My mom was a musical fan and I often heard the song “Summertime” playing on her stereo during my childhood. The first line goes, “Summertime, and the living is easy.” But I have to tell you: I don’t feel that way about summer. Especially the last two years since I’ve been a Muslim.
For one thing, dressing modestly is hot! And I don’t mean that in the “attractive” or “sexy” sense. I dread going out some days because I know I’m going to have sweat trickling down my back as soon as the sun hits me. (It doesn’t help of course that we don’t have air-conditioning in our car!) Sometimes I long for the days when I could throw on a sleeveless top and some shorts and just go. But I feel funny now if I venture outside without long sleeves and pants and a hijab.
I’ve had to learn a few tricks about dressing hijab. I try to stick to my light, cotton hijabs and to wear long-sleeve tops so I don’t have to layer. Long skirts and dresses can be a good solution, too. I’ve worn an abaya on a few occasions and actually like the feeling of being covered yet being able to move freely, but most of the abayas I have are of man-made fabrics so they’re not that cool.
Even though I complain sometimes about having to dress this way in the heat, I have to admit that I’ve found that I don’t really feel that much more hot than I used to pre-Islam. And I don’t have to use as much sun-block either! (All right, I don’t use any sunblock. I know I should, but I always forget.)
Another thing I find difficult is gardening. Not only because I get hot, but because I can’t bear to dress modestly when I’m working in the yard. The clothes just get in the way and the heat is definitely intensified. Short of going out to garden in the middle of the night, I haven’t yet worked out a way to stay cool and modest while doing so. And my yard looks like it!
Also, I won’t be going to the pool any time soon. I love to swim, but I just don’t have the nerve to wear a burkini or other modest swimwear at a public pool. One of the local mosques occasionally has a swimming event just for women, but it’s at an indoor pool and somehow that’s just not the same as swimming outside.
I hate the idea that I have to curtail some of my activities now that I’m a Muslim. I have no problem with not drinking alcohol or partying, because I never did much of that anyway. Nor am I a sports-nut: I don’t jog, or play softball or tennis. I do go to the gym (occasionally!), but it’s an all-women gym, so I don’t have to worry as much about how I’m dressed. (I’m rather lax about it, to tell you the truth.)
And now for the biggie: Ramadan. I don’t look forward to it like I wish I would, because I always worry so much about how I’m going to handle the heat. I’ll be so glad when Ramadan moves into the other seasons, but that won’t be anytime soon. So I better get used to it. I don’t want to stop doing anything just because it’s Ramadan and I’m passing out on the couch (in the air-conditioning). For one thing, I have a GRE test to take at the end of August and I can’t afford to stop studying just because it’s Ramadan.
I’m praying hard that I be able to handle all the things I wrote about in this post. I realize that’s probably the point of all these “hardships.” If we didn’t have trials in life, would we rely on Allah? Besides, my trials are nothing compared to my brothers and sisters who are fighting for freedom and still have to observe Ramadan. When I put things into perspective like that, I realize I don’t have it so bad. We do have air-conditioning at home and most places I visit do as well. I have the freedom to worship any way I please. And to voice my opinions.
Don’t get me wrong. Even though it can be hard to be a Muslim sometimes, I know in my heart that I wouldn’t have it any other way. The “sacrifices” I have to make are nothing compared to what Allah has done for me. He calls me to do my best, but is merciful and compassionate when I fail. And He never leaves me. With Allah, the living may not be easy, but it’s better than living without Him.