A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|08/12/02 at 09:05:01|
It had been ten years since she had set foot in a mosque. Being at
university had broadened her mind in many ways, one of them being her
reconnecting with Islam.
She had begun praying five times a day a month ago, and now felt ready to
pray in public, at the university's Juma prayer.
She paused and stood a few feet away from the women's entrance. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the silk scarf out of her purse and tied it
carefully on her head. Her ponytail stuck out a bit. She smoothed the
creases on her long-sleeved beige shirt and tugged at the bottom of it to
make it longer over her pants.
The prayer was great. She had never felt this sense of inner peace.
Afterwards, she tried mingling with the sisters, but nobody even looked her
way. A few of them even pretended not to hear her greeting. The only sister who did talk to her said in a huff: "You know your prayer is not accepted in those pants and that tiny thing you pass for a Hijab. I suggest you get more Islamic knowledge and dress properly before coming back here."
The words stung her like a million bumble bees. Too numb to respond or
speak, she charged out of the hall. Never again would she associate with
these people, she told herself.
And never again would she return to Juma.
Are you shocked reading about this incident? Don't be. It has been a reality
in almost every Muslim community in North America.
This harsh judgment and intolerance shown towards Muslim women who do not wear Hijab can lead to at least some Muslim women to become alienated from the Muslim community, and could lead to a loss of Islamic practice.
While Hijab is an obligation clearly ordained in the Quran and Sunnah, the
above-mentioned method of its enforcement and encouragement is not Islamic, according to Muslim scholars, researchers and activists. Muslims have to start seeing the issue from a different perspective, they say.
SOME ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF NON-HIJABI SISTERS
"I would say that the overwhelming majority of Muslim women I have met who don't cover and who believe in God, believe they should cover, but believe they're not ready yet," says Sharifa Alkhateeb, vice-president of the North American Council of Muslim Women, in an interview with Sound Vision.
This reality indicates there is a seed of faith that needs to be nurtured
and encouraged. As well, it means these women need all the support they can get.
Abdalla Idris Ali is a member of the Islamic Society of North America's
(ISNA) Majlis Shura, which debates Islamic issues and establishes policy for
the organization. He says what also has to be remembered is that many Muslim women are coming from cultures where the Hijab is not practiced, for whatever reason. These sisters should not be condemned. Rather, Islamic concepts like Hijab, should be explained to them.
Another possibility is that Muslim women who do not wear Hijab are coming
from families which are either not practicing Islam, or are downright
hostile to it.
In this situation, "it's actually a celebration that a young Muslim woman
wants to pray Juma," says Kathy Bullock, who started wearing Hijab two weeks after she converted to Islam.
"I think that's where the tolerance comes in."
Another reason some Muslim women may find Hijab difficult is because of the often negative ideas surrounding Hijab. For instance, that wearing Hijab kills marriage and job prospects. Muslim activists must seek to dispel such myths.
"There needs to be a lot more support for the women who decide to cover,"
says Bullock, who completed a PhD. about The Politics of the Veil from the
University of Toronto in January.
Bullock also gives a chilling warning to those who condemn non-Hijabi Muslim women: "We might be wearing Hijab but we might be doing something incredibly wrong which cancels out the reward [for wearing it]." One of these things she mentions is arrogance.
WHY ARE SOME MUSLIMS SO SENSITIVE ABOUT THE HIJAB?
Some Muslims seek to condemn non-Hijabis out of their understanding of the Quranic injunction of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Yet, they fail to take the right approach in doing it, in accordance with the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), which was one of kindness, gentleness and patience.
Interestingly, some Muslim men and women who criticize non-Hijabi Muslim
women seem to have different reasons for doing it and varying ways of
approaching a sister who does not wear Hijab.
"Unfortunately on the brothers' side there is a push to make Hijab the
marker of Islamic identity," says Bullock. She also emphasizes the hypocrisy
of many Muslim men criticizing Muslim women who do not wear the Hijab, while they themselves wear tight jeans or pants, or short shorts. These forms of dress are strictly prohibited for men in Islam. Yet, go to any Juma or Jamaah prayer, and these forms of unIslamic dress can be easily seen.
"I think some of the men put too much emphasis on the women instead of
looking at their own selves," she says.
However, Alkhateeb thinks most of the men are less vigilant than the women about Hijab, partly because they figure the women are going to take care of it.
She argues that the majority of the Muslim men who are over concerned about with the issue of Hijab because they don't trust themselves sexually, and fear their own reaction to a woman who is not covered Islamically.
For women, weak self-identity and faith could explain the harshness shown
towards non-Hijabi Muslimas.
"It is so difficult to maintain the practice of covering, emotionally,
psychologically on the job and in everyday life, you get so much negativity
from other people that the reaction of most of the practicing women and
activists is to develop a cocoon, a protective cocoon, and part of that
protective cocoon is in continually, verbally and in other ways rejecting
what is unlike yourself," explains Alkhateeb.
"And that is to shore up your own self-identity. I think that part of the
reason they are so negative is because this is part of shoring up their own
self-identity and because there is a hidden fear that if they let down their
guard that they'll stop covering. And if they allow any space in their mind
to alternative ways of thinking that their thinking will fall apart. And
that means that the underlying precepts and concepts are not strong."
WHERE DOES HIJAB FIT ON THE ISLAMIC LADDER?
"While it is correct to say that Hijab is correct in the teaching of Islam
we tend to forget that there are many other basic issues, why the over
obsession?" asks Jamal Badawi, a member of the North American Fiqh Council.
Part of the reason some Muslims treat non-Hijabis so harshly is because of
their lack of understanding about where the obligation of Hijab ranks on the Islamic ladder.
A more correct approach would be gradual and would mean implementing more important aspects of Islam, like Iman (faith), and praying five times a day before moving on to requirements like Hijab.
"We fail to see any Ayah (verse of the Quran) pertaining to Hijab in the
entire Makkan revelation that was given to the Prophet, that's almost 13
years. The injunctions about more detailed aspects relating to the righteous Muslim community were revealed during the Medinan period. Some in the middle, and later part of that period," explains Badawi,
"This is a revealing lesson for us because it shows that Allah knew in
advance what injunctions He wanted to reveal," he adds. "Yet He delayed the revelation of those matters until many, many years of preparation on the level of Iman, submission to Allah, love of Allah and the sincere desire to voluntarily obey Allah and His Messenger. Once that base was established it wasn't difficult at all for the believing women to willingly abide by the injunctions of Allah. "
Badawi says this is similar to how the Islamic commandment forbidding
intoxicants was introduced.
"The same process of preparation took place to the point that when the final prohibition of intoxicants was revealed it wasn't difficult for men to abide by that willingly and immediately." He explains this was especially
difficult for Muslim men, who were the ones reported more likely to consume
alcohol than women at that time.
"Some well-intentioned Muslims seem to miss these lessons from the gradual revelation and become too legalistic to the point of doing more harm than benefit, notwithstanding their good intentions," adds Badawi.
WRONGLY USING THE "BASEBALL BAT" APPROACH TO THE HIJAB
"Muslims gain a little bit of knowledge and they want to run around with a
baseball bat and beat people over the head with religion. That's exactly
what [has] made many young people leave the mosque," says Alkhateeb.
Using the right method to tell Muslim women about Hijab is crucial, just as
it is in advising Muslims to implement any other requirement of the faith.
"In the Prophet's whole life he led by encouragement not pressure," she
says. "The way he behaved is the opposite of how most Muslims who are
practicing Muslims behave towards each other in terms of giving advice. His
way was not carrying around a religious baseball bat."
The thinker and writer, who has also been an activist for the last 35 years
points out the "baseball bat" methodology is in full swing when many Muslims encounter non-Hijabis.
"Instead of inviting her and embracing her, they're immediately trying to
think about what they can criticize her about," says Alkhateeb.
The Prophet also did not use"vigilantes" to impose a religious requirement
"When we deal with the Sunnah, we find that he never appointed vigilantes to go around to reinforce something that believing Muslim women were encouraged to do, or use any harsh words or actions to arrive at that desired situation or desired setting," says Badawi. "The approach that he followed which we should follow as our example was not to focus on issues like Hijab before Iman and psychological and spiritual preparation was in place."
Badawi stresses inviting to Hijab and other Islamic requirements should be
done in a way "that would motivate people to respect the moral values of
society rather than simply forcing them to do so. In fact that goes back to
the definition of Islam which is willing trusting and loving submission to
Allah and obedience to His Messenger."
As an example, he cited an incident from the lifetime of the Prophet when a
Bedouin man urinated in the mosque. When other Muslims saw this, they became very angry and wanted to rebuke him harshly.
The Prophet on the other hand, stopped them and told the man gently what he was doing was incorrect.
"That story is a classic example of the contrast between the attitudes of
some well-intentioned Muslims who want to correct the wrong immediately and by any means and the approach of the Prophet of kindness, gentleness, persuasion and wisdom," he explains.
TEMPORARILY TOLERATING THE WRONG: A RULE OF USUL AL-FIQH
"The other aspect which is frequently missed is another rule of ordaining
the good and forbidding the evil which was addressed by many scholars
especially by the famous Shaykh ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah," says Badawi. "The rule basically is that if in a given situation, attempting or trying to forbid the wrong may result in greater harm than benefit, then it is better to tolerate the wrong on a temporary basis."
"I think the classic example that Ibn Taymiyyah is referred to is when the
Tatars invaded Muslim lands," explains Badawi. "He was told that some of
these soldiers were drinking and that they should be stopped because this is part of forbidding the wrong yet, he advised that they should be left alone. His reasoning was that if those soldiers become sober, they might go on killing more people which is a greater harm than drinking".
"This is not a new rule," he emphasizes. "It is a basic rule in Usul
al-Fiqh, the roots of Islamic law, that if some harm is inevitable then it
is better to tolerate the lesser harm in order to prevent great harm."
Badawi demonstrates how this rule could apply to a situation where a Muslim sister who does not wear Hijab attends Juma prayer.
"For example, if that sister is approached in a harsh way she may not come
again which could hurt her and hurt the community at large. But if she's
welcomed first and there's demonstration of brotherhood and friendship, then in a gentle and wise way that is suitable for her, she can be encouraged, then of course it would be a far better result than the confrontational, harsh approach."
INVOLVING NON-HIJABI SISTERS IN ACTIVITIES
"It's only by mixing in the right company that someone who is contemplating Hijab will have the strength and courage to make the final act," says Bullock.
This means women offering friendship, as well as involving the sisters in
Islamic activities through organizations like Muslim Students' Associations.
Bullock notes that if a Muslim woman wants to do something for Islam she
should be applauded "because she could be out there doing something else."
"Muslim organizations have a duty to say what is right and to invite in the
best of manner women to cover and to support them when they do so but that doesn't mean individuals should be judgmental when women are not covering," she adds.
INVOLVEMENT, BUT NOT LEADERSHIP
However, Ali and Badawi draw the line of involvement of non-Hijabi Muslim
women in Muslim organizations at the leadership level.
They both say that any Islamically-oriented organization will select a
person to be their leader who reflects their goals and aspirations. That
means a Muslim woman who does not wear Hijab would not be selected because she is not fully following the precepts of Islam. Similarly, a Muslim man who is not fulfilling Islamic obligations like prayer, chaste behavior, etc.
would also not be selected for a leadership position in such a milieu.
Badawi says this is not exclusion. Rather, it is the natural outcome in any
milieu which aims to be Islamically-oriented. Its leadership will represent
the precepts of Islam as much as possible.
"I'm against the term exclusion because if we apply the Islamic Shura
(consultative) method then the leadership would emanate from the people,
will be chosen by the people. And if the community or Islamic organization
in a given setting are truly Islamically oriented, one would expect that the
person chosen to be the spokesperson and symbol of that organization should reflect their conviction and values in the best possible way."
A POSITIVE APPROACH
Badawi gives an example of how he, "with my weaknesses" approached an
aggressive non-Hijabi sister and the result.
Many years back, during a visit to Australia, one sister, during one of his
lectures, a non-Hijabi Muslim woman asked questions about Hijab, in a
disapproving manner. He talked to her kindly and give information without
Two years later, he returned to Australia, and a sister in full Hijab
approached him, asking if he recognized her. He did not.
"I am the one who was arguing with you about Hijab two years ago," she told him. "But it is the approach and information that you gave me that helped me to study more, to educate myself and to make up my own decision and I am happy with what I decided."
|08/12/02 at 09:16:52|
|Re: Non-hijabi sisters|
|08/12/02 at 09:33:46|
I have recently been thinking alot about this. Friday I was really sick and just didn't dare to go in the masjid for prayers. So I waited in the parking lot while Ali was was inside.
I noticed alot of things that concerned me. So many families pulling up in the car with the women uncovered. Men walking by wearing gold rings and one with a gold bracelt.
I noticed the way they were dressed. Most had form fitting clothes.
So many were late..and still not hurrying with quick steps.
So many of the young girls were in short sleeve shirts.
I am not talking about reverts, but established Muslim families.
I couldn't help but wonder about their thought process. Growing up, we knew when we went to church we would put on our best clothes, no one was late and men weren't haunking luggies in the parking lot. Sure you could say that the girls can wear short sleeves, but is there anything wrong with getting them used to wearing long sleeves...in babysteps, like to a masjid.
My son is allowed to wear shorts. What message would I be sending him if I let him? If he is going to the masjid to pray...let him wear pants.
Even as a new Muslim, and not covering until three years later, if I went to the Masjid. I would cover, wear long sleeves and dress. It was out of respect to the religion. Why are my fellow muslims acting this way?
I remember when I first became muslim...so many women "attacked me" for what ever discretion I was committing. I too remember feeling yikes! I think one of the best lines i heard was when one sister said. "don't worry about covering...you will do it when you are ready."
Her compassion and "arm around my shoulder" was the best.
Now I wonder is this the same way we treat thkse who should know better?
|Re: Non-hijabi sisters|
|08/12/02 at 16:27:41|
a thought provoking article. as a hijabi i've heard other hijabis sneer at others who didnt wear hijab. but it's silly really cos the reason i didnt join my islamic society was becos i was worried that the sistas wouldn't accept me cos i didnt wear hijab for the first year of uni! so i've experienced both sides of the coin. i know i'll try not to belittle other ppls efforts and try to encourage rather than look down but it's a rather common attitude i fear.
|Re: Non-hijabi sisters|
|08/13/02 at 10:49:50|
|Speaking of certain muslims thinking they r smarter than the rest, did u know that in many parts of India, men are not allowed to pray in the masjid, unless they have their caps on.|
The innovations that have crept into Islam in India is terrifying.
|Re: Non-hijabi sisters|
|08/14/02 at 01:47:21|
|In regards to men wearing their topees for salaah in India, this is not an innovation but the fiqh of the Hanifeeh school. You will find this all over the world where ever their are Hanifeehs not just in India.|
|Re: Non-hijabi sisters|
|08/14/02 at 03:35:19|
|Not being allowed to offer salah in the masjid when you havent brought your cap is definitely an innovation.|
|Re: Non-hijabi sisters|
|08/15/02 at 21:08:23|
Ah, the time-honoured hijab topic! ;D
I've not been wearing hijab for even a full year yet, but I'm totally at ease with my reasons for it and explaining them to others - and I think Mohamad Ali expresses those reasons best in his words to his daughter...(I think its in the 'how do u ppl do it' thread in the Naseeha corner)
Frankly I reckon at least half the reason why its so hard for sisters to wear hijab nowadays is because we women are soooooo vain! :-/ (No offence sisters - me's the vainest of them all!)
If I offended anyone please forgive... ;D
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