This month's HOTM, Mehruba Akhtar, was nominated by her sister Maisha Rahman, who had this to say about her: "I wish to nominate my 25 year old sister, Mehruba Akhtar, for Hijabi of the Month. A little over 2 years ago, my sister went through a divorce. My family and I watched her go from someone who thought she would accomplish nothing in life since she had always been an stay at home mom, to becoming a force to be reckoned with. My sister is currently studying Business Information Systems at Wayne State University. She is also an IT business analyst at Quicken Loans, proving that Muslim women can be in the professional world and aren't limited to staying at home. When she isn’t spending time with her children, in class, or at work, she dedicates her free time to her community by doing youth work. She is a lead mentor at a local masjid and has helped coordinate many successful events for Muslim women like bonfires, halal alternatives to holidays, and recently hosted a glamorous women's only ball. She also spends a significant amount of her free time fighting for social justice for minorities, Muslims, and women. Mehruba is an inspirational person, and that's why I think she deserves to be Hijabi of the Month."
We caught up with Mehruba to hear more about her and her journey with hijab.
1) When did you start wearing hijab? Tell us a little about your journey and how you came to wear it.
I started wearing hijab on my first day of high school, when I was 14 years old. To be honest, I first wore it because it was what my father wanted me to do. It wasn't something that my parents discussed with me much while I was growing up. At the time I started wearing it, "hijab" to me was just a piece of cloth that was meant to cover my hair. I knew it was a requirement for Muslim women, but that was the extent of my knowledge of it. It wasn't until much, much later that I truly appreciated the beauty and honor of adorning hijab and began to own it. Now, at 25 years of age, my understanding of hijab has changed drastically from what it was over a decade ago. I see it as a symbol of beauty, empowerment, and honor. I think it's safe to say that anyone who wears a hijab tends to naturally demand respect, and that's something I absolutely love.
2) Tell us more about what you do, your passions and what they mean to you.
I'm currently studying Business Information Systems at Wayne State University and am a mom to two amazing boys. I'm also an IT Business Analyst. A lot of sweat and tears went into making my breakthrough in IT; I spent hours reading, learning, and practicing code (yes, I am THAT type of nerd) and it's an achievement I'm very proud of. I want to challenge the stereotype that women can't thrive in STEM fields. My mantra is: "I'm on the quest to take the world by storm." People get a good chuckle out of it when they read it in the bio of my Facebook or Instagram accounts, and to some, it may sound foolish or even a bit chimerical, but it is something that I'm serious about. One of my biggest goals is to one day be a part of Tesla's or SpaceX's initiatives and use technology to change the world for the better. Eventually, I want to start my own tech company. Along with that, I have this dream of making quality education accessible to girls and women all across the globe. I'm also passionate about sociopolitical issues such as racism and inequality and I actively engage in community initiatives that work towards addressing these issues.
3) Between being an IT professional, a student, a mom, and an activist, it seems like "busy" might be an understatement! What are some ways that you stay motivated?
It is through the grace and blessings of Allah (S), along with the support of my family and closest friends, that my life stays balanced. I stay motivated by reminding myself that the world could always use improvement and someone has to be willing to put in the work to make it happen. I want to see change, so I think to myself "why not do something about it"? That's my drive every day. I want a better world for the people I love and the generations to come.
4) What is your favorite hadith of the Prophet (S) and why?
One of my favorite hadiths of the Prophet (S) is "There is no gift that is better and more comprehensive than patience." This hadith helps me when I'm having a difficult time seeing the light at the end of what often seems to be a dark, endless tunnel. Whenever things don't go the way I want them to, or I feel like my duas are not being answered, I remind myself that Allah (S) has a plan and that I must have patience until He is ready to reveal His plan to me.
5) If you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Don't try to fit inside someone else's box. Allah (S) blessed you with your own mind, so don't waste your time conforming to someone else's standard of excellence. Dare to dream and never give up working on towards achieving your goals. Whenever you feel you've given your 100%, give 10% more.
6) If you could give one piece of advice to someone struggling with hijab, what would it be?
It's okay to struggle; everyone struggles in one way or another. If you find yourself feeling that way, I encourage you to try to learn more about the wisdom behind the hijab on a deeper level. Love for it will come once you discover what it truly means to you. Ask yourself why you choose/don't choose to wear it and reflect on what made you come to that conclusion.
Is there someone you'd like to nominate for Hijabi of the Month? E-mail us at email@example.com!