On Sunday, my friend Aida asked me what I thought of the rising number of very young girls being “IG celebrities”. She defined an IG celebrity as “one who has amassed a huge following on Instagram and one that has successfully grown a community of fans”. Aida’s timing was impeccable. I had just spoken to Mama about it merely an hour before. Ma shaa Allah.
My immediate response was that I find it worrying. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish to shame anyone. Trust me when I say that I do not, in any way, look down on girls who constantly post OOTDs and selfies on their Instagram. How can I, when I was once that girl too?
About a year ago, I made the decision to wear the hijab. Alhamdulillah, I had mustered the courage because I wanted to draw closer to Allah. Subhanallah, I can’t even begin to describe what the first day was like. I remember trembling when I was going to put it on. Beads of cold sweat were running down my face. My heart was beating out of my chest. Honestly, I was extremely excited. I was also utterly terrified.
I understood that my life was going to be very different from then on. My Muslim identity was suddenly out there, visible to everyone. As a clear representative of Islam, I started striving to be even more aware of my actions.
People had a range of reactions. Alhamdulillah, most were very encouraging. Others, not so much.
“Are you freaking serious, Alia?”
“What? Have you thought this through? ”
“Why, Alia? Once you put it on, you can never take it off you know?”
I won’t lie. Some days, I was able to focus on my purpose – to return to Allah. I felt strong and firm and brave. Other days, those words wore me down a bit. Unfortunately, on days when my Imaan happened to be low, I found myself posting selfies in hijab on my Instagram page. Every positive comment and ‘like’ made me feel a little better. I knew, deep down inside, that this was unhealthy. What would happen to me when one day, no one ‘likes’ my photo? Would I still be able to love myself? Do I feel self-assured without makeup and fashionable clothes? Where had my tawakkul, God-consciousness gone?
The answer was painfully clear. When I seek strength from what is temporary, I am naively setting myself up for heartbreaking disappointment.
Separately, I started to realise the impact that I had on others. When young girls emailed me to ask me where I bought my clothes, my heart sank. Don’t get me wrong. It is alright to want to be presentable. In fact, it can be a sign of respect to the person you are meeting. However, I could not help but ask myself even more soul-searching questions. These impressionable girls are at an age when they are looking for their identity. It’s bad enough that they are bombarded with countless negative images and stories in the mass media. Did I really want to fuel the trend of rewarding females, both young and old, with “likes” and comments and even money, just for looking good? Do I embody the values that I would love my sisters to learn? How can I help young girls to mature so they’ll become self-worthy individuals who are rightly guided to the straight path?
I am not saying that our ultimate end should be to become the best example to others. However, it is inevitable that other people may sometimes look to us for inspiration. When this happens, what kind of example do we want to be?
Alhamdulillah, I had the opportunity to attend a course on the women of Islam conducted by Ustaz Saif-ur-Rahman. Ma Shaa Allah, how amazing were they? Take Aisha radiAllahu anha, for example. She was assertive, eloquent and fearless. She was compassionate, spiritual and truthful. She was a respected scholar who knew thousands of ahadith by heart. It was said that even senior companions of the Prophet SAW used to consult her to resolve complicated issues! Subhanallah. I’m sure that, like me, you are inspired by the virtues of Aisha radiAllahu anha and the other heroines of Islam.
We don’t even know how these women look like.
Currently, I am trying my best to be more mindful. Before posting anything on social media, I ask myself 3 questions:
1) Why am I posting this photo?
2) Is there a better way to communicate my message?
3) Will this bring me closer to Allah?
Our tests are not the same. Everyone struggles with different things. Dealing with social media is one of mine. However, I always remind myself that Allah has created us in the best of forms. I am aware now, more than ever, that beauty is not external. Beauty, that is eternal, comes from the heart. May I be given the will and determination to be able to look inwards and purify my heart and may I return to Allah in the most beautiful, dignified way, in shaa Allah.
“Yesterday, I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself” – Rumi