Friday, 10 June 2005

A Cover up Story

One of the very positive things that I find about blogging is that, it tends to be infectious. One blogger writes something and it triggers off certain memories in us and we want to blog about it too giving it our own touch, from our own perspectives. And we learn a lot from these different treatments. In a way, we bounce ideas off each other.

This week, for instance, anedra wrote a heartfelt plea to bloggers, most of them she has never met, yet she feels close enough to them to reveal her insecurities about a certain issue that has been on her mind lately. I read with interest the comments, very encouraging and very suportive. And this post spurred other bloggers like maknenek to write about her experience and blabs who wrote about her feelings and massylassy to contribute something. Such networking, such support.

Now, if I can tumpang sekaki, I would like to contribute a two cents worth of my experience on the same issue – to cover up or not to cover up.

I never thought that I would one day don the tudung. Whenever I went back to Malaysia, I’d be the one who would stand out in the crowd because I was tudungless while my siblings, cousins aunties and friends were all properly covered in their matching tudungs.

I would be the one that little five year old chatterbox would come up and say loud and clear for all to hear, “Eh ni pasal tak pakai tudung ni?”

But I was not upset or bothered by this as I knew that I needed to know more and understand the reasons for doing so. I wanted it to be from me and not from anyone else.

But as the saying goes, the light comes from many directions.

Throughout Ramadhan, I’d put on the tudung to go for prayers and each time I did that, there was this little voice that said, “You look nice, Mama!”

That was just a start. And then, it went on to “When are you going to wear the hijab, Mama?”

“I am sorry, Taufiq, I can’t wear it to please you. I have to be sure that when I wear it, I will never take it off again. I have to be sure that I am doing it because I want to and not because you want me to,” was my reply to my then 11 year old son.Posted by Hello
He was happy with the answer but once in a while he’d repeat the question. And the reply remained the same.
Quietly, I had been spending more time in the bathroom, in front of the mirror - trying to tie the tudung the way I see my friends do it. I had enough little pins, big pins, serkup and what nots. But it never turned out right. There’s always something wrong. I didn’t know it then, but when I started buying the scarves during my trips home, I was already preparing myself for that particular day.

Then, like anedra, I started talking to two friends (faceless online buddies I know from and they were so supportive and were not even critical of the fact that I wanted to wait.

And bless my other half. Even when he came back from Haj, he never once said to me, "cover up."

So, while walking along Queensway one night after terawikh, I said to him,” I am thinking of wearing the tudung.”

And all he said was and I remember every line: “Do it with sincerity. Do it with good intention from your heart.”

And with that we took the tube home.

Anyway, the anniversary of 911 was fast approaching, I have yet to muster the art of wearing the tudung without it falling all over my face. I had made a decision to start wearing it on 911. Why? To show that I am a Muslim and proud of it. I thought I’d walk into the office and show them I am a Muslim and suffer whatever consequences, if any at all.

But come 911, I didn’t do what I set to do, mainly because I felt it was for the wrong reasons if I had done that. People in the office know that I am a Muslim. I fast while others ate during Ramadan. I rush off to do my prayers when the time comes, and during office parties I don’t drink and stick to vegetarian food.

BUT something happened after that. I was assigned to cover the visit of our then PM to a mosque in East London. And I know that I need to cover up as Tun M was having his prayers as well as lunch there. And I did a piece to camera for the news item to be broadcast back in Malaysia.

The next day, I phoned up my sister who was then taking a break in Port Dickson. My mother was there in the hotel with her. I spoke to her. She was sitting on the bed when she heard the news about the PM’s visit to London. She sat up, knowing that there’s a likelihood that I would be on air. And first she heard my voice and then she saw me.

This was what she said, "Anak mak, anak mak…maneh nyaaa anak mak,”

I tried to joke although I was choking. “Berita yang Kak Teh baca tu pasai apa, mak?”

Mak tak dengark pun, Mak nampak anak mak manih pakai tudung….” And this from a mother who never forced me to do anything, but has a way of making me do it, in her own gentle way. Taufiq must have inherited this from her.

I couldn’t speak anymore and told her I’d call back.
So, that was it. Taufiq was smiling from ear to ear ever since.

Of course, there was the initial little bob of hair peering out of the hood, that Taufiq would come over and adjust my tudung while pushing back the hair.

Then, the endless search for the right tudung to wear. Then there's the constant"Where did I put the pin? Where is the serkup?" And endless, endless, “Is this okay?” In our household, I’d need to go through three check barriers – Taufiq, Hafiz and the Dad.

And nine out of ten times, no matter how many tudungs you have accumulated in your zest to be covered up, you will return to the one comfortable one – a safe shade of black or biege that will go with anything.

Have a nice weekend


Ely said...

kak teh, i remember very well when u started wearing the tudung. we were all full of support for u. and i remember ur son complimenting u abt u wearing tudung and looking sweet. that must be some 3 yrs back?

anyway kak teh, i am sure u did not ever regret ur decisions kan? alhamdulillah.

faux diamante said...

My hijab journey was not an easy one. I only managed to wear the tudung as prescribed by syariah at the age of 22. Of course there were rollercoaster hiccups and snags. I found it hard to hijab other things than just my hair(hijab hati, mata etc). For a while it was just a piece of cloth on my head that gave me daily migraines. Only after my sleep was visited 3 times by 2 hijab-ed ladies in black and a broody man in a long beard who then spoke to me the same words each time. 'Come join us". I only could sleep well after I had donned it. These days, the tudung is something I can't do without in the presence of a non-muhrim. My other hijab fluctuates as a result of ingat-ingat lupa, sengaja lupa etc. You are right about doing it for yourself and for Allah. I did it for my parents for 10 years and hated the tudung so much it came on and off as I pleased. Now I own so many that my annual pilgrimage to KB is almost always because I wanted to stock up on embroidered tudung bawal.
My favourite is black and beige too.

teek said...

blog topics are contagious. After tracing the tudung topic, i feel like blogging about it too..

AuntyN said...

Masa mula nak pakai liat sangat nak pakai. Takut macam2, bila dah pakai dah rasa ralat kalau tak dak tudung atas kepala tu kan?

MassyLassy said...

Like you, my mum is not the kind who force you to do things. She only started to wear hijjab a year before she went to Hajj. She told me jangan pakai tudung lepas tu bukak lepas tu pakai balik! Ni mesti kena ikhlas pakai tudung kerana Allah s.w.t.

Akan datang serunya... Insya-Allah...

PS: Bloggers are like family - they give support, love and encouragement! Weird to say this but y'all are like my second family to me!

Nadia said...

k teh....nicely told. I donned onm the hijah by force bcoz i attended boarding school and i never took it off officially since..but my reason of course was not right....i think my niat only became betul probably gradually starting from when i was in college all the way to after i had my first child. when ppl came to the house i would not put on tudung and only after being pointed out by my then future husband only i realized that 'what's the point of wearing tudung if u only wear it as a custom when u go out, and not when any non mahram is within ur presence' rings true. and going all the way out here to the states opened my eyes i think...sometimes in life we need to experience a different place to have our eyes opened...when we are raised a certain way sometimes we take for granted why we do certain stuff esp that related to islam..and I actually commend you on not wearing it earlier due to wanting to have the right niat :D
for "every action is by intention..." ..hugs fr a sister in islam..

Kak Teh said...

ely, yes, I am very thankful for the encouragement. I needed that talk. Nope, no regrets!
nazrah: yes, the first few months perhaps were a bit challenging - but we have to persevere.
teek - yes, pls tell us yr story!
auntyN, yes that is so tue. macam tak complete pulak rasanya.
Mas, Insyallah - and u will know it.
nadia: I think it is good that we go through these stages..rather than a sudden change.

atiza said...

..and whites
..and creams
mainly for its practicality

others are merely for hari melaram. innit kak teh?

anedra said...

And now you are one of those who inspire me too. Thanks for the chat yesterday!!

ps, send Taufiq here boleh? I need some back up!

Anonymous said...

kak teh, no one commented on your "balik - balik pakai tudung color sama"?

a friend's mom gave me this "cream tudung" 3 years ago...sampai sekarang dok ada lagi...& i'll wear it so often sampai mak kata "balik2 tudung krim ni...mcm takde duit nak beli lain"...hehe

dah 9 tahun ummi pakai tudung...tapi stail same je sampai sekarang...(u know...normal white serkop, simple design tudung w/ brooch kat chin & the 2 hujung tudung wrap around my neck)...
mak kata tak fashionable lansung...but i am very comfortable w/ the style.
- ummi -

p/s yes you do look sweet in tudung. & thank u again kak teh for your never ending encouragement

suriyati said...

Kak Teh,

Well.. your husband words seems like a dejavu for me because that's what my husband said to me when I decided to wear tudung or we call it hijab.. which people misinterprete most of the time.. :)

Anyway, whatever you decide on doing something good.. it's always has to be for yourself.. nobody can tell you how to do it.. but yourself..

Blah! said...

This serves as an eye-opener on how some of you ladies view the donning of the tudung. Great read, Kak Teh.

lilheaven said...

ya, saya pun prefer black. i don't look nice in white ones. i even gave warnings out to frens not to buy me white tudung if they ever thought of giving me one as a gift. any colours but white. i do have some spare ones tapi rarely adorned them. kot-kot dah habis takdek matching tudung tarik la hak putih nyer. =P

and here's for you Kak Teh;

Manis wajah litup dipandang tak jemu
Senyum menawan menusuk kalbu
Agaknya itu yang memikat AG dulu
Sehingga kini kekal bersatu

Mula bertatih sesudah merangkak
Kendian mengatur langkah yang tegak
Satu persatu kita menapak
Ikhlas di hati yang kita congak

Rasa bahagia terasa segenap
Pabila lunas tanggungjawab
Redha Illahi yang kita harap
Iman dan takwa terus digilap

Lahiriah bukan ukuran warak
Nawaitu bersendi hukum dan syarak
Syukur kiranya ingin mengorak
Menyahut seruan sebelum alam baqa

Bersenda seloka mengusik cuma
Peringatan buat diri dan semua
Menumpang lalu buat seketika
Kalau Kak Teh charge tol masuk buku 555 ya?

bibliobibuli said...

Nicely written and sincere, Kak Teh, and I look forward to looking at the other blogs you mention.

I feel the tudong must be worn out of choice - hate to feel that anyone is pressurised into it. Unfortunately, young Muslim girls in Malaysia are often pressurised into wearing it by school or college authorities, and by peer pressure. I've even known of families who chose to emigrate because of the constant pressure to conform.

May I add a personal note? (Probably irredeemably Mat Salleh-ish, reflecting the viewpoint of the wicked west!) I think back with longing and nostalgia to one of the most beautiful sights I saw when I first came to Malaysia 20 years ... that of young Malay girls with their shining jet-black hair cascading to their waists as they walked through town. They were just so heart-stoppingly lovely.

I believe that appreciation or enjoyment of physical beauty should never be considered a sin.

Sunflora said...

Well said Kak teh! Sometimes although we have the intention to wear it, its the impetus of an ocassion that gives us the final push!

Here tudungs are black and long, and I can wear the long ones better than the square ones coz they're the ones I trained on ;)

Kak Teh said...

atiza, yangnak melaram tu mesti ada labucci sikit saja..kalau tidak nampak macam christmas tree.
anedra: kita saling inspire menginspirelah...Taufiq - hmm, am dragging him (emotional blackmail included) to a Malaysian festival today.
ummi, yes...balik2 pakai yang u jugak!! kak teh pun tak boleh nak berstyle sangat if it feels like strangling myself with it.
suriyati: my sentiments exaclty - and at the same time we dont judge people who has not decided yet..belum sampai seru.
yan: memang u do have to see it from our point of view as well - as it is a big decision. This topic has become the most sensitive topics in any forums that I have seen because people tend to get emotional when we shd just discuss this rationally.
lilheaven: awww...ishhh mungkin up there in yr lilheaven u see me through blurry clouds..hehe..thanks!
sharon: really appreciate your take on this. I really believe in the choice. and aha...very much the orientalist view, ha...of the shining jet black hair to the waist. Yes, i miss seeing that too in the streets, but at home you see how they transform from under the tudung.
SF: yes, sometimes the way we are being told what to do makes us turn 180 degrees the opposite way. I still appreciate my mum,s , my son,s and my husband's way of letting me decide.

MakNenek said...

salam kak teh
what a beautiful story. ur son is so cute in that batman costume! that aside, it is so heartwarming to know that that little boy, has something to do with your positive change to jalan allah. subhanallah. i guess, its time we remind/ask ourselves (and those who nak wear it, or have been wearing it) Why we are doning it. conviction by the truth is perhaps a more powerful encouragement that one need than a personal measure of readiness. just my 2euro cents thoughts...

shidah said...

kak teh: blog mmg contagious... i fell like talking about it too after i read anedra's tapi i ni payah sikit nak mencurah isi hati.... i started with a wrong reason... but kalau tak start that way...entah2 sampai la ni pun entah dapat hidayah entah tak....

tenah said...

ha ha ha i think i have 11 scarves of various tan shades. sampai bila i pakai tudung pink or red, mamat2 yg tak islam kat restoran tu pun tegorq: hey, that's a nice color. mula2 tu heran gak mamat2 macho ni pun dok puji sulaman tudung i ni. my fren here, mister o la la, kalau rambut i terkeluwarq, he will say: O atenah, i can see 1 piece of yr hair, you're going to hell, girl. (in a joking tone). i think its good that i made them comfortable aorund hijabed muslimas. so depa tak pandang pelik lagi kat kita2 ni

Kak Teh said...

maknenek,yr two euro cents worth is worth a lo...always.
shidah, but u are comfortable now, kan? that's all that matters.
tenah: u ada minder no?

Mobilemom said...

Kak Teh,

I've been thinking about this for a while honestly. Not because what had happened to me recently ie. my cancer. My husband never forced me anything. He supports what ever my decision cuma, that I must get used to it. Once pakai, I tak nak bukak bukak. I start of by buying pashminas, selendang's to get my self use to have it around. Insya'ALLAH. We have to be sincere with our selves when we wear our hijabs. Sembahyang pun tak buleh nak tinggal tinggal. Baru sempurna niat kita. Insya'ALLAH.

Thanks for sharing your story. :)

bibliobibuli said...

Orientalist viewpoint? Maybe. But then I would also have to be a negritudinist and an occidentalist, I think.

But whatever ... choice is the thing.

Ms.B said...

Beautiful innit, how we've all reached into the deepest recesses of our hearts and extricated what's been fiddling about in there .. truly, truly, this journey which began with your niece's blog has created a genuine outpouring of support and a reinforced sense of faith.

I need a Batman Taufiq too. Pinjam can?

OOD said...

Kak Teh,
all these talk about to cover or not to cover up makes me ask the question to meself too.

As usual kak teh (you and maya and susan abraham) are so fine a writer you dont write like you are writing, more like you are sharing/telling a story. But maybe that is what writing is all about. I am not making sense. I should run.

BTW, was at Holiday Villa almost every working day last week. Alleycats is playing there now. Yeeeeeha!

Jane Johan said...

Kak Teh: that little Batman is surely covering himself up! ;-)

Jordon Goodale said...

I''ll be back. Later :)