Maya was a convert to Islam. It had taken her a great deal of courage to start wearing a modest Islamic wardrobe, including a headscarf.
She was the only one in her family and circle of friends who dressed that way. It made her feel like an outsider almost everywhere she went. It had felt awkward to show up to work with a headscarf and to answer the questions of dozens of co-workers and clients. And nowadays, strangers on the street — who had always ignored her before — frequently stared at her with hostility or made rude comments.
Nevertheless, Maya persevered. She truly wanted to please her Creator and was convinced that hijab was a necessary part of her deen. She came to accept that most non-Muslims would not understand or support her, but she was counting on the encouragement and guidance of her new Muslim sisters.
Maya was shocked, therefore, when it was two Muslim sisters who managed to shake her confidence more than anyone else. She had removed her hijab at a ladies-only event, and the following conversation ensued:
“Maya, you look so much younger without your hijab!” exclaimed one Muslim sister.
“Yes, you look beautiful!” added another. “It’s a shame you hide all that thick, wavy hair under a scarf!”
“The baggy clothes you wear make you look at least ten years older,” asserted the first sister, in a confiding whisper. “You’re still young . . . . and you hope to get married someday, right?”
“Something a little more form-fitting would be much more flattering,” advised the second. “And perhaps a bit of makeup to brighten your features.”
Maya could hardly believe what she was hearing. Here were born-Muslim women who knew and understood Islamic rules, and yet they were encouraging her to dress less modestly?! It was not enough that they chose not to cover themselves, but clearly they were also on a crusade to convert other sisters to their opinion. Maya had never expected that.
Although she was not very vain, Maya could feel her self confidence evaporating after that encounter. Her goal had been to dress like a believer, not an unattractive old maid! More than ever before since her conversion, she began to question how she looked and what she wore.
Days after that ladies-only event, she found herself scrutinizing her wardrobe and looking critically in the mirror, seeing a tired old woman instead of a young, fervent believer. How would she ever find a husband if she looked dowdy? She began to resent her loose clothing and to lament the “imprisonment” of her beautiful hair and the plainness of her unadorned face.
Omar was doing his best as a husband and father. His new job required him to live in an expensive part of the country, where real estate came at a premium. Family homes in his area cost half a million dollars!
Having a third child made the family budget even tighter. Still, Omar was proud that he could support his wife and children. They lived in a safe and comfortable rented home, and they always had enough to eat and clothes to wear. He was saving as much money as he could, but it wasn’t very much.
Omar knew he could get a loan from a bank to get a mortgage on one of those half-million-dollar homes, but he and his wife agreed that they did not want to deal with riba, interest, since it was haraam. Maybe someday they could relocate to a more affordable part of the country and buy a home with cash. Until then, Omar and his wife agreed that renting was their only option.
But then Omar’s relatives decided to chime in.
“What are you doing, wasting all that money on rent?” demanded his father. “All those years you could have been paying a mortgage and building equity in a home!”
“Baba, I don’t want to deal with riba,” explained Omar, trying to be patient.
“The fact is, you can’t function in this country without riba,” protested his uncle. “It’s inevitable! If you want the best for your family, you need to own a home. To own a home, you need to take a mortgage!”
“But Islam strictly forbids it,” protested Omar.
“Islam is supposed to be easy, not hard,” asserted Omar’s father. “It’s not your fault that you live in a country where all the banks deal with riba. Allah knows your circumstances. Surely He will understand.”
“Besides,” added his uncle, “What if something happened to you? What if you died and your wife and kids were left with nothing? At least if you owned a home, you would build equity in it, and they would have a place to live.”
Omar suddenly had a vision of his wife and children alone, with no income, no home, no money to fall back on. It frightened him. For the first time he thought that maybe riba wasn’t such a big deal, after all.
To be continued..