Sadaf Syed is a 35 year old professional photographer based in Illinois. She recently put together a book of photographs she’s taken that showcase Muslim women who wear hijab from all across the United States.
The book is titled, iCover: a day in the life of an American Muslim COVERed Girl.
Syed says she came up with the idea to make a book because she felt that there needed to be more positive material on the market that focused on Muslim women.
Syed is a graduate of California State University-Fullerton and has her degree in Communications with an emphasis on Photojournalism.
“I’ve always been passionate about photography. I love photographing people, their expressions and cultures.”
Her passion took her to pursue her goal of showcasing Muslim women, particularly those who wear hijab from an angle rarely seen by a camera-one in which the women showcase themselves from a truly personal perspective.
Despite the fact that she has a family (she’s married with 2 children) she was able to complete a book that has been grabbing attention from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
“Hijab is not a barrier to an active lifestyle and I wanted to prove that we too are Americans and that we are more similar than not. And sometimes showcasing Muslim veiled woman (in particular) a certain way for example that they are oppressed, uneducated, haters, have no-”outside life” that becomes oppression and takes our liberty away! It’s not the hijab but the lack of education! So, being a photojournalist I went on a photo tour across the US for almost three years. Giving Muslim veiled woman a voice after the events of 9/11 that shook the world about Muslims in general.”
Syed says there are other personal reasons that prompted her to pursue the book.
“First of all the life of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and how he taught us to educate and inspire. Secondly to celebrate the Muslim woman because Islam honors and respects them. And thirdly the lack of positive stories in the Western Media. As Muslims its’ our responsibility to step up and represent, time is the essence!”
According to Syed, iCover features women from different backgrounds who are all American and share the same faith of Islam.
“You will find women who are Korean, Spanish, converts, Arabs, Pakistani, Indian, African Americans, among others.”
Syed says the women featured also have a variety of professions including: boxing, surfing, teaching, and working in the arts.
Often times Muslim women are labeled as being afraid of the camera especially if they wear hijab. But Syed says that was not her experience.
“Alhumdulilah (thanks be to God) as soon as people found out about the idea of this coffee table book I had emails to the MAX from random people blessing the project even when it was just a concept. After writing a mass email explaining what the vision for the photo book was people started nominating one another and even themselves.”
Putting together a book of such magnitude that celebrates Muslim women brought out emotions in many participants including Syed herself. She says she was inspired by these women and without their help and prayers the book would not have happened.
And the response to her book so far has been overwhelming.
Syed shared with us what one of her customers wrote to her after purchasing a copy of the book at the ISNA convention earlier this year.
I just wanted to let you know I purchased a copy of your book at the ISNA bazaar. For the longest time I had been contemplating wearing hijab- when I came back home to PA from D.C. Sunday night, I sat down and paged through your book. I was really moved by all the stories I read. The next morning as I got ready for work, I kept thinking of your book and then decided that that would be the day, inshallah I would start wearing hijab. So yesterday, July 6, marked my first “official” day of wearing hijab- inshallah, it’ll be far from my last. Thank you! And may Allah bless you!
One might think the obvious consumer base would probably be Muslim women, but Syed says surprisingly she’s had requests for the book from outside the Muslim community.
iCover is currently in limited edition print and Syed says it’s being sold exclusively through Islamicbookstore.com and if it’s sold out on that site, customers are more than welcome to order it from Syed personally by going to her website www.sadafsyed.com
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