I have been wearing the Niqab for a little more than 5-five years, and found many blessings through that. It has served as an aid and as a essential support in my efforts to reach the most important goals in my life.
What does Niqab signify?
The main “keywords” that come to mind regarding the Niqab are protection, self-respect and nearness to Allah (swt).
The most important evidence for the practice of covering the face of a woman in Islam is the fact that the wives and female companions of the Prophet (sa) used to do that; hence, this is the way we can show our respect to the practice of these immensely great women, as well as, our determination to emulate them in every aspect possible.
I have noticed Allah’s (swt) special Nur on the faces of those women who have chosen to cover their faces in the presence of non-related men- it is similar to the light of faith that radiates from the heart. Such a face is protected from the unwanted, idle, curious or even hateful glances of people around.
Niqab gives one an opportunity to be in a sacred, blessed solitude even while being in a crowd of people; opportunity to smile exclusively and purely for the sake of Allah (swt); thanking Him for the blessings He has bestowed upon us; opportunity to whisper to oneself words of Allah’s (swt) remembrance; all of that without fearing to attract unwanted attention and causing perplexity to others.
Niqab is a sign of that what one aspires for: true spiritual inwardness and superiority of the spiritual aspect of our being over the physical aspect. A sign of aspiration to draw closer to Allah (swt), in opposition to what allures majority of people (and especially in the case of women – beautifying oneself in order to show off to other people, to butter up one’s selfishness and ambition). This tendency to turn away from the highest aim and waste our efforts for the sake of different ephemeral trifles is present in all of us, and everything that helps to counteract it is to be valued.
Niqab is a sign of turning away from the world- a place of mundane entertainments without the awareness of the Divine Presence; away from the hustle and bustle that strive to take over our minds, and turning to Allah (swt) instead of all that. While being outside the house, it is a constant reminder of the goal, helping in different circumstances- not to forget towards where I have decided to direct my steps. Niqab is a sign of limiting the individualism and personal whims for the sake of a higher, over-individual goal, as well as, keeping aloof from everything that is base and fake in this world; thus, protecting one’s inner space from such influences.
On a symbolic level niqab points to the feminine, hidden aspect of Allah (swt)- not to Allah (swt) in His masculine aspect, as the Creator; but to Allah (swt) as the Infinite and the Incomprehensible; the black colour, on the other hand, indicates to the primeval state of being before the Creation, before the beginning of manifestation. The covering of the face, on its part, corresponds to Allah (swt) hiding His infinite, inexpressible Beauty behind the veils of the created things – those veils that only a few are able to see through, although everyone yearns for that, even though mostly not being aware of that themselves.
Biased attitude towards Niqab
It is not uncommon to hear that this attire reminds about the Christian nuns, and on a certain level we can agree with that; because, although in a different manner, their clothes speak about total devotion to Allah (swt), and leaving aside everything that may hinder that: if not as a state has been already attained but at least as a goal that one has put for oneself. This attests that it is possible for the society to accept the outward signs of an inner religious determination without any detriment for its totality. It might well be that not everyone feels fully comfortable at a certain point to see something that reminds them about the possibility to move in a different direction than the majority of the society does; but this in no way means that because of one person’s evanescent, by-passing inconvenience we should destroy other person’s opportunity to draw nearer to the highest aim of life. If in the case of Christianity such an expression is generally accepted and – in most cases – respected, why could that not be true in the case of Islam as well?
If somebody would argue that such a practice increases the quandary and hatred of people, it should be said that hatred is a problem of a person’s inner attitude, and it is clear that if it does not find one occasion to discharge itself, it will search for and definitely find another one that by accident will come in its way. Similarly as, reading the Quran, everyone reads there his/her own self, the attitude of people towards the attire of the Prophet’s (s) wives demonstrates to them what is hidden inside themselves, what are their hearts filled with: be it hatred, contempt and arrogance or cordiality, generosity and respect for the human being and his/her highest aspirations and yearnings.
The society blues against Niqab
Undoubtedly, in the basis of the society’s equivocal attitude also lies lack of knowledge and understanding, tightly holding on to prejudices that have been formed in the past, self-righteousness ‘I know better’ when one knows just nothing about the issue at hand, indisposition to lend an ear that is too close to actual deafness; even more deeply there lies hidden inner insecurity, sense of being endangered, lack of self-confidence that pushes one to ‘the best’ solution that actually does not solve anything: banning-mocking-waving aside-out of my sight!-destroying-forgetting.
Regarding safety issues – after all, the possibility to verify person’s identity in case of need is not lost in case of a person wearing the Niqab; it must be understood that no one asks people who pass by on the street every day to show their passports in order to compare the photo with the actual face, and absolute majority of the faces that we see passing by on the street we have already forgotten after just a few minutes. It is difficult to understand how a possible prohibition to cover one’s face could hold someone back from criminal acts he/she intends to perform. Therefore, it should be asked, what exactly is it that is so valuable that the society would gain in case wearing the Niqab would be banned, so that it outweighs the suffering of those members of society whom such a ban would influence the most?
Some months ago unfortunately I happened to be in Brussels for a while, where I was forced to take off the Niqab, and I have to say that it felt like being forced to undress and remain in that state just because of a certain whim of some people, although it is crystal clear that there is no real necessity for that. It would seem that everyone is able to imagine how humiliating and absurd such an experience must be.
There is no doubt that our society is in need of knowledge and an effort must be made in order to explain those – as well as many other Islam-related – issues. Therefore, a discussion in this regard is definitively to be welcomed; however, if this discussion will result in the habitual lack of true listening and eventual adopting of prohibitions for the sake of ‘overall convenience and comfort’, I am more than sure that all the involved sides will have to be counted as losers.