After the month of Ramadan, comes the month of Shawwâl in the lunar calendar. I learned this past Ramadan of the great reward of fasting six days of Shawwâl.
Abû Ayyûb al-Ansârî relates that Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) says: "Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwâl, it will be as if he had fasted the year through." [Sahîh Muslim (1163)]It is related from Thawbân that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "The fast of Ramadan is like observing ten months of fasting. Fasting six days of Shawwâl is like observing two months of fasting. This together is like fasting throughout the year." [Sahîh Ibn Khuzaymah (2115) and Sunan al-Nasâ'î al-Kubrâ (2860) – and authenticated by al-Albânî]
As I only had time to fast two days of Shawwal whilst I was in New York, I fasted the four remaining days as discretely as possible once I was back home. You see, I did not want to make my mom uncomfortable. The idea of abstaining from food and water for the entire period of daylight worries her - naturally, a caring mother worries for her child.
Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), although I was fasting throughout the work day at the book warehouse, I did not feel sluggish and my mind was clear. When my mom picked me up from work, she did not even detect a difference in my behaviour or mood. She's quite attentive - when I kissed her goodbye in the mornings she made sure to remind me to grab my lunch, and even asked me in the evenings what I ate all day. One night she asked me "how did you drink water at work today without your water bottle?" At this question, I first felt extremely grateful to have such a loving and attentive mother. She truly cares about every detail. Second, I felt a bit sad, because I wanted to tell her that I was fasting. I imagined that she would be shocked, since she did not suspect anything. I imagined that she would be able to see that one can function perfectly well while fasting.
I was so tempted, so close to blurting out near sundown, and even after, "I fasted today!" Somehow it felt so important to tell her, as if I were being dishonest to not say anything. But in the end, I bit my tongue and kept it to myself for the sake of not ruffling any feathers.
Mom is handling all of this quite well. Surely, I care about her very deeply, and I'm sad that it's been such a shock for her to see me become Muslim. She's told a few of her close friends, with a negative tone, I'm sure. But at least she's told them. This means I was able to attend a birthday party with her and some of her church friends last week. I switched from my traditional hijab to a scarf that I wear like a bandana, covering my hair. This style makes it less obvious in these settings that I'm covering my hair for religious reasons. The other night she exclaimed, "Can you please be Muslim and not cover your hair!" At first, I loved the comment because it sounded as if she was asking me to be Muslim, although this was not her intention.
After my initial reaction wore off, I realized that Muslim women who don't wear hijab make it more difficult for Muslim women who do, particularly reverts. I mean, it's hard for me to explain to my mom, who cites examples of Muslim women who don't wear hijab, why I believe I should.
I believe, based on the Quran, that it is expected for a woman to cover her hair and body in a specific manner. I'm also well-aware that a hijab over my hair does not make me Muslim. I mean, such coverings and modesty is not a pillar of the faith. Islamic codes for modesty are not necessarily in the forefront of the theology. But when other women don't cover, their behaviour suggests that this is an issue up for interpretation, although I (with Muslim scholars) don't believe it is. In the Quran, Allah provides dress codes and guidelines for modest conduct for men and women (scroll down). I've reached a point where I feel that the dress codes outlined for men and women in Islam are small and easy gestures of our obedience. It's painless to keep myself covered, and I'm sure that the hidden benefits are even greater than the obvious ones:
With my hair and body covered in public, I feel more respected by others, and I feel more self-confident. Suddenly, I have a right to choose who gawks at my body, who feasts their eyes, and who doesn't. I don't have to be an object; I don't have to dress to attract the attention of other men or women, and my confidence doesn't have to be based on whether I feel physically attractive or not. I don't always assume that men around me will even find me attractive, and even if they wouldn't, I maintain a sense that my body is private, and also that strangers need not see my body unwantedly. Thus far, I have received more positive attention than negative. Occasionally, strangers approach me to compliment my hijab. My hair stays cleaner longer, especially working at the bookstore. My skin is now protected from the sun's rays, whereas before I was prone to sunburns. I'm happy to see other women wearing hijab. We can recognise each other and share a sense of community.
Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision (Looking only at what is lawful and averting their eyes from what is unlawful) and guard their private parts (from being seen and from unlawful acts). That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is acquainted with what they do.And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision (Looking only at what is lawful and averting their eyes from what is unlawful) and guard their private parts (from being seen and from unlawful acts) and not expose their adornment (natural beauty - e.g. hair, body shape - or accessories - e.g. flashy clothing, jewelry) except that which appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment [i.e. beauty] except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their women, that which their right hands possess [i.e. slaves], or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed. Surah An-Nur 24:30-31.O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known (as chaste believing women) and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. Surah Al-Ahzab 33:59