This month's HOTM is Nida Ahmed from California and was nominated by her sister who had this to say about her, "When I saw your guys hijabi of the month i automatically thought of my littler sister, Nida. We have a 5 year
gap, and she started wearing the hijab when she was 11, by choice, even though me being her older sister, had not started wearing the hijab. One day we were randomly going to dinner and she decided to put on a hijab without mentioning it to anyone and wore it like it was no different day, so much confidence for a 11 year old girl. Nida has done everything with a hijab, we've gone sky diving, scuba diving, cliff diving, jet skiing, and wearing a hijab has not once stopped her in doing all that. I think thats why I look up to her so much, even though shes younger than me, I learn a lot from her. People always think hijab as an obstacle or being oppressed but Nida has shown to so many people that she can do everything while wearing a hijab, that wearing it has not stopped her from being just like everyone else."
Change. I would describe myself and my life as ever-changing. The very few constants in my life are my name, Nida Ahmed, my identity as a Pakistani-Muslim American, and my love for my family, art, and my deen (religion). I was born and raised in California, but I moved to Dubai a couple years ago, and now I am back in Sacramento and will be beginning my second year of study as an International Relations and Economics double major at the University of California, Davis. Art has always been a part of my life; I wasn’t born with the awe-inspiring talent of Gustav Klimt, but I worked for it. I practiced for years, I took classes, I watched countless youtube videos, I stayed up til 6 in the morning perfecting my shading, and I strived for greatness. (She painted the board below for the Students for Justice of Palestine mock-apartheid wall
) That is how I choose to live my life; no one is born with the will power and strength of a perfect
Muslim, rather, it is something we pursue and strive towards. I hope one day to inspire those around me with my art and my deen in an effort toward social justice and change.
1) When did you start wearing hijab? Tell us a little about your journey.
I started wearing hijab at the age of 12. It wasn’t provoked by any existential realizations or that I had suddenly seen ‘the light.’ One day I woke up and decided to just throw on a hijab, without thinking through how difficult it really would be and what it actually meant. I had struggled with it the most in my beginning years of high school; I was in a new school, new country, new people, and I was scared. Ironically, it was harder in Dubai because I went to an international school and 90% of the students weren’t Muslim. I didn’t know why I wore it, so I prayed no one would ask me. But now, it is a part of me; it’s not just a scarf around my head, it is my identity, it allows me to be whomever I want and reminds me everyday of what is really important: Allah.
2) What guidance do you have for women who think hijab is restricting?
As every hijabi will tell you, we always get numerous questions like, ‘But isn’t that, like, really hot?’ ‘Can you even do anything with it?’ ‘It must stop you from doing a lot of, like, fun things.’ To that, I answer: yes, it does get hot, I don’t have a built in cooling system, yes I can do plenty of things with ‘it,’ and no I can still have fun. I love adventure, and travel, and really everything else this world has to offer. The only way the hijab restricts you from being yourself is if you allow it to. People will always always try to tell you what you’re doing wrong and that you’re ‘oppressed,’ but do not allow others’ opinions of you affect how you carry yourself.
3) What's the best piece of advice anyone's ever given you?
The best piece of advice I have ever received was to stay passionate. Passion is what drives my art, my religion, my studies; it is what motivates me to be the best person I can be, and it keeps me active, whether it be socially, politically, or physically.
4) What/Who was a positive influence you had growing up?
I know it’s cliché, but my parents have been the most positive influences in my life; my mother and father struggled a lot throughout their lives and are still the most caring and successful individuals I know. They taught me the virtue of patience and humility, and everything I am or will be is because of them and Allah.
5) If you could give one piece of advice to someone struggling with hijab, what would it be?
My advice to anyone struggling with the hijab is that it is okay to feel like you’re not the best hijabi out there; it’s okay to be scared and confused and indecisive, because that means that you care about what the hijab actually means. It’s a good sign if you feel uncertain because from there you will only grow. Stand up for yourself, stay confident, listen to the opposing views to further solidify your beliefs, and most importantly keep your faith in Allah and yourself.
Is there someone you'd like to nominate for Hijabi of the Month? E-mail email@example.com!