Tag Archives: hijab

Do Muslim Women Feel Oppressed?

Published On Islam Faith
October 2017

 

 

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“Why not?”
“Coz I said so!”
“Good one Mom. You should be a lawyer.”

Ahhhh remember the good old teenage years when you died a little bit inside every time you heard one of your friends didn’t have curfews or chores? When they made something called ‘last minute plans’ while your parents needed the exact detailed information of the outing 10 to 12 business days before the actual date?

I distinctly remember asking my friends those same questions that night we were all chilling together. I was on a strict diet at the time, and needed a distraction from the melted chocolate oozing from the center of the giant molten lava cake they had just broken into to.

“No. I didn’t have any rules growing up. My parents let me do whatever I wanted. I’d come home at sunrise and they wouldn’t even ask where I was.” One friend replied.

“You’re so lucky!” We all said.

“Yeah, everyone envied my freedom back then, but you know what I envied them? Feeling protected and cared for. You guys should be grateful for parents who loved you enough to discipline you!”

 

While most of my friends made faces and quickly engaged in a heated debate on the different types of parenting, my mind dazed off like usual and an invisible camera blurred everyone out to zoom in on my thoughts.

Could these be the silent notions going on in Muslim women’s heads too? Do they die a little bit inside when their non-Muslim friends do what they want while they must adhere to all these Islamic rules and decrees? And most importantly, do women in Islam view themselves as being protected and cherished, or just down right oppressed?

 

The ‘Liberation’ Fixation.

We can argue about it till the cows come home, but unless we agree on what it really means to be ‘liberated’, one of us will end up really pissed.

So I looked it up and the literal meaning of ‘Liberation’ is ‘the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery or oppression’

So far so good?

Now, would you guys allow me to use the veil (hijab) as an example?
Thanks!

Let me just add that modesty isn’t just in the way you dress. It’s an attitude. It’s something pure in the heart that affects the way you dress, think and behave. So if a Muslim woman chooses through the power of free will vested in her to wear the Hijab, even though she’s constantly pressured not to, would you say she’s ‘liberated’ from the social imprisonment and the slavery to ‘popular culture’? Yeah, I think so, too.

Alright, how about a Muslim woman who’s forced by her husband or father to wear the Hijab against her will, even though the Holy Qur’an explicitly says:

“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (2:256 Holy Quran)

And even though Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said,

“The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Now this ‘bitter-Hijabi’ woman is clearly suppressed, right?
Of course she is, but can we really blame Islam for it? Is this what God wants Muslims to do, to force each other to do things out of mere oppression? Things they’re probably not going to get rewarded for since it’s not from the heart?

This fixation on female liberation needs to take a more informed form. Are we angry with the Islamic Laws or are we angry with the Muslims who make Islam look bad coz they misinterpret its teachings?

We need to channel this bottled anger at someone people. Let’s make a decision and stick to it. Who’s the real culprit here, Muslims or Islam?

 

Women In The Wild West

While we could argue both sides, many might dismiss the scriptures all together and claim that western culture is the answer, for it is the essence of true liberation.

Well, it really depends on how you look at it.

Take the Hijab again. Some people will equate it with suppression, oppression, depression and all the ugly ‘essions’, while others will simply parallel its modesty with elegance, dignity and poise.

Now that I think about it, for the most part, it does seem like a natural inclination to view ‘modest clothing’ as closely integrated with being ‘classy’. Royalty, respected influencers, businesswomen, professors, educated women whose sole purpose is to make a difference in this world… You’d probably have a hard time imagining them walking down the street wearing hot shorts and cropped tight tank tops accentuating their enormous ‘boob-jobbed’ cleavage, no matter how ‘liberated’ they may feel.

There’s a difference between liberation and dissipation.
Between demanding attention and demanding respect.

And hey, if wearing the veil is viewed as ‘oppressive” then perhaps Christianity and Judaism should go on the list, too. For it’s not just Islam that preaches about the merits of modesty:

 

“For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man” (Corinthians 11:6, Holy Bible) 

 

…”then, that head or hair covering was law for the daughters of Israel” (Sifrei Bamidbar 11)

 

Do We Need To Be Rescued?

I once read this meme that cracked me up for a whole week. (They’re called ‘memes’ right?)

* Hijabi woman breathes *

The rest of the world goes crazy: “You are OPPRESSED, LET US SAVE YOU!”

 

We’ve been brainwashed into thinking Muslims are brainwashed. But now try forcing a proud Hijabi to take her veil off and you’ll be the one in need of saving, you know, before ending up in a wheel chair that you’ll be steering with your tongue LOL.

The truth is, despite the commotion, and the whole ‘Islam-is-violent-and-isn’t-compatible-with-modern-civilization’ shebang, people all over the globe are converting to Islam left and right. Freedom loses its meaning amidst the chaos. When you don’t have a map, some guidelines and a clear destination, you’re just lost. And that’s the point; so many of us are finally eager for logical answers, finally ready to make sense of this confusion we live in. So many of us are tired of feeling lost. We need a stable, ‘unchangeable’ solid ground to stand on; a doctrine that keeps us focused and doesn’t crumble under social pressure.

Islamic rules might seem firm, what with the dress code, the ‘no-drinking’, ‘no gambling’ and ‘no pigs on the dinner table’ thing. Yet the core of every single one of those rules is based on love, the same way devoted parents, who care about your success, will watch you like a hawk and stop you from ruining the life you’re so eager to start living. Because they love you, they won’t always give you what you think you want, but they’ll make sure you strive for what you need. And because they know you so well, and know your weaknesses, they’ll put you on straight path to try and eliminate your struggles as much as possible because they know the following is true…

“To abstain from the enjoyment which is in our power, or to seek distant rather than immediate results, are among the most painful exertions of the human will” N.W. Senior 1836

 

Take that night with my friends for example; do you know how desperately I wanted a piece of that molten cake? I was practically drooling all over it, with my eyes popping out of my head like a cartoon character in love. Do you know how difficult it was to resist the temptation? Probably just as difficult as it is for you to invest in your ‘future self’, whether it is in your health, wealth, career or physical appearance. It’s SO hard, but you do it. You exercise, eat healthy, study and pull an all-nighter to prep for a test or an important meeting. You find the stamina, perseverance and passion to stick to your plan and reach your goals. Psychologists call it ‘Grit’. It’s a choice to progress and succeed and that’s the most liberating choice anyone can make.

Again, it all boils down to how it looks from where you’re standing.

If you see life on this earth similar to the one of gold fish, ‘live, die, flush, new one’, nothing Muslims do or believe in would make sense to you or anyone else for the matter. No amount of ‘grit’ or ‘achievements’ will count as significant anyway, right? And like duh, of course they’d seem ‘oppressed’ to say the least (I’d use more colorful language but you know LOL). Except Muslims see a life beyond this life, for they believe in Allah’s promise of a huge reward. They believe in justice and let’s face it, what’s happening in this world is nothing but.

So we resist the pulls and lures of this life and keep our eyes on the goal of attaining paradise in the Hereafter. We persevere with this inner battle between our ‘present self’ and our ‘future self’. We ponder on the amazing words in the Holy Qur’an and revel in its truths no matter how many people try to distort it with lies.

 

Once you approach the Holy Qur’an with the humility to learn and understand, you won’t be able to ‘un-see’ what you see.
You’ll find the truth that will purify and free your soul.
You’ll find the answers you need to reach that ‘inner peace’ you’re yearning for.

Once you believe in something so much that it runs in your veins, you won’t really care what other people think.

You’ll stand up for what you believe in, even if you have to do it alone.

If that’s not the ultimate liberation, well….
I don’t know what is….

 

 

All my love,
Lilly S. Mohsen

Uncovered Too: Women Who Took Off The Hijab Speak Out!

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Published On Ink Of Faith, March 9th, 2015

Uncovered Too: Women Who Took Off The Hijab Speak Out!

Standing behind bars in prison uniform it suddenly occurs to me that ‘orange’ is so NOT my color! Prosecutors and defendants exchange witness lists, while the judge slams that golden gavel and yells “SILENCE IN THE COURT ROOM!”.

Here come the opening statements. This isn’t going to be pleasant people.
Oh my God, what have I done?

“Ms. Mohsen is the new kid on the block, your honor. She had no right to judge ‘uncovered’ women in her last article. A life sentence in jail is what this so called Islamic writer deserves!” The Prosecutor argues.

“Life sentence? Dramatic much?!” I mumble to myself.

“Your honor, with all due respect, my client did not mean to offend or judge anyone. If anything, the whole reason behind this writing was to celebrate the ‘true icons’ like she mentioned. After all, Hijab is an Islamic obligation, according to chapter 24, verse 31 of the Holy Qur’an.” My lawyer explains.
Way to go girl!

My wild imagination aside, the feedback on the article “Uncovered: Why More Women Are Taking Off Their Hijab” was overwhelmingly vast I literally had to lock myself up and stare at the wall for a while. Gratefully, most of the comments were extremely positive and uplifting, and I humbly take this opportunity to thank our readers for this overpoweringly huge boost. Even so, still some people perceived the writing (or perhaps me) as judgmental, superficial, narrow-minded, and one reader basically asked me to shut up!

Rejection and criticism can be great tools in helping us develop thicker skin. One of my greatest teachers once said: “Let no praise make you arrogant and let no condemnation drag you down.” While it gave me utmost joy to celebrate those beautiful strangers who still continue to wear the Hijab, I think it’s only respectful to reveal the other side of the story, about the Muslim women who decided to take it off… The ones who felt judged, criticized and, most of all, misunderstood…

Who Are We Judge?

But is that what my article sounded like to non-Hijabis? Like I’m judging them? If the answer is yes then I’m beyond mortified, and I truly apologize. Only Allah knows that wasn’t my intention.

Islam is the true reflection of humility, compassion, peace and love. As much as I respect veiled women, as much as it would break my heart to see them looking down on others who chose to take it off or not put it on. My own sister and many of my best friends aren’t wearing the Hijab, yet they probably do more good than I do. We are all slaves of the Great Lord, and none of us is perfect.

“O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them……” (Surat Al-Ĥujurāt, Verse 11, Holy Qur’an)

Confusion Is Messing Us Up!

“OBJECTION! Your honor she’s obviously swaying from the main subject. The issue of Hijab is argued to be debatable and Ms. Mohsen is still assuming her opinion of it being an obligation is the definite one! She even had the audacity to call any other view ‘nauseating’ ” The Prosecutor turns red with anger at this point. “She’s interpreting the Holy Qur’an according to her own understanding! Why isn’t she giving uncovered women the same rights to interpret it differently?”

Why is my lawyer silent? Like HELLO! Say something!
She’s disappointed at my choice of words, isn’t she? I described the act of women spreading their doubts about Hijab as ‘appalling’ and ‘absurd’… Yes that wasn’t very nice. My mom was disappointed too! Well, that just proves my point that none of us is perfect. I admit I should have been more eloquent in expressing my disagreement. Now please allow me to elaborate on why I disagree in a more logical way.

Okay. So you’re on a plane and the flight attendant says “Ladies and gentlemen, please contact the airline manufacturing department to provide you with seatbelts, and once they’re delivered, please fasten them so we can finally take off!”

No that’s not what happens, simply because the seatbelts are already there, you just need to fasten them, that’s it, right?

What about the head covers? Allah did NOT say “Oh Mohamed, tell the women to go buy a piece of cloth, and call it a headscarf, veil, khimar or hijab and then cover their hair and necks with it.” No that’s not what happened either, simply because women at that time already wore head covers, they were just asked to wrap them tightly so their ears, necks and chests don’t show. No wonder there were no riots or debates about the obligation of wearing the hijab at that time.

“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their head covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women….”. (Surat An-Nūr, 24:31, Holy Qur’an)

To those who argue that Hijab isn’t an Islamic obligation and that I’m only sharing my personal understanding of the Qur’an, the above verses are not my words, they’re Allah Almighty’s words, and they’re pretty straight forward. It is for this very same reason that females cover their hair and bodies when they pray, even though it’s not mentioned anywhere in the Holy Qur’an. That is basically because proper Hijab is our Islamic attire till this day, and it wasn’t just bounded to the times of the blessed Prophet (PBUH). Why else would God explain in details the specific men we are allowed to show our adornment to, if everyone is allowed to see us with no head covers to begin with?

One of the greatest trials we are facing in the modern world are the alterations of certain matters in Islam into uncertain ones. Some skeptics explain that Riba is lawful and that drinking certain kinds of alcohol is permissible and that Hijab is not at all an obligation. Of course we are all allowed the freedom of speech, but it’s the confusion that is messing us up, and it’s somehow making Muslims abide by the beliefs that are convenient to their lives only. If uncovered women are okay with standing before Almighty Allah on the Day of Judgment and testifying they’re not convinced of Hijab, then by all means let them share their doubts and I’ll stay out of it! (Hey, where’s my mute button?)

Are You Up For A Big Surprise?

Time to blow this story wide-open girls! Because it’s not only in Islam that women are required to cover up. It’s also in all the Holy Books.

“Excuse me Miss. Do you have a copy of the Holy Bible? Yes there it is!”

“For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man” (Corinthians 11:6-7, Holy Bible) 

In Judaism, head or hair covering is known as ‘Kisui rosh’. It’s mentioned in the Torah. In fact, some interpretations of the verses explain it as form of adultery for women not to cover their hair.

…”then, that head or hair covering was law for the daughters of Israel” (Sifrei Bamidbar 11)

So I’m ‘Uncovered’! Shoot Me!

I’m not here to defend the women who took off their headscarves, but certainly no one is allowed to shoot them down either! It’s our obligation to remind ourselves and others to do the right thing, and it’s also our choice to take the advice or leave it. Again it’s not the veil, it’s the ‘Taqwa’, faith and good manners that count the most. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sums it up beautifully in one of his hadiths…

Abu Hurayra said, “The Prophet (PBUH) was asked,
“Messenger of Allah! A certain woman prays in the night, fasts in the day, acts and gives ‘sadaqa’ (charity), but injures her neighbors with her tongue.”
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, ‘There is no good in her. She is one of the people of the Fire.”They said, “Another woman prays the prescribed prayers and gives bits of curd as sadaqa and does not injure anyone.”The Messenger of Allah, (PBUH) said, ‘She is one of the people of the Garden.'” (Sahih (Al-Albani) Al Adab Al Mufrad 119)

I know non-Hijabi women who spend their time helping the needy and memorizing the Qur’an, and other Hijabis who wear skin-tight outfits and are the biggest gossipmongers ever! Some women posted comments saying they took off their Hijab because they’re being assaulted by non-Muslims in the West. I honestly understand their fear, and only God knows what they’re going through to hold on to their Islam. It’s time we face the ultimate truth, we are not here to judge. we are all only here to worship the Great Lord and help each other stay on the right track.

If we were all sentenced because of our personal choices, then there wouldn’t be not one innocent human being living on this planet. I remind myself before anyone else that I’m a weak sinner. The temptations of this world get to us, and God knows we are only human. We silence that voice inside reminding us of the Hereafter because it’s so difficult to resist our cravings. It’s beyond difficult! We don’t wanna be reminded to eat healthy while we’re enjoying a delicious Nutella covered piece of cake. We don’t wanna think of Judgment Day when we wear tight or revealing dresses and get showered with compliments and admiring looks. We just wanna scream at the top of our lungs ‘STOP! Stop telling me I don’t pray enough or I should read more Qur’an! Stop reminding me of my shortcomings! Don’t you think they’re already killing me?!”

Every person giving you advice is already struggling with a sin of his or her own to start with. We are all scared and insecure. But what else can we do except be there for each other…? The wrong has become so common; it’s a miracle some people are still holding on to what’s right…. It’s at times like this that I need you and you need me….

To all our readers, in this trial I ask you to be the jury coming up with the final verdict. I hope you’ll speak your mind and tell the rest of us how you truly feel…. And may the ones who judge you for your honesty be silenced.

And to my dearest Allah, the Most Merciful Lord, I’m down on my knees asking Your forgiveness… If my writing has hurt any of Your slaves or has pushed women away instead of bringing them closer to You, then it’s my fault not theirs. I plead guilty and I hope you’ll pardon me for not delivering the message in a way that touches people’s hearts. Islam is perfect but we aren’t, and only You know how imperfect and flawed I am, so please help me… and help us…

Because without Your guidance we are all….
Nothing at all….

Lilly S. Mohsen