New Muslim Converts Encounter
Charity by the Closetful

By Mary A. Jacobs
The Dallas Morning News
November 7, 2003

Local woman using donations to provide clothes for sisters

As Muslims focus on charitable acts during the month of Ramadan, one local Muslim woman has created a gift she hopes will keep on giving all year round.

Nadiya Iqbal, a recent convert to Islam, started a clothes closet to provide hijabs (headscarves), abayas (long robes) and other items of Islamic clothing for women who are new to the faith. It's called "My Sister's Closet" and all of the clothing is free. Some converts come because they can't afford to buy clothing; others simply need a little guidance, such as how to tie a headscarf properly.

"When I converted, I did not have any modest clothes to wear and certainly nothing to cover my head," said Ms. Iqbal. "I had no idea where to get the clothes I saw everyone else wearing, and, once I found out, I really could not afford them." Many Muslim women, she discovered, have clothing sent from relatives in the Middle East. Without those family ties, suitable clothing is hard to come by. "American clothes are really not geared to modesty," she added.

So Ms. Iqbal, an employee at the Islamic Association of North Texas, operates the closet out of her apartment to make recipients comfortable. A couple of large donations recently helped get things rolling.

"I had received a lot of the clothing as gifts from relatives in Saudi Arabia, and I just had too many," said Cindy Weber, a member of the mosque who donated several outfits to the project.

"I don't think any other masjid has anything like this," said Joana Jimenez, another member who has helped with the project. "We are so proud of Nadiya for bringing this new idea to us."

Ms. Jimenez adds that, for the upcoming holiday of Eid al-fitr that marks the end of Ramadan, Muslim women wear their dressiest garments, so the closet gives new converts an inexpensive way to prepare for the occasion.

"If you're a new convert, starting a whole new wardrobe can be pretty expensive," said Ms. Iqbal. "So many of my clients are people who can't afford to buy everything they need.

"Others are just moms with several kids who don't buy anything for themselves. I just tell them, 'Come in, get what you need, get what you want.' "

Starting the clothes closet, Ms. Iqbal said, has been a lesson in charity. "People will give if they know there's a need," she said. "And needy people don't want to ask, but they will accept a gift if you can make it comfortable for them."

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