All day, I kept hearing this phrase. At first I tried to shut it out. How can sunnah be sexy? How can ritual, daily practice, etiquette and cultural traditions be sexy? In this day and age Muslims are considered uncool. I found myself praying in my office worried that my officemates may come in and see me draped in my black prayer outfit. It was not that I’m ashamed of it. But I’m sure it would freak them out. I remember in my first Arabic class, we had a field trip to the mosque. This sister in the class said she thought my classmates didn’t believe I was really Muslim, until they saw my transformation as I went into the mosque. When it comes to ritualized worship, I like to represent for Allah. I know I have a ton of stuff to work on, so I am not going to pretend to be self-righteous or anything. I just really dig that transformation. But clearly my non-Muslim classmates didn’t know what to do with that.
I used to wear hijab and fully cover my hair and body for five years. During that time I developed my intellect and character. When I used to cover, the sisters would dress up for women-only gatherings. It was like a miss America pageant. In fact, a lot of my friends used to joke and say I looked like a contestant. Underneath the abayas (outerwear), we’d have formal and semi-formal dresses. My hair would be whipped, make-up on point, jewelry blinging, yeah enough to catch the evil eye. Wearing hijab, however, did not mean that I was truly a modest person. Years ago, my boss told me that I was a full of contradictions: modesty and flamboyance wrapped up in one. It was something I struggled with everyday. I still do.
A lot of women I know are ashamed of their bodies. They are self conscious of some socially constructed flaw. Although I dont consider my body perfect, I enjoy mine. This is what Allah gave me. I find it aesthetically pleasing. I try not to be narcissistic but I have a healthy dose of self-love. I enjoy clothing that works with my curves, that highlights my strengths, that is appealing for either its shape, texture, and/or colors. But even as I love clothes, I like to be out of them. If I lived by myself, Id probably would walk around naked or maybe just in a thong and bra (Not very sunnah-like, I know).
Even when I did try to cover it, my sexuality was always apparent. Somebody told me I would have to conceal it all by making myself look overweight or wearing a burqa. But as much as the burqa is a symbol of oppression, my prayer outfits have a similar form (but bare-faced) offers a break from my sexuality. It is in that moment of transcendence, that I experience something extra-cool. It is an acknowledgement that embodiment is real and that in order to appreciate it, I must take a step back. That physical self is not really me, but the real me is my spirit. What people see is not really me, that is only my material self. Going through the process of self-negation in ritual worship, I find myself closer to myself. That process I find is intriguing and remarkably beautiful. Yeah, I find sunnah sexy.
Just as quickly as the thought came into my mind, it shifted into my tension filled love of Muslim men. I remember going to see Cornell West and Zaid Shakir, and my gaze was all over the place (Yeah, I have a problem lowering my gaze). It was a sea of beautiful faces. I’m close to a some brothas and I tell them they are beautiful. Their daily transformations, that process of self-negation and self-realization is inspiring. I pray for their success and hope to follow their progress and development. It is amazing to see someone grow and blossom. There’s so many beautiful brothas, and something is so captivating to me about them. It was something about the composure, the style of dress, the grooming, their smell. Maybe this is why I dont go to jumah (Friday prayer) much. Years after my divorce, I avoided being close with any Muslim men. But as time went along, I began to see them as the Other. I wanted to know what made them think, what made them tick. I wanted to know why brothas were so difficult. Why was it so difficult, when we shared the same love and worldview. I didnt want to see them as adversaries, as an Other. My friendships have helped me see them as an integral part of my identity. There is no Us and Them/ but only We. We meet our counterparts. After eight years, I miss having a counterpart, I miss being led in prayer, the late night discussions of this issue and that, the debates over fiqh (Islamic law), and working for the same cause. I look through the pain and I see how much I grew. Yeah, I love the way the brothas follow the sunnah it is sexy I’ll leave it at that, mashaAllah.