Stop judging a book by its cover

10 Sep

I was sitting at a community table at a coffee shop today, waiting for my friend to show up, when a woman came and asked if she could sit by me.

I thought the gesture kind and a sign of being brought up right, for of course she could, it was a community table after all!

As she sat down, we started conversing, and the flow of it was so good that we did so for a good thirty minutes at least-the time it took my friend to arrive (seriously, though I need to stop getting to meet-ups on time).

However, although the conversation was fun and it felt like two like-minded individuals were talking, she said something towards the end that left me feeling less than great, and yet I realized it wasn’t something new that I was hearing.

Her exact words were ” I am shocked to find out that you are completely different from what I thought you were when I saw you, I wasn’t expecting this kind of thinking from you nor this type of a conversation with you.”

Let me rewind a bit.

You see when she came to me, I saw only a woman. When we were talking, for me,  I was a medical student and she a practicing doctor.

But here is what she, and I think most of the world, saw when she approached me.

She, a burqa clad woman with a niqab covering her face, saw a girl in three-quarter jeans, a top and, (as she pointed out) a made up face and stylized hair. (For the curious ones-I was wearing eyeliner and lip balm and had walked out right after a shower-it was one of my most laid back looks.)

She saw a woman who was everything Islam represented, going and starting a conversation with a woman that in her head embodied everything Islam resented.

And yet, to her shock, when we started conversing she found out that I didn’t only have enough brain cells to hold up a conversation about politics, the rights of women and the importance of career goals, I also had morals as strong as her, a stronger knowledge of my religion and a better realization of the distance we had developed from our religion.

So let me decode her words for you-what she meant was, when she saw me she thought I was a shallow girl with no moral code and no idea of my religion, and thinking back to the conversation, I could see the points she had already tried to prove that to me.

A tiny example, when she tried to make me agree that the girls from my high school have the worst reputation in Lahore, there must be a reason to that, I wouldn’t agree no matter how much she pushed. I might have spent only two years in LGS Defense, but they were enough to prove that those girls were nothing like the reputation that preceded them-but do you know what they had in common?

They were strong, opinionated, ambitious girls who were-you guessed it-fashion forward. Just like I was. Just like Islam told us not to be (in her head, at least.)

However, while I failed to persuade her that most of what she had heard about the school’s girls wasn’t true, I will give her this much though, that she changed her view on me at least. By the end of our conversation, we exchanged numbers and she urged me to stay in contact because she liked me that much.

A small win? Yes, too small in fact and hence, the bad taste left in my mouth wasn’t done away. And although I can’t blame her, I am tired of this.

This perception that because I dress a certain way, my religion is bound to be worse than yours.

I respect every woman who covers her head, those more who follow the rules of dressing in Islam down to a ‘t’, but to the same women, I want to say this-don’t judge me because I am not practicing my religion the way you think it should be practiced. You don’t know how much I pray for the strength to gain that level too, you have no idea of my struggles on that and most importantly, I believe, you don’t know whose way of practicing religion God prefers.

But, just for the sake of perspective-if your Islam was honestly as good as you deem it to be, you wouldn’t be busy judging me.

Honestly, I have been at this end of the conversation times too many. People see me from far and think of me (and even go as far as to call me) an amoral girl or a slut (excuse the language). Till one of them somehow gets to know me and realizes (admitting said realization to my face) of how wrong they were.
But the ones who don’t get to know me, continue on their tangents-with me, with other girls like me.
They see the jeans and the tops and assume we are sluts, assume that we have no sense of our religion, assume us to be below them hence, and the chain of assumptions goes on. If the girl in jeans goes and talks to a guy, he must be her boyfriend. If she goes out with male friends, she must be sleeping with them.
If she doesn’t talk to you, another man, it must be because she is too proud.

If she does, then she is trying to get you in her bed too.

If she wears make up, she is a slut trying to seduce you.

If she dresses fancy, it is to attract you.

Stop. Stop. Stop.

Stop labeling us and putting us in a box just because you don’t get us. We don’t fit the box you are trying to put us in to.

You know how you lie? That is a sin too-oh, I can almost see you smirking as you think to yourself that showing my skin is a bigger skin. Well staring at it is an even bigger one, isn’t it? Gossiping about it is even worse. Spreading rumors, is probably the worst.

But of course, you get to judge me because we sin differently.

‘Sinners judging sinners for sinning differently.’

I learned a lot from this quote, but mostly this-I can’t judge someone for something I deem religiously or morally wrong because I can’t see the whole picture. And I definitely can’t see who God prefers amongst us.

It taught me the need to focus on my own religion, for how can I judge a thief if I am a liar? How can I judge a sinner if I am not a saint?

In short, I am not saying my religion is perfect-but is yours? And yet do you see me pointing fingers? How are you sure yours is better than mine, stronger?

Just because you cover your head makes you so sure you are better in front of God than me, then please continue to bask in that ignorance and judge me endlessly.

But if you can, consider this-what if my morals are better than yours?? What if I am closer to God? What if I do something on a daily basis that God likes more than you covering your head daily?
Do you have any guarantees? Because I don’t.

Consider this-what if not covering up as Islam instructs is my one sin (or amongst a few), and one that I ask for help on a daily basis, one that I regret the most. Look at your list of sins, how many do you have?
Look at that list and shorten it, and stop looking at mine, because that in my head is the most important thing Islam teaches us-no judgement on anyone’s religion, just attempt to perfect your own.

Learn the basics. Learn to be tolerant. Learn to stop judging a book by its cover.
And remember that Islam isn’t about sitting in groups and bashing others on what they wear and how they live their lives, and using that to make yourself feel good about your religion.

Islam is about practicing good deeds, and that too so well that you force the people around you to be impressed and inspired by you to work on their own personas.
Lead by example, that is the basic teaching of our religion!

Hence, I repeat, learn the basics. And remember, that Islam puts women on a pedestal in every way, in every walk of life, then who are you to try and pull them down based on outward appearances? 

More importantly, Islam taught us repeatedly to to look into the hearts of people, not their actions.

The whole concept of intentions is so clear in our religion-a good intention is almost as good to our Lord as a good deed. That in itself shows how important the goodness of our hearts is.

And if you think you can’t know how good someone’s heart is just by looking at them, then how can you judge their whole religion based solely on what they wear?

I end this post on a heartfelt request.
Stop judging us just because we dress differently from you.
It hurts. Me yes, but your religion even more so.

 

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3 Responses to “Stop judging a book by its cover”

  1. aFrankAngle September 12, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

    I don’t claim to know much about Islam and I admit knowing very little. On the other hand, one of the things it has in common with other religions is that it is subject to interpretation.

    Cheers to you for being strong, being yourself, and holding your own.

    • gullhasnat September 12, 2017 at 11:46 pm #

      Agreed. I feel religion is a personal matter for every person. In fact the most personal thing-how you interpret and practice it. It’s on you!

      Either ways, thank you for your support Frank. It means a lot.

      • aFrankAngle September 13, 2017 at 12:31 am #

        PS: Don;t lose sight that she was also praising you. 🙂

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