I found some old email print-outs and remembered a couple of incidents from my past. As usual, I have a bit of a long story to tell. *S* A few years ago, in trying to become a more practising Muslim, I underwent a great struggle. I felt very much alone – it was as if not one person around me – not my family, not my friends – understood me. When we discussed Islamic issues, I would be dismissed – as if I were “going too far” or as if I were spewing out drivel.

There is one particular occasion that stands out. I was at work and discussing the issue of hijab and niqab [the face veil] with a colleague when another sister cut in and said to the person I was talking to, “But you don’t NEED to go into all that stuff.” She said this in a curt and warning tone, as if what I had been talking about was completely unnecessary… as if I would lead her astray. Mind you, I was not even advocating niqab – I was just discussing different points of views and I merely indicated that I liked the idea of niqab even though I do not wear it. That sister’s words and tone truly stung, not only because of what she implied but also because she was a close friend of mine. It hurt all the more because it was not the first time she had subtly or not so subtly made her feelings known. I made no answer then and just left the issue.

On another occasion, I was at a wedding with a few relatives. I was not married then and I suppose there were those who felt sorry for me and took it upon themselves to feel desperate on my behalf. I could tell they were on the lookout for potential suitors for me. Some were quite well meaning but others went a little too far. My initial amusement turned into annoyance. I was quite content to leave matters to Allah and I did not appreciate the methods they advocated.

During the dinner, I put on a nice black jilbab with a new matching scarf. I did not put on make up on as the wedding was not a segregated affair. I didn’t think I looked all that bad – not flashy but not sloppy or dowdy for sure.

When one of the elders saw me, her face just fell and she then looked irritated. She kept urging me to put some lipstick on. I said, no, getting a little fed-up, because I had tolerated days of disappointed looks and whispered sarcasm. After more pestering on her part and more refusal on mine, the lady said exasperatedly, “BUT YOU DON’T LOOK NICE!” Not much more was said thereafter… my evening was quite ruined.

It depressed me, not because I was told I didn’t look nice – I am not too concerned about what other people think about my looks – but because I felt very much alone.

In situations like these, I take comfort in the advice one of my online friends. AlHamdulillah for I have met many encouraging Muslims via the internet. It may have been that they had undergone the very same problems that I had. Whatever it was, I felt a deep sense of affinity with these individuals. They were gentle when I needed correction, patient when I needed information and compassionate when I needed a friend.

This one friend reminded me that such a feeling of ‘strangeness’ is a praiseworthy condition when one refuses to conform to useless customs. I was told, “Da’wah is like bringing up a child – one does not actually see him growing… It takes time before one notices the changes and one therefore needs patience.”

Some early scholars used to advise, “Keep fast to the path of truth, and do not succumb to loneliness because of the few who tread it; and be aware of the path of falsehood, and do not be deceived by the many headed on it to destruction.”

My friend told me of the words of Ibn Hazm, who said:

“As for the reproach made to me by ignorant adversaries who say that I put no value on anyone who disagrees with me when I believe that I am in the right, and that I would never act in concert with the ones I contradict even if they amounted to the entire human population on the face of the earth, and that I place no value on conforming with the people of my country in many of the customs or costume which they have adopted for no particular reason – this independence is a quality which I regard as one of my most important virtues. There is nothing equal to it, and, upon my life, if I did not possess it [God forbid], it would be this that I most longed for, and hoped for, and prayed for to God Almighty. In fact, my advice to all who may hear my words is to behave in the same way. There is no benefit to be had from copying other people if their actions are vain and pointless. By so doing, one annoys the Almighty, and disappoints one’s mind [deludes oneself], causes suffering to one’s soul and body and takes upon one’s shoulders an unnecessary yoke.”

It has been many years since I received and printed out the email. It is only now, with the passage of time, that I truly appreciate the wisdom. I hope that Inshaa Allah this will help you all in some way if you go through difficult times.