We Muslim women have it much harder than the men. We have to cover ourselves with a veil (although some modern interpretations say it was meant for the Prophet’s wives and not all woman) and extend it to our chest (although some say modest dressing (i.e. clothing) is sufficient), open ourselves to the possibility that our husbands may take up to 3 other wives, receive inheritance half that of men, and our testimony is worth less than a man’s (although I understand this depends on the circumstances).
On top of it all, we have to fight the usual modern women’s issues along with the rest of womankind – how to juggle work/career (depending on how serious you are about it), family (Muslim famillies tend to have big ones), family in law (mother in law has equal status with your own mother in Islam), husband (long list of to-do’s there… sometimes this is the biggest baby among all in some households. Alhamdulillah, not in mine!), friends (the ones who have hung around) and your own needs and wants (typically last on the list). AND we have to give birth.
I’m kidding, actually. I know for a fact that men actually have a weightier role as it has been explicitly stated in the Quran, surah An-Nisa 4:34 (“Men are the protectors of women because of the greater preference that God has given to some of then and because they financially support them”). Never mind that this is not followed by some irresponsible men out there (we have a word for them – dayus). And it’s just like in that line from Spiderman: “With power comes great responsibility”.
However, one of the key things people look at in a Muslim woman is how much of her aurat she covers. I did not cover my hair until i turned 23 (although i did at school at ages 16-17), so I understand why a lot of girls prefer to remain uncovered. Women at heart like to be valued and feel attractive, just like men like to feel respected and in control. These are the key personality traits that God has created in womenkind – the desire to feel beautiful inside and out.
I had an epiphany at 23 when I stumbled upon this poem. At the time, I was pretty confused about my direction in life, but this poem really helped me come back to my core (as Oprah likes to put it). I didn’t really see the point of the head covering before – wasn’t the most important thing what was inside the person soul, not the outward appearance?
Over the years, however, I began to ‘get it’. Without proper guidelines, women could be a fickle-minded bunch. What is sexy to one women may be deemed modest by another, e.g. strapless dress or short skirts to the knees, so you see more and more women (particularly in showbusiness – look at Lady Gaga!!) pushing the envelope and justifying their acts. Human beings are made to be flawed – this is just another example of it.
And although I wouldn’t say I hundred and ten percent ‘got it’ today, I do believe I am on the right path. I did wear the tudung litup for a number of years between the ages of 23 and 29 and I definitely appreciate all the benefits – people look up to you and respect you, men treat you differently. However, maybe I wasn’t completely ready yet as a part of me felt that I was beginning to look too dowdy, older than my age and did not reflect my personality at the time.
A business trip to NYC made me find another way of ensuring I was decently covered yet felt stylish and more of myself, by using a long scarf, tying at the neck and letting the ends fall down. I remember how I felt happier and free on that trip. Is this style for everybody? No. For someone middle-of-fence who wants a bit of both? *Ok for me for now* (small voice). Insya Allah, I will strive to continue to improve.
The point is, each woman have their own ‘time clock’ and comfort zone. Of course, you hope to be able to get on the right path (and hope you live long enough to stay on it) and do well enough on Judgement Day (the biggest test there is). At the end of the day, each of us will be in the grave all by ourselves… so next time you wanna judge someone else’s lack of proper covering, look at the man (or woman) in the mirror first.