I met Rukaiya a few years back through mutual friends in London. When she stopped down in Dubai for a visit about a year ago, she seemed quite curious about the hijaab, how it affected my life, the reactions I got, how did I go about choosing my fashion style around the hijaab and so forth. Barely a few months later, to my surprise, she changed her FB pics, to her ‘new’ look ! I think that women like her, that make that CHANGE are such an inspiration and had to write on her journey to becoming a hijaabi. It’s not easy to give up a lifestyle or a routine that you’ve been doing for so many years, and to make that leap of change, is admirable.
A little about Rukaiya:
She was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, but moved to London in 2006 after she got married. She lives 2 different lives; During the day, she’s part of the Marketing team for an international law firm but after 6pm, she rushes home to focus on her cupcake business called Cuppidy Cakes. Over the past 3 years, she’s managed to build a loyal and extensive relationship with her clients that now, she’s actually getting orders for Wedding cakes and Cupcake Tiers !
If she isn’t scouting around for the best Coffee shops around London, she’s busy clicking away with her new DSLR on her travels around the world.
So Rukaiya, how long have you been wearing the Hijaab ?
I started last June (2012) so I’m still a “newbie”. It all happened pretty quickly that I went from not even thinking about wearing the hijaab to wearing it within a span of three weeks! If someone told me a year ago I’d be wearing it now, I would’ve never believed them. Although I thought about the idea of wearing the hijaab, I always put it at the back of my mind. I always had the opinion that I’d probably wear it when I’m much older so there’s no point in doing it now. Time and time again, I would say to friends that wearing the hijaab is a major social responsibility because you’re a reflection of Islam and so you’re put under a magnifying glass. I also thought I had to be a perfect Muslim role model i.e not wear makeup, fully change the way I dress, not go to certain places, pray five times a day, go for Hajj etc and of course to a certain degree, those things are true but I also realise I was exaggerating them a lot in my head!
Looking back, I now know that those were all excuses and that the real reason I didn’t want to put it on is because I didn’t want to. Plain and simple. I didn’t want to change my lifestyle, I didn’t want to change the way I dressed and most of all, I didn’t want to have to explain the drastic change to my colleagues and friends. Little did I know, there wasn’t much to change and the whole process was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
I think what you felt resonates with a lot of ‘pre-hijaabis’. So what made you finally wear the Hijaab ?
There’s no one specific reason to why I started wearing it because ,it was a combination of a lot of things. I found myself losing touch with my Iman, I stopped making an effort to do my Salaahs and almost lost faith in Allah because things weren’t going MY way in life. My husband and I are extremely close and I couldn’t think of anyone better suited for me (AlHamdulillah) but even I found myself pushing away from him and losing patience with every little thing. It was at this point that I realised something had to change ASAP. I’m not going to say that I hit the prayer mat and started praying every minute of the day because I didn’t. What I did do though, was ask Allah for help. I just wanted a sign, some guidance or even some reassurance that everything was going to be ok.
I was in a rut at my old job and needed something new. I’d been job hunting for almost three months and didn’t have any success until I was boarding a plane when I got a phone call saying I got the job I had interviewed for the week before. I couldn’t believe my luck! When I started the new job a month later, I started reading through the different policies on its annual leave because my husband and I had a trip to NYC coming up and I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to take time off so soon. I was absolutely shocked to read that the firm grants “special leave” once in your career for two special occasions: honeymoons and Hajj. I also found out there was a prayer room in the basement and when I went down there I couldn’t believe my eyes. The prayer mats were already laid out facing qibla and there were full wudu facilities with towels. Subhanallah, how much more guidance could I get?
Apart from the work environment, I thought of my Nikkah day when the Imam said to my husband and I that nothing makes Allah happier than to see two people getting married. He also told us “you are a garment for one another” meaning we should love, cover, protect, and safeguard one another from the outside world – something I’d lost track of. It also donned on me that some of my friends started getting into their Deen or started wearing the hijaab because of a tragedy that happened in their life (car accident, death of a close family member, divorce or serious health issues). I thought I don’t ever want to be put to the test like that and that’s when the feeling in my heart changed. I realised I needed to have a closer relationship to Allah now because I have no idea what tomorrow holds.
That Saturday night I talked to my husband and asked for his opinion. He told me there was no pressure from his end and that my sole purpose for wearing the hijaab shouldn’t be for him but for myself and my relationship with Allah. The following day I had put on the Hijaab and had the most encouraging words from my family. Some of the best advice I received was from my friend who said “just smile and be confident, you’ll see how easy everything will be after that”.
When I walked into work on Monday, I couldn’t believe how complimentary and supportive everyone around me was. I just knew that I had made the right decision.
Wow, Alhamdulilah for all the positivity you received. Do you feel that you’ve faced any obstacles since you put it on ?
Alhamdulillah I’ve been blessed and can honestly say I’ve not had any major obstacles or negative comments since I’ve put it on. I still get the typical questions thrown at me such as “did your husband/father force you to put it on?”, “it doesn’t say you have to cover your hair in the Quran, so why are you doing it?”, “aren’t you hot under that thing?” but I just dust that all off. My biggest worry was going to New York but from the moment we landed we had people saying Salaam, asking us if we need help with anything and saying how pretty I looked – something that rarely happened to me, no matter how much I used to doll myself up. Two women even asked if they could have a photo taken with me- HA! I was loving it 🙂 If anything, I would say the hardest thing has been going back to the gym. I still haven’t found a comfortable and stylish hijab that I can work out in.
For sporting hijaabs try CAPSTER ! How do you feel your life has changed ?
For once in my life I feel comfortable just being me. I’ve also stopped worrying about what other people might think and why some things are easier for others but harder for me. I’ve taken a step back and learnt to be patient, to have faith in Allah and know that He has a plan for me. Seems simple but it’s harder than you think when you put it into practice.
Living in London, do you feel people treat you differently with the Hijaab on ?
I’ve never for a minute thought or felt that I’ve been treated differently or unequally since I’ve been in a hijaab. Living in London you see all walks of life so people don’t care if you have purple hair or a purple scarf!
How would you describe your hijab style
If I had to describe my hijaab style I would say flowing and voluminous. I love playing around with different fabrics, patterns and colours, I don’t ever stick to one kind.
Have you switched brands or are you customizing your looks from the same labels you’ve been using ? Any fashion advice ?
I’ve still got the same wardrobe, I just layer a lot more now. I’m definitely not a brand snob, so I’ll buy anything from Primark to Fendi! I wear whatever looks good and feels comfortable. I just add my own personal touch with funky accessories, bright nails or a contrasting hijaab.
Rukaiya Bhegani, Founder of Cuppidy Cakes