The Veil

perlinshellEvery time I board an international flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, I see the very same spectacle that amazes me just about as much as it intrigues me. Muslim women, clad in the abaya taken as models of piety and chastity, continue to act as reminders of the fact that Allah (swt) loves the people of Haya. This display of piety with God is a familiar and bemusing sight for anyone travelling abroad from a heartland of Islam but it continues to disturb much of our modernized Muslims and the secular west. It begs much larger questions, such as, the role the state should play in enforcing and dictating religious law and whether ‘secularism’ championed by the West is really the best way to move forward in the modern world.

The need to spatially situate ourselves back in time before analyzing religious literature is necessary to be able to answer these questions. However, the modernists and reformists of today feel that the customs of the Hejaz of 600 CE are nothing comparable to anything in our present world. However, what they fail to realize is that although history does play a part in shaping any religion, the message of Allah (swt) is eternal and the teachings are to be followed by the entire humanity irrespective of time and place.

Arabia, before Islam, was going through what is generally agreed upon as Jahiliyah, a time of social and moral ignorance and despondence. Tribal customs prevailed and law of force was the primary law of the land. In a place where the strong dominated the weak, it should hardly be surprising that the societal setup was extremely patriarchal in nature and women were oppressed. Not only did women enjoy few or no basic rights such as those of inheritance and freedom, they could even be inherited from one generation to another, like any other commodity. Concubines, wife-lending and marriage by exchange, all practices prevalent at that time, point to the same fact that women clearly experienced a markedly inferior status in pre-Islamic Arabia. The contention here is not whether Islam came at a time when such order prevailed but rather that it was through the teachings of Islam that the society was reformed.

Many reformists feel that the problem for any male messiah or prophet born in such a society becomes easy to visualize. Despite any divine orders to ensure equality of rights between the two genders, the Prophet (sa) would constantly be surrounded by elements, his male companions, who would resist any move that would change this status quo but there is no evidence to support the claim. The Sahabah were the truest of Muslims and they totally submitted their lives for the sake of Islam. For them the message of Allah (swt) was final and they could not even think about deviating from the commandments of the Quran and Hadeeth. The effect of Muhammad’s revelations was gradual, as the society was slowly being prepared for the new teachings of Islam. Despite all the odds, the Arab society was completely revolutionalized in two to three decades.

No matter how much advancement we make in terms of science and technology, none of it excuses us from the teachings of Allah (swt). The teachings of Taqwa and Haya do not change across time

The Quran requires women to cover their entire bodies from head to toe in decent clothing.  The bosoms should be covered and the women should not show themselves off. In the modern world where people feel that there is a need for identification, I fail to see why we cannot have women in Hijab who perform all the core duties that they deem they are fit for. The Hijab is in no way a hindrance to their freedom; rather, it gives them a sense of security and dignity. However, reformists refuse to budge on the Hijab question, and demand for it to be removed from the teachings of Islam and merely be declared as optional. They use the classical line, “Islam is a personal affair between God and the believer, and nobody should have the right to enforce his or her own interpretations of religious literature upon anyone.” They feel that Hijab must remain an open and viable choice for anyone who wants to wear it. It would certainly be naïve to suggest that the stagnation of views on just the Hijab question stems in part from the sexist bigotry which seems to have permeated most Muslim societies and has become deep rooted in the vast majority of Islamic literature.

Having said all that, when I look at my surroundings and consider myself as an educated, young man belonging to a time where the youth has been caught up in the delusion of enlightened moderation and a reformed and liberal Islam, I feel proud to admit that I would like to marry a woman who not only is a practicing Muslim in terms of her actions but also in terms of her outer Sunnah i.e. wears Hijab and covers herself modestly. No matter how much advancement we make in terms of science and technology, none of it excuses us from the teachings of Allah (swt). The teachings of Taqwa and Haya do not change across time and there is no way of reforming the word of Allah (swt). Historians have known throughout time that whenever mankind has chosen to leave the word of God, they have shifted from being Ashraf al Makhlooqat to worse than animals. The choice for the Muslim woman of today might be: veil or no veil; but the Quranic stance on it remains the same. Thus what most of us might consider as conservative, is essentially not only protecting a women’s modesty, it is also a symbol of dignity and a notion of why we are the most superior form of creation. The implications of the teachings of Quran and Sunnah are beyond just the apparent aspects. They are the word of God and His Messenger (sa), and carry in them benefit for us that is beyond our intellectual capacity.

If The Veil Were To Be Removed

tawakkul5“Fa izaa azamta fatawakkal alAllah InnAllaha yu-hibbul-mutawakkileen”

“Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).” (Al-Imran 159)

What does it really mean to have “Tawakkul” on Allah?

The root (Masdar/Makhraj) of the word “Tawakkul” is “Wakala”. From this root word, we get different derived words like “Wakeel”, “Mo’akkil” and “Mutawakkil.” A “Wakeel” is someone to whom the “Mo’akkil” entrust his affairs. “Mutawakkil” is one who puts his complete and total faith in the abilities of his “Wakeel” and trusts that the “Wakeel” will suffice him for all his affairs.

For most of us, having “Tawakkul” on Allah is having the idea that whatever Allah has decreed is for the best. I did not believe in this saying. According to my logic and deeply flawed understanding, if something good happens to us, then that’s for the best, and if something bad befalls upon us, then, that’s for the worst. Simply put, I took things literally, and did not think that it is remotely possible that there could be some deeper meaning or “Hikmat” behind every good and bad that befalls us.

I was to learn the hard way that things aren’t always what they seem.

I started to develop chronic foot pain in 2010. Despite seeking expert medical help from many doctors, I wasn’t diagnosed correctly till a year later. Upon the advice of a renowned orthopaedic surgeon in one of Karachi’s leading private hospitals, I decided to undergo a corrective surgery. The night before the surgery, I prayed to God tomake everything all right. As I was being taken into theoperation theatre, I had complete and utter faith or “Tawakkul” in God that as soon as the surgery was done, I would emerge as a new and physically fit person.

Unfortunately, the surgery was not the solution, in factit worsened my condition. The surgeon had diagnosed me incorrectly with a condition I did not have and prescribed for me physical therapy which I did not need; the result of which was, that instead of emerging as a new, physically fit person, I embarked on a two year long journey of pain, depression and being misunderstood as doctors and loved ones alike were dumbfounded by my unique and peculiar illness.

I went from using a cane, to a walker, and finally a wheelchair, (which at the age of 27, seemed to me like I had skipped a few life stages in the middle and jumped directly to the end). I could not go to the bathroom or anywhere else without dragging myself in a wheelchair. My brain was in a constant haze (known as “fibro fog”). I couldn’t focus on anything. I went to sleep tired from battling with pain all day and woke up just as exhausted. It hurt to put my feet on the ground. For an entire year, I wore only socks as it hurt too much to use any kind of footwear.

I could not fathom what logic or purpose Allah might have behind worsening my condition day by day. I knew this much that Allah has forbidden it upon himself to oppress anyone and so, I assumed that if this was happening to me, then it must be because of my sins, and that I must deserve whatever Allah was putting me through. At the time, I was seeing Allah as “Al-Qahhar” and “Al-Muntaqim”; there was no possible scenario in my mind where I could believe that when Allah was doing all of this, He was actually being “Al-Hakeem” and “Ar-Raheem”

I was engaged to a distant cousin early 2012, however our wedding kept getting postponed because of my disability. I gave my fiancé the option that I wouldn’t hold it against him if he chose to end things, and marry elsewhere, but he never backed out of the engagement.

Alhamdulillah, by December 2012, Allah guided us to the correct diagnosis (Fibromyalgia), and through proper treatment and medications, my condition improved considerably. I no longer needed a wheel chair or a walker or even a cane to get around. By March 2013, I was driving and continuing my Masters education again. The pain was now controlled to a great extent and I had become relatively functional.

The logical next step was to set a date and get married. We were to marry after Eid. But we discovered that my fiancé was involved in an affair with another woman since our engagement and didn’t have the courage to come clean to either his family or mine.

Long story short, an investigation was launched, the affair was confirmed and the wedding was called off. Thus, Allah saved me from being married to an insincere person who would have possibly lied to me my entire life and I would never have been the wiser.

I now know why Allah had me diagnosed incorrectly and treated for the wrong disease and worsened my condition.The only thing standing between me and the marriage, at the time was my illness.

Now, I truly believe that Allah does everything for the best.

I read a saying of Ali (ra) the other day. He said,

“If the veil were to be removed, you would only choose what has already been decreed.”

This means that “Tawakkul” is not only about having complete and utter faith that if my ship is in the middle of a storm, then Allah will always deliver me safely to the harbour, rather “Tawakkul” is actually trusting, knowing, and believing beyond a shadow of doubt that even if Allah decides to drown me by sinking my ship, then that’s the best thing that could have happened to me, because if the veil were to be lifted (and “Ghaib / the unknown” was revealed), even then I could not have planned anything better for myself than what Allah already decreed for me. Subhan’Allah!