Little me at London Fashion Week

I was absolutely thrilled when I received the invitation. Imagine, little me going to London Fashion Week! I am somebody who loves fashion and had put together quite a closet full of designer clothes before I became Muslim.

After I converted, I really struggled. What would I wear? How would I look? What was I going to do with all my clothes? And how could someone so shallow as to love fashion be a good Muslimah!

Well, I adjusted much more easily and quickly than I could have imagined. But the real first step for me was the discovery of a brilliant Muslim designer – Barjis. Once I found her web site, I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew I would be able to find clothes that were beautiful, comfortable and modest.

And a few weeks ago I received an invitation to her first showing at London Fashion Week. What an honour.

For the event, I  mixed and matched pieces from my old and new life: a dress by Alexander McQueen, a skirt by Barjis, a black shrug by Temperley, and I turned one of my Hermes scarves into a hijab.

I was ready for the night!

And I have to say it was better than I imagined.

The people attending the event were a fantastic mix – very artsy progressive men and women and stylish sisters and brothers. The sisters were in hijab and niqab – and I am sure many who did not cover. And one brother had the most amazing multi-coloured dress socks to go with his elegant black suit. Children running around excited for the show to begin added the perfect energy to the evening. So fun!

Of course, the best part was the show itself.

The collection included modest dresses, tops and trousers in wearable colours, including muted greys and browns with splashes of vibrant orange and soft pink. These are beautiful elegant clothes that can be worn by anybody. Appropriate in the work place or out for an evening. Women who wear hijab can feel just as comfortable in these pieces as those who don’t.

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The collection also included ethereal abayas and long dresses. Her abayas have a simple elegance yet always with an unexpected twist – an unusual cut of the neck line that is still modest, and fake fur or colourful decorations that are fun but still chic.

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After the show, winding her way through the crowd in the simplest black abaya and blue hijab was Barjis. About my height (i.e. very short), she is stunning and spent her time talking to everyone who came to the show. (I met her brother too! He was so happy for his sister and so appreciative of all those who came to the event. As well as having an adorable daughter and niece!)

It was a memorable evening and I cannot wait for the clothes to be available for purchase.

Thank you Barjis!

(PS, I found out later that some of the children at the show were there as a result of a contest Barjis ran at her old primary school in order to encourage working-class ethnic children to experience the arts. They were asked to design a print and two of the winners attended the event. Wow. Amazing!)

 

Sharing the load, bit by bit

I have never been someone who was comfortable letting people do things for me. For whatever reason, I felt like it was not okay to rely on anybody else. I believed that I had to take care of myself by myself. And this is pretty much how I have lived my entire adult life. Not that there have not been moments when people have helped and supported me, but not very often.

To be honest this had been something that had made me proud – being very independent and self sufficient. Knowing that no matter what happens I can take care of myself. It has also sometimes made me feel lonely. If there is nobody around to help, sometimes that means there is nobody around.

Even before I became a Muslim I realised that I was not really alone or in control. I knew that there was something bigger than me in God. But upon making the decision to follow Islam, I realised the importance of submitting to Allah (swt).

But what does submission mean practically? Why are we tested and challenged? How does he support us through difficult times? I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I still often feel overwhelmed with the changes in my life.

It is not about doubting Allah (swt) or my decision to follow Islam. It is the day-to-day of ordinary life that I have been struggling with.

I’ve been reading a bit on why we are tested in this life and two things have really resonated.

First is that Allah does not give us anything we cannot handle. If we think we are doing this by ourselves and if we approach a situation with dread and reservation, then we very likely will fail. It will be painful. But if we know that Allah is always with us and is our support, then everything is doable. Perhaps the outcome will not be what we initially want, but Allah always supports us and knows what is best. He will bring ease to those who believe and submit.

Second is that in some respects the question of ‘Why?’ with Allah (swt) is irrelevant. He is not like us so does not have the same needs and motivations that push us to ask the question of ‘Why?’ Thus, our concept of a rationale behind a decision does not make sense with Allah (swt). Simple submission to the straight path is a blessing. Obligations on this path should be viewed with joy and bring us closer to Allah (swt) and to Jannah, in shaa Allah.

Now, I believe I need to be an active participant in my life. I don’t believe that submitting to Allah (swt) means being passive. And I don’t believe the straight path is always black and white. But Allah (swt) has and knows the greater plan. And if you really think about it and believe he is with you…. it is both empowering and a great relief. Finally, I don’t always have to take care of myself by myself.

And with this notion, I have even begun to let people help me. I am still wary about trusting and relying on others. However, in the past months I have been in positions where I had to rely on others for help and support. I never thought it was smart to rely on someone because — well — what happens when they disappear? What happens when they are not there for you anymore? Allah (swt) will always be there. But people? People have a way of disappointing.

But, never-the-less, I have begun to rely on certain people in the past months more than I ever have before.

And you know what? So far it has been okay.

Its funny. I thought that I could only really love someone if I could be sure I was independent of them. That somehow it would make the love more pure if I was not reliant on them.

It turns out that is not the case at all. Be it Allah or particular people in my life, giving up some of my self-reliance has actually made me love them more. Scary. Terrifying even. But amazing.

Now, I have not undergone some Hollywood-movie style change in how I relate to others. But I think I am headed in the right direction. Bit by bit.

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