Society has made us obsessed with numbers – the number on the scale, the number of calories we’re consuming, and the size of our jeans. For years, my obsession with numbers consumed me until I became ruled by the number on the scale.
For many girls, this obsession with numbers eventually leads to eating disorders. That actually happened to me. It all started once I got into middle school. I was constantly comparing my body to the girls' bodies around me, and when I turned on the TV, I was bombarded with thin girls and ads telling me that I was not good enough. My mind became consumed with, “What can I do to lose one more pound?” Highschool wasn't any better. I hated my body and eventually developed an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. I became obsessed with how many calories I was eating every second of my day. This slowly developed into a binge-purge cycle and continued on for six years. I reached a breaking point and knew I needed to seek help.
Through the support of professionals, my parents, and friends, I'm happy to say that I have been eating disorder free for the past five years and could not be happier with my body. In my journey towards taking back my health, I came to love fitness; it became a part of my lifestyle and I finally ditched the scale and started to focus more on how much I could do.
I also learned that as women, we need to recognize the beauty of the bodies we have been given by God. In fact, the Prophet (S) is narrated to have said, “Your body has a right over you,” (Book 67 Saheeh Bukhari; Hadith 133). This hadith highlights the responsibility that God has given you to take care of your body. This encompasses eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and
taking care of your mental health
Eventually, my journey lead me to weightlifting, which gave me an inner strength that I had craved for a long time. After years of viewing my body in such a negative light, going into the weight room and being able to lift heavy weights made me recognize the true potential of my body. Contrary to popular belief, being both female and more specifically, Muslim hijab-wearing female, does not hinder a woman's ability to weightlift. There are so many stereotypes about women weightlifting and getting “too bulky,” and I’m here to tell you that it can't be further from the truth. Weightlifting won't make you bulky or “manly”. In fact, it'll do just the opposite: it'll tighten and tone your body, burn fat, and shape your curves.
Sharing my journey on Instagram brought on many unexpected conversations about my hijab. Many had the misconceptions that Muslim women are not allowed to workout with hijab. I always took that as an opportunity to show people that not only is it possible to work out in hijab but that exercising, in general, is highly encouraged in Islam.
I love that working out in hijab helps me smash stereotypes about Muslim women. One as I was waiting for my turn at the weightlifting machine at the gym, a man jumped in front of me to cut my place in line. I could tell by his body language that he did not take me seriously – as if his workout was more important than mine. I remained unphased and went through the intense workout I had planned. As I was wrapping up, the same man approached me to apologize. It's moments like these that make me want to motivate everyone around me to push themselves to achieve what they thought was impossible, no matter where they are in their journey.
Bukhari, Muhammad Ibn Ismail.Sahih Al Bukhari. Vol. 57, Islamic Book Service, 1997.
Nour Samaha is a 21-year-old Muslim athlete residing in Michigan, United States. She graduated in December of 2017 with a bachelor in Speech-Language Pathology. Nour initiated her Instagram page in November 2016 with the intention to shed light on maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a hijabi woman. Her aspirations include becoming a personal trainer and one-day competing in a powerlifting competition. You can follow her fitness journey on Instagram