UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS
URBAN AND REGIONAL PLANNING
As a young girl my parents ensured I wear my hijab at all times that I leave my house. My mother especially took pride in buying me beautiful hijabs and often admonished me to be a modest Muslim girl. Once, I asked her why I cannot show my hair to people like my friends at school. Mother told me wearing hijab is a commandment of Allah for Muslim women and it is a sign of respect. I kept asking questions about hijab and mother was not tired of giving appropriate responses to my myriads of questions. The challenge of coping among other girls of my age at school was quite enormous for me. I remember feeling different from others, perhaps a little inferior to others. They would show me their beautiful hairstyles and encourage me to show them mine as well. That was a long time ago, when I wore the hijab as a girl with little knowledge and many doubts about the significance of hijab. As I grew older, I became more aware of the peer pressure around me and I had to convince myself of the importance of hijab. I read through the verses of the Quran enjoining the use of hijab and other peoples’ experience and thus became furnished with the wisdom behind the injunction. Mother encouraged me to go for Islamic vacation courses and I did feel a sense of pride amidst other young Muslim girls. We were taught to value ourselves, to feel no less than others, to shun evil conformity and eschew bad company. The media had played its own role in shaping the world’s view about hijab and this distorted view has permeated the hearts of many perverts in my country, even some passive Muslim ladies. Colleagues and associates have asked me questions in derisive manners and argued that hijab is just a way of circumscribing the activities of women. Some have even said to me that I would be deprived of opportunities because I wear hijab. To that, I responded that I would not make my hijab an excuse for failure to attain any objective. With strong conviction, I added that I would be great and my hijab will be a contributory factor to that. Unlike many Muslim ladies I observed in the university, who come to the mosque with their hijab in a handbag, use it to observe salaat and remove and keep it as soon as they are done, I did not allow the various discriminations and amoral notion of trendy fashion come between me and the injunction of Allah. Truly, Allah has been profoundly gracious to me in all spheres of my activities. On many occasions when I had to struggle to get something among multitudes, my hijab has been a distinctive factor that helped me get attention. However, the special attention I enjoyed by wearing my hijab has been a reason why I have been more morally conscious in the company of friends and family. I have had to pay special attention to my speech and actions because with my hijab I stand as an ambassador of Islam. I try as much as possible to ensure that I do not represent Islam in a bad light in a society that is ever ready to castigate a muslim or a symbol of Islam at any given opportunity. At present, I remain the only muslim lady that wear hijab in my department in school. This has caused me no hindrance in pursuing my academic objectives; in fact it has helped me win the trust of friends and associates. I emerged as the financial secretary of my departmental association in an election that took place sometime last year. My hijab has been a shield for me, a reason for being shown reverence and why I have enjoyed rare privileges. Indeed, Allah is always right that hijab is a symbol of excellence and special distinction. Everywhere I go I am proud to be a muslim lady and I feel no less important in any social and academic gathering. I have often counseled young girls and colleagues about the virtues and blessings of using hijab. I pray for them to realize the truth earnestly and abandon their vain ways. I will lend my voice to the world that hijab is my choice and I don’t regret it for a day. I thank my mum for being so kind to have groomed me properly with Islamic traditions and customs. Hijab is a blessing for me not a curse.
The need for young muslim girls to have a worthy model is never more important than in this time of ours. Of great necessity is the need for young muslimah across the globe to identify with a noble icon of morality as against the numerous western fashion and musical models they secretly admire. It is my ardent desire to groom myself into a person of high moral standards and great societal value, a figure of inspiration to my contemporaries and younger generations. I started to learn about the pristine teachings of Islam from a very young age and my knowledge of the Deen has grown significantly. I read various literatures, and still do, to equip myself with requisite knowledge and skills to impact the world around me positively. These efforts have helped me in writing articles for Islamic magazines and contributing to discussions that enlighten people about Islam. Everywhere I go I stand out as a notable ambassador of Islam. In the classroom, I speak only when it is necessary and I spare no chance to remove doubts and wrong notions entertained about the teachings of Islam. I have had to enlighten colleagues about the importance of hijaab and Islamic customs. Many of them confessed ignorance of the pearls of wisdom embedded in the teachings of Islam. At their requests, I share my books on various Islamic topical issues to enhance their understanding of Islamic injunctions and practices. Outside the academic environment, I made it a point of duty to counsel young girls and teach them the art of reciting the Holy Quran. I also encourage them to distinguish themselves through various academic platforms like debate, quiz, essay and speech contests. In addition to sharing biographies of historic great muslim women with them, I would also use my own personal example as the winner of the Nigerian Bottling Company Essay Competition 2005/2006 to inspire them to greatness. I would tell them that we wear hijaab to cover our hairs not our brain and we can attain greater heights in our earthly existence as long as we do not lose connection with the Source of Wisdom. In recent times, I have played key roles in the activities of the Muslim Student Society of Nigeria in my department. I have developed greater verve for voluntary and humanitarian services. These have enabled me to build some quality leadership skills and I am always glad to be part of anything that adds value to lives of people around me. I remember taking fresh muslim female students through orientation exercise and helping them meet their immediate academic needs. It was the same way I was received and it is only an obligation on my part to extend such act of kind devotion to others. My inner desire for greatness in both worlds has helped me identify means by which I can attain my lofty life goals without infringing the rights of my fellow being. I have learnt to be tolerant of other peoples’ perspectives and opinions on life matters. I have learnt so much by listening to others and indeed I came to understand the words of Muhammad (s.a.w) that, “silence is wisdom, but few people practice it”. I realized that Allah has created nothing without value, all we have to do is to look at it once more, who says second chance is a bad idea? By entrenching this value in my life, I have learnt not to see anyone in the light of his/her bad deed and it has helped me turn my erstwhile critics to friends. It is my goal to spread the gospel of “love for all, hatred for none” to all nooks and crannies of the world.
Since humans are created to interact with one another, a muslimah cannot live in isolation from her immediate environment. If this is possible it would be difficult to do any good deeds or develop high moral standards. The prophet of Allah was reported to have said that, “a believer is an object of friendship and there is no virtue in a person who does not befriend or is taken as a friend”. Over the years I have developed myself into a sociable and amiable personality. I attend various religious gatherings that have helped me grow in knowledge, wisdom and faith. I share my experience and insights on issues with friends and colleagues in school and they always acknowledge my contribution to any discussion. I am always careful of the company I keep and I do not partake in any activity that undermines my status as a Muslimah. As stated above, I attend various programs that add value to me, both religious and academic. I am always eager to be part of the planning committee for such events. These have helped me improve my interpersonal and communication skills. As a result, I have been privileged to give lectures at various meetings. The Muslim Student Society of Nigeria (MSSN) chapter of my university often organizes a dawah exercise which I have been part of on many occasions. Through this avenue, we were able to go hostels where Muslim ladies reside and share words of Allah and His Prophet with them alongside their non-muslim roommates. The efforts have proved fruitful to the glory of Allah. A lot of passive muslimah have become enthusiastic about participating in religious activities. That indeed has been a thing of joy for us! In this age of blind conformity to trendy activities and practices, I have constantly reminded myself of the evil of adopting unislamic ways of life and mannerisms. My growing consciousness of Allah has helped me remain modest and chaste. I do not use the electronic media for dishonest or unproductive purposes and I seize every opportunity to propagate the message of Islam to my various contacts on facebook, twitter and linkedIn. The importance of knowledge as emphasized by Islam has remained indelible in my memory and I seek all avenues to add to my knowledge daily. I engage in meaningful discussion to clarify misconceptions about Islam after studying books related to the issues. I have, by means of this, won friends among Christians and Muslims alike and have enjoyed good relations with them. At other times, I would attend symposia, fora, inaugural lectures, capacity building workshops and exhibition fairs to enhance my mental magnitude and build myself into a wholesome personality. Who says a muslimah is not capable of great achievements? I wish to lead a life like many great muslim women who have proven the world wrong that Islam berates women, undermines their status and attach to them no societal value. It is my belief that people will only learn about Islam when they interact with Muslims. When they say something ignorantly about Islam, it is not enough to feel sorry for them or ignore them. They should be shown the beauty of Islam whether on a bus, in the market, in lecture rooms, at meetings and conferences by words of mouth as well as exemplary high moral standards. I beseech Allah that my life be such example of a noble Muslim lady with great achievements that will be a source of inspiration for younger generation and those yet unborn.