Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why Hijab (Muslim Headcovering)

"iHijab 8-)", at A Beautiful Vision, wordpress, explains the choice to wear hijab while in London. Her explanation is simple, as she states: "My decision to wear wrap my first hijab and walk out into the world was one of understanding, excitement, honor, and fear." Beginning:
I came to London ready. Ready to learn, to be exposed to whatever, to experiment. You know, when in Europe, do as the Europeans do. But, something else was in store for me, mashallah. I went out twice during the first month in London but quickly decided that drinking and partying with drunk, crazy Americans was not fulfilling in anyway. Furthermore, I knew that I would rather be making meaningful connections with interesting people that I could learn from and share with and feel blessed. This was not going to happen, most likely, observing gals and girls feast on each others’ vices.

And being in London, weeks later I saw so many Muslimahs (a Muslim woman) with their hijabs and felt so inspired. Their grace humbled me. After thoughts and discussions, about a week ago, alhamdulillah, I took Shahada and declared my desire to strengthen my Imaan.

Part of this rediscovery has been constant reading of the Qu’ran and other texts to strengthen my knowledge. As expected, I came across the decree for women [and men] to be modest and lower their gaze. To dress modestly and guard their private parts. And, for women, to cover all except what is apparent, thus, requiring the at least a hijab.

Image above taken from this blog entry.
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"My wife wears the hijab. I wish she didn't", by Robin Yassin-Kassab, in the UK Guardian's "The Observer", November 2 2008. A "he-said, she-said" article with personal points of view and understanding on the choice to cover, and its interpretations, by the author and his wife. At one point, he writes about the various meanings and understandings of the headcovering:

The hijab or its absence are symbolic of many different things in the bigger world out there. The cloth has become a flag waved by Islamists and Islamophobes to define each other. A Western-dressed Muslim woman may be stereotyped as a heroically uncaged virgin, or as the key sign of Muslim cultural loss. A veiled woman may be seen as authentic, or, more usually in the West, as ignorant, backward, repressed and oppressed. To some, Muslim women in headscarves look like unity, power, cultural pride. To others, they look like abused cattle. The hijab is compulsory in public in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and discriminated against by the regimes of Tunisia and Turkey. In some Middle Eastern countries, women's veils have been forcibly removed by soldiers in the street. Removing it, and putting it on, are loaded political acts.

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"The Role of Women in an Islamic Society", by Maryam Chaudhry, USA, The Review of Religions, August 1995; re-posted to the SunniForum.com forums. To introduce this article, or speech transcript, the author includes these thoughts:
Before I continue, however, I want to give you a brief introduction to Islam. Being a convert who was born and raised a Christian, I realise that your understanding of Islam is either limited or contains a lot of totally erroneous information. Also, if I talk about the role of women in Islam it will make no sense without a basic understanding of the religion. I am going to ask you to put aside your paradigms for the next hour or so and to keep your mind open to new ideas. I will pose some questions and I will present to you different alternatives. We will play a game of what if? What if you are not here today by chance? What if what you hear today is the truth and could be the beginning of a whole new life for you? Bear with me patiently for a while. ...

And to take a portion of the talk out of context (you will read patiently through the author's thoughts to get their full understanding, but I present this here for a sample of her thoughts.):

Going back to the question of modest dressing, nuns dressed modestly because they did not intend to marry therefore did not want to attract the attention of members of the opposite sex. But Islam wants all women to be pure, and all men also, no double standards in Islam. What you wear affects both how you feel about yourself and how others view you. For example, at my school, which is not air conditioned, the principal always wears a suit, no matter how hot it is. Teachers and parents know that well dressed children feel good about themselves, and teachers subconsciously view them as well cared for and treat them better. Well dressed children do better in school. Many public schools are now adopting uniform policies for the students because wearing a uniform puts the student in a learning mood and makes the teachers view them as potential learners. This affects both the student and the teacher's behaviour so that the entire atmosphere becomes conducive to learning. Also, even in my childhood, women used to wear veils when they entered the church which points to the relationship between dress and attitude.

Islam prescribes modesty for both men and women in order to maintain a pure Islamic society. As a matter of fact, the responsibility to create and maintain this society starts with men:

Be chaste and your women will be chaste (Hadith).
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