Saturday, January 22, 2005

The "H" Word

Salaam alaikum and Eid Mubarak everyone! Long time, no hear!

Okay. Hijab.

There, I said it. Now let the brawl begin.

I can not tell you how many times I have come across articles about hijab. In the eyes of many people in the media, hijab and Muslim women are infinitely tied together. Whenever a reporter writes about Muslim women, he/she must mention hijab. If Muslims write articles about Muslim women, we state whether or not she is in hijab. Yes, the few inches of fabric that cover a sister's head has become the only subject that is worth addressing when it comes to Muslim women. I promised myself that I would never write a book or article about hijab but I guess I am breaking that promise.

But let me state from the beginning that this is an not entry arguing the validity of hijab. And we at Living Tradition would appreciate it if this entry would not receive responses that turn into an all out war between the pro-hijab and anti-hijab Muslims. I find it absolutely depressing that some people will spend hours arguing about hijab but can't utter a simple dua for suffering Muslims overseas. I want to address the current criticisms launched at Traditional Muslims from others and to clear the air as to how we really feel about hijab.

One of the many, many accusations hurled at practicing Muslims is that we place too much emphasis on hijab. I gazed at an article on MWU.com which stated that Muslims are beginning to make hijab "the sixth pillar." Indeed, for some Muslims, it is the litmus test as to who is devout and who is not. But we all know that life is not that simple. It is very disappointing to go to teaching circles and lectures about "Women in Islam" and the only subject that is discussed at great length is hijab. Not salaat, or women's rights in Islam, or ritual purity or even the great women of the Sahaba, just hijab. Unfortunately, there are many amongst us who believe that when it comes to women's issues in Islam, hijab and family are the only things that we should be concerned about.

Then there is the other side of the fence, the virulent, anti-hijab clique. I swear, some of the things I have heard said about veiled Muslim women are just not appropriate for this blog. It's bad enough to be demeaned in the American media as stupid, oppressed and brainwashed. It's harder to deal with insults and snide comments from Muslims who want to pick on you for following the Qur'an and Sunnah.

Yes, we do believe that hijab is fardh. We do not belong to the Fatima Mernissi madhab which states that hijab is some 1400 year old fraud and that the scholars (many of them women) have wrong since the beginning. We believe that it is supported by the Qur'an and Hadith. Some of the greatest women in history wore it including the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) and Maryam, mother of Isa (peace and blessings upon them). But what we don't believe in is focusing on hijab to the inclusion of everything else.

We, at Living Tradition, would like to offer a different view. We believe that Islam addresses all aspects of a Muslim women's life - from her family to her education. Hijab is important but what about her iman, the often ignored subject when reporters want to write about Muslims? What about her knowledge of the Qur'an? Can she read and understand the Qur'an in the original Arabic? Is she aware of her rights in Islam? Are her male relatives making sure that her rights are being respected? What about her finances? Is she secure from exploitation and abuse? Does she feel welcomed by her community at the masjid? Is her husband helping her with the children and making sure that she is receiving all the kindness, love and commitment that a Muslim woman is due?

These are some of many chief concerns of women in Islam that are squelched in the hijab debate. While we bicker over hijab, many of the problems concerning Muslim women go ignored. MWU.com and other sites like it are quite content to write anti-hijab articles but there is silence on the murder of a Muslim woman stabbed to death in my hometown of New Orleans. They apparently can't be bothered with stuff like that. This debate rages on while Muslim women are being denied there Islamic rights to education, ownership of property, choice over marriage partner, choice of employment or private business and the freedom from commercial and sexual exploitation.

Islam, without internet ijtihad, seeks to develop the Muslima wholly. Modest attire is just one part of a Muslim's life - male or female. It is just one obligation out of many to Allah (subhanna wa ta'ala) and not always a good litmus test as to who is faithful and devout. Modesty is not just in what you wear but how you carry and conduct yourself. Which is why it makes no sense to veil and commit lewd sinful acts and expect to be exempt from criticism because you say, "Well, at least I wear hijab." It also makes no sense to wear sexually revealing clothing and then wonder why so many men are leering at you. If you dress like a cop, people will think you are a cop.

I promise all of you that the hijab debate will never end so let's attend to the bigger problems of the ummah. When every Muslim is safe, free and protected, we can argue about this thing until the cows come home.

12 Comments:

Blogger DrMaxtor said...

Excellent post. I believe much time is wasted because hijab is attacked in the first place, which provokes outcry from practising Muslims who join the fray. I also believe that anti-hijabists are in reality jealous and hateful towards any muslima who defies their monkey-see monkey-do confirmism.

9:25 PM  
Blogger izzymo said...

Salaam alaikum,

I have a Pakistani friend who was raised Muslim. A few months ago, she decided to start wearing hijab. As soon as she started wearing it, her friends started tearing her down and making comments like, "Hijab isn't fard" and "Pakistani women don't wear hijab." It's such nonsense. I had to conclude that they are jealous because she is following the deen rather than culture. And it is not as if her life is any different. She is still in school. She hasn't been banished to the far corner of the kitchen slaving over chicken tikka. Subhan'allah.

11:57 AM  
Blogger DrMaxtor said...

Oh yes, I've come across the absurd "hijab isnt fard" line from ignorant Muslims. On one occasion I pointed the exact verse in regards to it....and needless to say that was the end of the conversation.
Some of these people have never even read the Quran and yet claim to know the deen better than those who actuallt practise it. Dont even get me started on the artless art of Hadith denial.

10:41 PM  
Blogger ~Aishah said...

Assalamu Alaikum,

Excellent article!!!!
I only noticed one thing.

In the sentence below you used the word "inclusion" when I think perhaps you meant, "exclusion"... *wink*

But what we don't believe in is focusing on hijab to the exclusion of everything else.

Again, EXCELLENT. In fact I was over-joyed to find it and just circulated it to an arguing group hashing the issue out even now. Just gets me all riled up, it does! Thank you again for an excellent article. I referred to your blog in the post.

Ma'Salaama,
~Aishah

10:30 AM  
Blogger ~Aishah said...

See: http://aishahsjourney.blogspot.com/2005/11/just-rantand-co-ranton-h-word.html

7:01 PM  
Blogger new hijabi said...

I really enjoyed reading your post.

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Blogger edpaul_c said...

can a moslem woman pray without hijab? if yes, where in the quran?

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