Thursday, 13 March 2008
I knew the
issue had to come up eventually...I don't like writing too many lecture-like
and serious posts here (Allah knows I get enough of this during the day!), but
I felt I had to do this sometime. I also apologize for the lengthiness, but
complex issues require proper explanation.
So why don't I wear abaya, seeing at is satisfies the requirements, as do other forms of dress? The short answer: I don't want to! But I know this warrants a longer explanation. Firstly, I don't want to dress like a foreigner in Britain. I don't want to look too out of place, but still want to be identified as a Muslim (hence the headscarf). Jilbab is particular to one culture (i.e. Arab), but covering our hair is mandated by our religion. We should not make ourselves unnecessarily different from the community we live in, and Islam does not impose one country's dress over another.
I also do not wear jilbab because in my field, it looks very unprofessional and out of place. It's also a health hazard, and simply not appropriate for running around in. (And yes, I have tried it!)
As for the niqab, I would simply never cover my face. My face is my identity. It is the window to my emotions, feelings and opinions. If I covered my face, I would lose my identity in the public sphere, and I wouldn't be able to do the job that I want to do. I didn't work hard for years to throw it all away. Niqab is not fard for Muslim women. It was only so for the Mothers of the Believers. The Prophet (s) never ordered other women to cover their faces, and there are many hadith that show women with uncovered faces in the presence of the Prophet (s). Many people will say that we should emulate the Prophet's wives, that they were the best women. There is no doubt that they were women of superior character, but that does not mean we follow them in every literal action. If that were so, we should be sleeping on straw mats in mud brick houses.
Why do many Muslims today focus so much on superficial actions, and forget about the spirit of Islam? Islam is not wrap yourself up head to toe in black sheets. Islam is respect yourself, and those around you, be gentle to them, guide them with your good actions.
Hence another reason I don't wear niqab is that it is a barrier between me and the rest of society. I've heard those that claim otherwise, and frankly I'm not convinced. At a recent talk I went to, the non-Muslim members of the audience were asked to say what they thought of veiled women. The responses were, as expected, negative: unapproachable, closed-off, isolated, aggressive. This is not the kind of image I want to be giving people of Islam. I enjoy smiling at people I see, saying hello. How can I do this if I wear niqab? Facial expressions are essential to good communication, to having a meaningful interaction with another person. Again I lose out on this if my face is covered. I don't have the chance to let them get to know Muslims, especially women, who are so frequently surrounded my misconceptions.
Thirdly, whilst this might seem silly at first, niqab is a security threat. You could be anyone under there! Remember the incident of the Imam of the Red Mosque in Pakistan escaping under a burkha? Read about it here. As one friend told me 'I can't recognise my own mother in a group of women in niqab'. So how do we deal with situations where you need to prove your identity, such as universities, banks and airports? Obviously this cannot be done when your face is hidden. Niqab is not friendly, it's not approachable, and it's a risk. I don't want to be part of it.
And finally, though I know this is not a primary purpose of wearing hijab, I think it's quite important, and often neglected. By wearing stylish, modest Western clothing, I am helping to make modesty appeal to non-Muslims. So whilst most of them would not want to wear jilbab, they appreciate that you can look good whilst covering up, hopefully changing the attitude that the only way to look good is to show skin.
So in conclusion, I feel that often more harm than good will arise from wearing jilbab and niqab, but this all depends on the environment you are living in. Will I wear jilbab in the UK? No. Will I wear it in Saudi? Absolutely.
I look forward to reading your responses.
Posted by Hayah
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