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Saturday, July 28, 2007

At Face Value

I'd like to give a brief opinion on the practice of wearing Niqab or Burqah in Islam.
Niqab is the veil that covers a Muslim woman's face, usually leaving only her forehead and eyes visible. Burqah is an even more conservative type of veil, which has only a grid-like gauze for visibility.

I personally do not like this form of Islamic dress, the covering of the face. It is not an obligation in Islam, and I think it does more harm than good, especially in the West because it creates an image of Islam that is inaccurate and downright confusing to both non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Indeed, if I were to see a woman in Niqab, I would feel uncomfortable and shy away from her--this is despite the fact that I know at least two down-to-earth, funny, educated, Muslim women who have worn the Niqab in the USA of their own choice, and happily so. They want to do it. They think it will bring them protection in this life and a reward in the next. Still, I simply can not agree with them.

I mentioned in a very early post that I do not think that the purpose of external hijab is to A.) HIDE BEAUTY. I think that is impossible. I think it is to B.) PROTECT MODESTY / DEMONSTRATE PIETY & DIGNITY. To me, those are two very different concepts. Take a look at the third photo above of the woman who is showing only her eyes and hand---She is gorgeous, MashaaAllah (by God's Grace) and even the Niqab can not HIDE that. Yes, if you wear the more conservative Burqah, with just the gauze strip to see, you can hide your entire identity. But how does this fit in with Islam? And the face is the main source of human communication: emotion, age, gender, intention, etc...all come from the face.

If women choose to wear it, they probably do so based on their own conservative values and issues and statements and causes and culture and environment, not the Law of Islam. If they believe it is required, then they follow an interpretation of Islam that the vast majority of Muslim and Islamic scholars reject. If they are forced to wear it, then I completely understand their rebellion against it, if given a choice.

Here are some excerpts from articles and the links to their entire text:

"Niqab is different from hijab. Hijab refers to covering everything except the hands and face. Niqab is the term used to refer to the piece of cloth which covers the face and women who wear it usually cover their hands also...proponents of the niqab use this Qur'anic verse for evidence for the niqab.

...And when ye ask (the Prophet's wives) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs.
Qur'an 33:53

The wives of the Prophet were indeed required to wear the niqab by this Qur'anic verse. This is because the special status they had meant they had to be kept clear from all gossip and slander. Scholars say that if the wives of the Prophet, as the best of feminine examples, were required to wear niqab, then the ruling falls on all women.

However, earlier on in the same chapter, the Qur'an also very clearly states that the Prophet's wives were not similar to other women.

O Wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the other women.

Most scholars are in agreement that the verse about the screen, or concealing of the face, is only obligatory on the wives of the Prophet. They say the verses are a clear indication that the wives of the Prophet are much more restricted in their movement due to their political position, and that their code of conduct does not constitute a code of conduct for women in general."

"In my experience, whereas a growing number of westerners are coming to accept and even respect the simple hijab (headscarf/hair-covering) as a symbol of modesty and good character in Muslim women, almost universally westerners find niqaab (the face veil) and the head to toe black garb that usually accompanies it sinister, frightening and repulsive. It makes them recoil from Islam.

As a western convert to Islam, I see first hand only too well among my family, western colleagues and old circle of friends the extreme harm face veiling does to the image of Islam and to the efforts to spread Islam in the west. The tragedy is that this phenomenon is so unrepresentative of Islam. The vast majority of Muslims do not consider this form of attire compulsory. Most contend that face veiling was, in fact, exclusively the preserve of the wives of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) who, we are told in the Quran 33:33, "are not like other women" in order to give them privacy and protection in Madinah where they lived at the main mosque, not in private compounds."

Feel free to comment please.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a headcovering Christian woman and though our reasons for covering are a bit different from Muslimahs, I've got no problem with hijabis. (I really love the hijab style but it is difficult enough covering just the head, if I add the neck that would just complicate things more and cause confusion.)

The niqab and burka are a whole 'nother story and in spite of my solidarity with hijabis, these two scare the daylights out of me and even before 9/11 they presented an obvious security risk.

You're right,in the West they do more harm to Islam's cause. Sure, women can claim discrimination when denied entry or driver's licences but it is necessary to weigh legal rights with respect for deepseated cultural norms, otherwise, legally you win but culturally many more people are put off and alienated and that's an awfully high price to pay for something unnecessary.I can guarantee that if you have to fight for hijabs there are plenty of Christian women who will stand right with you. God willing that never becomes an issue in the US like it has in France.(ugh)


PS This is a real cool blog, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Mary - YOU'RE SO SO COOL - i can't believe no-one's replied to your blog! It'd be really cool to meet practising really God-conscious Christians like yourself in London! You'd be an amazing Muslim - no doubt about it!

Blessings to you too! :D

shuhena said...
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