Sunday, January 2, 2011

More Ranting on the Hijab

EDIT (July 2011): Considering this is the most viewed blog-post of mine, I must make the following disclaimer: Please realize that the views I have expressed in this particular post may or may not be the same  views I hold about the topic today or tomorrow. Since I think a lot about a lot of things, my opinion tends to change frequently about virtually everything that I think about more than 10 times.
Thank you for reading, and God bless you!


I just had the pleasure of encountering yet another refreshing blog, Metis' Blog on Muslim Feminists. The author's most recent post is titled "What are your views about hijab?" and, of course, that meant another opportunity for me to rant about my absolutely ALWAYS-called-for views on the most important topic relevant to Muslim women in the 21st century-- yes, that'd be the hijab (sarcasm intended). ... Oh, I know, I know - there's so much oppression worldwide, and here I am talking about the hijab only? Yes, well, if you ask me, part of human oppression comes with the hijab, although I don't believe the hijab oppresses women at all (so long as it's a choice, like they claim, and nothing more). So lemme just paste my comment that I posted there.

Thanks for your time!
Blessings upon you and me,

Oh, what a lovely discussion! Most have already said what I’d wanna say, so I might not contribute anything new with this comment. But I loved the comments! Always a pleasure–a delight!– to come upon such Muslims, as they seem to be almost nonexistent in my personal life.

Mariam’s comment reminded me of a statement that Mona Eltahawy once made (in her article “Let Me, a Muslim Feminist, Confuse you.” If you haven’t read it yet, go do so like asap. She writes, “The conversation on Muslim women usually revolves around our head scarves and our hymens — what’s on our heads (or not), what’s between our legs, and the price we pay for it.” How true! -- But, naa, this is not to suggest I agree with her even 15% of the time.

The first time I had a discussion with someone, or a group of people, on the hijab was about 5 years ago; they were all saying things like, “You don’t have to cover your hair to prove that you’re modest.” And I was SO offended. I remember feeling attacked, as though their beliefs were an affront to mine. I mean, the Quran is SO clear that women MUST cover their heads, is it not? Why, oh why, do Muslim feminists and other so-called Muslims justify their un-Islamic beliefs and practices and label them Islamic, often even using the pretext of “interpretations” (hah!) to attract attention? (Sarcasm intended, beloved readers. This is what over 99.76% Muslims I know both personally and virtually tell me. Now you understand why I get all excited and thankful and feel so relieved when I come across a blog with fresh views.)

Isn't this the cutest, most funniest hijab pic you've ever seen? :D
Note the obvious tension the "not-hijab" lady is undergoing
and the contentment that the "this is hijab" lady appears to be feeling!
As it turns out, and as others have said, the Quran isn’t clear on whether I should cover my hair or not. Indeed, it’s the concept of modesty that Islam cares about. But it never defines it, never circumscribes it (for obvious reasons, including that Islam is meant to be a universal and eternal religion); hence, if to YOU and/or those in your authority (often a husband or a father or brothers but more often a repressive society) decide that the only way to be modest is to put a covering on your head, then by all means go for it. But don’t you dare tell me that’s what modesty is because I possess the intellect, reason, and ability to decide for myself exactly what “modesty” is. So if I’m in a society like Swat (NW Pakistan, my homeland, where my heart still lives) where every woman is required to cover her face upon leaving the premises of her house and where jeans are considered immodest, it might perhaps be a bad (some might say “un-Islamic” but I would disagree) idea for me to leave my house without a headcovering at least. I realize, of course, that such an attitude limits, if not completely prevents, progression and the occurrence of change or the introduction of new ideas. But that’s another topic of its own and deserves its own set of volumes for discussion! In the future, no worries.

I can’t help mentioning that the above-expressed thought (it’s the concept of modesty/hijab that matters, not how exactly you cover or which parts) is comparable to that of justice: Does justice today mean what it did in the 7th century? No, it doesn’t. The concept and its understanding have evolved immensely, such that, for example, it’s no longer considered acceptable to kill someone who leaves the religion she/he was raised with; or that it’s no longer considered acceptable to say that a woman cannot marry someone outside of her race/ethnicity/religion but a man can.

That’s not in any way to suggest that we should “change” Islam. No. I believe that Islam is inherently progressive, and the evidence for this claim of mine lies in the Quran itself: It’s ambiguous on every single issue, Alhamdulillah! So! We must change our *understanding*, our *interpretation* of Islam, not Islam itself, with changing times and societies and peoples and circumstances and conditions.

Sooo … good luck trying to convince me that the hijab is compulsory for women, even if you show me all the “authentic” hadiths there are that are so “clear” on what I should wear. Yeah, well, there are others, equally authentic and with reliable chains of narration, that dehumanize me to the core, telling me that I’m a curse, that I'm impure AND that I lack in both intellect and faith (I'll give you reference to these hadiths soon, no worries). Surely, you won’t accept the latter parts about women (because, thankfully, we live in the 21st century, and it’s been proven that neither sex/gender is more intelligent than the other, assuming there are only two genders/sexes). How do you determine, then, why to accept the ones about dressing? Why do we limit Islam, which we claim is a universal and eternal religion, to ONE time period and ONE society? Why should I, presently living in the U.S. and in the 21st century, wear what an Arab woman wore in the 7th century? Or what Arab men decided she must wear? Is it just me, or do others, too, realize that something’s seriously up with how Islamic law came into being–oh, you know, women’s ideas and interpretations and decisions and opinions were never taken into consideration. And now that we’re finally doing it, they tell us we’re using “interpretations” as an excuse! Go to hell. That’s all I can say to such absurdity. It’s most saddest when it comes from women themselves. It’s funniest when they say it’s a “choice.” Oh, I don’t think so. How is it a choice if we’re gonna tell the non-hijabi Muslim female behind her back (or even to her face), “You’re not as good a Muslim as I am because my HAIR is covered and yours isn’t”? Besides, what’s more important or more Islamic — covering your hair and telling others how pious or impious they are, or NOT covering your hair and letting people practice their faith the way they best understand it?

Oh, I also loved the comment that we’ve gendered God, and it’s a “he.” God doesn’t have a gender, they tell us — until you start using “She/He” or “She.” Funny folks.

Anyway, according to my interactions with hijabi women and my own personal experiences, the hijab is an artificial way of making yourself look like something you’re in many cases not. And it is exactly for this reason that I have decided, as per my own personal will and research on the hijab and the concept of modesty according to “Islam,” that I am no longer going to officially cover my hair, at least not because I'm told that it's compulsory. You said it's a choice anyway, right? So then leave me to my choice. At least it's made as a consequence of much serious and thorough contemplation. I still wear a chadar/dupatta/scarf, but it’s around my shoulders or neck and every now and then on my head. For me, it’s nothing more than an incomplete depiction of my own cultural background ('cause there's so much more to my culture than just what I wear), and I love it this way. I also feel closer to God this way, and YOU, thank God, don't get to tell me how to feel or get closer to God because that's different for all of us.

Gosh… sorry for ranting :) I realize my comment’s too long — but then again, thanks for getting me to write my next blog post already! And I tend to get a bit too verbose where absolutely unnecessary and often lose my point in doing so, so if that happened here, do let me know, and I’ll be happy to clarify whatever I didn’t.
Peace and blessings,


  1. *Bhwaaarmmmm!* [Inception OST...]
    Hi hon, salaam alaikum. So, great job again throwing various thoughts in the air, and nicely at that.
    So... The hijab question, wheeee! :)
    I choose to cover my hair, and most of the gals/ladies in my fambly don't. We're in Kashmir, yeah, so for the ladies it's salwar kameez, with duptatta on head as and when. Very lovely, very modest, very culturally 'in'. It's so interesting and beautiful that in Islam it all comes down to 'modesty' or 'haya' - for which modesty is a very inadequate word. I actually wear a headscarf more as a blatant expression of my being a Muslim than anything else. Sure I've become most comfortable in it and can't think of leaving off now, but that's about it. Also, like you say, culture is a big part of the whole hijab deal. In any case, thank you for food for thought again.
    Love coming here. :)
    [Just reread my comment. It is entirely pointless. Ha ha.]

  2. Also, please note: I cannot leave comments if browsing on Google Chrome. This is epic tragedy. :|

  3. Oh, you funny, FUNNY thing! That comment was not at all pointless! You know I love hearing from you. You've always got priceless points to make, and never think otherwise!

    That said, will you please start blogging already again? Thanks!

  4. Greetings!

    Why is the veil part of Islam if it is not sanctioned by the Quran?


  5. Halao, Anon!
    Welcome to the blog, and thanks for your comment!

    The answer depends on what you mean by "veil." 'Cause it's often used to mean the face-covering but sometimes the head-covering as well. You lemme know which one you mean, and I might be able to answer accordingly.

    Cheers back!

  6. Hi,

    I don't know what you mean by "depends on what you mean by 'veil.'"

    I am referring to the head-covering you see on Muslim women. If this head piece (the cloth they put on their head) is not part of Islam, then why do Muslim women wear it? Why does this non-sanctioned practice cause so much grievances to Muslims when certain Western countries have decided to ban it as part of a Muslim woman's attire from certain places within their countries?

    I hope I am clear this time, if not, let me know so that I could give it another try.


  7. Hi again, Anon!
    What I meant was what you answered -- that by "veil," you mean the head-covering. The veil typically refers to the face-covering, you see. So if you meant the face-covering and wanted to know why some Muslim women wear it, I'd have given you a different answer than if you meant the head-covering, generally referred to as the hijab.

    That's a perfectly legitimate question. The answer lies in the history of Islam and how Islam spread, something explained very well by the author Leila Ahmed in her book "Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate." The book's available on Google Books; do view it if you get a moment. The first few chapters discuss history and women's dress code throughout it, particularly in the Middle East, and then the chapter called "The Discourse of the Veil" discusses just that -- the veil.

    But in simple terms, basically, the main problem lies in defining certain Quranic terms in the couple of verses that talk about dress code for men and women. The consensus for the last 1400 years has been that those verses mean women MUST cover their heads, but we're starting to realize that, actually, no, that's not really what it means. (I've discussed this mostly in comments in this blog post:

    However, it's hadiths, sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) written over 200 years after his passing away and recorded and preserved primarily by men, that have pretty much determined what Islam is; barely any of it comes from the Quran itself, which is supposed to be the original and first source of Islam.

    So, to answer your question, I'm most inclined to say: People tell us to cover our heads because that's what Muslim scholars decided several centuries ago when Islamic law was being formed, and because that's what hadith reports say. And hadith reports constitute almost all of Islam, so we're told that if we don't follow hadiths, we're not following Islam.

    I hope it's clear. If you don't get it still, lemme know. I'll try to think of an easier way to explain (warning: I don't know how to be precise!)

  8. Hi,

    Thank you for your answer.

    What I got from your explanation was that it is not sanctioned by the Quran.

    When I posed my question I was only aware of the piece of cloth that women put on their heads. However, reading your responses I am being told that there is another form, that is the covering of the face. Could you expand on this as well.


  9. Hi! Welcome back!
    Well, there are two types of coverings. One is the hijab (the head-covering); the other's the niqab (face-covering). Come to think of it, there are more than just these two types. Here's an image that illustrates them quite well:

    The reason why different women wear different styles of the covering (from head to face to the entire body but no face) is that each understands modesty differently.

  10. Hello again,

    I read the article you gave me the link to.

    This is what I understood from the article (so please confirm, if I understood correctly, or please correct something if I have not understood correctly.):

    1. It seems that only the “jilbab” was sanctioned, but only for a specific people and not beyond that. In other words, it was sanctioned for the Arabs only.
    2. The above makes me think that Islam is not universal, as some Muslim claim. Correct? Because, if modesty is the standard of the Quran, then what is modesty? How do we define modesty from the American perspective, an example she mentions but does not give any ideas on how to approach it. Therefore, if Islam was “universal,” then it should have also given an idea for how every culture should dress. Correct?
    3. Maududi has misunderstood the whole subject because he referred to “hadith” that were not authentic. Correct?
    4. Misconceptions have arisen because the scholars are not united. Correct?
    5. From the looks of it, Islam is only for the Arabs. This brings another question, why are there Muslims from almost every country? Is this also along the same line of misinterpretation, and religion has been used as a political tool to control the masses? In other words, did the Arabs force their religion on the rest of humanity?

    I hope you don’t mind the long post.


  11. Thank you for the link of the pictures.

    I like your blog, very informative.

  12. Sup, Anon! (Would be SO much cooler if you had a name! lol. Then I could imagine you as a human and not as a robot. ~sighs~)

    Glad you find the blog informative! Thanks for your contribution to it! I don't at all mind long comments; in fact, I appreciate them, so not to worry.

    1. Yes, the Quran sanctions only the jalbab--and no one really knows what this means, or everyone thinks it means different things. So, for many scholars, they are like, let's just be on the safest side possible and say that it includes the covering of the face. Others are like, na, let's just say it means the head-covering, the woman's body outline (.e.g, curves. This prohibits the wearing of tight clothing), her arms, and the legs. Another group also adds to this list the woman's clothes: The woman is then obligated to wear a long veil over her clothes.

    You get the point.

    2. No, it doesn't mean that Islam is not a universal religion. It CAN, however, mean that the dressing style sanctioned in that verse is for a particular group of people and hence not universal -- but not Islam as a whole. There is another verse, though, that sanctions modest clothing for the "Prophet's wives and all believing women." (This has been explained in another blog post of mine, titled "My Thoughts on the Niqab": Quranic verse 24:31, for example, starts off with "Tell the Believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty." (The verse right before it tells "the Believing men" the exact same thing.)
    As for the second part of your concern, I always assert Islam didn't define modesty *because* it's a universal (and eternal) religion. It leaves us room to re-define whatever concept needs to be re-defined with changing times and circumstances, with the evolution of cultures and societies and ideas. If it had defined it, if it had told us exactly how everyone should dress, there would be sever problems, and it'd contradict my claim that Islam is a universal religion.

    3. I wouldn't say Maududi "misunderstood" it. Although I completely disagree with his ideas on women and women's intellect (he basically says women HAVE no intellect, and he argues that the Quran assumes men superior to women because women have scientifically been proven to be inferior), but he did understand it differently than many other scholars do. So I'd say his reasoning is too fallacious for me to accept his argument regarding women's clothing. In another article of his that I've commented on in a previous blog post ("Gender, Feminism, and Muslim Scholars":, I mention what he says regarding women's mobility -- that women's actions need to be controlled. So, if he believes this, then obviously his commentaries on Quranic verses regarding women/gender need to be reviewed critically and not accepted just like that.
    No, I wouldn't say it's because he used hadiths that are not authentic.

    4. Correct.

    5. As explained in my point 2, no, Islam is not for Arabs only. Certain dressing styles, yes, are or may be for Arab women only, but not Islam in general.

  13. Hi,

    1- How would you know what it exactly means, then? Is this not a flaw of interpretation where you yourself don't have an answer but then don't accept the answer of other intellects (the misogynists')? (Just pinpointing the judgmental error)

    2-If there is a teaching in the Quran that is only limited to a certain people, space and time, then by definition it is not universal. Universality has to address complete impartiality or complete partiality. Restricting a certain teaching to a certain people in a specific time in a specific period simply means that a portion of the book becomes limited to a certain people and loses it privilege to be called a universal teaching.

    Or perhaps, the Quran is not longer applicable; it was only limited for the Arab society of the 7th century.

    3-If the hadith are not not authentic, then are Muslim feminists picking and choosing whatever suits them and is in their favour, and reject everything else?

    5-If Islam is not for Arabs only then why are the teachings limited to them?

  14. Za mara - you're still "anonymous" :S At least create a fake name! Everyone does it, yo!

    1. No, just because there are different meanings for it, doesn't mean we can't decide ourselves what it means. And so, many scholars have declared its meaning -- but those same meanings are then contradicted by other scholars. This a big problem, yes.

    2. No. I actually don't believe there's anything in the Quran that's limited to any particular group of people. That verse I gave explicitly says "believing men" / "believing women," and not "believing Arab women/men," for example. Do feel free to verify it.

    3. No, that's not what Muslim feminists are doing. Hadith criticism was born alongside hadiths themselves, but the criticism was suppressed for a long while (and it still is in most Muslim countries and circles), but Muslim feminists are among the groups that are allowing it and bringing it back to the spotlight. Moreover, hadith criticism was historically conducted by men, who did not identify themselves as feminists.

    5. I'm not sure I understand this question. Islamic teaching are limited to Arabs only? . . . I don't agree. Which teachings would this include?

  15. Hi,

    I will stop posting. It seems you want your cake and eat it too. There are flaws in your religion, but you rather be apologetic, and blame men for it, than to admit it and call for a complete withdrawal from it. Again, religion is but blind faith. You are born into Islam and can't leave therefore you defend your religion's truthfulness by blaming men for the inconsistencies when in reality everything stems from your own scripture.

    I don't think Muslim men would be able to "misinterpret" if it was not already flawed.


  16. Oh, you don't have to stop posting, Anon Gula! I am actually enjoying your comments!

    As for being apologetic, I've often accused others (traditionalist Muslims, conservative Muslims who don't believe in progression, Muslims who support the idea of women-beating, etc., etc.) of being apologetic, so it's perfectly natural that you (an atheist) shall accuse me (a theist) of being apologetic. It makes sense. Perhaps this is our term for those we don't understand and don't really wish to understand.

    Cheers back!

  17. I stopped wearing it and I'm glad I did, it felt so pointless all of sudden, it is nothing but a tradition to me by now, the ayaat in the Qu'ran does not convince me(anymore) and the ahadeeth talking about hijab are supposed to be sahih(but I heard several accounts of them being zaif). Plus society has developed, Islam is afterall a religion that has a theological message(belief in Allah, acceptance of Muhammad's prophethood etc.), clothing is a part of culture and time, just so many won't understand it.

    I also second your point concerning the exploitation of hijab in order to hide certain flaws/actions, I witnessed it many times, girls wear it yet they do not even follow the fundamental rules of Islam.

  18. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Sultana Jaan!

    By the way, it looks like you have a blog... but I don't see any link to it on your profile. Do share it, please!

  19. :S I have not started blogging so far weird though let me check it.

  20. You might have to enable your profile, I think. You know how when you click on someone's profile, and there's this thing that says "My Blogs"? Well, right underneath it should it says "Blogs I follow" or something like that.


    Like that :S?

  22. Thank you so much for this blog. I've received some sort of ease through reading your comments on Islam.
    I'm currently transitioning through the high school to college phase, so I feel like I need to grow up more and start thinking for myself. I've grown up in an "Islamic household" but it often feels like we only have the title for the sake of those around us. I've always felt a sort of ease and serenity with the basic teachings of Islam, but there are certain things that I don't agree with, (i.e women are haram and such)so I'm at a point of trying to soak up as much as I can without taking in tainted opinions. I've spent the last few months worrying about whether or not I'm living my life the way I should. Don't get me wrong. I think I have a wonderful relationship with Allah. I pray often and we converse even more than that. Whenever I hear the "you're going to hell b/c your hair is showing" speech from someone in the community, I seem to second guess myself, but when I sit down to actually wear Hijab, I feel as though I'm lying to myself.
    Even though I do show my hair and such things, I feel as though I am more modest than a lot of women that I see with Hijab. There may not be many women, but I do see quite a few with Hijab on, but they are wearing the tightest shirts and jeans. I've also seen women spending so much time trying to adjust themselves so that single strand of hair will not show, but in doing all that, attention is drawn to her and to an extent that modesty is lost.

    sorry for ranting...
    thanks again for such an amazing blog Masha' Allah!

  23. Hi, Anonymous! Welcome to my blog, and thank you very much for your comment :)
    I'm glad you came across my blog and find it comforting.

    Feel more than free to say whatever you want and in however long a message as you please; I don't think you were ranting at all! So don't worry about that.

    You're right about what other people's opinions and declarations can do to us, especially the whole "you're going to hell" crap. But experience, I think, will teach us to just smile at them and thank them for sharing their opinion with us.

    It's very true that not all women who cover their hair are modest. Of course, I'm in no position to evaluate anyone's level of modesty, but I do feel like I'm in such a position when someone, a hijabi, dares to make a judgment about my sense of modesty or my level of faith. And that's when I respond by saying that I feel more modest this way than in any other way. At the end of the day, it's God (not anyone else) who I have to discuss my behavior, attitude, beliefs, personality, etc. with, so why do others feel the need to tell me how to live?

    Again, feel free to drop by any time you want and say whatever you want! I actually appreciate long comments! :)



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