I went out of town yesterday and just got back.

It was a Muslim community who’ve been such great supporters of my work that it’s always a pleasure to visit, even if it does mean a five hour drive.

One of the ladies in particular has such an aura about her.

I’ve heard it called ‘noor’, which is the Arabic word for ‘light’, and I think it describes it perfectly.

Some peoples’ faces are just radiant! That’s noor.

I first met this sister, gee, I think it was about six or seven years ago. She’s a busy mom with about five or six kids.

But what I personally find impressive is how slim and trim she’s managed to stay.

Last time I saw her, last year, we got into a conversation about polygamy. 

It was fascinating!

I have always been a strong proponent of polygamy.

I think it’s because of reading Jane Eyre. I mean really! If Jane and Mr. Rochester had been Muslim they’d have had no problem!

And I also thought it was completely hypocritical of the story that Mr. Rochester wasn’t in breach of the law by fathering his female charge (I think her name is Adele), but he’s in breach of the law because he tried to marry Jane!

So what does that say? Screwing around is fine in British/Western law, it’s making the other woman ‘legitimate’ that is illegal.

Who does that really serve?

I think it’s a throwback to the whole idea of limiting wealth in the hands of few.

British law entitled only the eldest son could inherit the entirety of the inheritance. Any other males and female siblings were out of luck! 

Anyway, even though I think polygamy can be a very good situation for women, personally there’s no way I could allow it.

I know that’s completely hypocritical but hey, I can’t help it.

This lady though, told me about how her husband had approached her to take a second wife, and you know what? She allowed it.

She’s such an amazing woman! Not because she’s willing to ‘settle’ in this way, but rather because her faith is so strong, she could put aside her personal feelings against this.

The reason why she allowed it was actually quite simple. She said that because it was Islamically allowed, she would not stop her husband from doing so. She was patient through it.

I asked her how it was going? She said that with the arrangements, she saw her husband just as much as she’d seen him before.

And he was just as committed to the children.

A while back I remember watching a movie with Meryl Streep and Renee Zellwiger in it. Can’t remember the title, it was some melodrama where Meryl (the mother) has cancer and Renee (the daughter) comes home to take care of her.

In the process Renee realizes that her father is having an affair.

And in conversation she also realizes that Meryl knows about it.

Again I thought what a perfect occasion for polygamy!

Why does the man have to sneak around? Why can’t the situation be practical and above board?

If I was sick like that, absolutely would I allow my husband to take another wife! I might even insist on it!

If that makes me sound stupid–so be it.

I was really curious to find out how the arrangements were working out. When I saw the sister today, I asked her about it and it turned out that the other wife couldn’t handle it and ended up divorcing the guy and moving back to her home country.

Some women would have felt vindictively vindicated. Not her.

She sounded like she felt sorry for the other woman.

And then we got to talking. She told me that a prominent Muslim woman we know had decided to remove her hijab.

In the past few years I’ve met a number of women who used to wear the hijab, now living without it, and it always makes me very sad. One of the ladies had even written an article praising it!

It almost feels like we lost a ‘team’ member to the ‘other side’, and even thinking that way gets me annoyed with myself.

This idea of ‘teams’, our side vs their side, kind of nonsense is something we have to avoid.

It reminds of something an atheist once said to me. He said that religious people are very silly when they gloat about numbers. (This was after I had gloated about how Islam is the fasting growing religion.) He said, “Why should it matter if more people are joining you? It has no bearing on whether your dogma is true or not.”

And I had to admit, he was right.

Whether a woman wears hijab or not has no bearing whatsoever on the religion itself.

It only speaks to the type of pressure the woman is under.

I started wearing hijab when I was seventeen years old. About three months after I got married.

I would have worn it when I was sixteen, as soon as I found out it was mandatory at an Islamic camp I attended in Toronto, but my father would not allow me.

After I got married at seventeen, my father said it was up to my husband now. Luckily my husband said it was up to me.

I was still living at home because I had to finish grade eleven. Some time after June I was going to move to Toronto to be with my husband, and I had been planning to start wearing it then. A clean break sort of.

But when I found out that the restriction was lifted, I could go ahead and wear the hijab even though I was still living under my father’s roof–it felt strange.

I had been wanting to wear it for about eight months! But now that I was allowed to, I thought shouldn’t I just wait till I get to Toronto?

But what if I died before that happened? I would die in a state where I had not obeyed God’s injunction. I had died in a state where I cared more about what my classmates thought, than what God thought.

It really bothered me!

So one day, I put on the scarf and went to school.

When one of my bullies called it a turban, I yanked it off.

For two days after that I didn’t wear it, and I cringed inside.

I thought there’s only two weeks of school left, for goodness sakes, there’s only two weeks left.

Then one day I just put it on again.

Back then I didn’t wear it ‘properly’. (That would come with time.) It was a large brown piece of cloth that I tied, kerchief style at the back of head. My neck showed but my hair did not.

That same bully who’d called it a turban, now went around calling me, “lice mobile”, saying I wore the scarf to keep the lice in–and I just didn’t care.

With the other people at school they gave me odd looks but nobody asked me anything about it for three whole days. Finally the phys ed teacher, the one with the big butt, came up to me and asked me why I’d started wearing it.

I told her, “It’s part of my religion.”

She said, “Why didn’t you wear it before?”

I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Because I cared too much what people thought.”

That shut her up good.

And when my last class was done at Dundas District High School I thought, good riddance! I moved to Toronto in August when we got our first apartment, to be with my husband.

Thing is, I was the first woman in my family to start wearing hijab.

The pressure from my relatives was tremendous to take it off.

As long as that pressure continued, it was easy to keep wearing it.

When that pressure abated it actually got a little harder.

There was one little moment of weakness–and here I’m going to sound utterly pathetic–where I did consider taking it off.

I can’t remember why.

I was going to college and something had happened and I don’t know, maybe I missed things like going swimming, not being stared at, and feeling the wind in my hair. I just can’t remember the circumstances. But yes, there was a moment when I said to my husband, “I want to take it off.”

He said, “Don’t.”

And a funny thing happened. I just looked at him and I thought to myself, “Yeah. Don’t.”

And the moment of weakness passed, and I’ve never had it since.

Hijab was never about my husband or my father. It was always for God.

It says clearly in the Quran that women should take their head covers (kimars) and cover their chest modestly. And in the hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) couldn’t have been clearer when he said that after puberty, nothing of a woman’s body should show in public but her face and hands.

That’s why I wear it. Because God told me to.

If I wasn’t convinced it was mandatory, no way would I wear it.

There’s an interesting story in the hadith. One time a blind man came to visit the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Aisha, one of the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not put on her hijab and coverings. The Prophet (peace be upon him) grew visibly angry and he asked his wife why she wasn’t wearing it. Aisha answered, “He’s blind.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied something like, “But you’re not.”

Then she went to put it on.

I think that says so much.

I’ve always thought of the hijab as something that curbs my own tendency towards vanity and flirtation.

My hijab means so much to me now that I actually gravitate to the really big ones! Today I was wearing a beautiful Italian chiffon type thing that flowed down over my clothes past my waist.

The bigger the better! I hate skimpy hijabs!

Just like the Jewish scriptures tell the women to cover their hair and Paul tells the Christian women in Corinthians to cover their hair too, Muslim women have to cover their hair.

It’s actually something we all have in common.

Driving back along the 401 highway, I stopped at a rest area. After I washed my hands, I removed my hijab because it was slipping and retied it. There was a white lady who was cleaning the washroom. She stopped for the whole time I was retying my hijab and watched me. She saw my hair underneath and part of me told myself, “Relax, you’re too innocuous to have to worry about paparazzi!” (That’s been a fear of mine. That some sleezebag will take a candid shot of me without it.)

Anyway, in that moment, when everything was back in place, and not a strand of hair was sticking out, when I was walking past that cleaning lady, she suddenly greeted me with a LOT of enthusiasm, “Have a nice day!”

And I couldn’t help wondering if it wasn’t because she’d seen me underneath. And she’d realized that hey, yes, it’s just a piece of cloth.

But it isn’t just a piece of cloth. It’s so much more.

And I do feel sorry for those women who take off their hijab.

Because they’re disobeying God, and they’ll have to stand before Him one day and face the fact that they cared more about what people thought, and what opportunities might be passing them by, than whether or not they were obeying an injunction of God.

Maybe they’d put it on for all the wrong reasons.

Whatever the case, it’s a little sad.

Them leaving my ‘team’ is not.