Friday, July 13, 2007

Word to My Muslim Sisters: It Aint Just About Cloth

In the early days of Islam, covering the hair was assumed only by the socio-economic elitist women of Arabian society. Women were treated very differently from each other because their social status was consequently self-evident. Here's the wisdom, if all women in that society covered their hair, then you couldn't tell who was higher or lower on the social ladder. Then, all women had to be treated with respect, or else you get slapped! The head scarf elevated the social status for women in a society. I know this because of the ongoing fashion controversy among prostitutes in Kenya's coastal port of Mombasa. Prostitutes have donned the buibui to hide their identity and avoid arrest, but it clashes with the Muslim women who wear it for religious reasons.

Back in the States, we still have not moved beyond judgment on superficial levels or judgment at all for that matter regarding hijab. Take our MSA's (Muslim Student Association) for example, if you ain't part of the hijab crowd you ain't part of the IN crowd. Yes it is obvious to us male observers with Muslim female friends. Seriously it's sad.

Let me tell y'all something. ANYONE can wear a scarf on their head. You don't even have to be a Muslim. Anyone can go through the motions of prayer, the motions of fasting, the motions of whatever, but it comes down to what is in the hearts and the intentions, the things we can't see in each other. Tell me why there should be a standard Islamic dress code, a uniform, if you get situations like the Muslim juror who got arrested for listening to her iPod underneath her hijab during a murder trial.

Modesty, good behavior, and respect for yourself. Word to my Muslim sisters, if wearing a scarf brings you closer to God, I support you. If something else brings you closer to God which has nothing to do with the way you dress, I support you. If you are still looking for that something that brings you closer to God, hey I support you too.

You'll get the same treatment from me if you wear a scarf on your head or you don't.


Huda Shaka` said...

You're right Naveed, it ain't just about cloth. However, it's important to keep in mind that the cloth part is fard (according to the four schools of thought of ahl-al sunnah wa al jamaa`h).

Another thing is the 'islamic dress code for women' is actually the dress code for all religious women. The pictures of Maryam (as) in churches today show her with a headscarf, and many Orthodox Jewish women follow a dresscode very similar to the one practising Muslim women follow.

Of course, I'm not trying to make a case for those (sisters or brothers) who judge others, whether on the issue of hijab or the beard, or whatever. I'm glad you treat sisters the same, and I hope I'm not lying when I say I do too.

In reference to your comment on MSAs, from my experience, that is not true most of the time. There are individual incidences here and there and it's usually because of a few ignorant/foolish people but for the most part sisters amongst themselves don't make a big deal about hijab.

I know was treated the same before and after wearing hijab. As my interests changed, I was hanging out with different people within the MSA, but that was a decision I made which was not directly connected to what I wore.

More often than not, it is how brothers within an MSA perceive sisters with/without hijab that is the issue. I'll leave that for another discussion though.

By the way, do you have a reference for the story about hijab and social status during the early years of Islam?

zanjabil said...

In Europe's history too, the women with the highest social status would cover their heads with hats and veils.

Excellent post!

Fascinated by political undercurrents said...

For the sake of tradition, it's understandable why so many want to maintain a dress code established long ago, but these days, when political rhetoric across the globe becomes more pervasive in all forms - not forgetting that how one dresses is an instant form of communication - does anyone even consider the various political uses of having a dress code? On some level, many in positions of religious/political power, or the patriachy in general, can't help but be happily saluting the headscarf as a kind of in-your-face branding or marketing - 'We're here, we're Muslim, get used to it - and here are our women leading the charge." In the tribal sense, head-covering also seems to be a declaration of ownership of more than one kind - 'I belong to Allah, my father, my sons, my brothers, my faith, etc.' I can see how easy it is to sweep away any thought of women being used as religious/political icons in a larger political struggle because for the individual, it feels safe to be in the club, and yes, for many, they do feel closer to Allah.