Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Headcovering--It Ain't Just For Muslims!

I find the history of headcovering fascinating. I came upon a website, Biblical Research Reports, which discusses the edicts of certain Christian and Jewish views on the rule of headcovering, fascinating and comforting and validating. Covering the head is not something that just us "crazy backward weirdo" Muslims do...it's a historically religious act of devotion, respectable, reputable, and sensible (for those devoted to God at least). I admire the way Christians take their faith not only to heart, but into practice. Many follow the law of their Bible as given to them in 1 Corinthians 11: ...
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+11&version=NIV

Here is a fine article that discusses the application of this Biblical passage from writer Myron Dorst on the site, Biblical Research Reports, refuting the claim of other Christians who, according the Dorst and others, have distorted the meaning of I Corinthians 11: http://www.biblicalresearchreports.com/headcoveringmyths.php

I began a study on the headcovering when I was in college to find a basis that God no longer required the headcovering for today. I did not see a need for it. As I have studied the head covering in depth, I have discovered that there are many myths about the headcovering stated as truth. These false teachings are in many of the commentaries. They have been preached from the pulpit and have been passed from one Christian to another to give a "clear" understanding of what they want the Bible to say, but they have no Biblical or historical basis. They have been repeated so often that people believe them to be true and don't verify it for themselves. After all, many of those repeating these myths have their PhD. As a result the church is teaching, acting, and reacting on the subject of the head veil based on faulty information. In general, I have found a lack of quality scholarly research on the headcovering. ...It has been amazing to me in studying the headcovering how much we have been told by Christian sources that is not true. It appears that despite the high level of education today among Christians, many people are relying on other people's research or opinions rather then studying things for themselves. I challenge you to study 1 Corinthians 11 and other subjects for yourself as if you were hunting for hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:4). It is amazing what you will discover. Don't ignore Christ's commands in 1 Corinthians 11 just because "everyone else" thinks the headcovering does not apply to today.

So, I , Scarf Ace, am drawn to such analysis of the use of religious scripture in explaining the use of headcovering. And I am drawn to the common worship of God, that is mentioned in the Quran, regarding Christians and Jews:
3:113] Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (For the right): They rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration.

Of course, Islamic doctrine would differ on the details, e.g., Muslims women cover their hair at the command of God, and God only, not specifically Jesus Christ (May God's peace be upon him), simply put because we differentiate the role of Christ from the role of God. Also, the shaving of the head is not an option for a Muslim woman. Yet the common theme remains: Religious devotion is connected to female believers wearing a headscarf, of some sort, the type of which is of course in debate, but still the covering of the head remains a sign of worship of a single Lord, a rejection of the dismissive notion of modern "reform," or the call of the masses to just "get with times" and drop the commands of God which are clearly stated in the Biblical text for Christianity and Judaism, and the Quranic text for Muslims.

Read the entire article posted above, and peruse its other articles. It connects me to my fellow lovers of God, the People of the Book as referred to in the Quran. May God show us the clarity we all seek.

We all know what Catholic nuns often look like and how they forbid marriage and a life outside of their convent, but are we aware that there are several other Christian sects and communities who live typical lives of marriage, children, and housework, who love God but do not express this love by "marrying Christ" and entirely giving up a worldly life of wife or mother, or resignation to an order of Convent (not that I disrespect these Catholic sisters)? I am merely saying, that a "common" Christian or Jewish woman is bound to cover her hair in the same manner as a "common" Muslim woman is, to go about their daily lives with LIBERATION of the spirit as per use of their headcovering, to demonstrate and practice modesty and freedom from the shackles of pop cultural indoctrination of "beauty, sexuality, and the worldliness" of peer pressure and the industries that profit off of such exploitation of our dignity as women and our souls as human beings. To follow the law of their religious doctrine, not just in blind faith, but in earnest, LOGICAL, sensible, beautiful reason. Reason, the law of cause and effect, the distinction of active knowledge, and not the fog of following the man-made "feels" good attitude, or consuming the inundated values of the for profit beauty industries presented so "innocently" and seductively. Modesty is normal, and rational, and not weird. Not strange and NOT oppressive.

I send a cyber hug to my sisters, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and other faiths who believe that what they wear is an important choice that should have the support of the Divine Wisdom, rather than the support of whatever talk show or celebrity trend or fashion magazine.

Here is a site that sells common Christian headcoverings: http://www.christiancoverings.com/item_34/Sarah.html

Christian headcovering
Of course, as in the Muslim world, there is strong debate among the Christian sects and Jewish sects as to whether headcoverings are necessary in our "modern times," and even if they are truly commanded by God's Word. The following text is from: http://www.covermyhair.com/
According to Jewish law, married women are required to cover their hair which is earlier referred to as the "law of the Jewish People", but subsequently it is known as the "law of Moses". Women usually cover their hair with a snood, wig or scarf, but some women use hats also for the same purpose.
However the practice of covering hair by women by any of the above practices is being debated vociferously. Some of the early Rabbis encouraged the use of hair coverings, but some have expressed their disapproval of the practice. Even orthodox modern women, who belong to a generation before, have left the habit of covering their hair except when they are in the synagogue. But the practice of covering the hair has been voluntarily opted by the present generation of women, which is quite unusual considering the hectic pace of modern civilization. They believe to convey modesty in their appearance, which is after all one component of moral attitude. It is left to the individual women living in a particular location and atmosphere to decide on whether to cover the hair or not. It is being insisted more as a symbolic gesture of feminism rather than anything else. From the Article, http://www.covermyhair.com/jewish-women-wigs.asp

And it is also noted in these communities, Muslim, Christian, and Judaism, that purity of the soul can not be attained by the mere act of covering one's head, which is a behaviour linked to belief, but is not the end all and be all to determine one's inner purity.
When we say someone is modest, it includes their attitudes towards other members of the family, community and strangers, appearance that will not provoke someone into doing physically outrageous things and the way of conducting life in the right sense of direction and purpose.
There is no doubt that women occupy a special place in the family and every one looks to them for support. The conduct of women will have a bearing in the bringing up of children, which does have a lasting effect on the society. When women veer off course without any modesty, there will be no controlling factor in the family and it goes to ruins quite quickly. In this sense, it is important that women must be physically and mentally modest, to offset the pressures of life and act as a fulcrum around which the entire family revolves, which is necessary for the whole society.
And from the same article, it is conveyed that being modest is not so difficult, it takes a bit of true THINKING and resolve. These following passages are from a Christian website, but express a line of thinking that is clearly in line with Muslim thought on the same subject.
The pressures of life and the temptations around us make it difficult to lead a modest life. When we observe life around us, we see fall in moral values, money doing things which was earlier not seen and so many things unheard of in the earlier years. To keep out of these so called pleasures is difficult, but not impossible to surmount them successfully. When we say women have to be physically modest, it does not mean that women have to be frugal without any pleasures or enjoyment. It means they have to stay in moderation within the limits and never fall for things that lead them to destruction. It is agreed that peer pressure and family pressures will be huge and demanding, but you have to find ways to keep within limits, which is good for both the family and society. It is easy to fall prey to temptations, but the after effects will be more on the women than men. That is why, it is important that women must show more maturity and moderation. The scars that befall women after undertaking unnecessary or voyeuristic pleasures take a long time to heal and hence prudence must be maintained at all times.
Women can be modest with the available means. When you hanker after things beyond your means, you will have to face the consequences. Businesses in order to capture or expand their business portray or show women in a demeaning manner by showing their body without any remorse. When we see some of the advertisements in the papers or television, women seem to canvass for products meant for only men, which is mere physical exploitation of women. They are not promoting the sensible capabilities of women and are under the mistaken notion that when women bare all, the products can be sold quickly which is foolish thinking.
Women can utilize the clothes meaningfully and alter them to suit their body measurements in a dignified manner. People always look in awe when women are dignified and will be naturally afraid to pass comments on them. When women present themselves in an attractive but pleasant way, nobody will have inkling to harm them or offer unsolicited advice to them. We can infer that our mannerisms will have an impact on the minds of the onlookers and it is up to us to present ourselves creditably.
Women can use headgear to sport an attractive look without demeaning any religion or culture. Some of the headgear available in the market is simply superb and you can use them to your advantage. After all, any form of clothing should enhance your appearance in the right way and not arouse sexual feelings in men. It depends on our choice and when we make the right choice, there is no way women can be looked upon down.
Women can be physically attractive with clothing or make up, but care must be taken not to arouse negative feelings. You can make use of beauty enhancement techniques to uplift your appearance, but doing it with physical show of skin will attract comments from all quarters. When women are within their family values, no trouble visits them and they can lead a peaceful and happy life.
When physical appearance is outrageous or flashy, naturally it will invite things which are not necessary. It depends on your mental make up and when you are mentally strong, you will not fall prey to pleasures of life. This does not mean you have to be without any pleasure, but your pleasures must not be demeaned by others. When women show moral values, nobody dares to touch them or heap insults. http://www.covermyhair.com/physically-modest.asp
These ideas go to show that my fellow People of the Book can share the idea that those in our Western media who consider a woman's right to dress as she pleases, from the likes of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, to the so-called "tasteful" use of cleavage and booty inhancing jeans, or lushious colored lips and sexy hair is not as liberating as it seems, and is rather a form of slavery and exploitation, causing the woman to chip away at her precious soul. But I guess that only matters to those who actually bonder the workings of the soul and its connections to our daily choices, our fashion "mistakes," and our search for true worth as it is judged by others, by ourselves, and by God.

Quran 33:59] O Prophet! say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; this will be more proper, that they may be known, and thus they will not be given trouble; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
That is not to say that for my part I condemn the young and old women who are drawn to the pleasure of displaying their beauty through artificial means, who wish to display it for whatever reasons, for self-esteem, for self-acceptance, for the sake of enjoyment, for I too, did and do those things, I, too, struggle with my vanity. To those of you who seek to be free of this struggle, I send you a cyber hug as well. As the final Divine Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s) said:
Deal gently with a people, and be not harsh; cheer them and condemn not.
Still, I pray that God gives me time to follow the clearest, most noble path, and gives me a long life in my search to do as pleases Him, The Most Beneficient, The Most Merciful.


Yusuf said...

Salaam Scarf Ace, Great post! May Allah (swt) reward you.

LisaM said...

Well written and researched! We learn so much when we listen. :)

Anonymous said...

God made us who we are, why cover our heads? Paul was just a man.. It may have been looked down apon then, but life and styles have changed.
-A fellow Christian

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for your well-researched and well-presented article, Scarf Ace. I find it is often overlooked that it's not just Muslim women who wear a headcovering of some sort. I am a Christian and I wear a veil from almost first thing in the morning until right before I go to sleep at night, often wearing some sort of headcovering to bed, too.

It's interesting to see that most cultures throughout the world practice women's headcovering - it's only the supposedly 'enlightened' Western culture that doesn't, and that only in the past hundred years or so. As the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11, women wearing a veiling of some description is a fact of nature.

You mentioned in the article that shaving the head is not an option for Muslim women. I would like to say that it isn't for Christian women, either, if they are following the headcovering directive given by Paul; "But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven. For if the women be not covered, let her also be shorn [have her hair cut], but if it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered."

Again, bravo for your article. God bless.

nadia said...

It´s a great post. I am excited to see, that so many christians thought about that topic headcovering. A few years before I thought I was the only one - I had no PC, no internet. And in Germany there seem to be less than in the USA who cover.
To "Anonimous": it is not Paul allone who wrote it. It is written by men, enforced (right word?) by the Holy spirit. And in Tim. and Pet. we read, that the scripture is from God and good for all to be taught and encouraged. And the very first chapter of 1.Cor. says, that it is for all believers.... And all says all, not once upon a time to the Corinthians.
So far.