abayya

Muslim Woman Speaks:

As a hijabi, I see the hijab as none of your business.

Dear Yasmin Ali-Bhai Brown,

Why do you see my hijab, my mother’s jilbab and my friend’s niqab as backward? Is our choice to dress as we please not progressive or liberal enough for you?  You claim that Muslims are “marchers walking backwards” after listing their great past achievements in education, science, politics, social ideals and arts.

Firstly, please realise that there are plenty of Muslims and hijabi-clad women that continue to make great accomplishments in these fields and no, I shan’t reference them. I advise you to open your eyes, widen your mind and look for them yourself. Secondly, why is it required of us to be making great movements? Though we should indeed strive for greatness, by which standards are these measured? I like to think that I achieve something every day; nothing “great” but I still feel accomplished and don’t feel the need to share my achievements with you or anyone, for that matter. We don’t require your approval in regards to our accomplishments; we do not live for your validation. 

I’d like to thank you for bestowing your grace upon a few hijabis and privileging them with your friendship. Thank you for treating us like a monolithic bunch of human beings who need you and (I will assume) your feminist friends to come and preach about how we are “missing the implications” of the piece of cloth on our head. You say you aren’t assuming that “the covering all represents simple oppression” but then patronizingly proceed to tell me how in 1920, an Egyptian woman threw off her hijab and “claimed her right to be visible”. I sure feel plenty visible in my hijab. Wearing a hijab does not make us invisible; we are here and we exist and we have a voice with which we speak. This may come as a surprise to you but I also have a brain and a pair of eyes with which I read and study and that have allowed me to come to my own conclusions about the hijab. So, rather than forming your own assumptions, please ask us. We don’t bite. Promise.

In your article you proceed onto the history of the hijab and how it was apparently used as “a tool and symbol of oppression and subservience”. Perhaps this occurred and may be, in some cases today, still happening. However, you mustn’t confuse things: it is not the hijab that wrongs but the ignorance of people. I urge you to have a holistic outlook of history and acknowledge how the hijab was a symbol of empowerment and freedom. Fanon in his book ‘Studies in a Dying Colonialism’ discusses how the French colonisers were impressed with the women of Algeria. As a strategy of colonisation and to break down society, they had to ‘change’ the women. “If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the women; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves…” In his essay, he mentions how French colonisers were frustrated by “the [Algerian] woman who sees without being seen” and how by rejecting western notions of liberation the veil began to represent power and a glorious symbol of resistance against the unveiling subjugation and rape culture of the country. Tell me again how the hijab is oppressive?

You then quote Sahar Amer, an associate professor who has studied the verses in the Quran which are: “tell the believing men to reduce (some) of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is acquainted with what they do.” “And tell the believing women to reduce some of their vision and guard their private parts and do not expose their adornment except that which (necessarily) appears thereof and to wrap (a portion of) their head covers over their chest..” You quote her as saying: “[Nowhere] is the hijab used to describe, let alone prescribe, the necessity for Muslim women to wear a headscarf or any other pieces of clothing often seen covering women in Islamic Countries today. Even after reading these passages dealing with the female dress code, one continues to wonder what exactly the hijab is….

Firstly, the verses clearly state that women are required to cover their adornments. To understand this requirement, we look to our great predecessors. It was narrated in Bukhari (4481) by Safiyyah bint Shaybah that Aaisha (may Allah be pleased with her) that she said “when these words were revealed ‘and draw their veils all over juyoobihinna’ they took their izaars (a kind of garment) and tore them from the edges and covered their faces with them.” With regards to how the rest of the body should be covered, it is established from the sunnah (the actions of the pious predecessors) that hijab should cover everything apart from that which “necessarily appears thereof” such as the hands and face. There exists a legitimate difference of opinion regarding whether the face is considered something which ‘necessarily appears thereof’. As for your confusion on what the hijab should look like, well let me tell you the great thing about it. It is open to interpretation and has thus manifested itself differently throughout time and cultures. In the Gulf, it is common to see women wear black abayas, in Afghanistan the infamous blue and in Morocco, you may see ‘kaftans’ of various colours. What you have to understand is that Muslims are not homogenous people. We come from different countries with varying cultures and as long as our culture does not contradict our religion, we are happy to celebrate it.  

Furthermore, you write that “some young Muslim women argue that veils liberate them from a modern culture that objectifies and sexualises females.” You then claim: “[if that argument was] credible, why would so many hijabis dress in tight jeans and clinging tops, and why would so many Muslim women flock to have liposuction or breast enhancements?”. There are a plethora of reasons for this Yasmin and I will lay a couple out for you. These hijabis may be wearing the hijab to follow a cultural norm they have been raised with and are fulfilling the obligation of hijab, as they have been taught. Secondly Yasmin, and I know this may be hard to stomach but Muslims are human too! And Muslim women/ hijabis are just as fallible as any human being and suffer from the same insecurities as any woman who lives in today’s society where the idea of a ’perfect’ woman is thrown at us left, right and centre. So please, allow us to step down from the pedestal you have placed us on and to live our lives free from your judgement.

It really seems like you can’t make your mind up about what the hijab represents with it being an object of religious arrogance and subjugation, desexualising and sexualising, all at the same time! I didn’t think that my decision to cover my hair each morning could cause such tumultuous feelings. In your article you state that “veiled women have provoked confrontations over their right to wear veils…” and that you regard “their victories as rejection of social compromise.” Provoke? I shall have to stop you there. I can guarantee you, that in every situation you mention, these women were not provoking anything. In most cases, they were simply wearing a piece of cloth on their head. I would appreciate if you could enlighten me as to how this is, in any way, an attempt to provoke. Regarding your complicated feelings about what the hijab represents and the fact that you see our victories as a rejection of social compromise, with the upmost respect my dear, we really couldn’t give a damn. 

You seem really concerned for young Muslim girls who wear the hijab. Would you believe, Yasmin, that the vast majority of these young girls wear it out of choice? Islam does not obligate young girls to wear hijab any more than it obligates children to fast. The majority of the girls you see wearing hijab are wearing it because their mothers, sisters and aunties wear it. They are merely, like others at their age are prone to, mimicking the actions of the adults around them.  You mention the mother you see walking in the park “a woman in a full black cloak, her face and eyes masked walked near to where I was sitting in a park recently, but we could not speak. Behind fabric she was more unapproachable than a fort.” It is absolutely laughable that you confidently cite the fact that you are uncomfortable as a reason to restrict the choice of dress of a person. Your feelings on a womans choice to dress as she please says more about your own insecurities than it ever could about her. Had you decided to speak to her, she would have spoken to you like the normal human being she is. Wearing a niqab does not magically make one lose their voice. Kindly stop spewing such orientalist feminist saviour spiel.  

If you are going to address the issue of sexual violence and body dysmorphia then please do not be so ignorant as to pin it as a ‘Muslim’ problem. Men and women, all over the world, face problems of sexual violence and body dysmorphia. You claim that Muslim women are “flocking to have liposuction and breast enhancement” and single out Saudi Arabia and Iran for having “appallingly high” levels of sexual violence. According to the United Nations, though, neither of these countries, out of 18, is ranked as the worst. Understand that these issues are not exclusive to Muslim women or Muslim countries, so do not tout them as such.  

I would like to conclude with the affirmation that I do not wear the hijab to please or appease anyone. I wear it simply because I submit to God and worship Him, in His Oneness. I wear it because He has ordered me to and I will continue to do so regardless of your opinion. I felt compelled to write this article because of the hypocrisy that surrounds this issue. While you and those of your ilk claim to be defenders of freedom, you fail to grant Muslim women the freedom of expression you claim to stand for. A woman who chooses to go out in shorts will benefit from the right to do so, given it pertains to her freedom of expression. Why, then, is the same assumption not made for Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab? Are they not worthy of such a right? You regard the veiled Muslim woman as voiceless but in the words of the great Arundathi Roy, I would like to say to you: “there is no such thing as voiceless, there are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.” Whichever is your aim, I assure you that I shall continue to speak out. Or not, depending on how I feel because just in case you forgot: we aren’t oppressed and do not need saving. 

Xoxo

Hijabi woman.

Campaign Closed

ASSALAMO ALAIKUM WARAHMATULAHE WABARAKATU

In the name of ALLAH, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Peace & Salutations to our NABI (SAW).

We start this report with a lump in our throats. As we come to the end of our campaign, we would like to share some of our feelings and thoughts.

The first HADITH that says ‘Definitely actions depend upon our intentions’ was the originator of our campaign and hence it’s always been about the drive and not the collectors.

We praise and thank the ALMIGHTY ALLAH for having given us this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our Sisters in Zimbabwe.

We have grown from learning to use our computers and typing with one finger to responding to emails on our cellphones.

We would like to thank each and every one of you for participating in this campaign. Without your contribution, this campaign would never have been a success.

This campaign started after EID UL ADHA. Our aim was to provide 1000 cloaks, 1000 scarves and 1000 Burqas for our Sisters. Thus far we have dispatched two consignments. One in December (2011) which has already been distributed. We await the response about arrival of the second consignment which was dispatched around the middle of January (2012). We have a further two consigmnets of 30 boxes each ready for dispatch. Our policy is to wait for one lot to reach and be distributed before we send the next.

We would like to thank the following people for extending themselves to us.

  • Saleem Kajee of Textrim Durban
  • Muhammed Ebrahim of Moosa Sales Room Fordsburg

These individuals, have helped us by supplying fabric at below cost, to make new cloaks.

  • Brother Hassan Issac from Jack Ruby Fabrics Durban, for generously donating rolls of fabric for making Abayyas.

Alhumdulilah, we managed to make 1214 NEW Abayyas.

  • Sister Elaine (who is Christian) was the seamstress who stitched these Abayyas at a very low cost
  • Mr Henri Gradwell (a Jewish Gentleman) from Durban, who extended himself in organising the lovely tactile fabric for Burqas. We have thus far only managed to make 500 Burqas due to a shortage of fabric. Therefore, this part of the campaign is not complete and on going.

We would like to thank each and every one who volunteered as drop off points. I have to single out two sisters,

  • Raeesa Dhabelia, who is a Matriculant from Lenasia, for having gone the extra mile and ensuring that items from that area were packaged and examined before being dispatched to our Durban Collection Depot.
  • Sister Rookeya Jossab of Trendy Kidz, for allowing herself to be our dumping site and for sorting, washing, ironing, packaging of garments and using her garage as a storage site.

Furthermore, we have to thank those who through their acts of kindness, helped harness resources.

  • Starbell Transporters of Durban for Transporting our boxes to Zimbabwe, free of charge.
  • Mufti Menk for tweeting. The gist of it was 'If you have a garment that you have not used for more than a year, consider donating it to a deserving organisation ffd by www.sendascarf.co.za that made our campaign go from national to international instantly. Apologies to Mufti Menk if my quotation is not correct.
  • Everyone who provided transport to the courier site & the people who provided the packaging.

I thank all donations from our international contributors from as far as Mauritius and the United Kingdom that have already arrived.

Due to your generosity, we can proudly say that there are more than 1250 used Abayyas and 2000 scarves on their way to our Sisters in Zimbabwe.

Last, but not least, we would like to thank our husbands for being patient and always not so encouraging. Saying we have bitten more than we can chew. Our children who were coerced into grudgingly packing of boxes, labelling and dropping them off.

There are many people who may have been omitted to thank, acknowledge or reply to. We humbly apologise for our shortcomings with regards to the above.

اللَّهُمَّ أَعِنِّيْ عَلَى ذِكْرِكَ وَشُكْرِكَ وَحُسْنِ عِبَادَت

Maasalam

Sisters Fathima, Mosheena & Yasmin