On my last early morning in Prince Edward Island, I visited a beach that was completely empty. I looked in every direction and there was not a person in sight.
No people around meant I could take my hijab off. So I did. The Atlantic Ocean breeze blew through my hair.
I didn’t know I would, but I cried big, hot tears. Because it felt wonderful. I was spending time with the ocean and some birds, none of whom looked at me or cared that I was there. And I wondered, “Is this how it feels to not wear hijab?”
I walked, and walked, with my orange hijab balled up in my fist. I looked into the vast body of water, and at the sky, and at my feet, and everything in between. I thanked God for bringing me here, to a place I have wanted to visit since I was a child.
And then it was time to go. I looked at my hijab and then in the direction of the parking lot. From far away I could see tiny figures and I knew a few people were starting to arrive.
I could’ve walked to my car without my hijab. No one here knows me. I could’ve pretended I was someone else for a moment. I could’ve felt the breeze for a bit longer.
But I didn’t. I said goodbye to the sticky salt wind, and I put my hijab on. My hijab blew in the wind, but it didn’t feel the same. Then I walked back to my car, re-entering the world as a Muslim woman.
A woman who is looked at, judged, and always held to a higher level of scrutiny. A woman who just wants to live her life, but is seen as a flag bearer for this faith. A woman who is imperfect, but has to hold up an image of perfection so as to honour others like her. And it’s so, so tiring. No man can understand this heaviness.
But as I walked back, I said to Allah: I do this for You and no one else. And though it’s hard, I will hold onto it. Tightly. Fiercely. With vigour and patience.
There is no other path I would choose, because He chose this for me. And I love and obey Him.
In Jannah, I’ll feel this breeze in my hair again. Cool and gentle and kind, carrying a scent that is better than that of a thousand oceans.
I will wait for that day. I think I can be patient for a while longer.
“My name is Asmaa Hussein. I graduated with a Master of Social Work in 2010. I’m the proud mother of a seriously rambunctious 4 year old, Ruqaya. We live in Toronto.
When my husband was killed in Egypt in August 2013, our daughter was only 9 months old. I was suddenly left with two heavy responsibilities: coping with the devastating loss of my partner, and raising our daughter alone.
I have written many words about my experiences and emotions coping with my loss and this huge trust of single-parenthood that had been thrust upon me. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to raise her as I had once hoped. I had been relying on my husband to teach Ruqaya all the things that I wasn’t very good at. I wanted him to teach her Arabic, to teach her to be courageous, to teach her how to swim and ride a bike…
I was emotionally and physically drained, with the weight of the world seemingly resting on my shoulders.
Over time and as God continuously helped me regain my strength after having gone through this difficult trial, I began searching for resources on how to raise a Muslim child on my own. While I did find a handful of beneficial resources, I had a hard time gathering them all holistically in a way that made sense to my life and my circumstances. I was also unimpressed with many Islamic resources for children. I couldn’t find many books that were interesting, well-written and well-illustrated (there are, of course, some wonderful exceptions to this).
As I struggled to find good quality Islamic books for my daughter (who is obsessed with books of all kinds), and easily-accessible parenting information for my specific parental circumstances, I came to the conclusion that I would have to take matters into my own hands. I would research and learn everything that I could to make me a better mother. I would not accept the narrative crafted by the negative voice in my head telling me my path would be rife with weakness and deficiency.
And so this is Ruqaya’s (digital) Bookshelf. It houses the letters from me that I wish for her to read as she grows older. It is home to everything I’m learning on this rocky and enlightening journey of single-parenthood. Soon it will also house exceptional children’s books for Ruqaya and other kids to enjoy, inshaAllah.
Pull up a chair and thumb through this bookshelf. Take from it what is good, and leave what is deficient to collect dust.”
All guest writer articles come from our Muslim Mamas community or from our network of supporters. Some contribute one-off stories; some contribute as anonymous mamas. All experiences and opinions are those of the writers.