Monday, 1 February 2016

Does that make us extremists? Feat. Ayesha and Samina

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I don't even need to explain much about Ayesha and Samina because they have done an amazing job of that below. 

To find out the purpose of this interview make sure you read 'What is World Hijab Day?'.

1. Hello, could you explain a little about yourself please. 
I'm Ayesha Farooq - Co-Founder of AYEINA. - A soul juggling between the roles of a mother, wife, daughter-in-law and a student of deen and dunya. With a hint of space in-between, I occupy myself in arts and crafts, photography, writing my heart out and sewing. I keep looking for more to do and explore. Always in search of contentment, finding it nowhere else but in Allaah. I am currently a student of Islamic Psychology so me and my sister (together called Zayeneesha - Founders of AYEINA) are in the process of making an Adult Islamic Coloring Book named “Allah Loves YOU”, which will focus on bringing out the best in people while walking them on a therapeutical journey through coloring and Qur’anic verses in shaa Allaah. Also in line is a Children’s Islamic Magnetic Book (suitable for babies even, as its material is that of a bath book) - we are looking for sponsors/investors/publishers for it nowadays. 

Assalam u alaikum. I'm Samina Farooq – Co-founder of AYEINA - an engineer by qualification, a Quran and Arabic-language student by occupation, a photographer by eye, a writer by heart, an artist by nature and a Muslim by soul. As a photographer and writer, I have been featured on BBC, Nat Geo, Smithsonian Magazine, The Sun Magazine, Cosmopolitan (Middle East), Sisters Magazine, The Intellect Magazine etc. You can see the full list by clicking 'As seen on':  As an artist, I enjoy designing #AlhamdulillahForSeries the most on our Instagram account (@ayeina_official) - Which aims to spread sense of gratitude towards Allaah. 

2. Could you explain to us what the niqab is? 
Ayesha: Like literally... “Niqaab” is a garment sewn in a fashion, which facilitates women to cover their face. 
Samina: Niqab is a piece of cloth that covers the face in front of non-mahrams. [All men except for the following] 

3. What does the Niqab mean to you? And why do you wear the niqab? 
Ayesha: The sole purpose is to attain the pleasure of my Rabb. This is what it means to me and this is why I wear it. 
Samina: Niqab makes me feel in control. I feel like I am the sole owner of my face and body, as I control who sees it and who doesn't. Why? For the sake of Allah. It has played a great role in helping build my character in accordance to the teachings of Islam because once I choose to look like a Muslim, I automatically felt more responsible to portray the right Islam to people. I wanted (and still want) to become a much better human being. 

4. How do you feel when you wear the niqab? 
Ayesha: Comfortable, strong and blessed to be a Muslim. 
Samina: With all the pressure of looking the perfect self, I feel liberated from all the superficial expectations and society's standards of beauty. I'm not compared to photo shopped images from the magazine. And those who can see me, love me for who I am as a person. I am loved no matter how I look. Talk about a personal boost of confidence in a society that feasts on our self-doubt. Doesn’t that sound like empowerment? 

5. When did you start wearing the niqab and what lead you to making that decision?
Ayesha: I started my journey towards my Rabb by seeking knowledge with my mother and sister. At that time we started with the hijab alone. Then in the span of two years I studied and did loads of research on covering the face and since then I am like this. Alhamdulillah. 
Samina: Back in 2010. Whaaaa? It's been SIX years? Ok BRB I'm just gonna go celebrate 

6. Do your parents tell you to wear the niqab? 
Ayesha: No. It was my very own decision and Alhamdulillah they assisted me in it. 
Samina: Nopes. Rather my father couldn't first figure out why we are doing what we're doing. My brother still can't seem to wrap his head around it sometimes. 

7. Were your family and friends supportive when you first started wearing the niqab? What did they say? 
Ayesha: My very family... Alhamdulillah was. I had a teeny battalion ready with me. It had my little sister, my mother and me. Rest of the relatives were pretty shocked as we don’t have this concept in our extended families. And my friends took it as a joke as I ended the semester without hijab and started the next one with it. 
Samina: My mother and sister were very supportive. They had been taking it more than a year before I chose to as well. Eventually, my father was good with it as well (not that he clearly opposed either). 

8. What reactions did you get when you first started to wear the niqab? 
Ayesha: Hahhaha. I still remember many faces. People usually accept you with the hijab. But with's kinda tough for them. Maybe because it's not a part of our culture. So everyone argued at it being not-obligatory. 
Samina: Joy from some, disgust from others. Satisfaction from within. 

9. Have you ever had any negative attention while wearing the niqab?
Ayesha: Not negative enough to discourage me. So yeah....not really. 
Samina: Hmm not really. Apart from some people getting offended that I chose to cover my face in front of them. Rest has been a part of mockery, which I never took serious anyway. 

10. Have you ever felt terrible for wearing the niqab? 
Ayesha: Alhamdulillah, never. 
Samina: Terrible for whom? 

11. Have you have any positive attention while wearing the niqab?
Samina: Yes. I've been called brave the most. Also, Respect - When I was studying engineering, I was the only girl in an all-boys class. And I jumped from no hijab to hijab to abaya to niqab. And during this process, I felt a massive change in the attitude of boys towards me. I was respected more. [Even though men should respect women irrespective of what they wear (rather human beings should respect each other unconditionally)] but I could tell that I was seen as a person and not an object. Objects are disposable and have no feelings… They carefully chose their words when speaking to me. The upside to their careful words was careful actions. People feel insecure doing bad stuff around niqabis I’ve noticed. I hope it's not because they think we are more pious (which Allah knows better and can't necessarily be true), or they think that we might act all haram police on them...? I'm not sure. But it's an advantage nonetheless. 

12. Do you feel like the events in the media have given you more attention?
Ayesha: Alhamdulillah living in a Muslim country isn’t that hard in this aspect. 

13: Have you had any funny moments while wearing the niqab? 
Ayesha: Not really. However, when I started the hijab, my dreams used to have me in that attire (I was wearing hijab even in my dreams) and it really amazed me. 
Samina: "Neeeeenjawwwwnnnn hayyaaaa uuaaannn hu hu hu." Yepp one time I brought out the ninja in this person and I'm glad the group couldn't see me laughing behind my veil. They meant to make fun of it perhaps but the joke was on them :p 

14. Most people reading this will wonder how do you eat while wearing the niqab?
Ayesha: They can try that to get an idea. It isn’t that hard. I guess it's easier than eating and drinking with a lipstick on – at least for me. 
Samina: Like a boss :p Just sneak in food from beneath. When we dine out, we usually call beforehand to reserve the corner table. Once you get a hang of it, you're enjoying it way more than everyone else. Partly, because nobody can see how you're eating or nobody is judging how much you're eating. People around are usually eating sophisticatedly (aka not really eating) while I'm all munching and gulping it down with my focus completely on food. I sometimes have to whisper audibly to myself to "get it together, girl." Now I don't encourage this of course, but eating in class is a serious plus. When you're super hungry and lecture just doesn't seem to end, slip in some food from beneath your niqab and smile wryly. 

15. Do you have to wear the niqab all the time? Do you shower with it? 
Ayesha: Hahaha. 
Samina: Yes, especially when the water is cold. Jokes apart, I only wear it in front non-mahrams. (See Q2) 

16. How do you breathe while wearing the niqab? 
Ayesha: Inhale and exhale. Inhale and exhale. Repeat. 
Samina: How do doctors breathe while wearing the surgical mask? :p or anyone with allergy or caution... Rather it's an amazing "smell" blocker. Niqab was my saviour when I was pregnant and couldn't take certain smells. 

17. A lot of people may ask how do people recognise you when you’re out? 
Ayesha: Normally, those who keep in touch do recognise. Even you’ll be amazed how your babies can recognize you among other niqaabis. Those who can’t, I'm more than happy to introduce myself again and again. 
Samina: Those who know me recognise me anyway. Be it from my shoes, my bag etc. (and that is only when I am in a bevy of niqabis - otherwise it's super easy to spot me in the crowd). Even my 9 month old can spot me from miles away. In airports etc., where identities need to be checked, I am more than happy to let women see my face in a private place. And if that cannot be arranged at all, I am ok with male security personnel as well when it's truly necessary. 

18. How do you interact with people who are not your family or friends and your face is covered? 
Ayesha: I guess interaction basically needs your voice. And a voice itself holds all the expressions (to spare the face this job). 
Samina: Words are a strong form of communication. In an era of constant connections through mobile phones, this shouldn't be much of a problem. Rather people get to know me through my words, my mentality, my talents, my actions and my personality - Not from how I look or how my hair is. I have the privilege of living my life inside my words. And I love living in even the very smallest part of every syllable because, I am heard without sight and I would always prefer being heard than being seen. 

19. What do people treat you like? I know in this day and age people are very quick to judge so does that happen to you? And how do you deal with it? 
Ayesha: I am pretty comfortable with this judgement thing with the Niqab as I know whom I took it for and He will be pleased in sha Allaah. Rather most of the time, I enjoy the comments really. 
Samina: It depends from person to person. Most of the people just stare... but not for long because they don't have much to stare at. And as an introvert, I like the invisibility of being visibly Muslim. The judgments are few. If people look at me and make judgments, it's mostly about the niqab. It isn’t personal because they can’t see my clothes, my body, or my facial expressions. 

20. If you could say what you wanted to non-Muslims regarding the niqab what would you say? 
Samina: It shouldn't be assumed that Muslim women are entrapped in some suffocating cloak and need to be saved. Not all of us need to be liberated by removing our coverings. You’re saving us without truly knowing our story will cost us our freedom. We have a right and every ability to make our own decisions. I must say that I have seen many non-Muslims having great religious and racial tolerance. We need more of such people in the world. 

21. People are really quick to judge so would you like to say anything to those who are quick to stereotype? 
Samina: An extra layer of clothing does not make us any better than an unveiled woman. Most of us choose to wear niqab because it is a Sunnah. It doesn’t mean that we consider it obligatory; nor does it mean that we consider those who do not wear the niqab, less chaste or modest. It is just how we manage our own spirituality and connection with Allaah. People may call us extremists, but we are not affected by the pebbles that they throw from their mouths. We will be as polite as we can be, but we won't be sorry for it. 

22. How do you feel about the niqab being recognised as ‘oppressive’? 
Ayesha: I don’t really get it. Oppressive? How? 
Samina: Obviously, I am not every Muslim woman's story nor am I a benchmark. But there are many like me who hang this most controversial piece of cloth on their face, unflinchingly and unapologetically. Those who aren't smothered, oppressed or chained behind that veil. It is a part of our identity and our informed choice. So we will keep shining bright, but the blinding light of our gemstones won't be white. 

23. Lastly, would you like to add anything else? 
Ayesha: There is a lot of debate out there about Niqab being an obligation or a Sunnah. Even if it’s a Sunnah, it’s a better option indeed. And no niqaabi has a right to consider herself better than a non-niqaabi as Allaah judges us on our level of taqwa and good deeds only. And there is no place for an arrogant being in Jannah. We all need to understand modesty. It's not just an attire and it doesn’t exist in hearts alone. It's a characteristic that resides in hearts and can be seen in our actions and ways. 

Ibn 'Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: 
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) passed by a man of the Ansar who was admonishing his brother regarding shyness. Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "Leave him alone, for modesty is a part of Iman." 
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. 
'Imran bin Husain (May Allah be pleased with them) reported:
 Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "Shyness does not bring anything except good." 
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. 


A MASSIVE thank you to these girls for being able to do this interview. I am so glad I met them through this because they are one of the nicest and funniest people I have met. Both ladies are really open-minded and I love these girls! Make sure you really do show these ladies your love and support because they really do deserve it. All of their links are below. 

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  1. Jazakillah khair Ramsha. We are completely floored. *Literally sitting on the floor right now*
    Thank you for your kindness and support. {floored and support rhymed as well - I'm gonna go write a poetry book now - okthanksbyeee}

    1. Thank you for doing this Samina! You guys are great and I wish you both a lot of success Insha'Allah.xx

  2. Ayesha Farooq wants to say thanks as well but is too lazy to type :p

    1. Haha, thank you Ayesha! You guys are truly unique. xx

  3. Excellent interview, very well said. Knowing the two sisters personally, I continuously admire their strong willed intents and determination to please our creator.

    May Allah bless you always.

    1. Thank you. I totally agree, their interview is amazing and they're both very strong and continue to inspire others. xx


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