The beauty of hijab, story of Sister Aneesa Rashid Paruk

I start off in the name of my Lord, my maker, my provider, my sanity. I’m trying to get back to where it all began. The moment I knew I was going to take that leap. A leap, to put it lightly. It was a dive into a different world, a glorious world, sometimes cruel, but glorious. There I was, 5th November 2010.

Slowly closing ‘The Kite Runner’, it was the 4th time I had read it. A lump lingering in my throat. I had nothing to do, a year after Matric, 4 months after the World Cup. My Gap year was coming to an abrupt end. Reality was banging on my door with all its might. I was officially a Law student at Wits. This was it, I took a gap year to find my true calling and this was it.

Ticking off all the boxes in my head, there was still 1 box that remained un-ticked. It was a question that popped up in my head and decided to reside there. ‘What more can I do, to be a better Muslim?’ That question is still a resident in my mind. I could almost see the word ‘Purdah’ floating across my mind. There I am cow-printed pyjama pants and a SpongeBob t-shirt. (Don’t look at me like that, I was 18!) Weighing the options, ‘Purdah? How will I study at Wits? In Purdah? How will I find a husband? My family will freak, no-one wears Purdah. Family functions? OMG, HOW WILL I GET MARRIED?!’ Saying it out loud now, its screams JUVENILE! However, that was my reality at the time.
So, Purdah. Interesting. I’m pretty sure every Muslim has emailed Mufti AK Hoosen and Mufti Menk at some point, right? I typed out the email, ‘Assalamualaikom. Hope you are well. I wanted to know, is wearing Purdah Fardh?’ Tapping the screen of my white 8520 Blackberry, I was unsure. A reply came to me from Mufti AK later that day ‘WALAIKOMSALAAM WARAHMATULLAHI WABARAKATU. YES IT IS COMPULSORY FOR EVERY WOMAN TO WEAR THE NIQAB FOR NON MAHRAM MALES.’ OKAY OKAY BRA, DON’T HAVE TO SHOUT! I needed more. Paging through my English Quran that was a gift from my Granny, there it was, in black and white…

‘Oh you who believe! Do not enter the prophet’s houses, – until leave is given you, – for a meal (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation: but when you are invited, enter; and when you have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behaviour) annoys the Prophet: he is ashamed to dismiss you, but Allah is not ashamed (to tell you) the truth.

And when you ask (his ladies) for anything you want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs.’ (33:53)
There is no blame on these ladies if they appear before their fathers, or their sons, their brothers, or their brother’s sons, or their sisters sons, or their women, or their slaves whom their right hands possess. And, Ladies, fear Allah; for Allah is Witness to all things (33:55)

This, for me, was the moment I knew I was going to adorn it..

‘Oh Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons: that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is oft forgiving, most Merciful. (33:59)
Aneesa! This is it! This is how YOU become a better Muslim; this is how YOU attain Allah’s pleasure. Done, it was settled. This is for me. Sitting around Mums bed later that evening, I told her and my sister Aadelah, that I have decided to wear Purdah. The conversation was over-flowing with Worldly concerns, the same concerns I had, ‘How are you going to study? Get married? It’s not easy, Aneesa, it’s not easy.’ I replied with a new found calm, ‘It comes from Allah Mum, I’m doing it.’ Alhamdulillah, my friends threw the same concerns at me, which stung a bit because it came across as though they lacked faith in me. I have been wearing the Hijab for 3 years, I need a change spiritually.

On the 14 November 2010, is when that infamous black piece of cloth caressed my face. Hugged my nose and tickled my eye-lids. A lump in my throat, I could feel Allah’s presence within me. My very good friend Fathima gifted me with my first Purdah, which I still look at with complete love even though it has had its days. I lost friends, I gained 1 of my best friends, Nadia Mahomed. A new member to the Purdah Clan as well, we journeyed together.

Law + Purdah, it wasn’t a struggle at all! I enjoyed it with every ounce of my being. This was really great, Alhamdulillah. My life is SO great! But, you know, something must happen. Always. Having met a lovely Muslim Lawyer, she told me in a very ordinary tone, that I will not be able to practice Law, in court, with a Veil. WHAT? ACCORDING TO WHAT? ACCORDING TO WHOM? This is not happening. This is not happening. She goes on to say that the Judge as well as others need to see your facial expressions at all times. Psshhhht. Why? People lie with their face exposed all the time! All the time! In a rage, I go to my lecturer and ask her about it, and she tells me the exact same thing. ‘Why haven’t I been told about this before?’ I moaned. She shrugs her shoulders. If she only knew the state of my heart at that point. Shattered.
Once again, I find myself laying in my bed, almost a year later, with reality, once again, knocking on my door with all its might. “You can fight it, or you can leave.” These were the only 2 options I had, they played in my head like a song on repeat. “You can fight it, or you can leave.” That’s it, I’m leaving. I don’t want to fight it, and I sure as hell don’t want to not wear my Purdah. My Parents, whom initially weren’t throwing me a Ninja Party at the news of adorning the Purdah, were amazingly supportive. Others, however, called me weak to not fight it, encouraged me to remove my Purdah. It was never an option. i had no doubt in my mind, that my Almighty Allah had a plan for me. it was not law, evidently.
It was only at this point, that the concept of ‘You may plan, but Allah is the best Planner’ really settled with me. It was only after 8 months of Law and 10 months of wearing the Purdah did I realise how I’ve changed as a person. The Purdah conceals you, humbles you, whereas with Law, especially in court, you will do your best to ensure you are heard. Contradictory, right? Put your claws away, guys. Law is great, empowering, but the Purdah was my empowerment.
So, with nothing to do for 4 months, I tied my camel and put my trust in Allah, that he will grant me what I NEED.
It was only when I had nothing to do, was I able to take a moment and look at how I’ve changed as a person .Islam was my life, Islam IS my life. It forces you to be the best person you can possibly be. You look at yourself from within, because that is what changes when you veil yourself. The entire world only sees your physical being, but they have no idea about the inner work that is taking place. It is a constant reminder of my Deen, the pain I felt having to leave something I love, but the joy of knowing that Allah has given me better. It is a part of me. I have a level of Allah consciousness that I feel I could have never attained if I haven’t taken that leap. Let’s be honest, would Allah really encourage something for us if it wasn’t for our betterment?
My Uncle Gasant Jacobs, whom I deeply admire once told me, ‘You don’t need a piece of cloth to make you closer to Allah.’ It stung like 5789 bee stings. You DON’T need a piece of cloth to make you closer to Allah, but it sure worked for me. Not everyone will share your sentiments, but it ure does make you stronger. You learn, you grow, and you aspire. If I can narrow it down to 2 things that I have learnt from my journey ; Allah will never ever leave you stranded and, without intention, your Purdah is actually, just a piece of cloth.
2 months away from it been my 3 year Purdahversary, and I can safely say I have never been happier. Horse-riding, archery, cycling, mountain climbing, it doesn’t restrict. It empowers you as a woman. I find it difficult to understand people who say the Purdah is a form of oppression. You need to LIVE the Purdah if you are going to make a judgement on it. It ensures that even if you have the desire to drink or club (disco for you timers), it is a reminder, on your face, that says HOLD UP! ARE YOU FOR REAL? HARAAM! And we are strictly Halaal. (SANHA approved). It is my life.
This is my story, this is my heart.
Love, Dua’s and Hugs
Aneesa Rashid Paruk



8 thoughts on “The beauty of hijab, story of Sister Aneesa Rashid Paruk

  1. ماشاءالله.very very inspiring sister!may اللَّه تَعَالَى keep you steadfast and may اللَّه تَعَالَى grant us the strength and courage to practice إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ .آمين يا رب العالمين.plse do make duaa for me.

  2. Well done on this piece! Really an eye-opener… I think in Switzerland they were thinking of banning the niqab because certain jobs require you to show facial expressions while interacting with your client eg law, medicine etc.. Which is silly because my mum’s a doctor and it works fine for her

  3. My Dearest Annie

    This is a beautifully written piece. Your uncle Gasant Jacobs is still of the view that no one needs a piece of black cloth to bring you closer to your Lord. I do however concede that if it helps, then there can be no argument against it. If that comment hurt at the time, I hope that you have also realised over time that I have been one of your greatest supporters and will always admire your conviction you have demonstrated to date.

  4. Javeria, I know exactly what you mean. It IS silly. Like I said, you need to live the Niqab to know that it isn’t restrictive. I guess Non Muslims more than Muslims have a hard ime grasping it

  5. Mr Gasant Jacobs, I’ve taken everything you’ve ever said to heart because I know it comes from a good place. Yes, I do know, and I appreciate it more than you know. I’m going to win you over, one day 🙂

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