Sometimes the shine in our journey is only given after we’re shaken and stirred. Here’s a wondrous example of just that given by our very own Salma :
My hijab journey started when I was 25 years old, after my wedding in the summer of 1981. I said summer because I got married in Sheffield UK, the same summer Princess Diana married Prince Charles. While theirs was the wedding of the year befitting their royal status held in the church, ours was one of simpletons held in the house of the Imam of the Islamic center. The royal wedding was witnessed by the whole world while ours had the obligatory two adult Muslim male witnesses, and his curious young children. The royalties had their grand wedding banquet with guests made up of the world’s head of States and royalties whilst for our ‘walimah’, there were just the four of us, eating lunch at an Indian Restaurant.
My husband of two weeks old had already graduated from his engineering school but I have one more year to go. After receiving the royal command from his patriotic marine policeman father, who wants him to come home and find a job and serve the nation, the filial son felt that it was an order he could not simply ignore despite being oceans away.
So obviously it was a sad day when I waved him goodbye at the train station, him heading to London, to catch his flight to Kuala Lumpur (KL).
All alone without my husband, I was confident that I could cope, having got used to being independent since I was 15 years old when I went to boarding school and at 18, straight to UK to further my studies. I grew up quite fast during that decade of my teenage years.
Then, suddenly someone else started to enter prominently into my life. I consider myself to be an amiable person, making friends easily with everybody. So this someone whom I will name as Mr X, like everybody else, became a casual acquaintance. He was one of hundreds of my classmates during our first year at the university. We met on many occasions and I thought nothing of it. But one year later, right after my husband left for home, Mr X, gained enough courage to approach me and tell me he had feelings for me. I told him I am married, showed him the ring on my finger and left him immediately, not willing to have any further discussion with him. That was the beginning of my nightmare. He started stalking me every where I go. After a few months of that, I decided to wear my hijab in an effort to put him off. It did not. I tried to get help from the Uni counsellor, my friends, nothing seems to work. Soon after, some how, he found out where I lived and he started knocking on my doors. When I peeped through the letter box, I saw it was him. I told him to leave but he kept on knocking and knocking and knocking and after what seemed like hours, he left. Then he would come again and knocked tirelessly on the letter box and this went on for months. I was going crazy and as my final exams drew near, I became desperate. I decided to move out temporarily from my flat. I approached a group of muslimah living in the same block of council flats and asked if I could bunk in with them until the exams are over. They were kind enough to oblige.
Wearing the hijab was at first my defence strategy against the stalker but consequently it brought with it a change in my behaviour. I now cut ties with my mostly non-muslim friends, which did concern them. I was now living with my Muslim sisters, who belonged to a close knit community of Muslim Malaysians. It was not hard for me to begin adapting to the Muslim way of life the muslimahs were practising. I was a born again Muslim. The apparent ease of my transformation perhaps is due to my religious upbringing in a small village in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan. My mother brought us up as Muslims, taught us to read the Qur’an, taking us to the nearby musolah regularly, making it much our second home and playground. My father was a strong and strict head of family who led many jemaah prayers. So, when you got distracted or lost your way, culture-shocked by life in a Western, non-muslim society, the mini compass in your heart, will help direct you back to the straight path.
The beginning of my hijab journey turned my life a 180 degree whilst on the other side of the world, my husband’s life continued on cruise, from when I saw him last at the train station. The divide was not just physical this time but unknowingly to both of us, it was also spiritual. His world view remained as different to mine like chalk and cheese. His late mom believed that I could change him. I was so sure I could change him, with my love for him. How terribly wrong we both were. He was very disappointed with me wearing the hijab right the moment he read my letter telling him about it. It became even more disappointing to him, to see me all covered up as I stepped off the plane at Subang Airport. His disapproval of my total demeanour and my steadfastness in keeping to the Deen, remained solid throughout our marriage. He tried several times to get me to tone down my ‘extreme’ Islamic way of life. I did relent some what in the way I wore the hijab but when he told me to remove the hijab all together that was where I drew the line. When my first born arrived the spiritual divide got even bigger than the Grand Canyon, due to our differences in the way we want to bring up our daughter. If not for his vision, wisdom and extreme patience, we would have ended our marriage right after one of such arguments but lived together we did, me bringing up my family my way and him, putting up with us and sufferring in silence. Fast forward 25 years later, after the youngest of my four girls had completed her secondary school at Form Five, my husband told me he doesn’t want to remain married to me anymore. He has fulfilled his obligations and now it was time for him to find his own happiness.
When we got divorced, everyone was surprised. We were supposed to be the ideal couple and the ideal family. On the bright side, no sooner had I lost the one man in my life, Allah replaced me with 4; my 3 loving sons-in-law and my grandson. Allah has since blessed my life many fold. Alhamdulillah
Salma you are such a blessing to have and your journey explains it all. May your love for Allah always grow and flourish in your legacy ❤️