Friday, 13 December 2013

Interview | Hijabi Bengali Sisters - Monika Sarker

Asalaamulaikum lovelies! It may seem that I have been neglecting my blog lately but that has honestly not been the case. I have not had my computer for a long while. In fact, it's still in repairs!

With losing our beloved Tata, and not having a machine  it seems my life stood still. I'd like very much to blog about our fallen hero but because he truly deserves his own blog post for the very least that will take a lot more time and effort.

In the mean time, I now finally bring to you another wonderful inspirational women interview. It is now none other than Monika Sarker of the Hijabi Bengali Sisters who I'm sure most of you follow, if not be sure to do so. What I love about them is that they are not about fashion. They are purely about Deen and Dawah! They are two young sisters who spread Deen and Dawah in a hilarious, sometimes colloquial way. That makes them so easy to understand and such an inspiration to our younger muslim women.

So, let the inspiration begin...

1.      Could you tell us a bit about yourself for those of us that don’t know?

Well, I’m Monika, the older sister, although I look younger. I am currently in my last year in university, graduating with a degree on Graphic Design and have a minor on Religious Studies. My sister and I both do dawah on youtube and call ourselves “The HijabiBengaliSisters”.

2.     Tell us a bit about your upbringings whether it was fairly religious or not and how did this influence you to become who you are today?

Wasn’t really religious when it came to our upbringing, it was more cultural than anything. But every once in a while my parents would take us to a halaqa, we’d get really bored and end up sleeping in it. We were put into Quran classes, and even though we were good with memorization of the Surahs, we would quickly forget it ‘cause our heart wasn’t in it. I felt like religion was a part of the culture when I was younger. I couldn’t find the difference. I remember in 5th grade, one of my Quran teachers was telling me that she had a dream that I was going to wear a hijab one day. I legit took that as a sign and wore it immediately. I wore it to school and everyone was shocked by it. Unfortunately, I was easily influenced by the other adults who told me that I didn’t have to wear it now and I can only wear it at school. I didn’t listen to them at first and wore it everywhere I went, but eventually I took it off completely after being convinced. I guess we weren’t really ever influenced to wear it when we grew older. It was something we put on ourselves. I always respected hijabis when I saw them, and no matter how much makeup, tight clothes, or half sleeved shirts they wore, or even if they wore those “convertible hijabs” I always looked up to them, even though I had no idea how the proper hijab was supposed to be worn. If anyone talked smack about them, I would stick up for them. So, I guess respecting Hijabis and our parents not putting much limit on us made me want to put restrictions on myself.  

3.     When did you start wearing Hijab and what inspired you do to do so? Did one perhaps inspire the other?

I remember Nashiha and I planned to wear the hijab when we went to college. We were all hyped saying “We’re gonna do it!”. We didn’t even get our 5 daily prayers straight, but we still wanted to wear the hijab. The winter break of 2009 my dad went to Hajj and he prayed a lot for our guidance. When the summer of 2010 hit (the year I was transitioning from high school to college), Nashiha came up to me one day and was like “Monika, I don’t want to wear a hijab in college”, and I was shocked. She then continued saying “…because I want to wear it now, with you!” and then we all got excited and giddy, jumping up and down like little girls. My sister and I definitely helped each other stick to our plan to wear the hijab in college because we would both go back and forth changing our minds.

4.     How does wearing the hijab make you feel?

I never say this, but it makes me feel beautiful. I grew up with so many insecurities, now I just laugh thinking “they can’t make fun of my physical flaws no more cause the hijab got me covered” (pun intended). 

5.    LOL!  Ok, so I absolutely love your youtube channel! Such a quirky tell it like it is attitude! But what made you start vlogging and why do you both continue to do so?

Thank you so much! 
We began our youtube because I remember looking through youtube on Islam, after putting on the hijab, I was trying to gain more knowledge on it. I then came across this disgusting video of this woman talking about how we should all take off our hijabs to show that we have freedom like we say we do. The entire reason she made this video is because a father killed her daughter for taking her hijab off. I am completely aware that there are oppressing men out there who force their daughter into wearing the hijab, but why hate on all hijabis in general when MOST of us chose to wear it? So knowing how prideful (halal pride, if one exists) I was then for wearing the hijab, I got really angry and went up to Nashiha saying “Dude! Look at this ridonkulous video, lets make a respond back to this chick and shut her up”. Since then we began to enjoy making videos so I would force Nashiha into it even when she felt too lazy to do it. I also did it cause Nashiha told me I couldn’t act so I had to prove her wrong (Ha! Ha!). All of our acting is improvised and we never wrote scripts unless it was a poem. That’s why you see many bloopers at the end of our videos cause some of us come out with the most ridiculous lines that we both end up cracking up so hard.

6.     In most western societies Hijab is seen as oppressive toward women, what can you say against this common thought and what in your opinion are the advantages of wearing the Hijab? 

I laugh with this idea. I can easily say the opposite and say “Well, being nude is oppressive to females”, but what exactly makes them oppressive and doesn’t make us oppressive? Well, lets see. 
Are we told to please men’s eyes with the skimpy tight clothes they create for us women to wear? Nope. Do I need to wear trendy clothes to fit into the society and have my confidence be depended on how people think of me? No. Can people insult my physical appearance to the point where I would need to have plastic surgery on my body to feel better about myself? No. The advantage of being a hijabi is that I don’t have to conform to what ANYONE says but Allah, the Creator of the Universe. Just like my momma who I would listen to if she told me not to do something, Allah has even more Greater rights than her to tell me how I should be. If you love someone so much, you’re willing to do anything for them, this is that same concept but towards the Creator of you and I. 

7.     You asked a question recently on twitter, and I pose it back you each of you, What do you love most about Islam?

Women’s right. Yup, that’s right. A man’s gonna hate if they can’t get a date. Haha totally joking. But seriously, I love that part the most. I’m given the right to marry the man I want, and not be forced into marriage because of what my parents say or because a man prefers me to be with him. I love that I can own my own business and have rights over my money; the fact that I am told to respect myself and not be the servant of another creation. I just love it. The second thing I love the most is its logic; the proof that it is God speaking and not a human. What is there not to love about Islam?

10.  Being proudly muslim living in a western country are any of you faced with any Islam/hijab specific challenges?

The common one would be the heat. I remember playing hardcore soccer in gym class with my hijab and jacket on with the scorching sun beaming down on me. All the guys were taking their shirts off  (I clearly lowered my gaze even though I wasn’t even attracted by it) saying how hot it was, I laughed at them said “I know YOU ain’t complaining homie”.

11.  What do you think is the most challenging issue that muslims face living in a western society

3 words: Surrounding of ignorance.

12.  You both recently started a facebook page called Deen Team with Lisa Vogl and yaz the Spaz’s mom. Firstly I must commend you both on this! Can you tell my readers each what inspired you to start this page, who is it aimed at and what you envision for this page? 

My girl Lisa thought of the idea, mainly after that one status we posted about this one girl reverting to Islam. This other person commented under that same status, saying “You didn’t even say Salaam right” to the revert sister who has barely any clue about Islam yet. It really bothered all of us seeing the hate some Muslims have towards Converts/Reverts. Even after my sister and I made a video about loving our revert brothers and sisters, some people commented with really rude remarks about them not being a real Muslim. The ignorance is even real within our own Ummah. So the fact I love reverts and Lisa being a revert herself, she decided to make a page to help reverts and told me to join in. She’s a great person with wonderful ideas. May Allah give her jannatul ferdeous. 

13.  Ameen! What then generally inspires each of you? 

I would say prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), all day erry’day. Before doing anything in my life matters I always ask myself “What would prophet Muhammed (pbuh) do?”

14.  Monika: What most do you find inspiring about Nashiha?

How this crazy chick acts all professional in front of others but is mad insane when we’re alone. I love how she can put a smile on anyone’s face and is really trustworthy. One of the biggest thing that I find inspiring about her is that even after the hate and rude comments we have to face daily by few people, she stands strong and always keeps me standing up when I want to give up and quit youtube. She is one helluva strong woman, and I respect that she never lets anyone get to her emotionally other than her own family. 

15.  How do you draw inspiration from one another?

We just always encourage each other to be better when the other one is weak in imaan. We don’t really have someone legitimate to ever talk to, so we always talk to each other about issues we’re facing and we inspire each other with great Islamic advice and always remind each other that this world isn’t forever when one of us get too tied up in this Dunya. 

16.  What type of hijab style is your everyday and what is your favorite?

Legit, all I do is wrap it around my neck once and I’m out the door. Ain’t nobody got time for fashion. The only time I ever try is in all female parties or weddings. So I don’t really have a favorite one, I just got a simple one that I do every day.

17.  Who and What inspires you in terms of hijab and fashion?

Honestly, no one. But I do remember watching a few videos from Yazthespaz when I was thinking to be a hijabi one day. She was a great inspiration, and anyone who says she’s not really hasn’t been through any hijabi-female’s shoe who was encouraged to wear the hijab cause of her. She makes modest look beautiful. 

18.  Monika: How would you describe Nashiha’s style?

She got style all right. It’s elegant and professional for the most part. If you ask her about my style she’ll describe it as “hobo man” cause I really don’t dress up at all. People always assume I do cause of my videos and pictures but that’s not the case at all.

19.  What advice can you give to muslim women who are afraid or feel that they are not yet ready to wear hijab?

We ain’t ready for death either. Just sayin’. I remember hearing a story about this girl who didn’t dress modestly at ALL, like you can see all her goodies. One day she went to a halaqa during Ramadan and was so inspired to wear the hijab, all the sisters were excited for her so they bought an abaya and scarf for her to wear. She didn’t bother to start the next day, she wanted to start it that night. That same night as she was walking across the road with her new modest outfit, she got hit by a car and died. SubhanAllah. She died in a state of submission towards Allah. May Allah give her paradise. So never ever think “Oh, I will do it when I’m 40, married, and have completed Hajj”, you aren’t even guaranteed the next second, so when you do it, wear it for the sake of Allah and stick to it no matter how much shaytan tries to give you every excuse to get out of it. We’re all fighting a battle, and may Allah make it easy for you and give you many good deeds for your effort. You can do it sisters! 

How inspiring is it that this young women can be so clued up. Lets make dua that we all reach a good level of understanding when it comes to our Deen. I will be posting Nashiha's Interview later on in this month In Sha Allah. I also have a very exciting look post coming soon, so please keep a look out for these!

Much love

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