Muslimah at Work: Team lunches

When I started ‘the world of work’ a few years ago, I had to make decisions that I never thought about before. I found my faith being tested every day, in little and big ways, that I didn’t know how to handle.

Before work, I was always surrounded by people like me. I attended a female-only Islamic school, and my circle of friends even in university were all Muslim females like me. Now, at work, I was surrounded by males, by non-Muslims, by people of all different cultures and faiths.

Amongst other things, corporate team lunches were a big challenge. At campus and school, we were all muslims so naturally we would only eat at strictly Halaal places. At work, where I was 1 Muslim amongst many non-Muslims, this was not the case.

In the beginning I felt obliged to go along, not really sure whether this was OK or not. I thought to myself: ‘As long as I don’t eat’ or “As long as I eat veg-only’ OR as long as I don’t drink out of the glassware’ . But I really wasn’t sure.

It took a really long time, and a lot of back and forth, till I could decide for myself what I was OK with and what not. I learned to say no when I wasn’t comfortable, and realised that this was perfectly fine. I’ve also become a lot more confident and I let my team mates know when I don’t feel comfortable joining, and even alternatives that I would prefer, and in most cases I’ve found that they generally are a lot more accommodating that I would have expected. With more and more Muslim-owned restaurants opening in South Africa, it gets easier to do this.

I’ve been contemplating writing about this for a while, since technically, even if I do decide what I am OK with, it is not really OK Islamically – I am still working with males, and interacting with them socially during corporate events without a Mahram. And whilst I am trying to share my journey with all of you, I didn’t want to write about areas in my life that I felt needed definite improvement. But I was chatting to a friend yesterday about this who said, your blog isn’t called justanotherperfectmuslimah, and that waiting till I was perfect before I wrote about it didn’t make sense, when I could be writing about challenges that other muslim sisters are probably facing as well.

So, I would really like to hear how some of you deal with these challenges at work, and if there is any advice you would like to impart of your muslim sisters?

Thanks for the read… keep on visiting!

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Hijabi Dilemma: How do you organise your scarves??

I stole this idea from a friend of mine, I think it is INGENIOUS! 🙂

Basically you roll up each scarf, and tie it with an elastic band, which ensures it stays neat. When you want to find a scarf, it is easy to see all and find the one you are looking for! This works with square and long scarves, in all fabrics.

Ingenious! 😀 What smart storage ideas do you have?

The journey of an enquiring mind

I have a close non-muslim friend who, for lots of different reasons, has over time become quite interested in understanding and learning more about Islam.

It started off as an interest or a hobby, researching things and then talking about them with Muslim friends, but as the days have gone on I’ve noticed her becoming more and more interested, and really liking what she is learning.

It’s been an eye-opening experience watching someone else ‘discover’ Islam. Our regular chats about religion started off being a basic QnA session with me having most of the answers, but as time wentand she continued researching, the chats changed and now she is the one teaching me!

How many of us don’t know the answers to ‘why?’ we follow certain guidelines in Islam? Or why certain rules are in place? Or why some things are forbidden? Or why some things are loved? As many of you, I was blessed to have been born in a Muslim family, so I grew up knowing and believing the pillars of Islam. A lot of what I believe in is so much a part of me, that I don’t question and understand the real reasons behind much of the wisdom of Islam any more.

Watching my friend on this path, I see her thirst for knowledge, I witness her understanding and growing love for Islam, and I’m inspired. She has inspired me to learn more about my religion, to have more answers to the ‘why’s’, and to increase the love I have for my Islam.

Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. The more you learn and know about Islam, the more you will increase your love, as it is indeed the most beautiful religion. Seeking knowledge is also spoken about in the Quran and in Hadith:

Allah says: “But say: “O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge”.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever seeks a way to acquire knowledge Allah will make easy his way to Paradise.” [Sahîh Muslim (2699)]

It was also related by Anas b. Malik that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim.” [Sunan Ibn Mâjah (224) and others]

I’m not sure where my friend’s journey will take her, but may Allah open her heart to Islam Inshallah, Ameen.

How to respond to common reactions/questions from non-Muslims

So.. I think almost all muslim sisters who blog about hijab have written a post on weird questions from non-muslims so I will not do the same.. I rather want to focus on how to react to one or two common questions, in a positive manner that will help in educating and inspiring the non-muslims around you.

The weeks before I started wearing hijab, I was already anticipating the questions and trying to figure out what my response would be. The obvious question: “Why are you wearing it?” I thought the answer would be just as obvious, but it is quite difficult to verbalise in a few minutes what was a journey of months or even years for some people.

So, how do you answer this question in a ‘one-liner’, as most of the time the question is not an invitation to jump into 20minutes of Da’wah! Here are some good (in my opinion) answers:

  • It makes me feel closer to my God
  • It’s a constant reminder of my Faith (I can feel it on my head all the time).
  • I do it to please my God
  • My beauty is only for my husband
  • I want people to love, respect and judge me for who I am, not for how I look
  • A lot of the key principles of my religion are based on modesty, and my Hijab is one way of being modest.

The second most common question I’m asked, which was one I was not prepared for, is: “Who is forcing you to wear it? Are you oppressed?”

For this one, I didn’t really have an answer. The first few times I just stared in shock! After that I started laughing it off and went back to my “Why are you wearing it” responses.

Now I still get those questions, but what I always try to do is to show people how much I love my hijab, by enjoying wearing it! I think this is why it is almost important for me to have fun with it, to play with colours and styles, not to be fashionable and/or attractive, but just to make people understand and believe that I am doing this out of choice, I am embracng it and I love it 100%

5 tips to Muslima-fy your wardrobe

So.. you’ve made the Big Decision, you’re ready to start wearing the hijab…. but your wardrobe is not filled with modest clothes! So what do you do? Throw it all out? Go on a shopping spree to every hijabi shop you know? Visit aunts and friends in the hopes they have some hand-me-downs to get you started?

Breathe 🙂 It’s quite easy to transform your wardrobe by adapting some of the clothes you already have.

Tip #1: Stop buying any more short- sleeve / tight fitting tops and shorter length skirts

This is an easy one, all you do is stop looking at these type of clothes in the shops! Now I’m not saying you won’t be able to buy and wear these clothes anymore, but your wardrobe is probably filled with lots of these already, so try to work with those first.

Tip#2: Do some spring cleaning

Now is a great time to clean out your wardrobe. As an exercise, fit on all the shorter length skirts you have, and see if you can wear them with pants in summer or boots in winter. Also, fit on all your short-sleeve tops, and if they’re not too tight, see if they will look OK with a longer sleeve tee under, or perhaps a cardigan over. You can also wear longer length cardigans for your short tops. Anything that cannot be adapted, give away – But this should not the the majority of your wardrobe (unless you need an excuse to go shopping :))

Tip #3: Find replacements for the items you need to give away

For example, if you need to give away a shorter shirt, find a longer length, long sleeved white shirt as a replacement. Find a full length skirt to replace your 3/4 length skirt. Now is a good time to start a list

Tip #4: Create a ‘basics I need’ list

Now that you’ve gone through your wardrobe, it should be pretty easy for you to list which items you need, to transform some of your clothes. Make a list of long sleeved tshirts in the colours that you need. Black, white, beige, cream, brown are usually good to have, plus one or two colours that you already have the short sleeved tops for.

Make a similar list for cardigans. Once again, black, white, brown are good to have, but this is also where the colours can add lots of style to your wardrobe. Cardigans come in a variety of shapes and styles, so be sure to get a good mix, i.e. some longer length, some short, some thinner knits, etc. I will post some ideas for a ‘starter cardigan kit’ sometime soon.

Tip #5: The fun part, matching hijabs!

Ok, so now you’ve got your clothes list sorted, make a list of scarves/hijabs that you need! Resist the urge to buy 10 of the same kind, as the new ones come out all the time, so you don’t want to fill up your collection immediately. That said, you can actually never have too many scarves, so if you see one that you really like, and you don’t have something to match, it’s still OK to buy it 🙂

Good luck, and let me know if these tips help! And if you have any more 🙂