Going after anything in life requires a lot of things, inspiration often being one of them. And it can come from a number of sources – family, historical figures, friends, icons of different industries, religious figures, Allah (S) or even ourselves. It infuses us with energy and excitement for the possibilities of bringing our ideas to fruition and our capability to accomplish what we want.
You may have noticed in our articles here at The Haute Take that when we write about Muslim women doing all sorts of interesting things, we often ask them what motivates them. Who inspires them? We ask ourselves that all the time here at HH. Why do we do what we do? Who (or what) fires us up? It’s something I’ve wanted to explore with Haute Hijab’s CEO Melanie Elturk for a long time.
As Muslims, Allah (S) blessed us with spiritual and emotional motivation in the Quran and sunnah to motivate us. For example, stories about Muslim women like Haja
r (as) and Nusaybah Bint Ka’ab
(ra) has inspired women for centuries, and we also have modern women to encourage us.
But as important as it is to find inspiration in others, it is equally crucial to motivate and believe in yourself. We can be our own source of inspiration. Self-motivation involves an inner ambition to achieve an internal or external goal. Whether personal or professional, inspiring one’s self with encouraging inner dialogue can make a huge difference, especially when people around you may not be supportive.
Melanie cites self-motivation as a major influence in her ability launch and manage the company when she initially received little support from family and her Muslim community. I spoke with her about this, as part of our Women’s History Month series exploring who (or what) inspires us as Muslim women.
Muslim Women Deserve More
Making major life changes can leave one terrified and uncertain. Melanie made a major transition from working in the law to heading a hijab company
, establishing herself as a fashion icon in Muslim culture. “I believe firmly that my purpose on earth is to elevate the Muslim community, specifically the American Muslim community,” Melanie explains. “It began with my work as an attorney and social activist. Haute Hijab came next.
“Everyone can relate to fashion. It’s a universal force that ties people together. I am able to reach a broader audience with Haute Hijab. I’m not looking to be a social icon. If that is a byproduct of what I do, so be it,” she says. “Ultimately, I want to uplift the American Muslim community. I want Muslims to feel supported and for the mainstream to see what we do.”
Melanie presents a chic while also faith-based representation of hijab to the world, normalizing Muslim dress and also inspiring creativity for Muslim women to make covering a distinctive and beautiful part of their identities for themselves, bolstering their esteem about hijab.
As she says, “Muslim women deserve something beautiful and stylish that makes them feel amazing.”
Believing In Yourself
Blazing trails takes guts. Society, friends and family may present a lot of resistance, making it necessary for anyone forging into a new and unique venture to do so with confidence in themselves, which may intimidate those around them. Melanie describes her determination to start her company despite the naysayers.
“When I started this in 2010, there was not a blueprint or template for me to work off of. I was a pioneer. I had to follow my heart and talk to Allah (S). I knew exactly how I wanted it to be.
I’ve always known exactly who I am, what I stand for and my values. I’ve never wavered on any of it. My law professor called me a rocket: I just take off. Anyone who shares my energy level can come along for the ride.
“My family was not supportive at all,” she says. “No one understood it. My father thought I was going to be in social justice activism for the rest of my life. He saw what I wanted to do as frivolous, not a movement. [But] I saw it. My oldest brother laughed at me. I told him that I wanted to make hijab mainstream, and he laughed like he heard the [most] absurd joke. People who can’t see the vision just think you are crazy. You have to keep moving forward, even when everyone around you thinks you’re insane.”
But, says Melanie, “I’ve always known exactly who I am, what I stand for and my values. I’ve never wavered on any of it. My law professor called me a rocket: I just take off. Anyone who shares my energy level can come along for the ride. Those who don’t will fall off.”
She says that sometimes people feel threatened by that amount of confidence. “When they see you soar, they want to bring you back down.”
For many, someone as self-assured as Melanie may seem overconfident, but forging new paths is not for the meek. There is no room for uncertainty, but there is room for learning and growth. She is sure of herself but also humble enough to recognize that her accomplishments are from Allah (S).
“Allah (S) gave me such a full, beautiful life that a lot of people dream of,” she says. “I have to be my own inspiration because it’s too precious to waste or not acknowledge how special it all is.”
Listen to Your Inner Voice
Like most movers and shakers in the public spotlight, Melanie appreciates the importance of solitude to regroup and fortify herself.
“I have to quiet everything around me and let my inner voice speak,” she says. “If we’re intuitive enough to listen, that inner voice is Allah (S) talking to us. The times that I’ve felt the internal voice the strongest were at the lowest points or moments of extreme spiritual clarity, like during tahujjud (extra night time prayer) or reading Quran with sincerity.
“During the moments of private-ness between me and my creator is when I tap into that divine voice inside me.”
Melanie strives to exemplify the vital balance between dynamic corporate leader and obedient servant of Allah (S). Her work continues to make hijab a symbol of Muslim women who seek to obey Allah and be exactly who they are meant to be – the most powerful women in the world.
Which woman in your life inspires you? Are you your own source of motivation and inspiration? Share with us in the comments below!