July's Hijabi of the Month Mashel Alam from Elk Grove, California was nominated by both her sister Mahreen and friend from UCSB. Here's what she had to say about Mashel:
"I met Mashel my first year at the University of California Santa Barbara. We were both freshman but she immediately transfixed me with her grace and talent to make anyone laugh. As we grew together in the dorms; while others went out partying she became closer to God. The story of how she put on hijab is truly a heart warming one as no one in her family wore hijab, but she knew it was her duty as a Muslimah to stand up for what she believed was right. Mashel left UCSB after one year and it was a great loss to us because we had nominated her to be president of our Muslim Student Association. At Sacramento State University Mashel stayed as involved in MSA as she was at UCSB. I'd see her on the news protesting for a prayer room and think to myself, "that's Mashel for you." She always fought for what she knew was right."
1) How old were you when you first started wearing hijab?
I was 19 and I truly love it.It started when I was in high school, I became very curious and wanted to learn more about the reasoning behind it.I did some research through the Quran, other books and knowledgeable Muslims.I talked to other women who wore it and asked them their reasons for wearing it.I began to understand that in the Quran, God asks women to cover their hair and body and understood how important it truly is.Living in a society where physical beauty is stressed more than inner beauty can really damage a person’s mindset.In order to prevent this, Allah (S) tells women to cover themselves so they put their faith before anything.The knowledge I gained made me appreciate the Hijab even more.
I am a firm believer Hijab represents respect and modesty for one’s self and reflects this onto others.It is a very important decision and everyone has their own time as to when they start. While I was attending UCSB, I started wearing it occasionally when going to public places, and even my non-Muslim friends would join in.After a lot of thinking and talking, I decided I was ready to wear it.I hadn’t told my parents because whenever I would bring it up with them in the past, they’d get worried for my safety and didn’t want me to fall on the extreme end.I couldn’t wait any longer and knew I was ready to make Islam a permanent way of living.My parents were surprised when they came to pick me up from campus and thought it was temporary but I assured them it was permanent.It took time for them to accept it but they’ve learned to understand it and are very happy I wear it now.
It truly is empowering for me to put my commitment to God before any person or thing.I feel it forces people to look at my mind, character and thought before physical appearance.I’m glad I was able to stand up for what I strongly believe in and hope others will aspire to do the same, Insha’Allah.This command from God comes in a beautiful form and serves as a constant reminder of modesty, protection, dignity and a wonderful form of dawah.
I feel wearing hijab is a beautiful thing to do for yourself and Islam. Wearing it in the USA is a great place to start because it’s not forced, it’s a choice.I love making it look stylish with different colors and designs to match outfits, this way people know that I love wearing it.It’s a constant reminder to me about my faith and God and guides me to my main goal in life which is to please Allah (S).
2) What were some positive influences you had growing up?
I had an amazing group of friends at UCSB.The Muslim community in Santa Barbara was small yet very active.Most of my friends wore Hijab and really inspired me to put my belief into action as well.While attending my first year of University there, I gained more Islamic knowledge and became very comfortable and proud of my religion.I was able to pray openly in the library, dining halls, lounge areas, anywhere I could find a clean spot.I would also attend the Imam’s classes in the evenings and was involved in various interfaith events.
Being involved in my high school MSA lead me to be involved in the University MSA as well.I am currently the Dawah Coordinator for the Sacramento State University of California MSA and organize events, speakers, meetings and daily prayers on campus.Prayer is the basic core of being a Muslim and our MSA is in the process of incorporating an Interfaith Meditation Room for prayer to share with many other faiths.
When I was younger, my parents put my siblings and myself in Weekend Islamic school and took us to the masjid regularly.We attended Quran classes and other Islamic events.My parents didn’t force us to worship, I felt that it naturally became a way of life. They taught me that I could pursue any of my dreams only with the help of Allah (S).They raised me to always respect myself and others and to always ask Allah (S) to do what’s best for me.
“Nothing you seek through your Lord will ever be difficult; and nothing you seek through yourself will ever be easy.” -Ibn ‘Ata Allah as Sakandari
3) What's the best piece of advice anyone has given you?
“Have full faith in the wisdom of what is happening in the world according to the will of Allah (S).As the reality is hidden from you, sometimes it appears that things are going against you, in fact they may not be.If the curtain is removed from the “unseen,” you would yourselves come to know that not only is it happening for the best but most of the time it is also producing good results for you.” -M.Malik
Allah (S) is the best of planners and even when things don’t seem to be going the way you expect, there is a reason and it is favorable for you.Strive to do your ultimate best and leave the rest to God.Be thankful and humble for everything, always.
4) If you could tell your 17-year old self anything, what would it be?
Stand up for what you believe in.I was having serious thoughts about putting on the hijab and was nervous about people treating me differently.People will talk bad about you even when you do good things so it’s more important to please Allah (S) rather than people.I would tell myself to be strong and that it is possible to pursue my dream of becoming a Research Scientist while striving to be a devout Muslim.I try my best to appear and behave accordingly while making my dreams come true.I’m willing to stand up and work extra hard to portray the most positive light for the headscarf.I’ve learned and am still learning that Islam is a lifestyle and when you maintain a firm grasp of the Quran and ahadith, it naturally becomes incorporated into everything you do.
5) What is one statement you live by?
“Be mindful of Allah, and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him facing you. If you ask, then ask of Allah. If you seek aid, then seek aid in Allah. Know that if the entire Ummah were to gather in order to benefit you with something, they could not benefit you with anything except with that which Allah has written for you. And if the entire Ummah were to gather in order to harm you with something, they could not harm you with anything except with what Allah has written against you. The pen has been lifted and the pages have dried.” -at-Tirmidhi Hadith Hasan Sahih
Would you like to be a HOTM? Is there someone you'd like to nominate? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.