Issue 98 / March - April 2014
Relax - I Am Out Of The Game
I tell myself: "It's ok, there is no race, step aside. Be humble. Keep your beauty within. Liberate yourself from things that don't matter..."
Now I am going to ask you a "Fill in the Blank" question. There are political, economic, cultural, oppressive, feminist-based, family guidance-based, place of birth-based, religious, sociological reasons why woman... (Fill in the blank with: Cover or not cover their hair)
To understand the issue of head covering it is important to realize not all women choose to cover or not cover based on the same reasons. For example a woman may cover simply because she was born in a village in Sivas, Turkey, and this may come naturally. She will see it as something people in her family have been doing for hundreds of years, and might not even give a second thought to the practice. A woman born in Utah, USA may not cover because she has never seen anyone doing it in her family and might not even think about it. Both of these women are not consciously given decisions. They are just the way they are.
Another example may be that a woman in Pakistan, going to a more religious school, may cover not to stand out because she is afraid of peer pressure. And a woman in England going to a liberal school may be afraid of covering because she will stand out and be subjected to a different form of peer pressure.
In different sects of Christianity, Judaism, or Sikhism women may choose to cover their hair. Similarly, they may choose to shave their head if they are practicing Buddhism. Some Muslim women may cover, and others may not. So as you see, the argument about to cover or not to cover is really endless, and as far as I am concerned, is a time consuming debate which could go both ways depending on who is arguing it, and why they are arguing it. Arguments will usually take people nowhere because people going into the argument already have a predetermined opinion. During an argument, the only thing they are focusing on is defeating their opponent. So they are constantly thinking of coming up with new ways to prove why "they are right", and even if they have not been able to convince their opponent by the end of the argument, they have convinced themselves even further by finding 100 more reasons on why "they are right." So no, I am not here to offer you my argument on the topic. But instead I am here to share. I will share why I choose to cover and what I feel when I cover, realizing this is utterly personal. I am not speaking on behalf of all Muslim women, nor am I speaking on behalf of what is the right thing to do. I am speaking on behalf of my experience with the Muslim veil; so I can grow, and perhaps you can grow, and by the end perhaps we might be a little more inspired compared to our starting point before this article.
I come from an international family, so I was not raised Muslim. I embraced Islam at the age of 22, only a couple of years ago. My encounter with Islam didn't come from my family or friends, but it was rather personal. I see it as something that was meant to be and so it happened.
In the days when I used to do makeup and my hair, I would say I could bring some attention to myself; yet no matter how much I dressed up, there was always a woman more beautiful than me in my immediate surroundings. Before submitting to Islam, I did try to compete and shine and draw attention, and I really think that was necessary for me to understand the meaning behind veiling.
It happened very suddenly. I was a student, doing my bachelor's in the USA. I didn't really think about it, nor did I really weigh the consequences. One night, I was turning in my bed, from left to right, right to left, unable to sleep and the next day I went out of the house with a black scarf on my head combined with a Victoria's Secret hoodie and loose jeans, to meet my friend. I texted my friend before meeting her; my text said: "Hey, so I don't want to shock you, but I am coming to meet you with a Muslim head scarf." So that is how my story started. But I am not writing to tell you my story; I want to write about the state of worship I feel after I covered.
There is no doubt that female beauty was created by God in such a manner that it almost screams out the beauty of the Divine. And yet, just as many ideologies such as Feminism have pointed out, female beauty and sexuality has been turned into a matter of pure arrogance between woman, dictated by an industry run by men, whose only desire is to make money out of it. To use it and abuse it. Unfortunately, something so Divine, has been turned into something so shallow. They have used it to sell their products and they have used it to control power. And I had bought their story: this is how I know the amount of damage it can cause to a woman. Because it also damaged me. A lot.
I was created fairly beautiful, but instead of being thankful for it, I always competed with it. Sexuality and beauty had turned into things I would compete for, things that I would look at jealously in other women, and realize other women envied in me. It was a cruel competition, when women's magazines constantly bombarded me beauty products, fashion, surgical and non surgical ways to beautify myself so that I could hold my man's eyes upon myself. Things I needed to do so he wouldn't cheat on me. Then I would turn the page, simply turn one thin layer of paper to come across an article about self confidence and the keys to feel beautiful and sexy the way you are. Between two millimeters of thickness lay two incredibly huge concepts that women have been enslaved to. We've produced this race that nobody will ever win; and that is the exact point of producing it in the first place. Feeding our ego that makes us feel so good when we declare our beauty to the world, and betrays us when something better comes along.
My aim with my veil is to internalize the philosophy of Rumi, who said, "Die before you die." I tell myself: "It's ok, there is no race, step aside. Be humble. Keep your beauty within. Liberate yourself from things that don't matter. Be afraid that one of your sisters may feel pain in her heart because she feels less because of your beauty. Understand that the most precious creation in this Universe is a human heart. Be sensitive toward the women who have lost their families because of the cruel sexuality games. Be sensitive to those who are going through the pain of anorexia. Care for the ones who are depressed because of their weight. Care for the women who have been used and abused by rich business man only to be thrown away like a piece of garbage and who are feeling lost and empty inside. Don't judge the women who don't cover. Don't judge women who have sexual relationships in return for money. Don't judge anorexic women trying to models. But instead, care for them. Be sensitive to their feelings, to their inner battles. Step aside from the silent completion that is going on between them, hide your sexuality and let women who are in the competition feel safe in your presence. Be their shelter. Allow her to look at you and know that you are out of the game. Try to give her a moment of peace while she is with you because only God knows the struggles she is going through. Suppress your ego. Know that your value does not depend on how you look but depends on your spirituality. Take every part of ego in your heart and crush it. Crush your desire to be superior to other human beings, in every single aspect. Internalize it in every possible aspect of your life, including spirituality, physical beauty, success, fame or money. Love them, care for them, nourish them. So before going out from your house, first wear your veil over your heart that will protect it from the evil in the world, then complete it with your physical veil. Be at peace. Smile like the Virgin Mary..."
And quite surprisingly, when I was in the Western world, the moment I tried smiling like Mary, I would encounter people acting like Jesus. I am in no means saying veiling is the only way to accomplish this, but I am saying that veiling, together with other practices, has led me to this path and I am very thankful for it. Veiling has become a means of healing for my heart. And for the first time in my life, I felt satisfied with how I looked, which led to self confidence and internal peace. No matter what I say, I can't express myself better than Rumi did, so I will finish with a quote from him:
"With God two 'I's cannot form. You say 'I' and he says 'I'. Either you die before him, or let him die before you, then duality would not remain. But it is impossible for him to die, either subjectively or objectively, since he is the ever living God, the undying. He possesses such gentleness, that if it was possible, He would die before you so that duality may vanish. But since it is impossible for him to die, you die, so He may manifest himself to you and duality may vanish."