Sara entered the airport with her head held upright. She was well-aware of the gazes upon her. Men frowning not able to catch a glance and women critical at the choice of her attire. She walked past them as this was expected. Due to the turbulent weather, the flight was delayed. She had to wait until counters for boarding pass opened. Sensitive to people’s fright of a covered Muslim woman Sara chose to stand away from the sitting area until an airport official approached her. Not left with a choice she proceeded towards the sofas slowly. Where should I sit? With the dolled-up female air crew or the men in business attire? Can I bear the gossips and mockery or the discomfort of sitting with unrelated men? Sara knew she had no options. She would put on a strong face and bear the contempt and sarcasm of women. Face? She again amused herself. Who can see my face? What a relief it was!
Sara had not estimated the wait to be two hours long. She was beginning to get agitated. Not because of her face veil or the stares but the conversation between the airline crew; the language used and the jokes shared. Sara did not look their way as she was unofficially an outcast. Her eyes were fixed to the boarding counters and the multicultural human race. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has created us all. We are same on the surface yet so different on the inside. We are each fighting our battles and following our dreams. Someone is rushing for the business meeting with a laptop on the shoulder and a small carry bag. Someone is hurrying to catch an emergency flight to attend a funeral. A young girl is visiting her parents with her kids on her side and five luggage bags. The young father is travelling back to his family with trolley filled with toys for the children. Everyone is rushing each to their chosen destinations. Life is going on.
She was lost in her thoughts when someone tapped her shoulder. Startled, Sara looked to her right. A smiling auntie greeted her. Sara gently returned her greeting and their conversation began. They shared their reasons for travelling; deplored flight delays; and exchanged Du’as. The auntie gave Du’as of success to Sara. Tears again filled Sara’s eyes. She was joyous at the fact that the stranger auntie sitting next to her had not undermined her existence as a veiled woman. Sara wanted to jump and hug the lady, but alas she was a stranger. A stranger she was. Yet Sara’s own family and friends would not offer support and strength. She quietly thanked Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for sending this stranger her way. The counters had opened and boarding cards were being issued. She shook hands with the auntie and collected more Du’as from her as they parted away. The ways that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala helps us, Sara was astounded.
Here came the next challenge, the security check-up! Sara was uncomfortable to take off her veil in the middle of the crowd for photo identification. She handed her identity card and pass to the airline officer uneasily waiting for the instructions to photo identify herself. The officer took her card and signalled her to go. Are you not going to ask me to remove my veil? For this is what she had been hounded by her well-wishers who had heard stories from their acquaintances: You will have to remove your veil anyway because of the security check-up! This infamous statement echoed inside her head. Amused, Sara continued her journey.
Her heart was beating heavily. She had reached the embassy and now was the real challenge. She is either going to win this battle or let her family down. She did not want to do the latter but taking off the veil or the headscarf was not a choice either. She was firm about it. Sara continued to recite Ayat-e-Kareema (Qur’an 21: 87), as she waited for her turn to be called for the interview. Not a soul passed by who had not cast an eye upon her. Quizzical or judgemental, she did not care. All that she was concerned about was to not give in, in the face of opposition. The visa was not as important to her as pleasing Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. She understood that she will have to momentarily remove her veil for photo identification but that was it. She will not be asked to remove it completely or the headscarf or be questioned about it. But what if they did? If that happens then this interview is not worth it. Sara had made up her mind. Islam will be above everything that she is offered.
There were women dressed in skinny jeans and attractive tops; holding designer bags and an air of arrogance. There were those in eastern wear and dangling earrings. There were those loosely covering their hair with a Dupatta and those that wore a Chaddar. She moved her eyes from one corner of the room to another hoping for a sight of another veiled woman but in vain.
The hopeful interviewees held their documents in one hand and rosary in another. Almost every lip was moving in remembrance of their Lord. Deep down they knew only He could help. Their choice of dressing was different, their lifestyles might be different but they had a common God, and they still believed in Him, Alhumdulillah. Sara was not the kind to judge but she also expected the fellows around her to treat her normally and not as an outcast. Her self-respect allowed her to take no notice of the glances upon her. Veil was neither a sign of oppression to her nor an obligation. It was her choice.
Her number was announced and she had to be taken for finger printing and photo identification. This was to decide what will happen next. Is she to let go of the veil?
And so it had happened! The embassy officer asked her to remove the veil for photo identification. It was her and the officer while the rest of the crowd faced her back. Sara carefully removed her veil from a side holding her Niqab in her hand to not miss a second till she could pin it back. The officer only required some seconds to verify. Thank you, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, Sara muttered. With confidence she proceeded ahead. The interview was a success. The counsellor asked her to remove the veil for the initial photo identification and then told her to cover up. It can only be Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala Who makes ways for us. The entire interviewed was conducted with the veil on.
All those apprehensions and fear that she had been fed through family, friends and media were wafting away. Didn’t they tell me I will never get a visa because I covered? Sara quickly blew the haughtiness out of her head, for it was only because of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that everything happened smoothly.
With increased confidence, Sara returned home and began preparing for the major journey. How will she be treated in the foreign country?
Read the next part to learn what happened when Sara landed in the new country.
One of our admins’ article published in The Intellect magazine, Pakistan.