Sunday, June 19, 2011

the latest decision : Taking the veil off

When you take a decision , it always better to be fully aware of all its consequences  and it is preferred that you should be in the state of mind that enables you to take the decision without falling under the pressure of the any unwanted influence .
This year I took a decision I was thinking about for long time,  the decision is taking off my veil ,  almost two months ago I took off my veil , after wearing it for 14 years . my story with the veil varied in many situations, in the beginning , I decided like many young girls affected by Amr Khaled to wear veil . then I saw myself in my Hijab , in accordance to the so called "Islamic code of dress " and in accordance with the modest Muslim girl . 
Furthermore,  I started to read other discourse questioning  the prevailing idea of obligation of Hijab,  like the book of the Hijab of Gamal el Banna , where he deconstructs the claim saying Hijab in religious obligation , and he return back to trace the emergence of the idea and how it gained its strength.  El Banna also asserted that the  Hijab as social and cultural phenomena and it is not only religious . later on the interpretation and application of Prof Amina Wadud and her reading to the veil issue was another lighting proof .
 I have to admit that I did not find this discourse catchy in the beginning and I was manipulated by the main stream discourse who raise verses and Hadith with  one and only unified interpretations . I felt I was imprisoned in a narrow vision, which saw the world, power relations,  modesty and women agency is a very parochial way, I felt that I need to read other visions, by that time I never thought my theoretical beliefs will lead to me to any  personal decisions,  it was for me a theoretical battle to prove that there are diversity in the Islamic paradigm .
I have to say that when I started to be informed in the issue of Hijab and the dilemma of its  obligation or banning  in many Muslim countries like Turkey, Iran,  Saudi Arabia and Tunisia . I came to consideration in each single case the dynamics of disciplining  women in the public sphere is different and it belong to the social, cultural and religious contexts , which has unique shape in each case.
Then I grow up and I witnessed personal experiences that shaped my perspective , like living abroad where the code of dress is dramatically different and also my relationship to non Hijabi girls in Egypt and the stories of their daily struggle to contest the decorum of this hard headed society. I came to a deep belief in 2008, that I am double faced and I am gaining agency through bargaining on my beliefs with my community and my society. The idea of taking it off came an go through with time , but it was never urgent, that in the end of the day, I am "empowered " I chose my work, I hang out with my friends and I travel and to sum it up I was enjoying freedom more than the average middle class girl in my age.
My turning point was the revolution , I felt that if we can fight for a country, and cannot fight for ourselves , then we are not free. I came to a point where I hated my hypocrisy . I knew that this decision will open the doors of hell, but I was not wise enough and I unveiled myself.
I want to say that what struck me the polarization of the Egyptian society , that on a side the conservative powers , which includes my family , my extended family , neighbors , and many others categories of the Egyptian society , and on the other hand the progressive   powers which includes the Human rights defenders , academics and journalists who constitute my social cycle . I hated unstopping nagging and the covered threats of my family and I hated the extra warm congratulations of my progressive friends . my feeling now that I am shaping my new way , I do not feel liberated or gained a right , rather I feel that I reconciled with my belief. 
Finally what I want to assert that Hijab is not a verse or a hadith and it is way beyond a woman fitna , it is about disciplining the system and drawing the guidelines and borders .
Global voices article, quoting me : find it here 

31 comments:

Mara said...

I am a western woman, middle aged and not muslim. I went to a religious boarding school between the ages of 13 and 18. The nuns all wore the same clothing - called the "habit". Us girls all wore the same clothes - called the 'uniform. We were all expected to walk, talk and behave within the same rules and guidelines. If we stepped outside those guidelines we were "bad girls"

"Habit" and "uniform" are good words to describe a common clothing code. By the way if you are aware of the influence of colour on our psyche - put everybody in black and it has a really strong affect in bringing everyone to the same mind-set. Who wears black apart from those who wear the black muslim clothing? Police are the first who come to mind - because they are not supposed to think like individuals but as one obedient collective.

What did 5 years of wearing a uniform do for me? Made me feel safe and like I belonged, with a certain status to a certain group, which was nice!

What lasting effect did it have on me afterwards? I was self-conscious about my body, I lacked confidence in my ability to choose individual style of clothing. I wore it just long enough for it to cause me to feel inadequate in different ways even until now.

As for the girls these days wearing the scarf - it is just a meaningless fashion accessory and it pays certain business people to promote it in the fashion world, and others for different reasons - but the reason is not modesty! Look below the scarf at the tight body-hugging clothing of the young girls. I don't have a problem with their clothing but to me, a western person the supposedly modesty of the veil does not match the clothing.

As for the full hijab and niquab I am not comfortable speaking to a person wearing it because at the back of my mind is always the question "why is she hiding from me?" It is like being looked at through a one way mirror.

As for your decision to change your mode of dress I congratulate your independence of choice and wish you success with it. Not because you are making a clothing change which is a difficult one but because you are coming into your own persona.

I think if, and when, any one is ready to change their style of dress and in the case of someone taking off the hijab and niquab they must feel inside that it is the only thing for them to do, they must feel that the time is right. When they really feel like this it will be a natural step and the genuine certainty that they feel then will make the opinions of others irrelevant, but understandable.

When you are sure of what you are doing you give off a vibration which is subconsciously received by all around and this vibration allows for no judgement or interference.

Fatma Emam said...

Mara , a million thank you for the very valuable insights. you touched the core of the dress code issue , that the society oblige women to follow certain style, else many negative results will take place.
and i think that is universal, it has its way in each culture, that the community assign the relation between the modesty and the outfits.
enjoyed discussing with you, keep posting your comment, i will delighted to talk with you :)

Anonymous said...

Mara thanks for the post you put up about your decision. I think it is a blog thing to share one's inner world with the outer. Wow you wore hijab for 14 yrs and you took it off with such ease? It must have been hard all those years of you trying to justify why you wear this veil, then you got caught up with Amr Khaled and now finally Amina Wadud both very convincing and both very tactical in how they put their points forward. The art of the orator- wish I had something like that :-). What makes me confused and perhaps frustrated is that you did no personal research (if you did I could not find proof of it in your post)you did not go back to the sources and see what the Qur'an says and what are the various interpretations. Why would so many women for so many generations wear the veil if it was a misinterpretation? Could all these people be wrong? Even in all its very different manifestations (Saudi, Iranian, Syrian, Pakistani, Malaysian, African, Western[ like where I live]) they still have one common feature they believe it is obligatory and ordered by God. Not by the men or male scholars nothing patriarchal, trust me had this beautiful religion of ours been interpreted by men and their whims we would have no voice and all the rights Islam came to give us would have been taken away by now. Thank God for that. No we have female scholars who are experts at the highest degrees and who were teachers to some of our greatest scholars and they never once wrote against the commandment of the hijab. In all sufis, sunnis, shia etc...nothing. You should know this history I hope. Yes you have made a decision but you need to convince us it was one you thought through and researched well enough. I am a westerner and I wear hijab, I researched it and I am satisfied to cover up, provide the evidences here that hijab is not obligatory. I think sometimes people declare these decisions of taking hijab off perhaps for attention- think before you make the wrong decision.Sometimes your society stifles you so you think by getting rid of those things that symbolise your stifling you will be free- and using religion to justify an act well I think that's becoming trendy these days. Hijab is mandatory and taking it off is wrong. If you felt left out because the whole world is not in hijab that I understand...but to say hijab is not a must is a heavy claim and one that you have no right of making without SOLID evidence. I hope you will be brave to put this reply up as you were brave to take off your hijab.

Ciao,

Sarah (Manhattan, NY)

Fatma Emam said...

thanks Sarah for engaging the discussion. however i find myself disagreeing with many of your arguments.
i am sorry i did not depend on the big names scholars only, i lived my life with veil and tried to find answers and this is my way that i am researcher by career.
veil was a very powerful element in my daily life and i was involved in many stories of how we Egyptianised it and how is related to class or age or level of education. add to this that i was quite acquainted with veil in other contexts.
and concerning the history, do not assume that i do not know cause i took a decision that contradict the mainstream Fiqh, have you heard of Zeinab ibn Talha ???
the variety of Fiqh schools is rahma , mercy and i chose my own way, i did not ask anybody to follow and i did not claim that others who did not follow are sinners. i am seeking my own truth and that is an islamic tradition done in the past like Abu Hamed el Ghazali when he doubted in his iman. but some muslims claim that they have the absolute truth

modestgrrl said...

I think it's sad that you've confused your own identity with wearing a hijab, which I refuse to call a "veil" as that is an Imperialistic term that mislabels what hijab is. Hijab covers the head, hair, and neck, not the face. Veils cover faces. Therefore the only "veil" in Islam is the niqab/burqa.

You can be free and liberated and speak for human rights regardless of what you wear clothing wise. Don't be so absurd as to claim that a piece of clothing is oppressing you. It's the paternalistic attitude of Egyptian society that is oppressing you, and your mothers/grandmothers and aunts who grew up in an Egypt where wearing hijab was NOT common experienced the exact same paternalism. If you don't believe me, ask them.

Regardless, the Qur'an specifically orders us to cover our heads. It's there. How else do you translate "walyadribnabikhumurihinna 3la juyoobihinna" except "extend their headcoverings to cover their breasts"? If the order says to lengthen the headcovering until it covers the breasts, wearing the headcovering is mandatory. You can't extend something that isn't there!

What HAS been fabricated and foisted onto Muslim women is this concept that niqab is fard. Niqab is not fard. There is no verse that mandates it for all the women, just the wives (ra) of Muhammad (saws), and if a woman chooses to wear it for extra worship that is recommendable but it is not required.

This is where the research gets confusing, because all these anti-veil scholars in the West are using the argument against NIQAB not hijab, but because we use the word "veil" in English interchangeably for both it leads people to the incorrect thinking that hijab is not fard.

Anyway, you are traveling down a dangerous road, sister. If you think you can pick and choose and interpret your religion on your own then you are in danger of falling victim to the Western, pro-Imperialism argument they've been spinning against Islam ever since they set their eyes on owning the Middle East. But what concerns me isn't the Colonialist attitude you espouse but rather the consequences this perverted way of thinking is going to have on your mind, soul, and life. May Allah guide us all. Ameen.

Fatma Emam said...

modest girl,
i agree that there this a confession between the Higab and Niqab, but the veil as you referred to is a western classification.
what i am referring to is the hair veil
i am sorry to say that i will reply to the arguments you stated about the imperialism and the anti hijab or veil , you name it, because i see it simply as the typical Muslim attitude when it entrenches itself and get defensive
you believe that Juiob is hair, i dont and
that how i will apply my religion
i will claim my right to approach my religion and i am sorry but your advice is not welcomed , i will seek whatever road that i can salvation in

Sue said...

Fatma, you are free to do what you want shall we agree on that? However, I was very disappointed by the weakness of your reply to the comment left by Sarah from Manhatten.
Just like her, I follow facts and proofs and was very interested to receive a solid proof from you in response to her comment that head cover as part of general modesty for women is not required in Islam.
Sadly, just like everyone else who is against head cover, you failed to present any solid proofs from Quoran or Hadith. You just present some names you read about and anyone could just type some names but what does have to do with the interpretation of Quoran and Sunna? AL Ghazali doubted, many of us do, and the benefit of doubt is to research and come to conclusions based on facts not feelings and not other people's opinions.
No body is asking you to change your opinion and you are not asking anybody to follow you, but out of interest in the matter readers would like you to present proofs from the Quoran and Sunna that head cover is not part of the Woman's modesty in Islam if you claim that it isn't.
While presenting this, please also let us know if head cover would still be required during prayer and pilgrimage or not and why.

Should your decision however be based on personal feelings or preferences, I would still respect it, it's your life. But at least we can refrain from claiming facts about Islam based on personal feelings.
I hope you publish my comment and hope to read your reply soon.
Best,

Huda A. Khamis said...

I can't say I am glad for your decision neither can say I am sad....but I believe that we get our religious rules through the way we've been raised and then we start to take the way in life according to how we understand Islam and what rules we suppose to follow. I like your courage in sharing this important serious decision,,, I can't lie to you many opinions are distracting our way of life now especially regarding how to perform Islamic rules.. and we never knows who to believe or who to fallow. I am wearing my Hijab since I was 15 and I did wear it because of my father pressure and was the only girl in the family who are not wearing the Hijab...but now I will (I am 36 years) I will never trade it for the world. For me when I make my daughter wear the Hijab. I won't say you have to wear it and that’s it. …I was lighted by Amr Khalid back days but he was only a way to let me dig by myself and make me stick to my Hijab more and more than before....no My late father should say you have to wear it because....well this is not our subject but….but All what I want to say that I respect your decision even if it is for me I don’t agree but who I am to question you…this is something between you and your creator  Live in Peace

Fatma Emam said...

Sue,
i was determined not to engage any Fiqh discussion, because my main idea was how Hijab is perceived socailly and culturally. and i thought i might refer to well known scholars to save myself the time and the hassle.
the main argument with the anti and pro hijab is defining what was cultural and prevailing in the Arabic peninsula and what was added by the Islamic revelation and this discussion is not Fiqh only, the only Fiqh point to be raised is the meaning of Geyoub . and the hadith of Asmaa bent O'mais.
i have to say that i am the one who is really disappointed, that i am dragged to this discussion. my argument was we wear Hijab not for Aya or Hadith but for family and neighborhood. the battle of veil is who claim the authenticity and knowing the right path , i do not know it , and i am happy that i am seeking it, and salvation is a personal struggle , which is not shameful
finally: i found it very weird that you said you are disappointed at me for my answer, why is that, in this blog i am not seeking appreciation or fearing disappointment, i am writing what cross my mind, anyhow thanks for sharing your thoughts

Fatma Emam said...

Huda,
may be i put myself wrong, i am fighting for my rights to apply my religion according to the way i understand and accept. i think we just need to explore, to believe that there many answers to the same question, the answers varies according the context and the situation.
i am not preaching for taking off the veil, i am not a preacher ans i will never be. i was just telling a story , which is not a standard or an example

SUE said...

Hi Fatma,
Let me first clarify some misunderstanding: When I say I am disappointed in your answer, it does NOT mean I am disappointed in you! I don't know you, I can't judge you, and I was talking about facts NOT about you! So hope this is clear!
from people who claim courage and knowledge I expect powerful facts and information. I was all interest to know the facts that led to your decision and, if it's based on 'feelings' I will respect it still, but at least we can also refrain from claiming things to Islam that aren't true. If you claim that headcover is not required in Islam but failed to present facts and proofs this is a weak answer and makes the whole discussion dismissed because the decision remains a personal feeling, and we cannot discuss your personal opinions and decisions it's your life and your rules. And we don't have a right to even judge that!
But we can discuss religious facts.

I’m not sure why you’re disappointed to be dragged into Fiqh discussion, I thought this would've been expected from raising such a subject at least in the way it was raised, which gives the impression that you have a basis for your decision. If you have the confidence to claim things about Islam, you would need to be up to a fiqh discussion and be expecting it as well :)
While there’s some room for research on the social development and influences about head cover, I'm afraid women do NOT wear modestly and cover their hair just for family and neighbours, this is a very limited and unresearched point of view. Some women do in specific places but certainly not ALL Muslims and this certainly has nothing to do with whether it is an Islamic requirement or not. why Muslims from any non middle Eastern nationality wear the head cover? Why Muslim converts wear it? certainly not for family (which is usually of a different faith) or neighbours who aren't even Muslim. But because Islam required modesty in Hadith and Sunnah. And once again I will tell you that Jeyub is NOT the main issue proving head cover or not, but it is the translation of 'Khomorohenna' that determines whether head cover is required or not.
And again, if women wear headcover for family and neighbours, why do they wear it while praying? Are family and neighbours usually 'watching' the women during prayer as well?It is VERY crucial to be able to differentiate between religion and tradition! The fact that there are some rigid traditions in some Muslim countries some of which may be wrong, does NOT mean that Islamic rulings is mainly implemented by family and tradition and that it is wrong. The ONLY way to decide if an Islamic ruling is required or not is to study Islam, and look into the matter from the Quoran, Hadith, history. not from traditions, feelings or personal interpretations!if modesty is a social tradition then western fashion is just a social pressure as well. Centuries before Europeans weren't showing that much flesh either and at some point some women were also covering their hair!
That is why whatever pressure people put on us is questionable, but not mandatory. But what God asks us to do is researchable yet mendatory once proven (although we will always have the freedom to what we want and God will be the only judge).

ickagoya said...

This is really interesting - thanks for sharing thoughts on this. To a western feminist women it's really hard to understand this whole debate.

One question to you all - why is there such a focus on exact interpretations of texts from a different age? I was bought up a Catholic, but it would have made my life very difficult to follow rules set down in your part of the world 2000 years ago, and many simpy fly in the face of modern morality.

Also, and more importantly - why follow rules set down by men to make life easier and better for men in a time before women had fought hard for freedom, when biology still ruled?

I'm not trying to fight here, genuinely interested in the thinking.

I find this question of how to balance the pressure to be modest (from men there) against the pressure to be sexy (from men here) - which of us is more oppressed / less repected?

Sue said...

Part 1:
In answering ickagoya's questions:
1. Why take the interpretation of the Quoran literally:
There's a big difference between the Quoran and the bible (not in a degrading way at all to either of the holy books).
The Quoran is a book that is intended to all times and all places as well as all people. While the old testament is believed to be a special book for the Jews that was then changed by the teachings of Jesus in the New testament, the Quoran is a book for all humankind!
God says in the Quoran: " That is a scripture in which there's no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God"
Thus not for a specific nation or culture etc
Unlike the bible, every verse or story in the Quoran contains guidance or teachings or rulings. There's no story told that leaves the reader hesitant or confused or even shocked like some stories of the old testament. There's no teaching that isn't physically doable any time and any where. There's no teaching or ruling that doesn not lead to the main goal, which is creating a good, productive, healthy, believing community.
Thus Muslims do indeed take each verse literally and shouldn't accept parts of the book and deny others.
When people followed the teachings correctly they were able to influence humankind in many fields in what is called the Islamic Golden time while Europe was still in the dark ages. Only when Muslims drifted away from the real meanings and teachings and clung to main rituals abandoning major issue like behaviour, productivity, education etc that the Islamic world collapsed. Then Muslims were invaded by the West and got influenced by their culture and got totally confused about what is what. So the status of Muslims now a days isn't really an image of Islam or the Quoran at all. Would Muslims indeed follow the teachings of the Quoran precisely they would've been much different. However this doesn't mean that we as individuals shouldnt strive to learn and do what is right and start with ourselves rather than get dazzled by the attitude of some Muslims these days or the pressure of some societies etc.
There might indeed be some rulings in Christianity that are not feasible nowadays which perhaps led to sections such as Protestant etc. However there's not a single ruling in Islam that can't be implemented now just as much as it was implemented 1400 years ago. There are rooms for debate but main rulings actually are meant to make life more purposeful and meaningful. The pressure and the debate especially regarding head cover is mainly caused by our weaknesses in front of the temptations that are man made such as nudity, fashion, looks etc. Many years ago even in Europe things weren't that way and looks weren't the main issue of concern. So just because some  people decided to go loose doesn't mean we should follow blindly. We should only follow what makes sense to us not to the community! 

Sue said...

2. Im not sure what rules are set down by men? If u mean the way women dress in Saudi Arabia I agree with you this is a tradition and not required in Islam. However if you mean the Quoran was sent down by men then I urge you to research the Quoran if you'd like to grasp some information about it. In short, Muslims beleve that the Quoran was sent down by God not by a man. Since, unlike Christianity, God of Islam is NOT a man! Not male, female, doesnt have an image we can draw or a family or a son. God of Islam is the Great, the Merciful, he is Light etc we know his charactarics from the Quoran.
The Quoran was inspired to Mohamed who was illiterate that is one of the miracles about it since the language is so difficult and complex even to those who spoke it at the time. In addition of course to other scientific miracles etc that prove that the language of the Quran, unlike the bible, is written in a way that it becomes more meaningful the more knowledge you have and the more science develops etc. ( reference: Tge Bible, the Quoran and Modern Science by Maurice Bucaille). Bucaille concludes in his research that he has no logical reasoning behind the Quoran that continues to match with all scientific findings.
If you read The Quoran you will realise that all rulings are equally sent to men and women! There are no preference for one person on another except with good deeds.
If we sum up the main points that cause controversy these days we can say:
- modesty: is required equally from men and women. The only difference is their difference in appearance hence Tge women cover more than men do.
- marriage: both women and men have Tge right to choose a spouse and to file for divorce and remarry! Rights that are not offered to women under Christisnity and Judaism.
- marriage of more than one woman: if you read the old testament you will realise that all prophets except one had more than one wife! So it wasn't an Islamic invention. Hence Islam came to give some rights to Tge women and put restrictions to these habits by limiting the number of wives to only four and limiting this to fairness in the relationship otherwise only one wife is to be married. So from The unlimited number of marriages Islam put restrictions on The man not on The woman!
- work: woman are allowed to work and keep their own money if they so wish. Men are not allowed to take the woman's salary or property or or. As far as I know women before and under different religions weren't even allowed to own their property.
- inheritance: Islam granted the woman the right of inheritance unlike under other tptraditions.
- child birth: Islam views woman who give birth in a very high rank ( heaven is under their feet) as mentioned I. The Quoran. While The bible considers child birth a punishment for thewomen for a sin that it says only one woman committed(eve). Although in Islam Eve and Adam equally sinned no one was more responsible than the other .
So as you see, if we step away from Tge culture a bit and just study the real Islam we will realise that men and women have equal tights and duties that however considers their natural differences. So in the aquoran men and women have fairness but not equality as they are two different creatures if you like.

Sue said...

Part 3:
So there's no reason to think that a man has set the rules for Muslims. Even Tge scholars who helped explain major Issues incleded women such as Aisha for example.
Muslims believe that the Quoran is abode words, they have reasons to believe so ( as I said based on the text and the miracles etc especially when compared to any other holy book). Women in Islam have dignity and rights it is sadly some cultures that have ruined some of their dignity and freedom under the so called traditions that might indeed be in favour of men. But God and the Quoran ask us to follow Gods words not traditions set by anyone not even our parents if they ask us to do something that contradicts with Islam such as forced marriage for example.
So I can conclude by saying that any pressure set down by men or society shouldn't be the reason behind our actions. If we omen decide to be modest they should do so out of their own will. And if they want to be sexy as well.
However if you ask me who is more respected/oppressed I can confidently say that any woman who acts under pressure of society, men or family is oppressed whether The society urges her to be sexy or modes. And any woman who acts out of her own conviction and believes should be respected whatever these believes are.
Although I personally can't come to terms sometimes with The idea of being topless or showing a massive cleavage or a huge tummy in a bikini. Things that often don't look fashionable nor sexy just flesh...and it often comes across as rather cheap. However I believe that this probably a different way our eyes view what we do not agree with just like those people not like the sight of a modest woman and think she must be oppressed.
I think the real power is to do what you believe in with confidence and dignity. And there are some women who aren't covering their hair but still look very respectable and others who cover their hair just for tradition while they can still often look cheap. So it's all relative what is important to work on oneself and not be distracted by others around us.
I hope to have helped answer your queries without any fight but with an insight on what Islam is about :))

Fatma Emam said...

my dear readers ,
i decided when i started my blog that i will post all the comments i will get unless it is not containing racist or inappropriate comments.
i am writing this comment to say that any comment written by any reader is expressing her \ him self.

Safia said...

Fatma,

I am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog and this post. I am in the position you once were, but I have yet to 'unveil'. On one hand, I think of the hijab as a powerful, subversive symbol which has rebellious and liberatory aspects that I am deeply drawn to. I enjoy being the radical Muslim feminist who ALSO wears a hijab, embodying what white Western feminists and their racism deny can exist. That I can have agency and consciousness, and prove that hijab is my choice and not a product of male coercion.

But on the other hand, I feel co-opted by conservative Muslims in their debate over the hijab's meanings with Westerners. In their effort to fight the Western islamophobia and racism which underpins discussion of the veil, they essentialize and objectify veiled Muslim women in a different way. We do not have a voice in the debate, except to say that we are not oppressed or forced to cover. Yet any Muslim knows that hijab is not that simple for everyone. I have grown tired of attending Islamic conferences which do not have a single panel discussing women or relevant to women/gender issues, except the token lecture on the importance of the hijab, often by a male speaker. I am now frustrated by how conservative Muslims police women's sexuality with the hijab, and make us feel like we are sinful or deviant for our female bodies.

I am in a difficult place right now, having worn the hijab for over 10 years. I am struggling to understand my conflicted feelings towards the hijab. So right now, I'm just reading, thinking and reflecting before I make any decisions.

Sue said...

Dear Safia, it is true that most women do go through the same struggle with different outcomes. The only advice I can give (having been through many doubtful and weak phases myself) is: 1. Don't follow your feeling follow your mind. 2. Don't get distracted by anybody's own opinion or perspective or any social circumstances. It's between you and your God so it's pretty serious the decisions we make as we need to be able to stand up for them. 3. Research research research... Even if it meant to build your whole faith up again starting with is there a God! Only by working your way to your belief that you will be always able to fall back on these basics when you feel weak. But those who follow a society or parents or inherited values often struggle especially when being projected to other values and traditions, which may often seem simpler or fairer or or, only because they take us away from what we haven't chosen ourselves ...
I'm not sure why I am following this blog while I clearly have different views. But maybe because I have my own experience and challenging what I've built for myself helps me come back to it safely...

Fatma Emam said...

Safia:
the way to salvation is very personal, we all might listen to the same Imams and read the same books , but we react differentially. you will shape your own experience, follow your passion, and always believe that Allah is el Raheem and forget about those who are repeat the inquisition courts, Allah said we gave the man two ways, and he should choose , so make up ur FREE choice.


@Sue
i am is wondering too why you are following my blog and using it as a platform to voice your ideas. any comments are welcomed , but you are not debating, you are instructing , you make me feel that you own the absolute truth , which is not real.
Any How i am following my policy to publish to publish any proper comment. #sigh

Ickagoya said...

Sue:
We're not going to agree on any of those points but appreciate your help...
a) because I don't believe in God and therefore believe that Mohamed, as a man, made up Islam along with others, (just like men made up Christianity) and that all religions are political tools to control people
b) because you misunderstand the west - while religion is present, religion is not law or government, so the stuff about divorce etc in Islam is not a relevant comparison (women did not have divorce rights in the west because men dominated politics). It is important for Muslims who don't live in the West to understand ours is NOT a Christian society anymore, it is secular, and so the debate is not between Islam and Christianity/Judiasm but between Islam and secularism / humanism.


Safia
I think you're right that a lot of white western feminists seem to forget reality is different in diferent parts of the world. But it is really hard to understand a society that tells women they are sex objects more than anything else, and for that reason, must cover up more than men, and then see women such as yourself wondering what to do - it seems so obvious that if the men don't have to cover up, the women shouldn't either - a man's chest is lovely to look at, so the idea women's bodies are inherently sexy is rubbish. I could understand Islamic societies if modesty was required of men - but having been to many muslim countries, I can clearly see it is not.

ickagoya said...

Sue

Also

You say:

"The ONLY way to decide if an Islamic ruling is required or not is to study Islam, and look into the matter from the Quoran, Hadith, history. not from traditions, feelings or personal interpretations!if modesty is a social tradition then western fashion is just a social pressure as well. Centuries before Europeans weren't showing that much flesh either and at some point some women were also covering their hair!"

This really says it all. Centuries ago, most cultures were totally make dominated, with no votes for women, no political representation. Women's sexuality was controlled (because men fear women) and so modesty was sold to them as the one true way, and they would go to hell if they were no modest. Things changed. The problem I think with Islam is that your Holy Book is not seen as a historical document, or something of its time, but something timeless. It espouses cultural traditions and fashions of a bygone age.

Anonymous said...

I am a unveiled, Muslim woman. I am still trying to come to terms with the idea of the hijab.
I just wanted to express my admiration for your courage to take a big step in order to eliminate what you felt are contradictions in your life. Many people would not be able to take such a decision, especially if it is one that is associated with the (for some reason) sensitive area of female sexuality.

Safia said...

Thank you so much for your advice ladies. I believe that I have more or less decided to unveil, but I am just struggling to follow through and confront the consequences (family, friends, community). I made the free decision to put it on as a young girl, but I do not feel like I am as free to take it off.

Fatma Emam said...

Safia
i can feel what you said, i had the same argument with my mum every time she realize that i am really not veiled anymore. what i can tell you that it is never am absolute decision, we change and our perspective change, keep your self open to all the information and ideas. i wish you the best

Sue said...

Fatma: 
I believe the reason I follow ur blog as I answered it myself is to challenge myself because by challenging and doubting I start reading and hearing different views and they either convince me or return me to where I started. And i am genuinely interested in religious subjects. So far for the head cover/modesty subject nothing mentioned here had a solid ground or a fact to base a decision of anti modesty upon.
Secondly, I'm not using ur blog to spread my ideas I do not need to do that I couldn't care less what any woman other than myself does with her life! :) All I cared about was the rational discussion. You may dislike what I write cause u disagree with it, but you certainly can't assume that I need ur blog for anything or that I have any 'ideas' to spread, this ludicrous :))
Finally, I am not instructing anyone to anything, apologies if it sounded that way. I was just giving my opinion to the situation of conflict  and tried to 'suggest' what I found useful by all means not instruct! 
And I guess having created a blog it's only natural that no all readers will be in agreement.

Sue said...

Ickagoya:
I didn't expect to agree or disagree with u. I just tried to answer your queries. Obviously when u ask someone Muslim about his faith he will answer u on how he sees things not what makes sense to u! So when I say the Quoran is Gods words to Muslims I'm not expecting u to believe that, too! I'm just telling u the Muslim perspective of things because u asked the questions not because I want to impose it on u :)
About the examples I gave from religions I'm not claiming that all the West is Christian! Mind u I am in the West! U might've assumed that I'm in the Middle East but I'm not! And the reason the West applies secular laws is because Christianity (or religion) didn't seem feasible. I.e allowing divorce and creating the Protestants was the first way to drift away from Christianity. But for general secular laws: womens'right to file for divorce or to vote has nothing to do with the religion yet it was granted to women (in England for instance) thousands of years after Islam granted the right for filing for divorce). As a result a lot of the rights in Islam are compatible with today's laws in Europe and advanced from the rights in other religions. That is why I Dont see Islam as a Male religion. That is my opinion as a Muslim, and you are certainly free to your own views. I will respect them. As i said, I am just answering the questions you have raised from a Muslim view. It can make sense to you or it can't just like everything else.
As for modesty that is very interesting: if u believe that European women were modest because of their religion and now they are free to wear what they want forgetting about hell fire that I find great. Because as a believer I do believe that all 3 major religions have the same origin but some were lost in translation. And I do believe in the importance of modesty. I also don't see the relation between nakedness and freedom (especially when the whole focus in media is being linked to sexuality above anything in this life). But I do understand that by removing all religious and belief aspects we have no reason any longer to restrict any of our actions whatsoever. Because under this hypothesis we are here for a meaningless purpose and we will die in vain so there's no point in not enjoying ourselves while we are here. If we put it that way I understand that this is the way some people reason things. Fair enough. But I fail to believe that there's no creator and that there must be reason why we are here. Thus atheism doesn't make sense to me so I studied and believed what made sense to my mind. And that happened to make sense out of modesty more that atheism made sense out of nakedness:) that is all. I do respect everyone else's choices though. As I said it's just a discussion not imposing my views!

Sue said...

Fatma one more thing: I never told u that I alone hold the truth, did I? That's just your assumption. In fact as I said in my earlier posts I entered the blog hoping for some rational thinking about the subject to prove from an Islamic point of view that modesty is not requires, but there wasn't any. I'm happy to find the truth that anyone knows but it needs to make sense to me...
Cheers,

Fatma Emam said...

Sue, i am doing my best to coup with this unnecessary long discussion. we are not arguing on ideas any more, it is verbal games. i do not want people to agree with what i want, i believe in the beauty of human diversity . DECENT discussions might in end make by great results for both parties, which is not this case.
if visiting challenge you, do it . if you find you there is no "rational arguments ", you force me to ask why do visit it !!!!!
really i dislike this way, and i feel the tension in our talk. i have been in debates where me and the other parties belong to totally opposite paradigm, but there is the good intentions and respect. and our dialogue is lacking to that. i have i can put a fool-stop

B. said...

Thank you for writing this article. It is interesting to consider the social implications of taking off the "veil" or head covering. What I found most interesting though is the reaction of left leaning people. When you get congratulated by these people it creates another societal pressure to behave and dress in a certain fashion. It feels like for many Muslim women the issue of the veil etc. is a no win situation regardless of which side they take. If they wear it than they are buckling the pressures of a patriarchal system and if they don't they are buckling to a foreign patriarchal system. Either way there seems to be a lot of pressure and little room for personal choice.

happy said...

Salaam and peace to everyone! I love your story of discovery and change. I myself used to wear hijab thinking that is necessary but over time i learned that there any many interpretations of modesty and the one part explicitly mentioned in Quran is bosoms, which most hijabis don't give much care to, even though breasts have a sexual attraction in them and hair does not. For those people whose arugument is that why would muslim women for so many centuries be doing something if it weren't really ordained, i say that this is a very poor thinking because majority does not always mean truth. so by your standards the majority and mainstream Christian denominations revere Jesus pbuh as son of God and a few say he is only a man and prophet and those few are looked down by most Christians as wrong. so who is right in that case? we have to understand that the reason most or all women veiled in past muslim societies was because once a certain norm was established it was followed as the right way. the verses in surah al-ahzab have been established as talking about adapting women's dress according to the state of their surroundings and are not legally binding in specific content. why are we so clingy with the interpretations of medieval scholars all of whom were men. At the same time, we are responsible for our own choices and so i dont understand why ppl nowadays follows imams like they are prophets or something. you can listen to them but make your own decision in the end. May Allah SWT open our eyes to the truth and keep us on the straight path. Ameen :)

Anonymous said...

Salams! My name is Duha. I was born and have always lived in Mexico. I am also Muslim. I enjoyed your post very much, because of your intimate account of how you relate with the veil. I am very grateful whenever I can learn how other women experience these issues honestly. I want to share with you how I experience it. I understand that the veil is something that a woman may wear to preserve her intimacy with Allah. I do not wear a veil in the street most of the time in Mexico, because I was not born wearing one or taught to wear one. I became a Muslim way in my 30's. I do wear a veil to pray and whenever I feel that wearing it might help me to preserve my intimacy with Allah.
Inshallah!
Thank you for your Blog.
Please keep writing.