A Beautiful Way to Share
Word about this caring woman reached my ears long before my eyes settled on her beautiful vibrant pink Abaya “caftan” at a gathering of Certified Zentangle Teachers (CZTs). It happened that her table space was next to mine and we were able to converse a bit. At the end of the presentation, Jamilah offered to create Henna on my hand. It was a lovely experience and I marveled at her speed, precision, and pattern choices. During this political season, I became increasingly aware of the pressure the Islam community feels in our country. Please join me in a warm welcome to a woman who chose Islam. Religious freedom is one of our rights as citizens in America.
And now the page is hers.
Henna is an ancient form of body art that has been used for beautification for thousands of years. Henna is made from the leaves of a plant that grows in arid climates. The leaves are dried and sifted into a powder and then mixed with water or lemon juice and essential oils to create a paste. The paste is applied to the skin in intricate patterns, allowed to dry and left on for several hours. When the paste is flaked off, a stain is left behind that can last up to 2 weeks. This is the technical description of what henna is. To me, it was a part of a new beginning.
I first learned about henna when I was studying Islam. I grew up Christian, but at the age of 33 I became interested in finding out about other faiths. After reading about many different religions, it became clear to me that Islam was right for me. My husband, my son and I converted to Islam in August of 2006. At the time, I was an account manager for a direct mail company, but as I started to change more about the way I dressed and acted it was clear I needed to make a change. I taught at an Islamic school for a few years and started to practice henna.
I have a background in art and photography, so henna was something I loved doing. It was creative, it was beautiful and I was getting good at it. Eventually, I was able to make it into a career. I do henna at fairs and festivals, at weddings and parties and I am hired by colleges to do henna for students at school events. I also do educational programs at libraries where I teach people the history and origin of henna. I love being able to share my passion for henna with the world!
One of the perks of doing henna in a public setting is that it allows people to approach a fully veiled Muslim woman and ask questions! When someone sits down with me to get henna done, they feel relaxed and calm enough to find out who I really am. I’m not scary, I’m not a mystery. I’m just a normal woman. I also find that people feel they can open up to me about anything. I’m not sure why, but people tell me some of the most interesting things about themselves while getting their henna done. Sometimes I feel a bit like a counselor or adviser that helps people with their problems.
Henna for me has been a beautiful way to share what I love. It has allowed me to grow in my faith, and gives me a way to communicate with the world that is greatly needed in times like these.
Learn more about Jamilah’s work here: