For almost fifteen years, I wore a scarf to signify my Muslim faith. But, truth be told, I never found God wearing a scarf. I never felt closer to God because I wore it. Nor was I ever convinced that it was required. I think I did it because, as a blonde-haired blue eyed American, I wanted to be “identified” as a Muslim. I wanted to be a part of a wider community.
However, over the years this “identification” has lost its appeal. I became increasingly disillusioned over those in my faith who judged a person’s relationship with God based on outward appearance instead of what was in the heart. I didn’t feel I should be responsible for men’s inability to keep their own urges under control. I questioned those who judged others based on outward reflections of religiousity and rigid conformity to rules devoid of compassion. This religion was more than just a piece of cloth. To me, it was about compassion and kindness to all members of humanity. It was about humility and gratitude – not just conformity to rules without any real connection to the divine.
This past year especially was a year of reflection to me. Turning fifty does that to you. I became more concerned with my personal relationship to God than mere conformity. This is the relationship I needed to develop. I knew in doing so that I needed to be authentically me – and so I removed the scarf. I took it off it because it wasn’t authentic. I took it off because I felt stifled by it and didn’t want any resentment from it to keep me from God. I took it because I refused to let myself or others be judged on an insignificant matter such as outward appearance. I took it off because I knew that anyone who judged me by its removal was far from God.
An amazing thing happened. I feel closer to God now than any other time in my life. God let me back to consistent and regular prayer through a kind kindred soul who needed my prayers. Now, I feel His presence everywhere. I feel His presence in those quiet moments after prayer when the voices in my head have been silenced. I feel His presence when answers to my prayers seem to come from thin air. I am reminded of Him when I recognize signs in my life of his wondrous grace and generosity. Most importantly, in the love I have for others, I am continually reminded of His love for me.