hema’s sphere

under cover

Posted by hema on May 25, 2007

how important is it to “cover” and what does it mean to do so?

personally, i have an issue with the phrases – “she is covered/ she needs to cover” and cringe every time i hear them used, especially to describe Muslimahs. just because she isn’t covering her hair/ face, it does not mean she is not covered.
there is a huge difference between people who deliberately dress provocatively, and those who wear modest clothing but choose not to/ are not yet covering their hair or face, and i just think this difference should be noted.

and as a matter of fact, there are some women who are managing to “cover” better without covering their hair. i’m sure you all know what i mean, so won’t bother going into too much detail, especially seen as there is an interesting discussion about it on unique’s blog, (warning: pretty girl alert on the post for any brother’s wanting to save their eyes. hey they could still exist!) but i’m not judging anyone here, especially as i was one of those people that started off wearing “hijaab” with my neck and earings exposed, but let’s not delve into that phase too much (please!)

a student the other week suddenly whipped off her hijaab, brushed her hair and then put it back on again for some random reason during the class! i had to bite my tongue, as i didn’t want to embarass her, but talked to her after the class, and she said “oh it was just the guys though, it’s not as if my dad was here or anything!”
(weird Pakistani mentality- you should wear your headscarf in front of elders, even if they’re mahram, as a sign of respect).

it just made me think. wearing the hijaab (as in headscarf) is so much more common here now then when i started doing it, but do people really understand why they are doing it? because it’s a dangerous game to force/ pressurise women to do it for the wrong reasons.

on the one hand i do recognise that it is our duty to advocate what we belive to be right, and in partiular some fathers/ husbands want to ensure that their daughters/wives are obeying the Laws, but at the end of the day, it is a personal choice that a woman makes, and she needs to do it if/when the time is right for her. i see people trying to force/pressurise women to wear hijaab more than they encourage prayer, charity, fasting etc. surely this issue can’t be more important than the fundamental pillars?

i’m not saying wearing hijaab should not be encouraged. it makes sense to me on so many levels. and, with the niqaab i would never say “never” as there is something very attractive and liberating about walking down the street feeling completely invisible.

i’m just saying i think we need to stop judging a person’s piety levels on how much of their body they choose to cover. i’ts disheartening when i hear muslim women looking down on their sisters, with phrases like “she deson’t even cover so what right does she have to tell me about Islam”. there are other things that are more important than outward appearance. isn’t there?

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17 Responses to “under cover”

  1. iMuslim said

    weird Pakistani mentality- you should wear your headscarf in front of elders, even if they’re mahram, as a sign of respect

    You Pakis are so strange. πŸ˜›

    (Yeah, cos Indians are sooooo normal! hehe)

    I don’t like to judge cos i have been on both sides of the coin; the ‘before’ was not pretty, and the after, though better, is faaaaar from perfect. I have made mistakes about judging people, admittedly, but i try to follow these general rules:
    1) Hate the sin, not the sinner.
    2) Look to yourself, before looking at others (i remember the biblical verse, about pointing to the splinter in your brother’s eye, yet ignoring the plank in your own!)
    3) Know that even if you’ve never sinned in the way you observed others doing, you are not immune to being in their situation, and being much, much worse. 70 excuses, always!

    What is it with me, and lists? πŸ™‚

    May Allah make it easy for us to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, in the way that is humble and pleasing to Him. Ameen.

  2. 'liya said

    I agree with so many of the things you said in this post,

    “i’m just saying i think we need to stop judging a person’s piety levels on how much of their body they choose to cover” – absolutely!

    And I got your email – yay! I feel special hehe πŸ˜€

  3. hema said

    imuslim- ameen to your dua and ameen to 70 excuses.
    so you want to start an india vs paksitan debate huh? you do realise that i … will probably lose. don’t want to start a debate with a soon to be DR inshAllah!

    liya, that is because you are specil my dear. and if you ever come to the UK we are so meeting up:)

  4. Anonymous said

    I wouldn’t take my deen from someone who didn’t wear hijab though.

  5. Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said

    I gotta admit, even though I wouldn’t say anything I still judge. I’ll be the first to admit the hypocrisy I’ve seen by very respectable ‘covered’ women, but I still hold reservations about ‘un-covered’ women and their level of Iman.
    Unless a Muslim woman is dressed like an out and out tart, I wouldn’t consider her a bad Mulsimah, just room for improvement. Inshallah, as you mentioned, covering would come from her own desire and not just complying with her family/spouse’s request to wear one. Each one of us has our own thing which is difficult for us but may be easy for others. It’s easy for me to cover and not listen to music, for example, but I find it a real struggle to pray well. Another sister might put me to shame with how well she prays but it’s too hard for her to deal with the social issues resulting from covering. This is what keeps me from judging other Muslimahs.

  6. Sumera said

    I personally think wearing it – in any fashion, be it loosely teetering on your head, or clad tightly- is better than nothing.

    Some people wear it out of habit and so don’t really understand the purpose of it. Others however go through a transition of wearing it in a manner which they find comfortable and slowly move into being more vigilant of it.

    I dont usually blink or bat an eyelid if I see someone covered insufficiently or not at all – since I only too well remember what I was like re hijaab not that long ago πŸ™‚

  7. Sumera said

    And re anonymous comment on not taking deen from a non-hijaabi; I’d take my deen from whoever knew it well; hijaabi or non-hijaabi.

    Hijab is not an indicator of religiousness in the slightest – nor should it be taken to be; just as niqaabi’s aren’t any more “religious” than someone who “just wears hijaab” we shouldnt faff someone’s knowledge on an issue because they dont do hijaab.

  8. hema said

    anon-it depends what you mean by “taking the deen”
    i personally wouldn’t take any rulings about hijab from someone who didn’t believe in wearing it, and perhaps if i was looking for someone to guide me spiritually, i would want them to follow all the example of the prophet’s (saw) wives completely, but as for specific issues i think i would be the one losing out if i dismissed a person’s knowledge based on what they were wearing. for example, i know of a few people who have very knowledgable fathers and have learnt a lot in their childhood, and they will be able to tell you practically anything you want to know about the sunnah of the prophet (saw) and nitty gritty details on all sorts of matters.

    daisy- i see where you are coming from and believe me i’ve probably been guilty of assuming people are not religious myself. i think this is a fault on my part though, and we need to change our attitudes. there are people who wear hijaab/niqaab that don’t pray for example, and others who don’t cover their hair but will never miss a prayer. as you said, some people find certain things difficult and wearing hijaab/niqaab is more difficult in certain places in the world than others (i remember you said you don’t wear niqaab in the states for example). others have family pressures that make it difficult. i’m not saying this is a reason not to wear it, as every hardship is rewarded, but i think we should be more understanding, and i include my self in this first.

    thanks for being honest. i think sometimes the only way to deal with the issues is by talking about them openly and honestly.
    as for struggling to pray well, there are some excellent tips on abu eesa’s blog on keeping it real in the prayer

  9. hema said

    sorry annoymous- that’s too personal a question to ask on here, and i’m sure umm maymoonah would feel the same way. thanks for understanding πŸ™‚

  10. Anonymous said

    I didn’t mean it that way, what I said sounds really judgemental and pretentious. What I meant was someone who doesn’t observe an obvious aspect of the deen whether hijab, free mixing, beard etc (without a valid excuse) wouldn’t find me taking them as a religious mentor or sheikh in most issues of the deen. As for personal problems and even certain aspects of religious matters I would talk to sisters who don’t wear hijab as long as they do practice some aspects of Islam and try to be a good Muslim.

  11. hema said

    i don’t think it sounded judgemental and pretentious, i just think it needed further clarification, which you have now given, so thanks for that. what you stated about a spiritual guide is a separate issue as there are strict criterions related to that. in everyday issues though, as daisy and sumera said, we can’t really judge others because every situation is different and in some countries it is even illegal to wear hijaab, and some people just come from a background where their family is so opposed to it, and both of those types of people are readers of this blog which is why i just wanted the extra clarification of what you meant, is all.

    the deleted comment was for another annoymous, unless that was you too (it can get confusing sometimes!)
    so annynous no 2, whilst i appreaicite the question and why you were showing concern, i’m sure you can understand that some of us wish to remain annoymous (much like you) and that’s why we choose to use kunyas and nicknames, so yep.. just to clarify and to avoid me having to delete further comments (and protecting someones’ identity is the only reason i’ll do that) please refrain from using any real names, names of family members and places of residence unless the person in question mentions it themselves specifically.

  12. Gry said

    Assalaamu aleikum

    Wearing hijaab and not wearing hijaab is a private matter between women and Allah. I would be so upset to judged as being not as religious as a hijaabi woman. Someone actually said something like that to me not so long ago; that i wasn’t a good convert or muslim because of the same (it was meant as a joke, ha ha – yeah right) I was so hurt by that comment and still is – and i constantly have to remind myself that Allah (swt) is the all-knowing and knows what’s in my heart and He’s the only one to judge me. But still…..

  13. hema said

    try not to let the comment upset you too much, i think people see hijaab as a marker of piety because it is such a visible thing, but at the end of the day noone knows the actions that will grant us paradise. like the hadith about the prostitute and the ickle doggy

    as you said, it is something between you and your Lord and that’s the only reason you should ever do it.
    you can’t wear hijaab in turkey/egypt anyway can you?(i really have forgotten which one you’re going to! and are you allowed to wear it in Schools in Denmark?

    pas par dig selv, skat

  14. Saabirah said

    Although I do appreciate that there are good Muslim sisters who are not wearing hijab for legitimate reasons we have to be reasonable and say that they are an exception and that it is a fact that most Muslim women who do not wear hijab are not religious.

    I do not agree with the argument that hijab is between own’s own self and Allah only or salah is between one’s self and Allah only or zakah is between one’s self and Allah only and I don’t say that because I consider myself holier-than-thou or because I love labelling people because I certainly don’t. I say that because a lot of us have this attitude that seems to be a product of the modernist secular world that ones’ faith is between them and God only. There definitely is an aspect of faith that should be visible as in its’ visiblity is the establishment of the religion. The obligatory duties of the deen actually are to be done openly precisely for this purpose. Zakah should be given in public, salah (obligatory, for men) should be done openly, and so on. It is the voluntary duties of Islam that are recommended to be done privately, to preserve one’s sincerity etc. And hijab is not voluntary, it is obligatory.

    It is natural to “judge” or have justifiable assumptions about people. If we shadow someone for 24 hrs and they don’t have a Muslim name, they don’t observe hijab, they don’t pray when the time comes etc etc, it is natural and reasonable to think “this person is not Muslim” and if she tells you she is, you will be no doubt be surprised. Fact is there are certain things that make us stand out from people of other or no faiths and hijab is one of them.

  15. hema said

    “…they are an exception and that it is a fact that most Muslim women who do not wear hijab are not religious”

    really? because i can think of lots and lots (and lots and lots) of examples of people who do not wear hijaab but are more “relaigious” than me when it comes to family values, respecting their mother, having patience, enduring harships etc etc

    i’m not trying to dismiss the hijaab or say that it is not important. i love to wear my hijaab as it shows i am Muslim and proud of it, it makes me think twice when i may feel like being nasty to someone because i think it’s not juut about me but i’m representing my religion and it shows guys that they need to stay away.

    but the purpose of this post was not to show the wisdom behind wearing the hijaab. that’s another issue and perhaps one that you or I could cover at some point. when all is siad and done the reason for wearing the hijaab has nothing to do with the benefits of it but simple because Allah commands us to do so.

    that’s why i am saying that hijaab is between you and Allah. you should only ever do it for the sake of Allah and not for anyone else.

    i think people rarely enter the faith or start “practising” it and don the gear straight away. rather it’s a journey which starts internally and when you are ready to progress you do so.

    if i didn’t know, love and respect so many niqaabi sisters, i don’t think i would have a very good impression of them from walking down the street. i have heard people say that they feel like dirt when a niqaabi sister looks at them.
    this is not good dawa, it’s not good manners and it’s just not nice.

    i’m a bit surprised at your response to be honest.
    did you think of me as less religious before i started wearing jilbaab?

  16. Saabirah said

    i think people rarely enter the faith or start “practising” it and don the gear straight away. rather it’s a journey which starts internally and when you are ready to progress you do so.

    That’s my point. For most of us the transition from headscarf/modest clothing to bigger headscarf/modest clothing to jilbab (and some, to niqab) is gradual. As our knowledge increases and our faith grows so should our modesty in clothing and character. Isn’t there an obvious correlation between modesty and faith? If a Muslim woman follows the laws of Islamic clothing more strictly than another then yes she is more religious with regards to hijab. Being “religious” in other areas is another matter. The fact is when sisters don’t cover it’s not mainly because of socio-political or family (etc) reasons; it’s generally because they are weaker in faith in this aspect.

  17. hema said

    “If a Muslim woman follows the laws of Islamic clothing more strictly than another then yes she is more religious with regards to hijab”
    i agree this is true in most cases, but what i’m trying to say is that we should accept this is ONE marker of piety and not THE marker of piety.

    yes there is a correlation between modesty and faith, but people rarely think they are going to move on to bigger hijaabs/more modest clothing until they do it, alhtough come to think of it you were talking about wearing jilbab when you had just baout started to wear the hijaab.
    but think about when you weren’t wearing the hijaab. wouldn’t it have uspet you if someone had said you weren’t religious enough because of what you wore? i think we(and by we i mean people in general not just me and you) need to stop judging each other and leave the jugding to al Hakam, the One who has the right to judge.

    when i meet someone i try not to have any preconceived notions of them until i have spoken to them, and base my opinion on actions rather than appearence.

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