What She Believes
by Iqra M Azhar
I have been working with Niswa Fashion for a few months now and while I thought I would be helping them out with their brand’s business and marketing needs and consulting where necessary, I never thought their work or me working with them…would influence me.
I am someone who used to wear hijab. For many many years and after some personal and traumatic incidents, no longer do. But from the first photo shoot I attended for Niswa in order to capture some behind the scenes moments, something inside me changed.
I saw young muslim women who had come out as models excited to try on and place each new hijab on their heads…they were more excited by the new colors of the newly released scarves than about being in the photos. Even the models who were not Muslim were so respectful and graceful while handling the hijab and it really affected me. I remember running up to the Founder in between capturing shots and telling her that I planned to write about this.
Trust me, I am not here to paint a rosy picture of modesty. I have been there - I know the struggle well and I will never say it is easy.
I since got distracted by the many things I do and am involved with and basically learning to live my life as a newly single mom and did not end up writing about what I had wanted to.
Just before the New Year though, I had committed to working at the Niswa booth for the annual MAS ICNA convention held in Chicago. While I witnessed the usual Moms of daughters trying to haggle on prices, the other things I saw reminded me of how I had felt at the photo shoot only a little while back. I saw women gushing over dresses, feeling beautiful just holding one up against her frame to see how it might look, sisters helping one another replace and replenish missing colors in a hijabi girl’s wardrobe and wives proudly showing their men that Niswa was the booth they wanted to shop at.
For someone who had gotten used to hearing that long and flowy was not cool or beautiful or modern, it was enlightening to see how many women felt beautiful in exactly these types of outfits and pieces.
The highlight had to be when some of my favourite speakers and leaders literally told us that they had been searching for the Niswa booth all day, all weekend because they just loved the variety and the fit. I saw first hand how both Linda Sarsour and Dalia Mogahed eagerly and happily shopped for their modest purchases and a bit more of my heart melted.
I already admire a number of Muslim women who wear hijab, follow tons of modest fashion influencers and am inspired by them and still own every hijab I ever purchased. But seeing how comfortable and attractive these women felt in modest wear in a behind-the-scenes sort of way made me reflect. On a lot of things.
I started to have flashbacks of when I used to receive so many compliments from the most random of people in my day to day life just because of the cool hijab I was wearing that day and I started to think about why I had given up. For a second, I thought, this is how new Muslims who find Islam must feel - how Allah brings them closer and closer. I thought I was someone who would never really consider wearing hijab again, but now I did not feel that wall anymore.
I see it in other parts of the work I do for Niswa too. When we did the call out for Muslim Women to share their thoughts on modesty and why they do it, it had an effect on me simply from reading the submissions. It is why we try to share regular women and their thoughts with you all and why blogging and sharing is so important. More than the actual pieces that we wear on our heads or are bodies, I am inspired by the attitude and the love for modesty that my sisters have knowing how hard it is to be different, to stand tall in this day and age and to resist temptations.
I have always had a desire to give back to my community, to work with purpose and also in a way that I could make a difference, do dawah and serve my Lord and, for me, that was working with Muslim entrepreneurs and their brands. After this experience, however, I also believe that it is important for all of YOU to support and work closely with Muslim businesses and I personally will be advocating this more regularly. We don’t know where we will find our inspiration, our rope from Allah during hard times and our sense of community but we all agree, all around the world, that company matters. So if the only ties you have with other Muslims or with Allah himself is through a Muslim brand, get involved. Get connected.
Nowadays there are so many great brands with all sorts of opportunities and all sorts of talent. If you think you might want to write for Niswa, or model for us, for example. Hit us up. We would be more than happy to try to work together. But even if its another brand or organization, I guarantee you that you will eventually find whatever it is that you’re looking for if you get started.
As Dr. King has taught us: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
MLK day may be just behind us but the year has just begun and we want to begin it with service. We’re trying to figure out where we want to collaborate for the remaining and upcoming years, but if you’re already involved in a cool organization, cause or company, let us know! Submit on our Instagram Stories as we work on our next 10 Muslim Women Talk: Service column (coming soon)!
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Thanks for reading!