Cover! Cover! Cover! A Sort of Quiz

Cover! Cover! Cover! A Sort of Quiz

This post does not address the Islamic requirement for hair-covering, or lack thereof, (face covering could be included by extension). It’s about the emotions, reactions, and the psychological meaning of the practice.

Covering, more than praying, fasting or any other behavior associated with Islam, elicits strong reactions, and divides sister Muslimahs as well as larger groups, but why?

My premise it that the divisiveness of covering derives from the many meanings associated with it, not from the argument for or against an Islamic requirement. To illustrate this (and in the spirit of the popularity of the blog quiz!) I would like to hear comments that specifically avoid the writer’s belief in whether or not covering is required or recommended in Islam. Perhaps this request is somewhat analytical, but I think it will broaden our (read: my) perspective on the subject.

I won’t start off by elucidating my experience or attitude toward the practice, except to say that it has fluctuated.  I won’t even post any photos of covered and uncovered women, lest bias influence response.

Coverers: Why do you cover, apart from your presumed belief that it is a directive from Allah?

Non-coverers: Who do you not cover, apart from your presumed belief that it is not a directive from Allah?

Men: How do you react to covered/non-covered women?

All: Do you believe that covering is associated with increased piety, and/or with the society in which one lives? On what basis? How do your surroundings influence your practice of covering (or not)?

 

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About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, a job in a hospital, and the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions of narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my sense of identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people, and I plan to spend more time in both the Middle East and Italy after I retire. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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48 Responses to Cover! Cover! Cover! A Sort of Quiz

  1. iMuslim says:

    Why do you cover, apart from your presumed belief that it is a directive from Allah?

    Umm, that’s it really. I began covering when I realised that it was a commandment of Islam. I didn’t justify it to myself in any other way, because I guess I am not your typical hot momma who is regularly ogled, who would may then appreciate the extra respect they receive after covering! Anyway, yeah… that’s it really!

    Do you believe that covering is associated with increased piety, and/or with the society in which one lives? On what basis? How do your surroundings influence your practice of covering (or not)?

    Yes, no and maybe… all are applicable. Some people observe hijab out of piety, some to fit in, some to stand out, some to rebel, some a bit of all of the above.

    Surroundings definitely have an effect.

    If I grew up in Saudi, it would not have been a decision of to cover or not to cover; rather I’d have to decide on my intention: to fit in with my culture, or because it is an Islamic practice for the sake of Allah.

    If I grew up in Turkey or France, it would be: to cover and be excluded from society, while observing my deen, or to not cover and fit in, but feel guilty inside?

    Growing up here in the UK, specifically multicultural London, the choice to cover or not has been less about society, or even community, but more about: is this the right thing to do?

    Not saying that there is no prejudice against hijabi Muslimahs. But surprisingly, my personal experience has been that I have faced far more prejudice from members of my own Muslim community, than any employer or stranger on the street. I have been rejected for marriage proposals on this basis! Weird, huh? Oh well.

  2. iMuslim says:

    Btw, Allahu ‘alam for all the above…

  3. Marahm says:

    Thanks for your response, iMuslim.

    Do I understand that if you believed covering was not required, you would not do it? Would you do it if it were more of a custom, a “uniform” to identify you as Muslim?

    I agree with your second remark, that hijab is worn for all kinds of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with religion.

    Prejudice: Interesting that you’ve encountered more prejudice from Muslims than non-Muslims re: your hijab. How can they justify that? Are you sure they aren’t simply cautious of you, thinking you are too extreme?

    Marriage: I’d be interested to hear the man’s side. Why would a Muslim man reject a woman because she is covered in public? This may be an example of how hijab has taken on meanings far larger than those intended by Islamic culture.

  4. iMuslim says:

    “Do I understand that if you believed covering was not required, you would not do it?”

    Umm, I guess. I can only talk from my past, when I was not interested in Islam in general. But the first thing that woke me up to my responsibility in front of God was the subject of hijab. I found out through my reading on the subject, that being Muslim means belief along with action. If I had been told about prayer first, then perhaps I would have stated praying regularly and come to hijab later… Allahu ‘alam. It just happens that the issue of hijab was what woke me up to Islam and the meaning of submission to God, alhamdulillah.

    “Would you do it if it were more of a custom, a “uniform” to identify you as Muslim?”

    Again, Allahu ‘alam. It’s not a tradition in my family for young girls to observe hijab, so maybe I was fitting in. I am easily impressionable, and can see that if everyone had been wearing it, so would I. It was actually out of character for me to start wearing it, when most of my friends were non-Muslim, never mind Muslim non-hijabi!

    “Are you sure they aren’t simply cautious of you, thinking you are too extreme?”

    Probably… I was more zealous in general a few years ago, which also didn’t help. I have chilled a little since… plus the search for a hubby begins with finding someone who is interested in a hijabi, so I don’t encounter any prejudice directly these days.

  5. iMuslim says:

    “Why would a Muslim man reject a woman because she is covered in public?”

    There are probably many reasons… but by far the saddest is that there are guys out there who want to have a trophy wife, to hang off their arm, and show off to their mates. I know not the majority, but they exist.

  6. Marahm says:

    This might be true amongst the younger people, but the middle aged people with whom I associate do not care about showing off. Most of the women are uncovered.

    Hijab has the power to grab people. In your case, it was an important factor in awakening to faith.

    In my case, I was turned off from the start, and almost didn’t become Muslim because of it.

    It is this emotional reaction that I am interested in exploring. Why do you think hijab has such a sway on people (one way or the other)?

  7. srtuba says:

    “Why do you cover, apart from your presumed belief that it is a directive from Allah?”

    I feel comfortable when covering. Many-a times when I am at my cousin’s houses and their elder brother/father/male relative walks in, I reach for my coat and stick it on so all my body parts are properly covered. I feel really weird if I don’t.

    “Do you believe that covering is associated with increased piety, and/or with the society in which one lives? On what basis? How do your surroundings influence your practice of covering (or not)?”

    Not really. I know girls who cover and chat to guys on MSN, have boyfriends etc.

    I think in my society, if you don’t cover your head after a certain age then people are like, omigod, look at her bla bla. It’s sort of expected that you cover, even if it’s not properly, do you know what I mean?

    Nobody in my family REALLY covers. Only my sister cause she thinks her hair is ugly and doesn’t want anybody to see it. It’s sometimes hard because I see my cousin doing her hair in these really cool styles, like a just-tumbled-out-of-bed look, and I wish I could do that and go out, but I know I gotta cover.

    And actually, I didn’t used to cover properly, only for cultural reasons and becuase my dad got angry if I didn’t, but then I had a rally big eman rush, and I starte covering properly, for the right reasons. For modesty.

    🙂

  8. Marahm says:

    Thanks, srtuba, for your candid response. My experience, too, is more about the social implications of covering than with religious requirement.

    I hasten to add that the religious element is a motivator for some women (see iMuslim’s response above).

    You state you do it now for “the right reasons. For modesty.” So the concept of modesty is connected to covering, in your experience.

    Would you concede that the concept of modesty could actually call for not covering, in the United States, and that covering is an act that actually draws more attention, thereby negating the modesty factor?

    And since this is the situation, indeed, would choosing not to cover actually be a more obedient response to the requirement of modesty?

  9. Solace says:

    Why do you cover, apart from your presumed belief that it is a directive from Allah?

    For me it is part of my identity as a Muslim woman. It came part and parcel of my choice to become a muslim woman.

    Do you believe that covering is associated with increased piety, and/or with the society in which one lives? On what basis? How do your surroundings influence your practice of covering (or not)?

    Not really. Society had nothing to do with my decision to cover, but I can understand some women being influenced by thesocial pressures of the society we live in.

  10. Marahm says:

    Sounds like you like in a Western country, Solace, in which case, your “identity as a Muslim woman” could be reinforced by the practice of covering.

    Age can also play a part in whether a woman feels comfortable, or compelled, to cover, or not.

    As an American, in America, and nearly sixty years old, I’d feel downright silly running around in hijab. That reminds me– isn’t there a hadith stating that women past the age of child-bearing need not maintain strict hijab?

  11. “All: Do you believe that covering is associated with increased piety, and/or with the society in which one lives? On what basis? How do your surroundings influence your practice of covering (or not)?”

    I’m not Muslim, but I have spent a great deal of time in and around the Islamic world. I am also married to a Muslim man. I do not associate hejab with piety on any level. Initially, I couldn’t reconcile the inconsistencies. I mean, my friend and I were pickpocketed by niqabis on the Cairo metro! It took a while, but I soon realised that one could not equate piety with a piece of cloth. It’s a shame, really. I suppose I accepted that women who wore it had different reasons: culture, desire to show others that she was pious(for whatever motivation she had behind that), tradition, family influence, desire to marry, desire to show that one is “off the market”, covering up greying hair, not wanting to be the sort of spend time on “beauty”, etc. With that said, I do know many a Muslim women who veil and who are seemingly quite devoted-they’re kind, generous, and honest women. I also know just as many unveiled Muslim women who show what I perceive to be true dedication to the faith.

    This is an interesting discussion, Mahram. I do think that too many online discussions about hejab go south very quickly, and you’ve skirted around that nicely so far! 🙂

    It’s a shame, really. We (Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc.) shouldn’t be fighting over whether a piece of cloth is required or not. There are so many injustices in our world that contradict all of our collective faiths- poverty, corruption, exploitation, abuse, etc. If we invested as much time and energy in those discussions as we did in the great hejab debate the world would be a better place. Great post!

  12. WM says:

    “Would you concede that the concept of modesty could actually call for not covering, in the United States, and that covering is an act that actually draws more attention, thereby negating the modesty factor?

    And since this is the situation, indeed, would choosing not to cover actually be a more obedient response to the requirement of modesty?”

    Do you mind if I ask you a question Marahm? Have you ever heard of Ibn Batutah and his travelogue?

    In the course of his travels, from what I remember, he passed through the Maldives. Do you know what he saw in the Maldives? The women, he observed, walked about with their breasts and chest-area uncovered. I am sure, had Ibn Batuta brought a covered Muslimah with him (which, at this point in history, meant covering pretty much everything, face included), she would have attracted a lot of attention. Heck, if he’d brought a woman wearing ass-hugging jeans and a t-shirt she would have been thought a prude.

    If you had visited the Maldives, would have have walked around bare-breasted, seeing as it is, according to you, more conducive to ‘modesty’?

    The hijab was revealed in a society where hijab did not exist; women who had never covered before now covered. I’m sure a little attention wouldn’t have induced them to remove their veils.

    Your point is that ‘modesty’ is a floating signifier; that it is socially constructed. My point is that the ahkam of hijab are not. If you were to believe that they were, along with all the other rulings of Islam, then you would quickly find yourself with no religion whatsoever.

    “As an American, in America, and nearly sixty years old, I’d feel downright silly running around in hijab.”

    Would you feel silly praying, or performing wudu in public, if you had no other choice? Perhaps you would, but that wouldn’t making salah (or wudu) any less a part of Islam.

    Don’t let your nafs clutch at straws.

  13. Marahm says:

    What an interesting contrast in perspectives between the last two comments! Welcome, Abu Dhabi, and welcome back, WM. Both comments are so well-crafted I feel hard pressed to add anything of significance.

    I do believe that modesty is a cultural construct, as is socially acceptable appearance in general. Both comments have provided evidence:

    Abu Dhabi says, “…women who wore it had different reasons: culture, desire to show others that she was pious(for whatever motivation she had behind that), tradition, family influence, desire to marry, desire to show that one is ‘off the market’, covering up greying hair, not wanting to be the sort of spend time on ‘beauty’, etc.”

    WM says, “…if he’d brought a woman wearing ass-hugging jeans and a t-shirt she would have been thought a prude.”

    So the crux of covering is whether it is an absolute directive unconnected with (socially constructed) modesty, as WM believes, or a symbol of the day that can be translated into prevailing ideas of modesty within subsequent cultures.

    Without taking a stance, I wonder to what extent societal influences determine a person’s subconscious decision about the issue. I also wonder to what extent family or psychological tendencies determine a person’s decision about whether covering is required in concrete measures or whether the injunction is against sexually provocative appearances in general.

    Why is “the great hejab debate” usurping energy that could be better used for righting “injustices in our world that contradict all of our collective faiths–“?

    Perhaps we could reclaim some of that energy if we understood that the reasons for or against covering are rooted less in religion than in myriad other influences.

  14. Aafke says:

    I had to think about your post Marahm before writing something. If in the first instance you wanted to keep the discussion purely to practise or personal prferences, of course it all comes back to religion.
    Again.
    Inevitable I suppose.. It amazes me to see how comments on other posts on other blogs, whenever partaining to women always, àlways! end up in a discussion about covering.

    Anyway. Me myself. I like wearing lots of clothes and keeping my legs and arms covered. I feel more comfortable, and I don’t want to get tanned. But if it gets really really hot I feel I have no choice but shedding some.
    And as soon as it gets a bit cold I wear shawls and gloves. The last thing I ”cover” is my head. I cannot bear anything on my head for long. I really need to feel the wind in my hair. Only if temperatures hit below -5 C I wear something on my head.

    Now we hàve gone into the religious context, I haven’t got more that that Islamic women should be covered from the chest to the knees, which makes me wonder if barebreasted dressed or skirts were worn, like in ancient Egypt. I know that they had see-through dresses.
    I see severe dress-restrictions for women as defenitely related to the wish to suppress women.

    And as everybody here is usually so polite I dare to put a question; Considering the basics of Islam as I understand: *men and women are equal in the eyes of God* And *Islam is given to you to ease your live* combined with reading how Islam is about moderation, and Aïsha saying how Mohammed if given a choice would always take the easy road towards the same goal.

    If I keep this in mind, and I was really impressed with Islam for being so real and reasonable, I cannot combine that with the conviction many people have that in a country where temperatures easily reach 40” c women ”are required” to wear heavy black coats, veils, niqab, gloves(!) stockings, etc.
    I mean this mode of covering is severely constricting, and imagine living without airconditioning, would severely restrict womens movements, make it impossible to tend life-stock, or till the soil, and actually be a health-hazard.

    Oh, yes, and health and preservation of live supersedes all, is something I also read.
    So I do not think that this excessive covering can be meant when talking about modesty.

    WM, nice to see you! I may be going to London in a few months, wanna meet up?

  15. WM says:

    ‘I also wonder to what extent family or psychological tendencies determine a person’s decision…’

    I suppose this is another attempt to negate human agency, thereby exempting you (and everyone else) from all blame. What is it called, this illusion? ‘Mauvaise foi’, I think.

    ‘…a symbol of the day that can be translated…’

    ‘Translation’ is extremely presumptuous. Firstly, why is there a need for it at all? Secondly, who does the translation, and who has the authority to do so? Until ‘Modernism’ can answer these basic questions- and it hasn’t and can’t- then it’ll remain the intellectually untenable and religiously bankrupt alternative (to the real thing) that it always has been. Just look at Tibi, Arkoun, Abou Zayd etc- they have absolutely no religion left. Their respective faiths consist of varying degrees of submission to 20th century humanism and/or liberalism. That’s the thing- if you aren’t a Muslim, you are something else. And, dosh garn it, if you don’t follow Islam- you follow something else.

    ‘*Islam is given to you to ease your live*’

    I think all of you would love to learn about usul al-fiqh, because it allows you to make mincemeat of ‘Modernism’. A basic flaw in the ‘Modernist’ methodology (insofar as there is one) is the use of general principles to negate particular rulings, when obviously there is no contradiction between them (since they existed side-by-side in the teachings of the Prophet, sal Allahu `alayhi wa sallam). The silliness is introduced when you decide to ‘re-read’ (or not read) the general principles in the most anachronistic fashion possible. According to this method the religion can become *literally* anything you want it to be.

    So where’s the authority? How can you argue that any one interpretation of Scripture (i.e. the whole religion) has any more authority/validity than any other? You can’t- if you are consistent, which no ‘Modernist’ is.

    Think about it- why not terrorism? Yes, that’s the problem with ‘Modernism’- the question we ask of Scripture is no longer ‘why?’. It is, ‘why not?’

  16. Pingback: Cover! Cover! Cover! « WM’s Place

  17. WM says:

    ‘…a symbol of the day that can be translated into prevailing ideas…’

    See, this ‘dictum’ is why ‘Modernism’ is potentially the worst kufr of any of the forms of kufr. If a person following this methodology were to be consistent, he would have *no* deen left at all. In fact, what little religion they had left would be purely arbitrary- it depends on what they felt like, what the thought was in no need of ‘translation’ (again, purely arbitrary).

    Marahm- five prayers a day; inappropriate. Wudu? Etc ad nauseum.

  18. WM says:

    Marahm, why not? 😀

  19. WM says:

    Pretty please get rid of that trackback (hurry!)

  20. Aysha says:

    Non-coverers: Who do you not cover, apart from your presumed belief that it is not a directive from Allah?

    In honest response, because hair covering was not presented to me as a choice since the early days of my life. I was forced, threatened and even beaten..to cover! Thus, covering to me represents force, no-choice, dependency, weakness and illogic. Figures around me who were covered represented either women who were followers of other men or who believed in a moral system that placed the will and decisions to the head of the family and sometimes even the elder of sons. I hate the feeling of scarf around me ears and neck. I hate how it seperates me from the wind. How it disregards the weather, be it extrememly and severly hot. Lover of exercise and walking as I am, I have to make many changes to what I wear just to accomodate the scarf and I also have to sweat so much on matching things to each other. Can’t just open the door and leave the house or cross from room to room when there are guests in the house. It is an absolute weigh down!

  21. WM says:

    *in falsetto*

    I hate the way clothes feel on my body…oppression, patriarchy….I hate how it separates me from Mother Earth…we are all daughters of Mother Earth…I want to start a nudist commune in Riyadh…they didn’t let me…Mother Earth.

  22. Marahm says:

    WM, you debase yourself when you get sassy. I do not welcome comments such as “in falsetto”.

  23. Marahm says:

    Aafke, I share your sentiments. There is, however, a genetic component in one’s ability to tolerate heat. Medicine has demonstrated that people of European ancestry do have “thinner” skin, in that it is more susecptible to the adverse effects of heat and sunlight.

    An anecdote: In the late 1990s, my husband and I went to Hajj with a group of Egyptian Muslims. I was the only Westerner, and the only woman to suffer from heat stroke. Had I not removed my hijab (within the women’s tent, of course) and rubbed my body repeatedly with a block of ice, I might not be sitting here now writing about it.

    This incident draws attention to your reminder that Aïsha said, “… Mohammed if given a choice would always take the easy road towards the same goal.”

  24. Marahm says:

    WM, or anyone else, uhh.. excuse me.. what is a trackback? And how does one put them or remove them?

  25. Marahm says:

    WM, Your comments are, as always, thought- provoking and full of substance. You said,

    “‘Translation’ is extremely presumptuous. Firstly, why is there a need for it at all? Secondly, who does the translation, and who has the authority to do so?”

    Translation is not the least bit presumptuous. On the contrary, it is a valid attempt to understand something that may not be comprehensible in its original form.

    Who has the authority to translate? While society (and religions) need figures of authority for guidance and consistency of interaction, I daresay final authority always boils down to the individual.

    I do not know the history or philosophy of Modernism, but I know the environment in which I live.

    Perhaps your comments, “According to this method the religion can become *literally* anything you want it to be.

    “So where’s the authority? How can you argue that any one interpretation of Scripture (i.e. the whole religion) has any more authority/validity than any other? You can’t-”

    are closer to the mark than any of us wish to admit.

  26. Marahm says:

    Aysha, thank you for your honest response, unpopular as it may be received by certain readers. I happen to feel the same way, for different reasons.

    Head covering (inside buildings, during summertime!), seemed totally bizarre when I first encountered it in Riyadh.

    I came to love what I learned of Islam– except that. I declined a matrimonial proposal from a suitable Saudi man, in part because I could not see myself wrapping my head for the rest of my life. Can one pick and choose what one accepts/rejects of a particular religion? Most of us would say no, but I wonder.

    Head covering seems to elicit a visceral response from both Muslims and non-Muslims, modernists and traditionalists. This visceral response holds the clue to the clash, in my opinion, but Allah knows best.

  27. WM says:

    “Had I not removed my hijab (within the women’s tent, of course) and rubbed my body repeatedly with a block of ice, I might not be sitting here now writing about it.”

    I daresay you removed your hijab faster than you can say; ‘life-saving necessity exempts us from legal obligations according to scholarly consensus’.

    Close, but no cigar.

  28. Marahm says:

    “Close, but no cigar.”

    Forgive me for wondering whether or not by this remark you doubt the verity of my account of the illness– and its cure.

  29. WM says:

    I forgive you, if only because you’re wrong.

    *subtle hint* ‘life-saving necessity exempts us from legal obligations according to scholarly consensus’

  30. Marahm says:

    With that illunimnating comment, let’s put this subject to bed for now, and move on to something fresh.

  31. WM says:

    Did you know that crystal services are best cleaned with vinegar and water?

  32. Fatemeh says:

    Non-coverers: Who do you not cover, apart from your presumed belief that it is not a directive from Allah?
    There are many reasons that I don’t cover my hair. The two most important: through many hours of prayer, I have understood that Allah is more concerned with what’s in my heart and head and actions that what’s ON my head. #2 is that I don’t interpret the Qur’an as saying it’s mandatory. I wear modest shirts and pants, and that’s enough. There are also societal reasons: I believe modesty is societal and fluid, and I dress modestly for my culture.
    Also, if I wore a headscarf, I’d be worried about Islamophobic attacks and job/housing discrimination, estaghfirallah.
    Plus, it’s itchy.

    All: Do you believe that covering is associated with increased piety, and/or with the society in which one lives? On what basis? How do your surroundings influence your practice of covering (or not)?
    I believe that covering is (falsely) associated with increased piety in our current Muslim communities because of the glorification of the headscarf and all the symbolism projected onto it.

    TWO CENTS: I dislike the term “cover” used for “head covering”; it implies that those not covered are just that: nekkid!

  33. Coverers: Why do you cover, apart from your presumed belief that it is a directive from Allah?

    I do cover from the moment I lerned how to after shahada. I saw it as a part of the religion of islam and if i as giving myself to that ideal then i had best do it all the way not half-hearted. But I had always seen “hijab” as a form of piety Nuns cover head to toe. In scriptural “pictures” of pious people they were covered as modern muslims cover. Even pictures of “so called Jesus’ Mother” had hair covering. For me it is socially accepted that more covering is more beneficial and leads to greater acts of piety in the heart.

    All: Do you believe that covering is associated with increased piety, and/or with the society in which one lives? On what basis? How do your surroundings influence your practice of covering (or not)?

    So yes I do think that when people cover they have greater tendancies to do pious acts. Maybe there are a few bad people that do bad things in hijab but on the whole people that cover do act in a way that is more pious. You feel the amount of clothes covering you which reminds you that you’re wearing them for a reason, to please Allah. Therefore you tend to do more things that please Allah or refrain from doing some things.
    I’m a wild chick inside I really am. I hear a song that has a wicked beat and I’m ready to break it down and belt it out in an instant, hijab has many times kept me focused that that is innappropriate as a Muslim. The few times I disreguarded that caution feeling and I broke it down and belted it out I looked like a stupid fool and later regreted my actions.

    The level of covering varies depending on the country though. A burka in USA might seem extreme and get unwanted attention that might even border on “life threatening situation”. But in Middle East it rarily gets a second glance. Where as a long sleeved shirt down to mid thigh and a wide loose long skirt in muted colors with a modest non-bright hijab will get little comment in USA muslim societies but in Egypt maybe you’ll get a cat-call. So the levels that is acceptable does change country to country but that diesn’t stop the obligation islamically to wear hijab.

    I have to agree with WM for most of what she said (before she got sassy 😉 ) that just because a 60 year old feels uncomfortable doing something totally differnt than what her society expects of her doesn’t mean she shouldn’t do it. If that was the case then most of us would not have converted. We would have followed what our society wanted in being traditional christian or modernistic atheist. Sometimes when you go against the grain you’re following a path that is leading you higher.

    Erm and I don’t buy the whole heat thing too much. Sure darker people tollorate it better than us fair ones but that isn’t an excuse not to wear it at all because people adjust over time. My white white white friends who grew up in norther usa and lived there most their lives came to Arizona (hot hot hot) and had to learn to adjust their bodies. Allah made us adaptable. We do the same when wearing hijab. Sure sometimes it’s hot but actaully covering protects us more from the damaging sun and keeps us cooler. If that wasn’t the case you would NOT see these Arab men wearing long abayas. They’d be wearing short shorts and no shirt. Their covering protects them thougha nd they’ve known that since …well…. the time of the prophets…. and abayas don’t have to be black (except maybe in saudi) if you can’t tolorate the heat get white.
    I do understand you had heat sickness and that it is a bad disease to get but to blame it solely on hijab is unfair it also came from aclimating your BODY to heat of Saudi. I come from AZ so we know heat sickness in it’s reality. I used to wear all black clothes in summer in Tucson before i was muslim and my body was used to it. adding a scarf wasn’t that hard to adjust to. Sure the first summer was hardest but then the body adjusts.

    I do like the way you presented this post and the answers to it are interesting. XOXOX Marahm. Love, Brandy: ps: it did take me a while to think about this too lol. I hope you’re havin a blast at the lake.

  34. WM says:

    ‘she’?!?!?!?

    !!!

  35. Aafke says:

    Yeah WM, because you have so much to say on a woman’s topic, and we were supposed to talk about our own experiences in ”covering”!

  36. Marahm says:

    Thank you Fatemeh, and welcome to the blog. I love your phrase “glorification of the headscarf.” I am still confounded about why the headscarf should be glorified, but that’s one reason I opened this thread. It is glorified, indeed, in that people are usually passionate about their own positions on the matter. Witness our WM’s comments, and he doesn’t even have to deal with it, except when he is ready to choose a bride, and he will surely choose one who adheres to his own strict interpretation of the issue.

    You are right, too, about the term “covered” as refering to a woman who is either dressed or undressed. It reflects the more strict interpretation of proper dress.

  37. Marahm says:

    Hi, Brandy, and thanks for your thoughtful response, which makes several important points.
    Your attitude toward covering reflects your belief that it helps you remember Allah, and that women in general who cover are reminded to keep their obligations to Allah. This is the best reason for covering I have heard yet, but what does one say to those of us who find the practice irritating, uncomfortable, bothersome, attention-drawing, and not connected to our spirituality at all?

    Maybe herein lies what I’ve been looking for– the reasons that covering is such a controversial issue and so emotional. Doing it for Allah is not the same as doing it because it is “required” or expected, but what about those of us who truly believe Allah does not care about what we put on our heads?

    We could over these attitudes ad infinitum, but I wonder how much of our psychological and emotional nature determines whether we believe or not believe in covering, and therefore whether we feel the need to do it?

    And by the way, LOL, WM is a man. He disappears for months at a time, and then resurfaces to goad and inspire us. Too bad he does not establish his own blog; we’d all love to comment, but maybe that’s the reason he does not establish one!

  38. WM says:

    You know very well I have one…you are welcome to visit 🙂

  39. Fatemeh says:

    Mahram, thank YOU. Thank you for accepting my experiences and viewpoints and thank you for not shaming me over them.

    Why does talk of headscarves always seem to breakdown into shaming each other and judging each other’s faith in God? I see this on a lot of Muslim blogs, and I am glad I didn’t feel it here. 🙂

  40. Marahm says:

    If we could get to the bottom of your question, “Why does talk of headscarves always seem to breakdown into shaming each other and judging each other’s faith in God? ” we could make progress in reconciling the hostility between Muslims of the two camps.

    I like the practice (but I don’t do it) because it identifies the woman as a Muslim. The next question, then, is, “Why should a woman indicate her religion by a scarf over her hair?” and its corollary, “Why shouldn’t a man indicate his religion by an obvious piece of clothing?”

    The obvous answer– one that is always put forth by many Muslims– is that female hair covering is required in Islam. That is the simple answer, but it doesn’t work for me.

    I suspect there are more of us non-coverers or potential non-coverers who keep quiet about the issue, maybe because we do not have the kiss of history to support our position, or perhaps because we do not wish to start slinging textual evidence (or lack thereof) between fellow Muslims.

  41. coolred38 says:

    I would very much like muslim men to answer this question…why are they quite capable of treating non Muslim women that do not cover their head with respect and dignity…and yet when they realize you are a muslim woman that does not wear hijab…they treat you with scorn and consider you fallen or some such thing? Im fairly sure as a muslim man…treating others with respect and dignity is a must no matter who your dealing with…eh?

    I myself wore the hijab for 18 years…mostly under duress as I never really felt comfortable with it…I was married to an Arab that tried to Arabize me by making me dress like an Arab. For 16 long years I endured it hating every moment of it and not believing for a second it was something God would order considering God is Most Fair and Most Just. Considering Bahrain is an Islamic country (cough cough!!) there isnt that much information concerning Islamic history etc available to the public…the arrival of the internet changed all that….and eventually some well stocked book stores. A few trips abroad to add to my book collection about Islamic history etc…and I reached my final decision that hijab is not God sanctioned but was meant for those early Muslim women that were going about the process of changing their whole belief system and shedding the old…along with cultural practices that did not jive with the new concept of modesty…such as women wallking naked around the kaba or with their chests exposed etc….which falls in line exactly with what the ayat asks women to do…cover their chests…

    I removed my hijab nearly 2 years ago…had to suffer the lashing tongues of those still “pious sisters and brothers” that now deemed me no better than a Christian…or a kafir in some regards. Which left me wondering…just because they still had their hijabs firmly in place they felt quite moral to backbite me and slander me all in the name of …..what? exactly.

    I have never felt a moments guilt for removing my hijab…my concience and my extensive reading has assured me that my choice is the right choice…for me…anyone that doesnt agree is welcomed to wear their hijab and feel proud to do so…but if your a man…keep your opinions to yourself…until your a woman and walked in my shoes..suffered being molested and harrassed…judged and accused…etc all while wearing the darn thing…then please dont assume you know whats Islam and what isnt…because all the trouble i have ever had in my life concerning the hijab…either wearing it or not…has come from my so called fellow Muslims…so keep your piece of cloth and be happy with it…for me…I prefer the wind in my hair…and a firmly held belief that God cares for me and listens to my prayers and answers them or not…and will give my final Judgement all based on my actions and intent…not on whether my hair was exposed or not while I did them…but thats just me.

  42. Hala says:

    Coverers: Why do you cover, apart from your presumed belief that it is a directive from Allah?

    I’ve been on and off Hijab many times, and this is because it doesn’t come easy to me although I believe it’s a directive from Allah, but I’ve finally (few days ago) decided to try it on during Ramadhan, It’s part of being a Muslim and it shows others that boundary, I didn’t like those instances where men are hitting at me and I don’t know how to tell them don’t try because I’m a Muslim and I don’t date, I don’t like it when someone is checking me out…I’m wearing now comfortable clothes with a scarf, I find a piece of truth in both opinions those with or against Hijab, because it does involve some limitation on daily comfort and practices, I tend to adjust the scarf few times every hour, and I’m not an athlete or in a profession requiring some level of physical activity, so I truely sympathize and understand…I don’t like Niqab or complete cover, I want to be able to move, eat and drink outdoors, communicate with people outside and show my emotions and identity, so I guess I’m against Niqab or face veil…If I find a good evidence that Hijab is not required as good as the one advocating it, I wouldn’t wear Hijab…
    Do you believe that covering is associated with increased piety, and/or with the society in which one lives? On what basis? How do your surroundings influence your practice of covering (or not)?

    Yes, covering is associated with increased piety and it’s a societal belief, everyone at my surrounding respects women who covers more except my father who’s indifferent, but men in my family, at work and even women respect those who covers more
    I wear a scarf and abaya at Saudi as required by my society and wear a scarf and long shirts and pants outside my country for convenience sake, If I were grown up at Europe, society does play a large role in advocating Hijab and associate it with piety…

  43. Hala says:

    Sorry for the interruption, If I were grown up at europe, I wouldn’t think much of wearing it because I would be accepted regardless of whether I cover or not…

  44. susanne430 says:

    This was a very interesting post and I enjoyed reading the comments. I was glad to learn WM is a man….hmmm. That explained a lot. 🙂

    While I respect people for their desire to reverence God by their modesty, I think it should definitely be a choice each individual makes. After all is one trying to please God if she is only wearing the headscarf in order to avoid the comments of her peers or because her parents threatened to beat her if she did not? Is the wearing hijab then for fellow humans’ benefit or because you want to sincerely honor and respect God by your actions?

    This is where the heart/motive behind it become important. Are you trying to please men or God?

    Jesus’ harshest words in the Bible were to the Pharisees. These super religious Jewish teachers were so concerned with their outward appearance and how they appeared to others that they totally forgot God sees the heart. Jesus said to them in Matthew 23,

    27″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

    The most important thing is God’s opinion of you, and He looks on the heart. You can have “Christians” who wear crosses and “Muslims” who wear the hijab — both may look righteous to us, but inside they may be as lost as any pagan.

    Thank you for letting me share my opinion. 🙂

  45. Marahm says:

    Welcome, Susanne. I hope to read more of your comments!

    Many people who have lived in both Muslim and Christian cultures will observe that Muslims seem more concerned with outward appearances, and Christians with the inward state.

    The general idea seems to be that when one’s outward appearance suggests piety, then piety is easier to observe. Conversely, when one’s inward state is not in harmony with one’s spiritual beliefs, then one’s outward appearance is useless as a help or an indicator of piety.

    Both approaches have their benefits; the dangers lie in the extremes, as always.

  46. susanne430 says:

    Oh, thank you for explaining the difference that is observed… how interesting. I have never lived around Muslims, but maybe one day I will.

    I appreciate your welcome and look forward to reading and commenting more in the future. 🙂

  47. thewahhabimisanthrope says:

    Marahm, I’m looking for your thoughts on the most recent (and the second most recent) posts. Others are welcome to join in too! 😛

  48. WM says:

    As above (unedited comment)!

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