A decade ago, I decided to wear the hijab. It was a decision I came to on my own, with no interference from family or friends. Given my age and circumstances at the time, my knowledge and practice of Islam was nothing extraordinary. My first few years post hijab were full of internal and intellectual growth. I gained more confidence and independence, and became more outspoken than I ever was. Combine those with being involved in several initiatives at the time, and I built an ego of authority within the teenage Muslim Student body at school.

One day during lunch, a classmate mentioned that she sometimes takes off her hijab while working at a local supermarket. “But that is wrong! You shouldn’t take it off! Besides, why are you dressed in a half sleeved shirt when you have a hijab on?! You have to wear long sleeves, long skirts, nothing showing but the face and the palms of the hand!” I exclaimed in a very serious tone. Later that evening, she called me crying on the phone, telling me that she is not a bad Muslim, and that she is going through some struggles. I joined her in the tear fest, realizing how horrible I made her feel while having a good intention.

The flower in the image above has a straight stem, but a crooked reflection, and such is the situation with our perspectives of each other. We judge based on what we see to be right and wrong, which isn’t always wrong, but we forget to think of the other person’s circumstances and the phase they are in in life. We forget that we all struggle – each in their own way.

“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” Quran, 3:159

This Ayah was revealed after the events of Uhud. Allah (swt) speaks to us of how lenient the Prophet (pbuh) was with the archers who disobeyed their commands. If he (pbuh) had yelled at them, they would have broken away from the Muslims. He acknowledged that all humans err, and we look up to him as our greatest role model. Finding the right feeling in your approach is key to making any kind of change happen, and the hardest change is that of our mentalities and perspectives. We ought to listen more with our hearts to those whose tongue ran out of words, and look for the good before the bad. The results will be life changing.