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Feminism played in Adagio or not at all?

March 22, 2010

While Saudi women might, just might, be escaping the vicious tentacles of religious police, Maldivian women are not far from being subject to a vagarious moral police force. In fact, women without burgas and long sheaths of black cloth are already looked down upon and unfairly viewed as loose women. Are we going backwards while our ‘role-model’ the nation that some of strive to recreate, is shifting gears? Check out Dowd’s piece “Driving Miss Saudi” on nytimes.

While burga-clad women were a minority in the days yonder, today, on the streets of Male and in most islands, women with a head full of exposed hair comprise the unfortunate minority. Isn’t it time to sit down and wonder how and why this happened so quickly? After all, what we choose to do with our bodies reflect choices we make about who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand for. At the end of the day, one would like to think that that decision was borne of one’s own independent thinking, free will and faith.

Why does a woman choose to wear the burga? For me, the multiple answers really break down into 2 categories. One, pressure from fathers, mothers, husbands, in-laws, siblings and society as a whole. And two, an epiphany or an understanding and belief that covering is the right thing to do in Islam. However, upon further thought, I fail to see the difference between category one and category two. If we are not taught to be critical and ask questions in our education system, and someone keeps telling us, since we are 5, that wearing the burga is the right thing to do, can we make a choice that is independent and of our own will? This question might lead to a bigger debate about free will and whether we really have a choice etc. But my point is, at the end of the day, women in this country have very few alternative narratives to espouse or even internalize. It might even be okay to say that there are NO alternative narratives that can trump the dominant narrative of women being obligated to wear burga.

So I propose we, concerned women, come up with a new way. We need to hammer out and clear our own path, not follow blindly or be pressured into walking a path we do not believe in.

So to begin with, we need to ask the fundamental questions. Questions that might have ‘obvious’ answers to some and questions that will aggravate our fathers, mothers, siblings, spouses or even grandparents. Questions like, women covering up for who’s sake? Why do women have to swelter in awful heat and hide themselves behind a veil so that men who cannot control their gaze and other parts of their body go to heaven? Why does the onus of preventing some men’s uncontrollable sexual desire fall on women? Do men really have very little self-control? But isn’t self-control one of the most sought after characteristics in Islam?

We need to ask the questions first. I want to walk a path I can defend, and I want to walk a path that treats women and men equally, a path that does not treat women as sexified, vilified and amoral objects.

So, questions?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2010 3:40 pm

    Go go go!.
    This is what I want to see!

  2. dhaitha permalink
    March 25, 2010 4:45 am

    i think the question that need to ask is …can we women wear the veil as expected of us for the rest of our life??….as a woman who used to wear veil by own choice and giving it up for good ………..i can say it won’t be easy unless you give up a lot of things…sports, jogging, swimming, picnics to islands, travelling to other parts of the world to name a few.

    when a non-related, unexpected visitor knocks on your door .. you would have to delay answering if you need to search the cover up may be able to do it initially but after sometime you would either curse or say what the heck and open it without bothering to cover depending on the situation and circumstance……..I believe no one in the hot weather can stand the garment inside the house for 24 hrs……besides all that …. the fanatic Muslim ideologies has made it almost impossible for Muslim woman to wear the veil and identify themselves as Muslims…..

    during the prophet’s era women may have covered below waist and the covering of bosom may have been made obligatory….. may be to cover their nudity…we really don’t know for sure and covering oneself can be interpreted in many ways…………

    our sheikh’s argue that covering of our bosom is the requirement has to be covered only by a veil?? how sure are we? could be any garment…a loose dress, shirt or what ever I believe…..

    wearing the veil in it’s “true meaning” like the sheikh’s say is not practical, not easy and totally irrelevant to today’s world……but one can wear it according to her wish and it’s hypocrisy at its best…so i guess the one who don’t wear veil would be a better person in such cases

  3. Saif permalink
    March 29, 2010 8:05 am

    It’s a matter of opinion really. those who believe in islam ought to wear burqa as it is mentioned in the holy quran to do so. those who dont believe in islam, as yourself, can do as you wish. being in a maldives, where the majority are muslims, you are bound to hear fatwā about Islamic religious matters. but they are only for muslims to follow.

    you and your colleagues may hammer as much as you want. the fact remains that our muslim women will continue wearing burqa and veil them selves with pride.

    for all we care, you may go around stark naked and whore your selves to death.


  4. Aisha R permalink
    April 3, 2010 6:59 am

    Said, can you please go and tell the rest of your group what you just said here? I like your live and let live attitude, that’s all Maldivian women are asking for. Leave us alone.

  5. Saif permalink
    April 7, 2010 6:42 am

    My group!!?…its not my group…its the muslim community which you happen to live in says that. All they ask for is muslims to be muslims. and if you dont belive in Allah there is no need to go around pretending that you are a muslim. There’s no need to be a hypocrite.


    p.s. and the names Saif…not said… i pardon you for the spelling mistake. 🙂

  6. April 11, 2010 8:04 pm

    Dear Sisters

    The reason i come into this site is not to cause harm by comments that i make nor am i an individual bent on belittling you in any fashion or mean. But i found the author had voiced a true existent practice in our society which in our scripture this is not the true case. So i thought this blog actually misrepresented Islam and comments cited by readers did not do justice to the

    As such I may not even be an individual in capacity to explain this subject of Hijaab and i ask forgiveness from Allah for any mistakes i make in this attempt, but I would like to share the little of what I have understood about this subject as this by religion a ‘far-lu’ on me as a musalman.
    Also note that there is no compulsion in religion. So what I speak of here please read and action or agreement with it is of your choosing.

    The extent of Hijaab includes conduct and behaviour among other things but here I speak of ‘hijaab’ of the clothes.

    Hijaab for men:
    In the Glorious Qur’an, Allah (swt) first mentions ‘hijaab’ for men before ‘hijaab’ for the women. The Qur’an mentions in Surah Noor:
    “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.”[Al-Qur’an 24:30]

    Hijaab for women:
    The next verse of Surah Noor, says:
    ” And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons…”[Al-Qur’an 24:31]

    The other verse about women’s clothing is the verse 59 from Sura al-Ahzab:
    Those who harass believing men and believing women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a grievous sin. O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad). That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Qur’an 33:58-59

    According to Qur’an and Sunnah there are basically six criteria for observing hijaab:

    In one tradition, the Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying: “…If the woman reaches the age of puberty, no part of her body should be seen but this — and he pointed to his face and hands.”

    From these and other references, the vast majority of Muslim scholars and jurists, past and present, have determined the minimum requirements for Muslim women’s dress
    1. Extent: The first criterion is the extent of the body that should be covered. This is different for men and women. The extent of covering obligatory on the male is to cover the body at least from the navel to the knees. For women, the extent of covering obligatory is to cover the complete body except the face and the hands upto the wrist. If they wish to, they can cover even these parts of the body. Some scholars of Islam insist that the face and the hands are part of the obligatory extent of ‘hijaab’.

    All the remaining five criteria are the same for men and women.
    2. The clothes worn should be loose and should not reveal the figure.
    3. The clothes worn should not be transparent such that one can see through them.
    4. The clothes worn should not be so glamorous as to attract the opposite sex.
    5. The clothes worn should not resemble that of the opposite sex.
    6. The clothes worn should not resemble that of the unbelievers i.e. they should not wear clothes that are specifically identities or symbols of the unbelievers’ religions.

    Whatever one’s views on women literally veiling the face and /or head, there is no instruction to do so in the Holy Quran.

    This said one must remember that Quran is a kalaam sent to the whole of mankind for all generations, and based on this fact of the Islamic doctrine that was laid down 1400yrs ago and we abide by it as best as we can but we cannot add or omit what we feel is relevant or irrelevant as per our fancy or reasons of our choosing.

    Also pleas don’t constrain your understanding to islam to preachings of one scholar or few but the islamic foundations and old scholars like Buhaaree Muslims must confirm your beliefs. If two sheiks contradict (ie in extent of performance) you are advised to judge it by your conscience and morality value and act on it.

    In conclusion Hijaab is a compulsory act to all muslim women. The extent is explained in Quran & Hadith. The weather and fashion is not a factor that lets anybody avoid its practice. There is no compulsion in religion. The modest clothing is worn in obedience to God and has nothing to do with submissiveness to men. Muslim men and women have similar rights and obligations and both submit to God.

    Further to same do view :

    Also some references were:
    “The Muslim Woman’s Dress,” Dr. Jamal Badawi, Ta-Ha Publishers; “Hijab in Islam,” Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Al-Risala Books; “The Islamic Ruling Regarding Women’s Dress,” Abu Bilal Mustafa Al-Kanadi, Abul-Qasim Publishing; “Islamic Dress,” Muslim Women of Minnesota; “Your Hijab and U.S. Law,” North American Council for Muslim Women)

    May Allah have mercy on us all

  7. Saif permalink
    April 13, 2010 1:12 pm

    Bravo…bravo. Very well written.

    But only those who believe in the Quaran and sunnah would follow what is said in it.

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