Dear Nit-Picking Auntie at the Masjid,
You look so polished and put together in your simple, neutral-colored abaya, huge beige hijab, and thick socks, with your makeup-free fresh face. You are a perfect Muslim woman, I get it. What I don’t get is how you nit-pick and shame Muslim girls, your sisters.
I saw you telling Joanna how her prayer wasn’t accepted because she was wearing skinny jeans. Mind you, she just reverted last month, and your comment made her cry, and wonder if this was the religion for her.
I overheard you telling Halimah how God will not accept her supplications because she had nail polish on. Did you ever think that maybe today was the day Halimah decided she would start praying again, and that comment would discourage her from her prayers again?
I saw you eyeing Kareema’s turban hijab, and giving her a nasty look. Did you perhaps know that Kareema has been struggling to keep the hijab on and decided she will not de-veil, but rather wear a turban style instead?
I saw you giggling with your other perfect auntie best friend about how Kawthar always wears second-hand clothing, often with holes in her socks and stains on her pants. Did you know Kawthar is a single mother struggling to make ends meet and care for her three kids?
I overheard you telling Suha how it’s absolutely haraam (forbidden) to show her feet, and how she should wear socks not only while praying, but also when going out. You probably didn’t know that for Suha, keeping her prayers is a daily struggle, and she has been skipping prayers often.
I heard you scolding at Tanya about how she must pray her sunnah, and how it’s incorrect to place her elbows on the ground while making sujood. Tanya grew up in a non-practicing Muslim household, and all she needs is a kind, gentle Muslim mentor to help her rediscover her religion.
The Quran even says, “God desires ease for you, and desires not hardship.” (2:185) In the Quran, the Prophet himself (pbuh) was advised by God to make things easy for people: “It is part of the mercy of Allah that you deal gently with them If you were severe or hardhearted, they would have broken away from you.” (3: 159) Many times, the Prophet has commented on the fact religion should be easy, saying “Facilitate [religious matters to people] and do not make [things] difficult. Obey each other and do not differ [amongst yourselves],” and “Religion is easy.”
Dear Auntie, maybe your intentions are good sometimes. Maybe you feel obliged to correct something you see that’s wrong, or maybe you think that since you have studied Islam for for a while that you are above some people, or have more knowledge than them. And maybe you do! But what you don’t know are the struggles these ladies face on a daily basis. You don’t know what’s going on in their lives, spiritually or personally. Maybe that one negative comment will make that sweet girl not want to come to the masjid again. Maybe it will make her think “Wow this religion has way too many rules, and I can’t keep up.”
I’m all for giving well-intentioned advice, but it helps if:
1) You know the person, and you have actually talked with her before.
2) Nobody else is around you two when you give the advice, so that you don’t embarrass her.
3) That it’s actually correct advice, and not just a cultural interpretation of religion.
4) That you have given that sister 70 excuses. As one of the great early Muslims, Hamdun al-Qassar said, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.” [Imam Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 7.522]
5) You are being kind and gentle; not condescending with your tone.
6) You understand that the masjid should be an inclusive place for all people, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, spiritual level, culture, and race.
Dear Auntie, instead of all the nit-picking, why not focus on your own relationship with God, and make duaa for yourself and for others around you?
Thank you for understanding, Auntie.
Love and peace,
a Muslim Girl