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I wear Hijaab and that was not so easy for me in the beginning.” Hijaab continued. “It?s still not something very favorite for some people as they do object and hoot, even make fun of me for wearing it. I get the whole gamut of strange looks, stares, and covert glances. You
see, I wear the Hijaab, a scarf that covers my appearance. I do this because I am a Muslim woman who believes her body is her own private concern. Wearing the Hijaab has given me freedom from constant attention to my physical self. Because my appearance is not subjected to public scrutiny, my beauty, or perhaps lack of it, has been removed from the realm of what can legitimately be discussed.”
“Could you please tell us what does this word ‘Hijaab’ literally mean? I mean is it Arabic or what?” The anchorperson interrupted for the first time during her fluent speech.
“I was just coming to that.” As she spoke, everyone could see her eyes smiling above the veil that covered her face. “The root word of Hijaab is Hijaaba, an Arabic word, and that means: to veil, cover, screen, shelter, to hide, to make imperceptible, invisible, to conceal, to disguise, masked, to hide, to flee from sight, conceal, to cover up, become hidden, to be obscured, to become invisible, disappear from sight.” She explained in detail, not leaving a single point.
“Hijaab also means….shyness?, like the beloved daughter of our dear holy Prophet said, ‘A woman’s best jewelry is her Hijaab.”
As she spoke, Deeba noted, her voice was as consistent and firm as ever. Both Deeba and Sheeba were sitting in the last rows along with many of their other friends who were all gathered together to attend this interesting event.
“Respected sisters, don’t think, ‘Hijaab’ is just a tradition. Woman is not an item for sale. She should be completely independent in deciding her future and fate. A woman needs protection, security and comfort and Hijaab provides her all these things.” Hijaab’s voice became deeper as she spoke.
“The Hijaab is purity.” Hijaab continued. “Allah has shown us the wisdom behind the legislation of the Hijaab in holy Quran as:
“And when you ask them (Muslim women) for anything you want, ask them from behind a
screen, that is purer for your hearts and their hearts.” (Surah Ahzaab, verse 32)”
“It means, Hijaab makes our heart pure. Yes, respected guests and my fellows, the Hijaab makes for greater purity for the hearts of believing men and women because it screens against the desire of the heart. Without the Hijaab, the heart may or may not desire.”
While she was delivering her speech, the audience was so quiet one could have heard cotton ball drop.
“That’s why the heart is more pure when Hijaab blocks the sight and thus the prevention of evil actions is very much manifested. The Hijaab cuts off the ill thoughts and the greed of the sick hearts.” She said softly but firmly.
“Our dear sister Sania spoke of the ‘dazzling’ beauty of woman.” Hijaab added bravely. “Let’s see what Allah speaks of this…
“And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former
Times of Ignorance.” (Surah Ahzaab, verse 33)
“See, according to Quran, those women who don’t wear Hijaab represent the former Times of ignorance and yet our sister Sania says that ‘Hijaab’ is an obstacle in the way to achieve modernization and development.” She looked deeply into Sania?s eyes.
“I’ll ask, does getting free from cloths and civilization mean height of development and modernization?” Hijaab asked with heavy irony.
Sania swallowed hard and glowered at her, unable to form an answer.
“Well Miss. Hijaab,” The anchorperson interrupted, trying to protect Sania?s point of view. “What Miss. Sania actually meant was what advantages a woman could achieve by hiding herself?”
“In her hiding herself lays her own safety and value.” Hijaab said with firm and fixed belief. “Though she might remain pure but with men as well as women, there is always the devil to inspire evil intention and stimulates the rebellious carnal desires. No woman would like her beauty to be polluted by the lusty glances of the devilish passion to pollute her pure and chaste fairness.”
“The Hijaab is Righteousness, as well.” Hijaab added.
Sania just looked toward her, as if not getting her point. It was true; she had never ever come across with such a person throughout her debate career.
“The widespread forms of dresses in the world today are mostly for show off and hardly taken as a cover and shield of the woman’s body. To the believing women, however the purpose is to safeguard their bodies and cover their private parts as a manifestation of the order of Allah. It is an act of Taqwah, the righteousness. “
“And last but not least, Hijaab is ‘Ghairat’.” Hijaab pointed out.
“The Hijaab fits the natural feeling of ‘Ghairat’, which is intrinsic in the straight man who does not like people to look at his wife or daughters. Ghairat is a driving emotion that drives the straight man to safeguard women who are related to him from strangers. The straight Muslim man has Gheerah for all Muslim women. In response to lust and desire, men look with desire at other women while they do not mind that other men do the same to their wives or daughters. The mixing of sexes and absence of Hijaab destroys the Ghairat in men. Islam considers Gheerah an integral part of faith. The dignity of the wife or daughter or any other Muslim woman must be highly respected and defended.”
Our holy prophet has clearly said…
“A man, whose wife, sister or daughter doesn’t wear Hijaab and he doesn’t object on that, is shameless and has no Ghairat.”
With this saying, Hijaab finished her speech and looked toward the audience. “If anyone of you has any questions in mind, please feel free to ask!”
“You’re good at speech, Miss. Hijaab, you know that?” Sania exclaimed rigidly. “Hey, why don’t you girls give her a big hand?” She playfully clapped her hands. Clapping all alone, her gesture sounded mysterious and weird in the heavy silence.
“I don’t need others’ appreciation for the confirmation of my own personal views, Miss. Sania!” Hijaab said with grinning eyes.
“So, you think a woman’s beauty should be ‘unseen’?” Sania asked her first question, beginning their mutual conversation for the first time.
“Yes, that’s what I think and believe.” Hijaab told her firmly.
“That would be unnatural.” Sania made a disgusted face.
“That would be the most natural thing, believe me.” She buried Sania with a killing smile that showed through her big, black eyes. “As the most beautiful things of the world are unseen.”
Killer and breath taking eyes! Sitting with in audiences, Deeba thought.
“Aha, Like what?” Sania stared blankly at her.
“Why do we close our eyes when we sleep? When we cry? When we imagine? When we kiss? When we love? This is because the most beautiful thing in the world is hidden.” Hijaab said, looking to the audience to include them.
There was a big ‘wow’ from the audience on her comment.
“Talk about positive things, Miss. Hijaab.” Sania said sharply. “Be alive, and come down to earth.”
“I’m already a down-to-earth kind of girl, Miss. Sania,” Hijaab told her calmly. “However see some people are trying to leave the earth and go into the space through their so called ‘modernization’.”
“Okay, you say Muslim women still need to wear Hijaab, right?” Sania?s chin thrust forward at a challenging angle, prepared to argue the issue. “But, I don’t think that circumstances are still the same like they were in our Prophet’s era.”
“I wonder why you say so, when we still have the same Quran.” Hijaab reasoned with a twinkle in her eyes.
“When we still have the same method and number of prayers, even have the same fundamental principles yet.”
“Don’t stick to your fundamentals and old basics, Miss. Hijaab.” Sania mumbled, oddly tongue-tied. “Things are changing.”
“But people should not, in a negative way.” Hijaab steadied her nerves and smiled a tremendous agreement with herself. “Either stop blaming yourself a ‘Muslim’, or at least try to be like one.”
“That’s a hard attitude.” Sania murmured, with pure dislike in her expression. “Miss. Hijaab you seem so straight, so uptight. Miss. Middle Class Conservative, which is you.”
Keeping her tone as pleasant as possible, Hijaab said. “I won’t comment on this ‘personal’ remark from you because it only shows the ground on which you really stand.”
“She’s an expert of her subject.” Someone called out from the audience.
“No, I’m not.” Hijaab smiled gracefully and said to the audience. “As far as I know of the experts, an expert is someone who takes a subject you understand and makes it sound confusing.”
The crowd burst out laughing on her statement, enjoying the argument as much as it could.
“So, Miss. Hijaab, you think that Hijaab is necessary for women, right?” This was the first bullet from the modern Sania. “I strongly disagree with that and challenge your opinion.”
“It’s not what ‘I’ think my dear sister, It’s something which ‘Allah’ likes and orders us to do.” Hijaab said gently and then went on to explain.
Sania raised her brows and shrugged her shoulders but said nothing.
As if reading her thoughts, Hijaab said, “Yes, I do have proofs and reasons for saying so. However, I don’t know the names of so many ‘western’ books like you do. I just have one book for my reference.”
“I see, and which book is that?”
Hijaab’s reply came like a missile, fast, sudden and unexpected. It made Sania ashamed, and she turned her face away.
“Allah is clearly ordering us Muslim women to observe Hijaab in the following verse.” Hijaab said in a modest tone and then recited the verse in a wonderful accent, first in Arabic, which was then followed by its English translation.
“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 (normally) appears of them. They should draw their coverings over their bosoms and not show their charms except to their husbands (or close relatives), and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! So that you may be successful.” (Surah Noor, verse 31)
Sania couldn’t utter a single word then, she was speechless at the moment.
“But is Islam just Hijaab and veil and nothing else?” Sania muttered in a confused tone, her tongue was sharp and pointed like a sword. “Why don’t you talk about prayers, fasting and other fundamental principles of Islam?”
“Sister Sania, with due respect, if tea is deficient of sugar, would you add milk in it? Or would you prefer putting sugar to make it sweet?” As Hijaab spoke, her words felt like a heavy explosion to Sania Rubab.
“Hijaab is something which affects society on ‘general’ scale, while prayers and fasting come under the heading of one’s individual acts. Meaning, offering them or not is one’s personal matter, it won’t affect the society generally as much as rejection of Hijaab does.”
“Whatever.” Sania chewed her bottom lip in confusion. “I don’t agree with you at all when you say that woman needs Hijaab for her security and all that.”
“Yes, she definitely needs Hijaab for her safety, security and protection.” Hijaab told her softly, her accent impressive and her tone expressive.
“Why doesn’t she keep a body guard then?” Sania objected in a voice filled with deep satire.
All eyes were on Hijaab as she took a long moment and answered Sania.
“Because she wants to be ‘independent’, like you said.” As Hijaab spoke to Sania, there was something deliciously wicked about the way she was holding the other girl through her eyes, which made Sania even more confused. “Those people who keep bodyguards are dependent on them for their lives.”
“We Muslim females wear Hijaab because we want to stop men from treating us like s*x objects, as they have always done.” Hijaab continued in the same courageous style. Although she didn’t raise her voice, but there was steel in it. “We want them to ignore our appearance and to be attentive to our personalities and mind. We want them to take us seriously and treat us as equals and not just chase us around for our bodies and physical looks.”
“How confident you are!” Said Sania, wiping beads of perspiration from her fair face with the back of one slender arm.
“Pity you are not.” Hijaab replied swiftly. “Mind, if I ask you something personal?”
“W…What is that?” Sania swallowed hard.
“Did you ever wear a Hijaab?”
“Well… I…” Sania stammered thickly. “I did start wearing scarf once.”
“But, then I thought… am I a perfect Muslim? Do I follow all the orders of Islam, If I don’t, then why only Hijaab? So, I just took it off. ”
“I see,” Hijaab nodded thoughtfully and then asked. “Miss. Sania, with due respect, does doing one sin justify a need to do other sins too? “
“Meaning?” Sania frowned.
“It’s simple.“ Hijaab said confidently. “Can we drink wine just because we do backbiting too? You must not forget that both are forbidden in Islam. Also, can one commit adultery just because he is a liar as well?
“So sister, if we’re not adopting a good deed for some reason, it doesn’t mean we can’t adopt the other good things as well. Hijaab has its own separate place. You can’t leave it by saying that I don’t practice other orders of Islam either, so why shall I practice the Hijaab only?” Hijaab’s point did make sense; there was no doubt about that.
The fractional tightening of Sania’s lower lip indicated the message had been received and understood.
“Dear sisters,” Hijaab went on. “Who says this new century belongs to women?” She asked aloud, her voice a little shaky with emotion now.
Not at all. We’re still in men’s world and era. Have you ever seen a man wearing a Saarh? Of-course not, but you’ll always see many women wearing jeans or pants, shirts and other masculine things, and they do it happily on their own will.”
“So you’re saying that a Muslim woman must not wear stuff like Jeans, trousers and pants, right?” Sania asked, biting her lip. “Oh my God, so much fanaticism and conservative thinking you’ve got.”
“I’d only present what I’ve read.” Hijaab replied softly, never losing her temper even for a second.
“Now what’s right and what’s wrong, it’s your job to decide. As far as I know, women must not dress so as to appear as men. In Sahih Bukhari, the most famous book of Muslims after Quran, the Prophet cursed the „men who appear like women and the ‘women’ who appear like men. In the same book, there is another saying of the prophet that;
“Muslim women should not dress in a way similar to the unbelievers.”
“And not a single person sitting here would like to argue upon the fact that, by ‘origin’, jeans and pants are the invention of ‘western men’. Infact, jeans is supposed to be a pure ‘male-oriented’ cloth and if you read U.S history in detail, you’d find out that, just a hundred years ago, only rough and tough cowboys used to wear it. How masculine and how unfeminine.” Hijaab smiled dejectedly.
Sania just stared at Hijaab, at a loss of words.
“But ‘Hijaab’ and all those long dresses can adversely affect the activities of working women.” A girl in her early twenties complained from the audience. “Only modern dresses like jeans and pants allow a working woman to work care-freely.”
“I respect your opinion dear sister.” Hijaab turned to face her. “However, I don’t agree with that.”
She then breathed a long sigh and then resumed her discussion.
“Often forgotten is the fact that modern Western dress is a new invention. Looking at the clothing of Western women as recently as seventy years ago, we see clothing similar to Hijaab. Their clothing, which consisted of long, full dresses and various types of head covering did not inhibit these active and hard-working women of the West. Similarly, Muslim women who wear Hijaab do not find it impractical or interfering with their activities in all levels of life.”
“So, all restrictions in Islam are for woman’s dress, right? Men are as free as they’ve always been.” Sania said harshly, but in reality, she was feeling like tongue-tied for the first time in her life.
“I’m sorry, that is also not true.” Hijaab commented. “Hijaab is for a man as well. However, since his body has different shape and form, which is certainly not so attractive and beautiful like a woman’s body is, Quran sets a different criteria for his ‘Hijaab’.”
“And what’s that?” Sania questioned sarcastically.
“Men’s Hijaab is in their ‘eyes’, as Allah orders both men and women to lower their gaze.” Hijaab answered patiently. “Besides, there’s a dress criteria for Muslim men too. The clothing of men should not be like the dress of women, nor should it be tight or provocative. A Muslim should dress to show his identity as a Muslim. Men are not allowed to wear gold or silk. However, both are allowed for women. For both men and women, clothing requirements are not meant to be a restriction but rather a way in which society will function in a proper, Islamic manner.”
Sania couldn’t argue with this, nor did she want to
“The ‘Hijaab’ team scores an extra point.” The anchorperson said wryly.
“An extra point? I didn’t know we were keeping the score.’’ Hijaab muttered.
“Most women like their beauty and all that fanciness.” Sania said sharply.
“Not this woman.” She corrected.
“You don’t represent the face of a twenty first century woman.” Sania said with pride. “We want equality with men and won’t ever compromise our freedom for anything.” Sania snapped emotionally, her voice louder than before.
“Precious sister, women are not going to achieve equality with the right to show their bodies and hair in public, as some people would like to have you believe.” In reply, Hijaab’s voice was still very soft and gentle. “That would only make us party to our own objectification. True equality will be had only when women don’t need to display themselves to get attention and won’t need to defend their decision to keep their bodies to themselves.”
“You make it sound like women should be ashamed of their beauty.” Sania fired back. “Don’t you think a woman is the most beautiful creature of the universe and she has every right to display herself?”
“Sorry, beg your pardon, couldn’t get you.” Now, it was Hijaab’s turn to frown, with confused knitting of her brow.
“I mean, a woman should be proud of her beauty, not ashamed of it.” Sania explained. “If God has made her beautiful, she should be thankful for that instead of hiding it like it’s something bad.”
“Exactly.” Hijaab said quickly. “Her beauty is not something bad or cheap, and that’s why she should protect and cover it, like we keep every expensive and precious thing safe and hidden.” She made her point in a genuine way. “And mind you, a woman who covers herself is concealing her sexuality but allowing her femininity to be brought out. That’s what the word ‘woman’ means in Urdu and Persian…. ‘Hidden’.”
“Any message you want to give to the audience?” The anchorperson asked, glancing at her wristwatch for the third time. There was something about this girl, Hijaab which was making her uncomfortable for some unknown reason and she wanted to finish this program soon now.
“I’d just like to say…a strong person and a waterfall always channel their own path.” Hijaab addressed the audience, her eyes touching each and every person sitting there. “Be yourself, everyone else is taken!” She said in a soft yet effective tone. “You’re Muslim women, be like one, and be proud of that. Don’t lose your identity and don’t lose culture. Adopt positive things of the West, instead of going blindly behind the fake, temporary ‘attractions’. Thank you.”
People clapped for her, admired her for her excellent command on speech, but their response was somewhat different than what they gave to Sania. They had liked Sania for her bold style and daring personality but their response for Hijaab was filled with respect and appreciation.
“I’ve a question for you,” A bareheaded girl wearing a short-sleeved shirt raised her hand from the audience.
“Welcome,” Hijaab replied.
“Have you ever realized what would other people think if every Muslim woman begins to wear Hijaab?” Hijaab stared at her for few seconds and then answered.
“What we really are matters more than what people think of us.”
“Your views and your opinions are those of a religious extremist, shall I say.” Sania muttered in frustration. “A person should be ‘moderate’ in everything.”
“What do you really mean by the term ‘moderate’?” Hijaab?s grin broadened, they could all tell that through her eyes.
“Umm… means, something in the middle.” Sania said huskily, feeling trapped in her own web.
“Middle of what?” She asked, amusement flickering in her big eyes.
“Well,” Sania chewed her lower lip for a time before she could go on. “You won’t get it. That was slip of the tongue.”
“It was a slip of the truth.” Hijaab gave her a smiley look through her eyes and then turned her face to address the audience.
That was when the anchorperson interrupted.
“Miss. Hijaab, you’re getting personal. There’s no place for pouring such fanatic and aggressive views in this all-woman discussion.”
“Respected lady…” Hijaab’s eyes grinned as she faced the anchorperson. “How can I expect you to remain neutral in this discussion about ‘Hijaab’ when you’re not a wearing a ‘Hijaab’ yourself.”
Anchorperson bit her upper lip in frustration but said nothing.
Hijaab then turned toward the crowed again.
“Our dear Miss. Sania told us a very beautiful thing in her speech, and that was, accept people for what they really are and not for what they look like.”
“So?” Sania lifted an eyebrow and frowned, but Hijaab carried herself on.
“She has made my point unknowingly.” Hijaab smiled through her eyes. Now it was her turn to blast her bomb.
“That’s the whole philosophy behind ‘Hijaab’, that… don’t go for looks, don’t show your
appearance, don’t trust your looks, instead… impress people by your inner qualities and not by your external charms.”
Her last comment of personal knowledge caused Sania to fall silent.
There was a chorus of impressed ‘whoa’ from the audience.
“Miss. Hijaab, if some man stares at woman’s body and hair with bad intention, it would be ‘his’fault, not hers.” Sania declared aloud, unable to control her temper any longer.
Unaware of the interested gazes they were drawing, they sat eye to eye in the middle of the stage, glaring at each other and breathing hard, both too firm and stubborn to give an inch.
“I’m afraid I’d argue with that too” Hijaab said matter-of-factly, and then stopped to take a short breath, but only to continue once again.
“If a girl gets raped or sexually abused because of her attractive exposed body or some guy gets some bad habit in frustration after seeing a beautiful or so called ‘s*xy**’ girl, longing to get that vulnerable body anyway, whom will you blame? I’d say that both are responsible.”
“You’re over-suspicious.” Sania exclaimed with disinterest.
“I think only those women and men insist upon ‘Hijaab’ who are not sure of themselves and who don’t trust themselves. Actually such people are ‘suspicious’.
“I see.” Hijaab nodded thoughtfully. “Sister Sania Rubab, do you pray?” Hijaab’s question was sudden and very unexpected.
“Listen.” Her chin quivered slightly.
“Please.” Hijaab insisted. “Just answer this question.”
“Yes, I do, sometimes.” She swallowed with difficulty.
“Can you offer prayers without covering your head, hair and body?”
“Then, why did Allah made it obligatory for a woman that she should wear Hijaab while praying even if she is alone with no man around?” Hijaab asked and smiled at the irony of the situation.
“Tell me, why Allah… ALLAH the most closest to us wants us to be fully covered when we offer prayers?”
“I…I don’t know.” Sania stammered, unable to gather her nerves and words. “But don’t think I’m a pessimist about Hijaab.” Sania muttered under her tongue. “But I do complain about the way you fanatics use it.”
“A pessimist is someone who complains about the noise when the optimist knocks.” Hijaab said to her.
Smiling, she then turned toward audience and said,
To Be Continued…