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Saturday, August 18, 2007

In Over My Head


Lately, my husband and I have been watching our two children run around in a grassy area with little hills and trees and neighbors walking their dogs. I've been wearing a long flowing skirt, basic black shoes, a long-sleeve cotton shirt, and a two-piece al-amira style headscarf (also kind of flowy). As I stand there on that hill or march on the grass (avoiding the mud and dog poo), I feel like I am straight out of that photo from "Little house on the Prairie." I don't like it. I want to be more sophisticated like the cool-fab second photo above. But I know, it's really not important, and I should get over myself.

But it's like that time I had a government job after college. I was in a serious and responsible position. I wore conservative clothes, of course. But I felt I needed that extra something...So I bought and wore a silver-beaded choker-necklace that helped me keep know...rock star edge.

I don't want to look matronly. I want to look hip. And so...

I get this uneasy feeling inside.

Why? Maybe because I'm still not a cheerleader for this headscarf, because I still think twice before going out on my own because I still feel self-conscious, because I'm still very vain, and because I still need to be a better Muslim (need to establish regular prayers, study Islam more, etc).


I still don't consider the headscarf/hijab as a way to conquer all vanity.
I still don't think the hijab is a gaurantee against people judging me for something other than my mind.


I am 100 % sure the Holy Quran mentions a modest code of behavior and dress women.
I am 100 % sure that all Shia and (majority Sunni) Islamic scholars specify the use of headscarf to cover hair, ears, and neck for women.


My main ignorance is in the study of hadith (the narratives of the Prophet, his family, and his companions) I am only 75 % sure of the use of a headscarf for women as specified in hadith. So, with a measured amount of doubt I will say that it is an obligation in Islam to dress with hijab of headscarf and body covered.

...But I am not "in love" with hijab, nor do I feel a strong passion for wearing it as many other Muslim women do. I think that the headscarf HAS become a symbol for Islam in many ways. And that symbolism is complex. For example, if I had been a student studying at university in Turkey when they banned the headscarf in public institutions, I would have removed the headscarf and continued my education. I cringe at the thought of those who will say I value education over religion because of that example...

Nevertheless, here I am...


Basically, if the message I send while wearing hijab is...I am a Muslim, a member of the religion of Islam, which advocates the dignity, integrity, and protection of woman...and I want to be pious in a world that isn't... then I'm glad.

And that's all I can say. For now.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I dare say? a Q & A!

Here is another viewpoint on the hijab that I think not only is expressed well by its author, Sara Padidar , but is also shared by many other women and men, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. The following is taken from an online discussion group with Ms. Padidar's reply following the discussion question:

QUESTION: I thought this would be a good discussion to start because once again I see to many pics [on] that people think are hijabi pics but do not qualify. What I thought is the whole body with the exception of the face and the palms. So the neck needs to be covered right?

Here is Sara's reply after others responded to the original question with opinions that stated only the face & palms were allowed to be seen, no make-up allowed, and no jewelry permitted as part of "hijab" :

Ok at the risk of causing a furor I am going to ask anyway (plus this is a discussion board):

I'm a little confused - surely the very quote that is on the front page of this group says exactly what needs to be covered -

"...And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments..."

Surah Noor, verses 30-31

In short it has always utterly baffled me why people cover their head when the Prophet asked women to cover the ornaments of their bodies and to wear their head coverings over their bosoms - He did not say cover your head; but stated to wear the head covering instead of over the head wear it over the bosom.

When the Prophet was on this earth, He came to a people who did not wear clothes (esp women), women were traded (naked) and worth less than animals, women were a commodity and a possession. The Prophet was the FIRST Teacher from God to raise the status of women equal to men, and emancipate them. He was the FIRST Teacher from God to limit the number of wives a man could have. From my understanding of the Qu'ran, He did not ask they to be covered in such a manner to only show their faces and palms or any other ultra conservative interpretation that is now commonly subscribed to.

'except what appears thereof' means hair, face, neck, arms, legs, hands, feet. If is perfectly possible to dress conservatively whilst displaying all of the above.

'guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments' means just that your sexual organs including the breasts. Some may argue the midriff - and I would be inclined to agree, the navel of a woman is superbly sexual.

I dare say no one will agree with my comments by virtue of the name of this group [Hijab is for facebook too!]- but it would be nice if someone could logically explain to me why a conservative hijab is what is dictated in the Qu'ran.

I admire Sara's risk taking on a discussion board that obviously exists to discredit the term "hijab" by pointing out all the so-called flaws and mistakes Muslim women have in their dress. And I admire the way she asks the question and makes her point without intending to cause offense, but sincerely wanting an answer to a reasonable question.

I responded to her question, and we had a complex exchange of opinions, but here is my reply to her initial question: answer ur question quickly, other than cultural custom, i think many hijabi women wear it because they follow the teachings of a scholar who is there to interpret the Quran in a way that the common person can they wish to follow islam as accurately as possible, and often a scholar is better at making interpretations of certain verses in the Quran.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Let Loose

NOTE TO NEW READERS: this is the most recent post. please start from the first post to understand my progress up to now. scroll down to the archives ... thank you!


1. free of encumbrance; "inherited an unencumbered estate" [ant: encumbered]
2. not burdened with cares or responsibilities; "living an unencumbered life"

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.

I've had a few days recently where I just wanted to let loose... just go out with a t-shirt and summery pants and my hair up in a pony tail...just wanted to ... feel unencumbered.... maybe it's the humidity...the heat...i just want it to be winter. winter is so cool, literally and figuratively. ahhhhh!

Thursday, August 9, 2007


This is an article on the topic of hijab that I found online. The author was gracious enough to allow me to post it here on my blog. I really enjoyed it and think it was very well done--well said!


The women who cover and the women who criticize them
On the one hand, hijabi women are dowdy and primitive, too feeble-minded to realize they're being oppressed by their misogynistic cultures. They never had a chance! To see what they could be! Oh, if only some cowboy could ride in on his F-14 fighter jet and give them some freedom.

On the other hand, hijabi women are a disgrace to the religion. Did you see what she was wearing? Why you could almost make out the faint shape of her leg if you focused so hard on her pants that you came dangerously close to passing out.

Back on the first hand, those hijabis need education and exposure to the western world. Even the ones who already live in the western world. Obviously if they think they're putting that scarf on their head voluntarily, they haven't been properly enlightened. After all, this is the twenty-first century. We've long since left such archaic traditions behind; now women can wear what they want!

But on that second hand (can't forget the second hand, by far the more irritating of the two), hijabi women, they're so hypocritical. Can't you see that wisp of hair peeking out from underneath the scarf? And her shirt is so short! Not as short as mine, but still, it only goes halfway past her butt. Can you believe it?

Yes, yes I can. And I have a message for all of you, so listen up, because I'm only going to say this once.


Those of you who aren't Muslim and don't understand why we do it: We would love to sit down and explain it to you, or not, as you choose. But we don't judge your taste in clothing (or lack thereof) or your religious beliefs (ditto), and we'd really appreciate it if you didn't judge ours. We don't need your women's lib organizations staging an intervention on our behalf. We're fine. Really.

Those of you who are Muslim and wear hijab yourselves: You should know better.

And those of you who are Muslim and don't wear hijab yourselves: Exactly where is that leg you're standing on? If a hijabi woman bent down to pick something up instead of squatting (and the squatting rule applies to all women, thanks), I don't want to hear your horrified shock as you stand there talking to me in your short lacy sleeves and exposed head. Until you've gone through it, through the comments, and the staring, and the coveting of something beautiful you can never wear because it cuts just a little low or a tad too tight, I don't want to hear it. When you've made the effort yourself, I might care what you think about another woman's hijab... but I don't really think so because that's between her and God.

Sometimes a hijabi can use some guidance. We welcome that. It's like when I was sixteen years old, facing my high school graduation, and wanting desperately to fit in when I walked across that stage. I wanted to find some way around the hijab, some other way to cover my head, possibly by tucking my hair into the hat. (I tried it, but my head is so abnormally huge I had to get an extra large hat, and even then there was no room for the hair.) My mother said I could do whatever I wanted — wear it, not wear it — but that I should remember it was the decisions I made in times like this that really mattered. I wore it. The other hijabi who graduated didn't. All that meant was that I had the direction I needed; perhaps she didn't, but what she certainly didn't need was the resulting chatter throughtout the entire religious community. Guidance is not the same thing as judgement. Or criticism. Or gossip.

You non-hijabi Muslims understand why we cover, you don't do it, yet you're completely nonplussed about excoriating a hijabi's attire, even one unknown to you. Hello, pot. Meet the kettle.

And finally, to those of you, Muslim and non-Muslim, hijabi and non-hijabi, who stand beside us and support us every day, who fight for our right to wear what we want where we want, who understand when we slip up, and who see the person before the hijab: Thank you so much. You have no idea the strength you give us

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Fashion and Faith

NOTE TO NEW READERS: This is the most recent post. For this blog to make the most sense, it's best to begin reading at the first post. For older posts, please scroll down and go to the archives. Thanks.

Yes, indeed that is celebrity, Jennifer Lopez, known for her flaunting of her sexuality--yet in this picture...looking strangely like a "fashionista" of Muslim hijab! And I've seen some early haute couture fashion which had a woman all covered up, including a dark hood over her head, ears, and neck--it looked very sophisticated. Interesting. It makes me wonder...could popular fashion ever include the use of a headscarf? Well, just look at the other photographs of fully covered women in Islamic fashions!

I reluctantly admit, since starting the hijab, I've become more interested in looking stylish, fashionable, "with-it." I suppose it is because I have a more limited selection and also because I have a greater self-consciousness about my "image" as not only a Muslim, but also a mother of 2 kids in a suddenly 30 year old figure!

Still, the question is: Is mixing faith and fashion a slippery slope?

Here is an interesting clip from NBC's The Today Show, aired July 15th, 2007. It showcases the young Muslim female's desire to fit fashion into her faith.

There is also a great support system in the social networking website, for Muslim women who wear hijab. It offers many discussion groups which cover all of the topics associated with Muslim hijab, including one group called "Hijabi Fashionistas," whose members submit photos of their various styles of Islamic dress. It's not exactly "Muslim Vogue," but it has that touch of elegance, taste, and style.

And I find it amazing that this information and support is out there. It would have been a great comfort for me when I was in high school. But it seems that the generation under me is the one that is embracing and promoting the hijab with style and confidence! Some conservative Muslims would caution against these materialistic fashion trends--headcoverings or not! Hmm... Am I a conservative Muslim? Do labels really define the diversity?

Well, I'm still looking...and wanting to go shopping!

Deal Breakers

I mentioned in a previous post, "Fear of Commitment," that I had just that, a fear of committing to the headscarf. I would say that I am committed at this point. Still, I do want to let it be known that there are a few cicumstances that might cause me to re-consider the headscarf. These include:

1) GOD FORBID, another terrorist attack on America in the name of Islam and Muslims.
2) Pysical, verbal, mental, or emotional harassment.
3) Excessive anxiety
4) A work or volunteer position that would create #2 or #3.

I pray that I will never have to deal with such things again as I did before. And I'm so grateful that up to now, the results have been a positive and loving experience. Alhamdulillah (All praise belongs to God).

Thank YOU!