I Stopped Shaping my Eyebrows when my Husband Died
This piece isn’t really about eyebrows.
When my husband was killed, so many things in my life immediately changed. I had no time to get used to the idea of him being gone. I had no time to really adjust to a new reality. I was thrown, headfirst, into this chaotic and painful hurricane of emotions and events.
At some point a few weeks later, I looked in the mirror and saw that my eyebrows were growing in. Almost instinctively I searched for my tweezers. As I was fumbling around searching for them, I stopped. I don’t know what made me stop, but I did. I looked at myself in the mirror for a second and thought, why am I doing this?
In a hadith that most of us have heard, the Prophet (saw) says, “Allah has cursed the woman who does tattoos and the one who has them done, the woman who plucks eyebrows and the one who has it done, and the one who files her teeth for the purpose of beauty, altering the creation of Allah.”
I had heard this hadith so many times before, but I could never bring myself to stop shaping my eyebrows. I had thought I’d look too disheveled, too unruly and messy. What’s the big deal, I had always thought, it’s just a little hair.
But in the spur of that moment I decided to stop. That was three years ago. (For those wondering, I still have a moderately presentable face.)
This article isn’t really about eyebrows, though. It’s about submission. Submission to Allah and what He asks of us, and what He commands us to do.
For years I didn’t think it was a big deal to shape my eyebrows. Well, more accurately, I just didn’t think about it at all. Period.
Then this big thing happened to me. I lost someone I love very suddenly and very violently. I saw his face in the morgue, still cut and bloodied from when he fell to the ground. I saw how in the span of just mere moments, I went from being a wife to being a widow, from being happy to wanting to jump out of my own skin because of the pain, from being satisfied with my life to questioning everything, and from having my plans all laid out before me to feeling like I had nothing to look forward to.
And when he vanished from my life instantaneously, I came to understand just how fleeting this existence was. I came to understand how much of reality had gone over my head over the past few years when I cared about things. I came to understand that I could also die in one brief flick of time, before I was ever “ready,” before I had made the sacrifices necessary to be greeted with words of peace by good angels and ascend to a place where I would meet the Most High.
I came to understand that nothing, and I mean literally nothing in this world is worth risking my status in the sight of God.
All I wanted, all I prayed for, all I ever cared about in those months after my husband was taken from me was to attain paradise where no more tears would be shed, and no more heartache to cripple me. That’s all I wanted. Nothing else.
So when I looked at myself in the mirror and raised the tweezers to my face, I couldn’t do it. What possible reason could I have to risk gaining sins for something so trivial as hair? Was a little hair on my face really worth the prospect of Allah’s anger? Absolutely not.
You see, when you experience death, when you hold it in your hands and breathe its coppery blood scent, when you bury your loved ones in the ground, so many things worldly desires fall away.
I started to wonder how many other things I was doing while knowing full well that they were wrong. I started wondering how many other principles I was compromising because submission to God wasn’t my priority in life.
I said this article wasn’t about eyebrows, and it’s not. It’s about submission. It’s about obeying God when He commands us to do something or stay away from something – not because it’s easy, but because He is our Lord and Sustainer.
God knows I have many faults and bad habits and lapses in patience. He knows that I struggle to submit, as we all do, to certain obligations and commands. We’re human.
But are we even trying to submit? Do we even notice that He told us to do something, but we’re openly carrying on, doing the exact opposite? Or have we become so entrenched in our habits that we can’t even differentiate right from wrong anymore?
If we would only submit a true submission, we would fulfill the name that He named us: Muslimeen; those who submit. If we refuse to submit, on the big things and on the little things and on the medium things, are we really from those who submit? It’s an important question.
We could die this very instant. And if we did, would we care about whether our (probably too revealing) outfit was on point? Or would we worry whether or not our submission was on point?
I’m afraid for my daughter growing up in this era of social media where women are competing for likes and followers. They compromise their submission to God in order to maintain their numbers and grow their platform. They compromise everything that’s worth anything just to have a competitive edge.
It doesn’t have to be a popular thing to say, but I will say it anyway: we’ve lost sight of the fact that this world is a test, not a runway. We’ve lost sight of the fact that Allah does not look at our bodies, but He looks at our hearts. If we’d only sacrifice as much for Him as we do for our social media accounts, we’d be completely different.
It’s not just social media personalities, though. It’s all of us, every single one of us. We’ve all had moments where we’ve thought crossing a boundary would make us more successful in this world. Some of us have crossed that boundary over and over, some are standing on the precipice, admiring the grass that’s “greener” over there.
Just ask yourself: is this, whatever “this” is in your life, worth risking my spiritual well-being and status in the sight of God?
“Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you,
Until you visit the graveyards…”
May Allah guide us to truly embody the word Muslim by entering a state of mind where we make the conscious choice to submit to Him in every way, no matter how difficult.