barely seem to remember the essence of their hardships later on.
However, this year was different.
Anticipating the arrival of Ashara was unlike anything we’ve experienced in the past, as there were feelings of worry and uncertainty around how it would play out. But Alhamdollilah, as per the Raza and Dua Mubarak of Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin (TUS), Ashara this year filled mine (and others) hearts to the brim. Seeing the noorani faces of three Du’at Al Mutlaqeen and the seamless interconnectedness in their unified message truly struck a chord in me.
Whilst listening to the horrors of Karbala from all three Du’at, I was reminded again of the incredible persistence, strength, and bravery of Husain AS and his Ahle Bait.
The early women of Islam, Moulatena Khadija AS, Moulatena Fatema AS, and Moulatena Zainab AS all taught me what it means to be a woman of faith. Adorning the pardah, all three of these women are the perfect embodiment of multiple roles a woman plays under the guidelines of Islam. Whenever sought with extreme adversities and trials, they held their family units together, and only turned to Allah for yaari and tau’feeq (assistance and enlightenment).
However, when I hear the tales of how the dushmano circled the Sedaniyon around the bazaars of Shaam without pardah, sadness engulfs me. But what breaks my heart is when I see my Moula weep uncontrollably on this fact as he tries to paint a vivid picture of that scene in our minds. There is always a boundless uproar of noha and aweel in the masjid where Moula is present during this moment, and this year, the feelings were no different but rather presented themself in a new light.
When I hear the noha…
“…Ek chaadar ke mohtaj ham they…Karbala aa ke boli ye Zainab…”
It fills me with huzn and buka.
When I hear my Moula speak…
… of the Sedaniyon’s khula matha (barren heads) as they are forced to sit on camels as the qafila moves forward, his tears flow uncontainably. There are not enough words to fully describe the horrors inflicted upon them, but our Moula tries to make us feel a glimpse of the pain he is feeling and commands us to weep at the atrocities they faced after Imam Hussain AS’s death.
This makes me really think…
How can I cry when I too, choose to knowingly perpetuate the same zulms of bepardigi upon myself as a Mumina. What does it mean then, when I weep on their torture and hardships, but swiftly fail to realize the same realities in my world once the majalis are over?
Keeping my Moula’s image in mind, I realize I can no longer selectively hear what I want to hear about female empowerment and miss the picture on pardah. I can no longer reject what is blatantly made so clear in multiple waazes, riwayats, and nohas. I cannot sway from the truth.
But luckily for me, the women of Islam remind me time and time again through their lived examples of how I get to live my life according to Islam. I now see the pardah as a sign of nobility, respect, protection, and comfort. I no longer see it as a means of obstruction, but rather my Rida allows me to live in a modest fashion where I can focus on things that reach beyond physical appearances.
Also, my Moula has taught me the true meaning of “hijab”; one that is not just limited to covering the body but is a realization of my identity as a Mumina. Adorning the hijaab does not equate to silence or complacency in hard times, but is a reminder to always take a stand for the truth (haqq). Wearing the Rida does not only make me feel armoured but rather it serves its higher purpose modelling itself as an ideology and way of life. One, that when accepted wholeheartedly, has the potential to gradually transform and purify the mind, heart, and tongue. Of course, this only means something when it is done within the Raza and Khushi of Dai al-Asr.
So yes, Ashara this year was different. And as for keeping promises, my Moula Imam Husain AS has taught me the importance of keeping and fulfilling a promise, however big or small. There is no denying the spears thrown at us from this world, but by remaining steadfast in my faith and staying committed to this journey — I do niyyat of wearing Rida. And I pray that Khuda TA gives me the yaari to do so under the heavenly sa’yah of my Moula.