This month’s Official Hijabi of the Month of April is the talented Asma Elbadawi.
A basketball player/coach, spoken words poet, and visual artist of British and Sudanese descent; Asma Elbadawi is a current star in the making. She is popularly known for speaking out on FIBA, the International Basketball Federation to permanently lift the ban on headgear, turbans, hijabs, and other religious headgear in participating in basketball games.
Asma is an inspiration to young people worldwide for her courage, talents, and her ability to successfully establish herself in two spheres – basketball and arts. Asma was recently invited to speak at a number of events including TEDX WadMadani. Whilst in the U.K., her poetry has been included in ‘The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write’ the highly-anticipated collection, published by Saqi Books, and edited by another celebrated British Muslim creative, Sabrina Mahfouz.
Asma currently dropped a visual spoken words piece titled Belongings, When asked what inspired this thought provoking and emotional poem, she said;
My poem belongings is based on a tradition in the Sudan where the girl would give away her belongings before she entered her bridal home. I have loosley equited loosing Tangable objects from the past to loosing parts of a girls identity. It also a celebration of my relationship with my father who has been involved in every aspect of my life since I was a child and expressing my fears of getting married to someone who may not understand that their are parts of my identity such as the basketball or the poetry that are so important to me because he was just not there throughout my journey to see how many tears I cried or moments of joy I have shared with team mates etc. And he was not involved in the pinnacle moments in which I spoke with my father and expressed how I valued these things and he supported my decision to pursue them with all my Heart until becoming the women I am today.
When did you start wearing hijab? Tell us a little about your journey.
I started wearing the Hijab when I was around 8 years old. It was mainly because I am Sudanese and have curly hair and some naughty kids used to laugh at me. So I thought I would cover it. So they can’t see it lol. And then I went to a Muslim girls high school so the hijab was part of the uniform. I then took it off for a couple of years around the age of 19 because I wasn’t 100% sure why I was wearing it and had no connection with it. After establishing an understanding of what is hijab and it’s value in Islam. I wore it again.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone struggling with their personal identity, what would it be?
My Masters was in the Visual Arts and Undergraduate degrees was in photography, video and digital Image and I explored my Identity a lot in those years. Something I will never forget was the words of Stuart Hall. He stated that
“Identity is a social construct. It is society and politics that make us feel as though we must categorise our self in some way; we are then given the responsibility to present our self as ‘one’ or the ‘other’ to those around us, we can adhere to stereotypes of our own race or religion, or we can break away from them in order to feel more like our ‘real selves.’ Therefore, identity can be shaped in any way that we want. It can also be manipulated or forced on us.”
So when we understand this we are then able to freely construct our own Identity based on what we value or feel passionate about. It is also Important to know that with time these ‘Identities’ we created can change since our values and passions sometimes change over time. In short… ‘Be you boo’.
How do you balance being a visual artist, writing, and basketball and still manage to be awesome at it?
Haha, It’s quite difficult to balance at times to be honest. Because in some aspects they are completely different. The Arts require me to be vulnerable and in touch with my emotions while the basketball requires me to be mentally and physically strong. I also travel a lot so I tend to carry my poetry notebook and basketball everywhere I go. So that I am always able to write and play. And it means I am always making new friends in the basketball court For me, I have been both my sport and my art since I was a child. So I had to find a way to keep both sides of me alive. I guess it’s that whole question of how badly do you want it? I just want it bad enough.
What or who is your biggest inspiration?
I am inspired by the Idea of personal growth and concurring our own inner fears. Mainly because I went through a very difficult time in my final year of university. I genuinely could not see the light at the end of the tunnel and this made me fearfull of the future and hopeless about the present. Alhamdulilah, when I look back now I can not believe how far I have come in my career. And how I have grown into a confident and independent young woman. and when I look forward I am so excited because I have no idea what the future has in store for me. This experience has made me very aware of the importance of falling in love with the journey of personal growth. At times it feels tedious and slow but by constantly challenging our limits we are able to concur our fears and achieve many things.
As a prominent hijabi personality in the media, how do you overcome the challenges and obstacles?
I am still learning because journalists tend to try to get the best story. So you always have to be prepared. You never know what personal questions their about to ask you or when you will suddenly be appointed as the spokesperson for the entire Muslim population.
But the key is to always do some background research on the Media outlet that has requested an interview and see if you are comfortable working with them. Make sure you know enough about the topic they want you to discuss. if you feel uncomfortable in any way ask as many questions as you like till you feel comfortable and never be afraid to turn interviews down.
What is your best career tip/advice?
Study what you love. And confide in your parents. my parents have been involved in every stage of my career. And I still go to them for advice. I once got my parents to take some photographs for me during my masters and I ended up using them for my final show. Seeing their faces when I exhibited the Images was priceless. And embrace the journey. do not worry about the 5th step ahead. focus on the next step only, give it your all, and Allah will open up other doors you never imagined for yourself.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the Muslim world today and how do you think we can overcome it?
I think as Muslims we haven’t yet come together as one Ummah. We are still very judgmental of other Muslims lifestyles and life choices. Be that interracial marriage, or what hijab choice the sister chooses. We are still plagued with racism and don’t accept or support each other and this is what makes it so easy for Islamophobes and bigots to infuriate us.
Favourite Quote or Hadith of the Prophet?
“But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And do not seek corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters. [28:77]
وابتغ فيما آتاك الله الدار الآخرة ولا تنس نصيبك من الدنا وأحسن كما أحسن الله إليك ولا تبغ الفساد في الأرض إن الله لا يحب المفسدين
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