“I don’t understand the purpose of this piece of cloth,” says the voice over the phone. “It only covers the head. Everything else can be seen.”
“That is why I choose to wear the outer garment that fully covers the body, as well as, the face cover,” I reply, jumping through the loophole in his argument.
He immediately backpedals.
“You know who wears that?” His voice rises. “You don’t know the kind of women who wear that, you live a sheltered life.”
“Yes,” I say. “I do know. Prostitutes.”
He is surprised, not having expected me to know the answer. He goes off on a tangent, asking me how would I like it if I talked to him with him having a piece of cloth over his face, or how would I like it if I had “three other mothers” (his reference to the Islamic allowance for a man to keep up to four wives), and other spiraling circles of conversation. After an exchange of questions and answers, he said, “Well, then, it’s just a matter of faith.”
How I came to have this conversation over the phone with my father’s friend, who is a doctor, is irrelevant. What was said in the conversation is highly relevant, as it highlights the attitude of people towards the Quranic commandment for women to observe Hijab.
I would like to highlight some points about the girls who observe Hijab (whether it is just head and front cover, or with outer garment, or with face cover, or any combination of the three).
1. Hijabi girls are not allergic to males, or to marriage. I did not discover this opinion until one day, an acquaintance said out of the blue, “You don’t want to get married, right?” which is a way of saying, “You don’t find men attractive, right?” I observed head cover and outer garment then- not the face cover, and still she thought I was against marriage. Why? Not because of my dressing only, but because I did not talk about boys the way the other girls did. I did not discuss which cute boys I had seen when I went out shopping last weekend, I did not list my crushes, I did not share which actors I found attractive, I did not keep wallpapers of actors.
People do not know that this face cover, body cover and head cover is the legacy of the mothers of the believers. Yes! They used to observe it all.
As I know the state of my own inner thoughts only and not anyone else’s; here is a sneak peek: yes, I did see cute boys when I went out. I did have crushes on some of the males I interacted with during school (and later, on work). I did have celebrity crushes when I used to watch movies, and to tell the truth, even a photo shopped poster of a movie glimpsed while driving by is enough to plant the seed of a crush. I used to save wallpapers of computer animated characters from video games, and yes, some of them did feature attractive men. What I did not do was share these thoughts with my friends, because I did not want to give power to them. You give power to thoughts, and they rule your consciousness. I did not want to sit with my friends and cook daily servings of crushes and infatuations. What ruled my consciousness were my own daydreams of my own made-up characters in my own fantasy world. I used to think I was merely making up stories as a writer, until something I read made me realize that I was substituting my own imaginary “ideals” for the flesh-and-blood members of the opposite sex in this world. Yes, my imagination did include attractive male characters as well. Make of that what you will, but I eventually learned not to daydream so much. I didn’t want to take my own whims and desires as my God.
2. Hijabis have nothing to hide. Sure, there’s the girl who will use her head cover to hide her earphones while she listens to music in a packed college classroom. There’s the girl who will use the same method to cheat in exams. Yes, I am coming to the juicy part: there are females who wear face cover to hide their identity so that they can engage with males in pre-marital or extra-marital relations, or as I mentioned in the conversation in the beginning of the article, they do it in order to sell their bodies. People do not know that this face cover, body cover and head cover is the legacy of the mothers of the believers. Yes! They used to observe it all.
The words “Khimar” (head and chest cover) and “Jilbab” (body cover i.e. outer garment) come in the Quran. Whether face cover is included in the word “Jilbab” is the only point of disagreement between scholars. Yes, contrary to the public assumption that all Islamic dress code for females is open to question, there is actually no ignoring these two words, “Khimar” and “Jilbab”, in the Quran.
This brings me to an important point. Belief in the Quran is a pillar of Islamic faith. That means belief in every verse of the Quran, including the ones which spark social controversy today. Whether or not, you choose to obey a particular verse of the Quran or not, you cannot try to change its meaning in order to make yourself feel safe and comfortable. You cannot pretend that these words are not in the Quran. Even if you believe from the depth of your heart that the Hijabi sister you see is up to no good, you should create excuses for her in your mind. After all, it’s not your job to judge people, that job is Allah’s (swt). Good thing He didn’t give it to you and me, right? Our heads would explode.
Belief in the Quran is a pillar of Islamic faith. That means belief in every verse of the Quran, including the ones which spark social controversy today.
3. The default setting of a Hijabi is not “sexually frustrated”. Yes, there are holier-than-thou Hijabi sisters and they just have frowning, or sad facial expressions naturally; but that doesn’t mean that all they need is “a good make out”. If you claim to support feminine freedom and are against “the patriarchy”, consider giving your Hijabi sisters a break, too. On the inside, they are creations of emotions, thoughts and conflicts, just like you.
All this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addressing assumptions about Hijabi Muslims. Whether this article gives you answers, or creates more questions in your mind, depends on your perspective. I will end this article, the way I ended the conversation with my father’s friend: “It’s all a matter of faith.”