Muslim for a Month

I teach Social Studies in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area at a very diverse high school. In an attempt to better understand a significant portion of the student population, I have undertaken the idea to become "Muslim for a Month"; hence the title for this blog.

Location: Fairfax County, VA, United States

Monday, November 27, 2006


To borrow a phrase from a fellow teacher: You’re Problem, Not My Problem.

I have now listened to Hamza Yusuf’s Men and Women CD three times, and have taken some time to digest its content. As previously, I really enjoyed Shaykh Hamza’s method of explaining things; his use of analogies and stories to enlighten the points he makes is particularly helpful for me. However, my mind keeps coming back to the issue of women, hijab, and the reasons for wearing them. I have no problem with women who choose to wear hijab to be modest before Allah and the general public, although at times I think that since God created us, we should not be ashamed of how we look or appear. Anyway, the point that women wear hijab to protect themselves from men and men from their own baser instincts troubles me, thus the title of this post. I feel that it is the responsibility of men to be accountable for and in charge of their feelings (base or otherwise) and their actions that stem there from, and not the responsibility of the women to cover up to shield men from temptation. Not that I am advocating people walk around naked, although that does seem the logical end to this line of thinking. My turn for an analogy: statistically people in the United States are overweight – we have numbers and health claims to back this up – yet we do not advocate closing all bakeries, fast food restaurants, or ban selling the ingredients to make cookies, simply because people lack sufficient self control to stop themselves from consuming them. (Do not get me started on the people suing McDonald’s etc – I think that is one of the most absurd things I have ever heard.) People need to take responsibility for their own actions – I believe that is one thing that separates adults from children and humans from many other species on the planet – our ability to not act on every thought that flits through our minds because we understand the difference between right and wrong. Asking women to wear hijab, or more, to assist men with their weaker nature seems to be an abdication of the men’s responsibility for their own behavior.

I do understand that men have some responsibility in this arena: to lower their eyes and not look upon someone who is not a relative or not their spouse, to work on the mutual modesty from their own side of the equation. However, I guess I just feel that the equation is not balanced; that women have been given greater responsibility in the modestly arena, and not just for their own relationship with Allah, but for the men’s benefit as well.

For an extreme take on this issue see,,3-2422621,00.html, about the Australian cleric who equated uncovered/un-hijabed women to meat left out and then eaten by cats, taken by many to be blaming women for rape.

On a separate note: Thank you to the several people who corrected my misunderstanding/misperception of women and men spending time together. In previous blog entries, I talked about finding a chaperone so that I could “hang out” in public with a male friend. I have been informed that I needn’t have taken those measures: we could have spent time together in public without concern or chaperone. Again, another example of something I would have continued to misunderstand had I not undertaken this experience – and written about it in a public forum.

As always, I reserve the right to change my mind on how I feel/think about everything in this post, as I continue to read/discuss/learn about these issues.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the reason you're having some hesitation about the issue of hijab is that you're looking at it from a different perspective.

Why not try seeing it for my perspective? I'm hijab wearing muslim woman who simply loves her hijab.:)

If someone were to ask me why I wear the hijab, the answer I'd proudly give is, "To obey God". And really, the reason why a Muslim prays, fasts or does any type of obligatory act of worship is simply that, "To obey God."

All the other reasons are attempts at trying to rationalise why we do the things we do, for example some Muslims may say we fast so that we can feel what it's like to be hungry. Yes, that's one of the benefits of fasting, but that's not the real reason why we fast.

Anyways back to the issue of hijab; so I wear the hijab to obey Allah, because I believe in Him, He is the One who created me and only He in His infinte wisdom knows what is best for me.

And yes, although I may not fully understand why I have to wear hijab in the company of God-fearing men who could never possibly even think of harming or taking advantage of a woman without hijab, even if she tries to seduce them with all her heart, I still would wear the hijab whenever I am in the presence of these men, because I want to obey Allah.

And I'm sure Muslim women know that if they were to take off their hijab, it doesn't mean that the men out there are going to be after them. Most likely they can go about in peace and not be bothered (although men do act differently towards women with hijab).

And even if I were to live at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) who all Muslims know wouldn't even harm a fly, I would still wear the hijab in his presence, simply because if I did not do it, that would mean that I am disobeying God and I fear earning His displeasure.

Hope that helps shed some light!

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, it's me again. :) (the one who wrote the above comment)

Hope you're not sick of me

I just thought of something else after I posted my comment, that I just have to add lol...

OK, you probably know that Muslims believe that this world is temporal and that the everlasting home is the one in the hereafter, and that we're suppose to earn as many good deeds in this world to help us enter paradise, right?

So by obeying God, we're doing a good deed. By a Muslim woman putting on hijab sincerely to please her Lord is a good deed.

So, imagine the rewards a Muslim woman gets to accumulate every time she goes out of her house with hijab, and for every time a man sees her in hijab.

Wouldn't you agree that that's such an easy way of earning good deeds?

So if you were to look at it from this perspective, you'd understand why Muslim woman have no problems with the hijab and love it as much as I do; we see it as easy good deeds!

It just dawned on me that if the Muslim men were also given the option of earning good deeds by wearing hijab, I'm sure they'd gladly do it. lol

But of course in Islam, only God determines what is an act of worship and what's not.

So for the Muslim men, I say too bad wearing hijab for them is not considered an act of worship. lol

But of course God is the Most Just and He has given men and women each their respective and befitting ways to earn rewards in this world.

So for the men maybe growing a beard is the equivalent of the hijab for them. And God knows best.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Sara said...

The previous comments by anonymous took the words right out of my mouth. I am a convert to Islam. I dress modestly and cover my hair with a scarf because I believe this is a command from Allah. I personally have other, personal reasons for wearing hijab, such as showing my students and my own children that a covered Muslim woman is educated, independent, and outspoken. (Unfortunately, some people, Muslims and non-Muslims, hold stereotypes about women who wear hijab.) I also identify myself as a Muslim to others, which I am proud to do. This has led to opportunities to dispel myths and answer questions people have about Muslims.

I have found that each woman has her own, unique reasons for wearing hijab beyond her submission to Allah, and each finds her own, unique rewards and joy from this obedience. I, personally, have been surprised at the number of personal benefits I have gained from wearing hijab, such as a higher self-esteem.

Although I respect my husband and the opinions of scholars, I do not wear hijab to obey any of them—only Allah.

Our attempts to understand and rationalize the commands of Allah are a part of human nature. In fact, we are told in the Qur’an to use our intellect and reason. Just remember that the message given to believers through Muhammad (peace be upon him) is meant for all people throughout all time. Therefore, the “reasonings” of one group of people in a particular time and place may not make sense or apply to another group, but the commands of Allah are what are best for all.

And then there are all the reasons related to the nature of men… Although I think it goes without saying that we all have to reject a speech that refers to women as “uncovered meat,” I find it interesting that we often hear this sort of reasoning from men. My own Catholic father used to use the unlocked home analogy when talking to me about how I should dress. “If you leave your home unlocked, you bear some responsibility if your house is burglarized.”

I ask myself: Is this part of some male agenda to keep women down and blame women for their own wrongdoing and crimes, or do men truly believe this about their own nature? If it’s the latter, then shouldn’t women take this into account? If men are telling us the bad and the ugly about who they are, or who they believe themselves to be, then hadn’t women better listen? It’s like the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus series. I, personally, think it’s a little ridiculous to give men their “cave-time” and refrain from asking them to make the bed a certain way, but a lot of men affirm that this is, indeed, the most effective way to deal with them.

I’d like to hear what other women and men think about this.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Id like to know youre experience of wearing the hijab, thoughts, reflections, comments.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Khala Aishah said...

Everyone is anonymous, hmmm. The first anonymous is right. As long as you look at hijab through your western prism, it always seem unnecessary and extreme. I shared this feeling before I revert and before I knew anything about muslims. Once, I saw a women walking down the street with a blue knee-length khimaar. I had never seen anything like it before. However, once I traveled to a part of the word where hijab was apart of aesthetic back drop, it became not only normal, but beautiful and right to my non-muslim eyes. Even the other students in my group felt the same. We all were wearing hijab at various times during our stay in this land. Only with the back drop of US aesthetics of individualism emphasising outwardness of the inner or maybe the outward defining the inner, does covering it all up seem totally bizaar. Also, if you are not used to it or really see its beauty trying to put a scarf on can make one feel like some down trodden amish maid.

For me, in all black, nothing showing but my eyes (I would cover them as well, but it is tricky with my glasses)I actually enjoy the fabrics, styles, designs, cuts of my hijab. I have got the whole thing down to a science and I can't imagine myself without it.

I wear all this because of my relationship with Allah, for my akhirah. There is no male agenda - just my own. It takes a lot of strength to walk around the DC metro area like this. I do get a lot of attention, but I don't mind being a salient symbol of my religion this is an honor and a duty.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its not only the women that have to cover modestly the men are also commanded to cover modestly.

Im not authorized to speak on behalf of the religion, i would however like to share my experiene of hijab.

For me i have found that its been so liberating. i dont have to be a slave to consumerism, the fashion industry, or a slave to peoples expectations and approval. Instead i have found nothing but pure liberation in been a slave to this Divine being, Source, power.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

Wow, thank you so much to all the sisters who spoke up so beautifully about their hijab! It still amazes me that people think Muslimahs are meek, submissive women when my experience has invariably been that my Muslim sisters are amazingly intelligent, proud and sincere people. Alhamdulillah!

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Neelma, Student said...

This blog has helped me understand better of why muslim women wear a hijab!

5:43 PM  
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