My Flag Flies Above

The first time I prayed the Islamic prayer, or Salat, I stood in my living room in the silvery morning just moments before dawn. I was self-conscious and unsure of what to do. I had prepared flash cards to help me through the complicated process of standing, sitting and bowing while reciting verses in Arabic. I stood facing Mecca and folded my right hand across my chest. My left hand clutched a flash card that read:

Bismillah ah Rahman ah Raheem

In the name of God, the most gracious, most merciful

Alhamdu lil-ahi rab-bil alamin

All praise be to the Lord, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds

Ah rahman-ah rahim

The most merciful, most gracious

Maliki yawmid-deen

Master of the day of judgement

Iyyaka n’abudu wa-Iyaka nasta-in

You alone do we worship, and to you alone do we turn to for help

Ihdi-nas sira-tal Mustaqim

Show us the straight path

Sira tal-ladhina an-amta alaihim

The path of those who went before us with your grace

Ghair-il Maghdubi ‘Alaihum

Who did not deserve your anger

Wa lad dal-in

Nor went astray

The awkward syllables filled the back of my throat like a swallowed cry as I struggled to make the foreign sounds. But as my mouth worked away at the words, I felt my spirit enter a world that existed outside of the senses, a dimension beyond time and space where the body does not confine the soul. I felt a deep, unending sense of mercy and forgiveness surround me. As the first gentle rays of morning light reached me, I went to my knees, put my forehead to the floor and I cried, “Subhana rabi ya’Ayla” (Glorified is my Lord, the exalted ). Every single atom in the room praised God with me. The chairs and the shadows and the carpet beneath me all sang, “Glorified is our Lord!” The sun and the light prayed with me – their very essence ringing praise for our Creator. In those moments my imperfections and flaws were exposed, but I felt embraced and accepted, forgiven and loved. I found a sense of trust. I knew that the Being who created me knows me and protects me. In that moment I committed my life to that Being.

That commitment is continually evolving. It was a simple beginning, first with prayers any time I was able, fasting during the month of Ramadan and reading a page or two out of the Qur’an every once in a while. Soon I noticed a change in the way that I saw the world. A bird’s chirp would strike me dumb with thankfulness for the gift of hearing. A playful toss of my horse’s head would send my heart singing with praise for the One who created this magnificent creature. The curiosity in the eyes of a child discovering something new reminded me of the gift of knowledge, and made me crave a deeper understanding of Islam. Over time I found myself praying five times each day, memorizing verses of the Qur’an, visiting the local mosque, and making friends with other Muslims.

Eventually I made the decision to wear Hijab, the traditional Islamic head scarf. I chose to cover my head because I believe it that it is a requirement of Islam. Not every Muslim feels this way, and some feel that the simple head covering is not enough. Each Muslim has his or her individual views about Islam, and we each have our own very personal relationship with God. For me, covering is a simple way to express my faith on the inside and out. But Hijab also makes me different. Sometimes I forget how different.

One day I was trying to figure out how to put air in my car tires. A man came up to me and asked me if I’d like some help. “Sure! Thanks,” I said. While my tires were re-inflating he asked me where I was from. “From here, Syracuse,” I said. “Really?” he asked. “But where are you originally from?” He looked confused. “From Syracuse,” I told him. It slowly dawned on him that I was an American. We continued our conversation with pleasant small talk, but the unasked questions hung in the air between us.

I can imagine how perplexed people are by my decision to cover my head. I think that most people see the head scarf as a form of suppression. When my aunt saw me wear it she said, “I can’t believe you want to do that. It’s so submissive! It’s just not like you.” My aunt has known me as a willful, stubborn and independent woman. But to me, Hijab is an expression of pride and dignity. Each morning I practice my own flag-raising. Hand over hand, I carefully work the scarf around my head and I stand tall. I do not shrink into submission. My flag flies above a woman who loves to laugh and discover, who finds bliss at 15 hands and a blazing gallop and who finds peace in worship. I wear Hijab because it’s my choice. I wear it because I respect myself and I respect my religion, and I wear it because I am proud to be a Muslim.

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About agormley

Each morning I practice my own flag raising. Hand over hand, I carefully work an Islamic head scarf around my head and I stand tall. I do not shrink into submission. My flag flies above a woman who loves to laugh and discover, who find bliss at 15 hands and a blazing gallop and who finds peace in worship. I am proud to be a Muslim.
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8 Responses to My Flag Flies Above

  1. Maryam says:

    Allaahu Akbar my Muslim Sister!! I as I read this essay on your blog page I am brought to tears of joy for you and gratefulness to Allaah Ta’aalaa. Allaah has brought you so far. I remember when you were struggling to tell your parents that you were Muslim. How was your father going to take it? What were you to do with this religion that Allaah had put in your heart. Alhamdu lillaah! Keep moving my Sister, keep moving!

  2. Kashan Masud says:

    Amanda this is a beautiful essay. May GOD always shine HIS blessings on you and give you the strength to carry on being a good Muslim.

  3. Jeni Houser says:

    Asalamu alaikum dear sister! I don’t know you personally…but I DO know you personally….because I have been in the same place as you! Alhamdulilah (Glory and praise to Allah)! You’re words ring true in the air and in my heart! I have had a few women come up to me and say Asalamu alaikum to me who don’t cover and who become shy that they don’t and I do. But I believe that, as you say, that to wear the hijab is like a message to the world that we are muslim and that we believe in the Most Magnificient, the Most High, Allah subana t’allah. It comes in time and is not always the easiest to do for those of us who have chosen Islam and were not raised in it. We were ALL raised to be indpendent and WE STILL ARE, if only our families would see that. My father raised me to think for myself! I DO!!! I chose Islam!! And my sister is always reminding me that I was the “smartest” out of all the children….IF I AM than what does that say about my choice to convert to Islam!? They are now the conformists and the ones who are happy with the status quo! I’m not! I want to have a relationship with my Creator the way that it should be….not on my terms, but on HIS terms! How could anyone be happier than this!! Thank you for your posting!! I will keep you in my duwah as I hope you will me and the other sisters as well! Love for His Sake – Jeni Houser

  4. J says:

    as-salaamu `alaykum

    Beautiful and so true. I’m also an American Muslim horse lady. I just started riding (and jumping, and doing dressage) again for the first time in 17 years, and the first time since I started wearing hijab. I find un-embellished two-piece “ameera” hijabs (the ones my kids normally wear) fit nicely under my Troxel with no bulk, no slippage, and no safety hazards. 😉 I also wear Shukr’s duster-length stuff over my britches and they seem to stay knee-length *most* of the time. Funny I prefer my horses to be 15hh too. Any chance you’ve also got a chestnut QH gelding? Anyway, God bless. 🙂

  5. Pingback: My Flag Flies Above « Engage Minnesota

  6. Mashallah all I can say is mashallah sister! May Allah bless you.

  7. Sean Cannady says:

    السَّلامُ عَلَيْكُم

    I am a student of cultures and have begun a large attempt to understand and learn as much as I can about the history and current status of Muslim culture. As a young, western male, raised in an area virtually uninhabited by any visible muslim presence, I strongly feel that I still have much to learn. I have begun reading as much as I can about current issues in the Muslim community, as well as Islam’s history, I am also attempting to learn the arabic language, so that I might one day begin reading the Quran in its original form. My question for you, as I have read your blog, having found its link from the Azizah website, which I have been looking over as well, is about the Hijab specifically. I am trying to come to terms with the dilemma it seems many westerners face in not perceiving the Hijab as an act and symbol of patriarchy and female subjugation. I believe I can begin to appreciate the feeling many American Muslim women seem to have that their choice to wear the hijab is reflective of their empowerment. But I’m having trouble coming to a conclusion about the Hijab’s purpose when it is still so strongly expected of women by men in many American mosques as well as by the heavily patriarchal societies of politically volatile arab states.

    I would respectfully appreciate any response that might help me better understand this topic,

    شكرا

    -Sean Cannady

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