I’ve Gone and Done It Now: What It’s Like Without the Muslim Headscarf

I have a secret. Not a dirty little secret. I’m not going to tell you those. A normal, short-lived secret as you soon shall see. And I’m going to tell you my secret – this particular one anyway – because I hate feeling like a hypocrite. I hate doing one thing in front of people and another behind their backs. I do enough of that already. So I’m going to tell you about this one to lighten the load a bit.

I experimented last week. I took off my hijab – the headscarf many Muslim women wear to cover their hair.

I have been wearing a headscarf when I leave the privacy of my home for 25 years, since I was 17. That’s a long long time in human years.

I took my hijab off during a recent trip to Europe. I wanted to know what it would feel like. I wanted to know how people’s perceptions of me would change and how my perception of myself would change.

I had been thinking about the whole hijab issue for years – if you haven’t already figured that out from my blog. Why is the hijab considered obligatory in Islam for women? Is it really obligatory or was it just something that a group of men decided was most appropriate for women of that time and age to protect them? Does what applied more than 1400 years ago still apply now? And if so, why? Does a woman really need to cover herself from head to toe to avoid being harassed or being seen as a sex object?

I had been traveling around the world for ten years and while doing so I observed women, how they dressed, and how men reacted. The conclusion I always came to was that women all over the world were wearing what they wanted to wear and for the most part were not treated inappropriately because of how they dressed but rather how certain people reacted to dress based on their own convictions. What I noticed is that no matter what a woman wears, there are some people out there who treat women inappropriately. There are men who will harass women that are scantily dressed and men who will harass women covered from head to toe. There are people – men and women – who treat women with disgust because they are scantily dressed and other people – men and women – who treat women with disgust because they are covered from head to toe.

I’m trying to open my mind and heart these days. I’m trying to figure out what I feel is right and what I feel is wrong, not based on what I was taught to believe but what I myself truly believe. To do this, I’ve been trying to start from scratch to see where I’ll end up. It’s really not easy. There are layers upon layers of conditioning and memorizing and learning since childhood that one needs to dig through to reach an original innocence to start from. I haven’t found that original innocence yet. But I’m working at the digging. I might end up right where I was a few years ago before I started questioning. But I want to end up there or somewhere else completely of my own free will and not because that is what I was conditioned to be.

I thought I’d open myself up to this whole hijab issue since I had so many questions about it running around in my head for so long.

So one morning while in Barcelona, I decided to leave my hotel room wearing a short-sleeved shirt, jeans and no scarf on my head.

I went to the breakfast hall and immediately felt that I was invisible. I had become accustomed to being noticed – just ever so slightly – as a woman wearing hijab in Europe. It was usually more evident in the breakfast hall in hotels: a woman wearing the hijab, walking into the restaurant all alone. It’s not all that common as you can imagine. For the first time in my traveling years, I wasn’t noticed. And I IMMEDIATELY missed the attention. I was a bit hurt, I must admit.

I then tried walking around on the streets of Barcelona and did some shopping. Nothing. I was just one person amidst thousands on those streets and in those shops. Had I always been one person among thousands? Was I always this invisible?

Since this was only an experiment, I decided I’d go to my business meetings dressed the way I normally dress with the hijab. That’s how my colleagues were expecting to see me. Since I hadn’t made a decision to take off the hijab permanently there was no reason to confuse them.

This went on for days. I went to business meetings wearing the hijab. I went out on my own without it. I am certain the hotel receptionist was thinking: “Make up your mind, woman!”

It really was an interesting experience. When I started comparing how I thought I was perceived without the hijab and how I thought I was perceived with it, I truly could not find any significant difference. That completely shocked me. Apart from that one feeling of relative invisibility and lack of attention at the hotel breakfast hall, I was pretty much invisible no matter what I wore when I went out. I even tried wearing a short dress and heels. Nothing.

No matter what I wore, there were still the rude people, the nice people, and the we-could-care-less people.

I tried the same experiment in London and got the same reaction of no reaction.

People I did not know couldn’t care less how I dressed.

I tried meeting up with three good friends of mine – one Muslim and two not Muslim – without the hijab. These are quite open-minded friends, mind you. And I hardly got a reaction out of a one of them.

Two things did happen as I walked around these two European cities without the head scarf. But they were internal.

I felt that a Nadia I had known years ago reappeared. It was high school Nadia. Nadia before the hijab. It wasn’t that I had felt young again. It was more like I had figuratively peeled away some layers to bring back a person I was many many years ago. It was refreshing.

I also felt more feminine than I believe I’ve ever felt in my life. I felt more of a woman. Not that people reacted to me as more of a woman. But that I internally felt more feminine. It was exciting.

I’m back home in Cairo, wearing my hijab. I don’t feel regret for having experimented. And I don’t currently feel like I want to permanently take off my hijab. There are a few reasons I feel that way. I don’t expect people’s reactions to me taking off the hijab in Egypt – people I know – to be positive or supportive or we-could-care-less. There would be lots of drama involved and I don’t know that I’m up for that. There’s also a part of me that still feels that the hijab might be obligatory. Maybe God really does want me to cover up from head to toe. I still need to figure that one out.

In the meantime, I’m glad to think I have options. It’s exciting to think that I can continue to experiment when I feel like it in the privacy of my own Europe and perhaps even among friends I can trust. And it’s comforting to think I can continue to wear my hijab when I feel that’s more appropriate, whether for me or for the people around me.

So there you have it. My not-so-secret secret is out. I haven’t told you all this to get the expected pat-on-the back from those of you who don’t support the hijab. And I haven’t told you all this to get the expected how-dare-you from those who do. I expect I’ll get both reactions. And I will ignore them.

I’ve written this because that is what I do. I feel therefore I write.

About these ads

517 comments

      1. hi , I am really impressed with what u said , ur honesty , would be glad if u added me to have a little talk

      2. HAHAHHHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAHAHA!ONE!!!!***

        Oh, we walk in a rich garden, a rich, rich garden.

    1. Hi Ethar,

      I just realised that you could be the same author of the article: The Veiled Muslim Bogeygirl
      is this true?

      I am therefore a bit confused about your response to this article, which kind of sends the exact opposite message to non-Muslims than the message sent in your article.
      How is that? :)

    2. Subhan Allah,,,Allah asks us to cover our sins as we will carry the sins of the people who follow our footsteps. Sweety, Hijab is prescribed on Muslim women in Surat ALNoor in the Holly Quran. It was actually presecribed on the people of the books. Even Christians represent Virgin Maraim (Mary) peace be upon her with Hijab. Christian women used to go to churches wearing hijab. It’s just pops change God’s command and told them that they don’t have to wear hijab. I haven’t read this rather a christian woman told what happened at her church. Be proud of your hijab and ask Allah to help you wear for Him not for people. Even though keep wearning and I am sure Allah will answer your prayer and guide you to His path. God Bless you

      1. That one and only one paragraph in the Quran which refers to women covering their “adornments” (which has been translated, into English at least, to mean many different things) also appears to approve of slavery and keeping eunuchs (as do many other paragraphs throughout the Holy Book). Are the practices of slavery and keeping eunuchs also prescribed by God? I find it hard to believe that the Creator of the entire UNIVERSE, a universe so enormous that the homo sapien brain is not advanced enough to truly contemplate or understand it, concerns itself with the petty practices of the human animal. Please, don’t insult your Creator. Clothing is a human cultural invention, not a God-given instinct (otherwise we’d have been born with our “private parts” shielded by nature), and reflects the preferences and practices of humans – not God.

      2. My reply is to Sara:
        Sara, I’m afraid your reply indicates a lack of understanding of Islam and the Quran. There’s no time or space under this subject to explain Islam or the Quran from scratch. However, I can recommend two books:
        1. Islam the natural way (good explanation to Islam as a whole message).
        2. Tafssir Ibn Kathir (Explanation of the Quoran but I’m not sure about the translation of this book in case you don’t read Arabic). I can find out for you if you’re interested.
        The Quran is so sophisticated that even people who read Arabic need to study the explanation. Because things could be interpreted in various shallow ways if we don’t have a full understanding of the language, the history, and the circumstances of each Sura/chapter. That is why there are scholars who have worked on explaining the Quran based on their expertise in these fields.
        As a result the Quran will then need to be taken as a complete message into context. As I mentioned in previous responses before, we can’t take one aspect (be it a dresscode) and leave the entire message, this is rather rediculous.
        To get a glimpse of the sophistication of the Quoran, I could also recommend the book ‘The Bible, the Quoran and Modern Science’ by Maurice Bucaille.
        So it’s not a book that we just read ‘shallowly’ and make up our opinion. And the brilliant thing is, the more educated a person is (be it in language, history, religious studies, medicine or science) the more explanations a person finds in the Quoran.
        However, to cut it short and to answer the two points you’ve raised:
        1. Slavery in the Quoran: Slavery was an existent phenomenon. Islam didn’t invent it but prevented it! How? Islam didn’t expect people to stop what they are doing the next morning. It taught them about equality, human rights (which is why most of the slaves and poor were the first Muslims) it then put restrictions so that by gradual practice they could reach a goal.A slave free community. As a result Islam starts putting restrictions on existent ‘wrong’ habits until they finally stops (another example: Alcohol consumption). Which is why people were requested to set slaves free in every various occasions as described by the Quoran. Gradually, there were no more slaves in the Muslim society..
        So instead of picking up a word and blaming Islam for it, one needs to look into history and see, did Islam invent this habit, or did it fight it? Then we can understand the context correctly.
        Same thing with marriage. Ignorant people claim that Islam allows 4 wives, what about women’s rights bla bla. While all they need to do is have a glimpse into history, or even just the bible, to see that it was a common habit for men to have several wives, and that Islam in fact restricted the marital habits for the sake of women not ‘allowed’ it. Thus it restricted the number, it restricted the behaviour by asking men to be absolutely fair, then encouraged men who would not be able to treat their wives fairly to just marry one woman. And as a result, the majority of Muslim men now are just married to one woman. It was a habit that Islam worked against.

        2. Now finally to the dresscode. You are right. God in Islam did NOT describe a specifice dresscode, because dresscode is a cultural thing. However, he requested modesty! That is all. Modesty can be practiced in whatever outfit that fits with a persons society, mentality and traditions. So while Muslim women in Saudi Arabia are forced to wear black for example, this is 100% a Saudi tradition that has nothing to do with Islam. All Islam requested was a non transparent not body describing outfit. This can be joggers and a t-shirt, a hat and roll neck in winter, a dress, a skirt, a sari, depending on people’s own choices. And that is not even 1/10th of other teachings of Islam! So yes God in Islam is indeed much bigger and much merciful than to force women to a specific dress. But he is also much wise and much knowledgable that he teaches Muslim Men and women equally that modesty is best for them. Now a person in 2011 might say well I think nudity is best, but that wasn’t people’s opinion in the 17 hundreds for example. So while people’s opinions and perceptions change amongst years because of fashion, or just to follow some new trend or whatever, God’s advice remains the same, that modesty is best. Modesty in whatever way that fits with the 17hundreds and in whatever way that fits in 2011 it’s for us to decide what we want to wear. At the same time it is for us to decide if we want to accept Islam or not. There’s no compulsion in Religion ;)

      3. Why would Allah or God love you any less if you do not wear one? Who told you this rubbish? We all have a sacred journey with Allah/God or whatever you believe in. Self respect starts from the inside. If a woman or man has self respect they will know how treat other people and most importanly treat themselves. This has nothing to do with covering oneself up from top to bottom. Why dont men wear it also then? Are they exempt from having self respect in the muslim religion? Are men Allah’s Chosen sex and woman are just toys men can tell to cover up, have their babies and do the house work? Its sexist and all about power! It has nothing to do with Allah or God. Its a “MAN MADE” lie to show ones authority over another human being or even on a larger scale to seperate yourself from the rest of humanity.

    3. Hi

      A very interesting and compelling article. The Hijab of course is a man made thing. The Qur’an which I have read as a Westerner and non muslim only has one verse mentioning the wearing of any type of specialist dress and that verse says, broadly, “Do not be like the women of old, draw your scarf across your chest and preserve your modesty”.

      This to me seems like Prophet Mohammed asking the convert Muslim women of the time to be a little more conservative with their dress sense, not to cover themselves for head to foot. Its just with the passage of time the whole thing gets blown out of all proportion and does everything connected with any religion.

      And for anyone reading this who decides to start quoting Sunna and Hadith please don’t bother, the Qur’an is very specific in this regard as well, and say and I quote, “You should uphold the Qur’an and us it alone”

      Tim (UK)

      1. Finally, a voice of reason. All of this obsession with the hijab when it really is not a vital part of Islam. But I was brainwashed into thinking that it was. I have been told by my own husband that I will go to hell if I don’t wear it and he will go to hell for allowing me not to wear it. When these words come from an educated, modern, western man, doesn’t it make you wonder how he came to this conclusion?

        And all of these muslims who live by the Hadith, much more than the Quran. And you know, I have no problem with that, they can do as they please. But its when others try to shove it down my throat or justify atrocious acts by it, that I become furious with it all.

        It’s frightening and crazy.

        If Muslims spent more time being joyful and altruistic, and less time obsessing over hijab and dress and whether to shake hands or not, and what time to stop eating to the second and what time to start eating to the second, and what the specific age of puberty is, and how far to bow to the ground, and trying to gain brownie points every which way that they turn, this world would be a much better place.

      2. I agree with you Tim. I am a Muslim convert and I do not wear hijab. Historically the woman of the Prophets time wore clothes that opened in the front showing their breasts. They would show their breasts to men at the time of battle to encourage them to fight as well. God commands woman to cover their ornaments, or preserve modesty. Covering your hair is not preserving modesty, imho. :)

    4. People always love to support their minds of doing the negative thing to be the positive to against the Islammic rule. Please dont waste the time. Because Hujab is not the main but the second to avoid from the men s’ eyes cause of a sex object. Actually women want to try to show their beauty is the main. Then try to find out why they need to wear Hijab.

      Please think carefully what is the reason that you dont want to wear. No one know but you girl.

    5. I am a Muslimah and I do not wear hijab. I am not against those who wear it but against those who enforce it to other. Hijab in some situation is a necessity, especially if your safety is in danger and vice versa. But it not an excuse to dress scantily. The hadith about Muslimah should be covered except her face and had is only a guideline. To cover the bosom is a requirement but not the hair. I understand what is logical and practical in one country may not be so to another lady.

      1. Hi Nadia,

        I just want to say that I really respect what you did. Every human being has the right to experiment and question what they have been taught by their religion and society.. and the part you mention about digging through all that society has taught you is a testament to your own thoughts and beliefs… irrespective of what your conclusion will be,..i know that it will be because you believe it and will be sincere.

  1. Needless to say, much respect. It’s not easy sharing something like this, something you defined as a private experience, exposing yourself to whatever anyone will think about saying — good or bad.
    There is some sanctity that we impose on certain things, including hijab. And by ‘we’ I mean both society and as individuals. Once we get rid of societal pressure (what will they say about me) and our own personal barriers, decisions could be much easier and sincere.
    And this is why I respect your initial decision to experiment. Nothing is concrete and therefore nothing should prevent us from ‘experimenting’. Because at the end, whatever decision you reach at the end, will be sincere and satisfactory.
    Much respect & love.

  2. Salaam Nadia,

    I have a question: do you wear the Hijab because you believe Allah told you to wear it or because you feel you should wear it?

    The reason I ask is because if you believe it is compulsory, then I dont understand why it matters how people react to you.

    Not meaning to be ‘how-dare-you’ as you put it, but just curious. :)

    1. I don’t have an answer to that question right now. That’s something I’m trying to figure out. I can tell you that when I did wear it for the first time I did believe it was compulsory. That belief has very gradually changed over the years.

      1. well , i like ur courage and frankness to urself ,,, me myself like to experiment stuff this way but lemme tell u my golden slogan…

        “faith getting strong and week” that was what prophet ppuh told us ,,,, so be cautious when u feel u no longer believe in something u used to believe before ,,

        i dont mean not to re investigate it or think twice about it but i mean ,,,, consider ur spirtual condition beside ur mental one…. specially when prophet ppuh already warned us that faith trends like a stock in nyse. ;)

      2. I’m not really afraid of my faith becoming weak. It may very well become weak as I try to go through my journey of truth-seeking. That’s part of what seeking the truth means for me. It means I can allow my faith to be weak – the faith that I started out with – in order for my ultimate faith/belief to become strong.

      3. The headscarf was to protect people from the harsh sun, and is equally (not) obligated for both men and women. The current difference in usage has to do with the idea that “women need to be protected”.

      4. That belief has very gradually changed over the years….

        From what you mentioned in your reply, i presume that you now think it is not compulsory.

        I pity you my dear sister and hope you would come to your senses soon. It has been clearly stated in the Holy Qur’an ( I sincerely hope you still regard it as the word of Allah ) that it is compulsory.

        May we all be guided to the straight path.

      5. Nadia, may Allah forgive you and be with you. You can always make your connection with Allah during the five prayers. Ask Him to stregthen your faith and trust you won’t care about what people think. I have feelings once you pray sincerely to Allah, He will help you through this trial you’re going through. Living among non Muslim make really feel pround and happy that Allah chose to be Muslim….and you will pray just as propphet Ibrahim swa prayed ” Ya muquleb Al quloob, thabbet qalbi ala deenak” ( O…Who flip the hearts [from the state of faith to no faith] fix my heart on your deen). Please, refer to surat ALNoor and read more about things that can stregthen your faith as it will help you with your hijab.

  3. This made me respect your mind more and more.

    You just did what you believe in, and this is the ultimate human experience.

    I hope one day I can be brave and practice what I believe in as you.

    You know how it is in my country.

    Take care.

    1. Thank you, Yaser. It is a challenge, isn’t it, to practice what we believe in some countries if what we believe doesn’t fall in line with the norm. It’s more of a challenge, in my opinion, to figure out what we believe to begin with.

      1. Nadia, I agree it’s kind of a challenge to stick with what you believe when it’s not the norm that’s why our beloved prophet Muhmmad swas said that it will be a time when the one who is practicing his/her deen as the one who is holding a stone of fire. ( AlQabed ala deenu kalqabed ala aljamer)….. Just remember that living away from Muslim countries make you really appreciate and value Muslim beliefs as you do things for Allah. When you know that death is approaching any minute regardless to your health or age, you won’t mind living differntly and being proud of your identitiy as a Muslim person. Allah is the sustainer and the only One who judge among us. We should care about people who judgemental. May Allah bless you and bless all Muslims and guide believers to His straight path.

      2. sorry, I got a typo when I typed the above comment.
        One should NOT care about the people who are judgemetnal as Allah is the One who judges between us.

      3. I don’t like judgemental people, but when I die I like people to wintness for me being good not bad because we are the witnesses of Allah. I don’ t like people to witness for me with bad things. Again we are the witnesses of Allah on this earth, so keep your mistakes to yourself and don’t spread them out not to hold other people mistakes and also it will be easier to repent secretly. Allah will the only friend who knows your mistake; how wonderful is our religion. We’re not Cathlic and we don’t have to confenss. It takes believers a lot of efforts of study, comparison beteween religion and sincere prayers to enter Islam and do their duties. May Allah be with you and all of us.

  4. What an amazing and honest post :) Can’t wait to go through the rest of your blog…
    The hijab question baffles a lot of Muslim women. I myself finally came to the conclusion that it is not obligatory, but still find myself questioning that every now and then.

  5. Hi Nadia,
    I can’t tell whether I am with or against what you did, but what I can say that, as one of your friends I really support you “trying to figure out what you feel is right and what you feel is wrong, not based on what you was taught to believe but what you yourself truly believe” because this is your right.

  6. Nadia, you liar!

    How dare you to say that you’ll ignore the reactions you’re soliciting? ;-)

    I’ll tell you a secret: I am instinctively against the hijab but I am getting to the conclusion that if you continue wearing it and revealing the inner workings of your complicated and fascinating mind you’re capable of helping many women in the Arab world to make up their own mind on the issue, so that many will feel much more free, with or without veil.
    If you take it off, you’ll probably become invisible to those women.

  7. On this article, I feel you really describe me . I also hestitate whether hijab is obligatory or not , but i have decided for now that i ll keep it on because may be there is a slight chance that it is mandatory by Allah.

  8. Salam Nadia,

    i enjoyed reading your post, rather brave experiment and enjoyed your reasoning.
    I wanted to share an idea, what if the outer appearance of a Musilm is a part of the religion .
    Being a woman wearing a hijab or a man letting go of his beard is a part of introducing non muslims to Islam.
    What I’m trying to say is, What if we are not meant to be just another face is the crowd but ambassdors to a great faith?
    did it cross your mind?

    Chees,
    Mohammed

    1. Certainly if someone wants to be an ambassador of his/her faith and decides that outer appearance is important for that purpose, it is his/her own right to do that. This is not my current priority, however.

  9. Hi, I don’t really know u, and I only started to follow u recently after 25jan, but anyway, I really respect ur decision and ur attempt to truly understand ur religion instead of the mere applying.

    It really reminds me of Mustafa Mahmoud’s attempt on understanding Islam too.

    So i would like to point out to another opinion that maybe u didn’t take in mind. Its by Mustafa Mahmoud from his book “حوار مع صديقى الملحد” (i know the title is a bit aggressive lol, sorry about that i don’t mean anything by it i just wrote it for reference :P).

    He suggests that covering women up increases their appeal because “الممنوع مرغوب” and goes on about how revealed women are less appealing to men than covered up ones, like on the beach, men check out women that are more covered up than those wearing thong for example and naked ones are a turn off usually for men :D its true really I can back it up by this scribd note (idk who the author is lol) but as a man i confirm its contents

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/2071739/Do-Men-Like-Naked-Ladies

    So u might wana consider that opinion next time u experiment :-)

    Sorry for the long comment and wish u best of luck :-)

    1. Omar, why should women be judged according to whether or not men find them attractive? Is that how you would have judged the physicist, Dr. Lisë Meitner, who discovered nuclear fission, not by her scientific accomplishment, but by whether or not men found her attractive?

      A little while ago I posted this Tweet:

      In some cultures ♂♂♂ prefer ♀♀♀ covered, in others ♂♂♂ prefer ♀♀♀ exposed, in neither do ♀♀♀ set the standards by which they are judged.

      People should not be judged according to how attractive they are, but according to how honest, hardworking, intelligent, and compassionate they are, traits common to both males and females.

      I don’t judge an author by whether they are male or female, or by what sort of costume they wear, but by the quality of their writing and the deptths of their insight into the human condition.

      While most people divide the human race into men and women, Muslim, Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc., rich and poor, dark and light, or other categories, I believe that there is only one kind of person, the human kind, or humankind, and that if we are not kind, we do not deserve to be human.

      As for what people should or shouldn’t do, if you wouldn’t want to do something or be judged in some particular way, it probably isn’t a good idea to expect others to act or be judged in ways that you wouldn’t like. For there to ever be peace in this world, there has to be equality, dignity, and respect for everyone, regardless of sex, class, race, religion, or anything else.

      Hierarchies, where one can dominate those lower in status but must show respect towards those higher in status, are also called pecking orders, because they are appropriate to chickens, not to human beings.

      1. I never said women should be JUDGED by their looks, I only pointed out that covering up makes a woman more appealing, and really does ANY1 hate being more appealing?? do u??

      2. I only pointed that fact out so that she might consider it when experimenting i mean to see the difference in how people observe her.

        She is after all, trying to understand the whole idea behind Hijab and this is one of the common opinions.

        Btw most men do infact prefer covered up women in all communities, going from east where u have Mustafa Mahmoud to that American guy and the army soldiers so its a very popular phenomenon.

    2. I believe the idea of the headscarf is to muffle away the sexual desire when in a common place (hair being a sensual image). If by your logic it makes women more appealing then it defeats its purpose. Also, my goal in life isn’t to make myself appealing to men, its’ to be a good person in the eyes of God.

      1. I think how a person present themselves are appealing in different ways. True in my opinion the covered modestly looking dressed woman is more appealing in terms of what one is looking for in a woman. By that I means she will be more appealing to me intellectually and not be looked upon in a lustful way. I would want to communicate with her on a higher level rather than communicate to her thru her flesh.

        When women reveal lots of flesh most men the animal comes out in them and all they see is someone they want to bed with. There whole communication is designed around reaching that goal to get them in the bed, not thinking about any real commitment.

        But the beautifully dress modest woman they appeal to men in a different way, making the man more curious about them and the conversation is more intellectual. The men will talk to her thru her mind and not her legs and butt.

        My opinion.

  10. Getting out of a store, a woman sees that magnetic thing they put at the door.. She asks: “what’s this?” an employee answers: “This is to fight against theft.” “Are you saying i am thief?!” “No mam, you’re a decent lady.. but there are plenty of thieves out there!”.
    I still don’t get it how brilliant minds like yours cannot understand the wisdom of Hijab. If it were only for Dr. Nadia, that would be very simple. But it is a rule for all societies to follow including the society of 21th century Europe which has around 4 millions prostitutes on their streets whith no life, no kids, no family, only fat old sexually obsessed men to sleep with for cheap $. And where did they get their obsession from: yes, lots of reasons but on top of them: They are exposed to female bodies 24/24. Only the Hijab, the full, covering everything except face and hands, like Mary used to do, can put the lust of men into peace. Just ask young men where was the last time they didn’t feel bombarded by the look of a female body; you’ll be surprised of the number one answer: Madinah, during Omra (knowing that there are 100k women around them, but all with the right Hijab).
    But what if all women take off Hijab; Myself wouldn’t make any real difference! Oh no, that was the wisdom.. as for why you need to wear Hijab, it’s because Allah dictated to.
    And saying I am not sure of this is comparable to a patient saying he’s not sure about taking the pill prescribed equally by all doctors because he has a feeling that another pill can do the job, especially after knowing that his good friend, a brilliant political scientist, has the same feeling!
    your little brother, Sadek

    1. Oh dear, misguided Sadek! Not that old ‘Prostitute’ chestnut. There are prostitutes in every country of the world, including Saudi Arabia.

      Allah, peace be upon him, never said women had to cover up. It was men who said that…for reasons best known to them.

      1. Thanks for reading my reply. I thought none would read it being so long.
        Last year, i went to Saudi and rented an appartment for two weeks. The first thing i have done is reset the TV channels because I found out there were 2000 of them including 200 pornographic.
        Also, I made it clear that exposed female body is not the only reason for prostitution.
        Hijab is explicitly dectated in the Quran twice!!! but again, forbidding alcohol is too and you still find people that say it isn’t, usually because they drink alcohol.
        NB: peace be upon him is used for prophets.
        NB: misguided is a rude word

    2. I can tell you who and what can put the lust of men into peace:
      MEN. Period.
      Blaming the women for being harrased cause their clothing is “inapprobiate” is so backwards that it makes me sick. Men have to curb their own animal instincts despite a woman wears a hijab or a mini and high heels. It has nothing to do with clothes.

      1. You said: Animal instinct; make an animal starve and then tell him to behave; I don’t think that’s fair.
        In islam, and now i’m talking about humans, it’s both ways: Women should wear modestly and men should not look sharply.
        As for harassment, I myself prefer to die than to harass a woman.. but again i am not the only man out there.

      2. But Sadek, do you not think there’s something fundamentally wrong comparing men to animals? Or comparing a man who hasn’t had sex to a starved animal?

      3. Sadek, so you are basically saying you are superior to other men because you can control yourself and not harass scantly-dressed women. Perhaps instead of demanding that women appease these lesser men by getting veiled, you should demand that other men try and be more like you.

      4. Don’t say superior please.
        Why should it be either or.
        I spend half my life demamding people to do good deeds. (the other half is demanding from myself). But only a minority eventually responds. Therefore we need rules and restrictions.
        First, you build adequate roads and set traffic rules and restrictions. Then, you can say to people: Drive safely! If not, only a minority would still do… this is reality.

      5. Yes, we need rules and restrictions.

        Those rules and restrictions need to be against misdeed, not against everything but.

        The story about the magnetic thing in the shop door is nonsense:

        Who decided to install the magnetic thing they put at the door? Unless it’s the thieves themselves, and they begged the shopkeeper to install it so that they would not steal–and, further, claimed not to be thieves themselves, but rather protectors from OTHER thieves they’ve heard tell of, then the story is a pretty lousy analogy.

        It’s a smokescreen, designed to keep women dependent on men and scared of monsters. We all have powerful people telling us about bogeymen so we’ll stay afraid and give up our rights. It’s Suppression 101. You are on the wrong side of this one.

      6. The facts are we are creatures of influences. How do you think our minds digest foods? The mind eats too. Allah made the mind to engage the environment to feed off of the messages that the environment is signaling. Also, this environment was made for us. We are all part of the is physical environment and therefore we are connected to it.

        Words makes people. We are a creation of Words. A word is anything that brings a message to our minds. Man means Mind. Woman means the Womb of Mind. Our minds develops in the womb of our environment (woman).

        The messages that the environment signals to our minds is designed to bait us, to get our attention, to make us curious, to make us want to investigate it because there is knowledge to be acquired from it that we need for our mental and intellectual development.

        So it’s impossible not to be affected in some way when I observe someone as they are presented to my 5 five senses when I come in contact with them in my environment. I will get some kind of reaction internally whether positive or negative.

        A mind that don’t thirst is a dead mind. The only way I want react to a nakedly dressed woman when my senses make contact with what I am seeing, I have become dead or desensitized. In this world that’s pretty much what we have to do if we want to live the higher life that Allah invites us to. Allah says “die that we may live”.

        Its an eye opener to noticed in the word “world” we have the word “word”. Change our language environment, we change our world. Remember, I said words makes people and a word is anything that brings a message to our minds.

    3. In industrialized nations, socially *conservative* areas have the highest rape rates, the highest divorce rates, the highest teen pregnancy rates, the highest STD rates, and the highest rates of domestic violence.

      This is true in the United States (where some socially conservative areas have rape rates a staggering 8x higher than socially liberal ones), in India, in Australia, in Europe – everywhere we have comprehensive statistical data.

      The more sexually open women are, the more freely they dress, the more relaxed men and women are about their respective sexuality… the LESS they deal with rape or STD’s or domestic violence or teen pregnancy or divorce.

      That isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. Based on statistics of billions of people spanning the entire globe over the course of decades.

      George Bush ignored those facts 10 years ago when he decided that Sex Ed should tell teens to not have sex until marriage. Teen pregnancies skyrocketed. Teen STD rates skyrocketed. Teen relationship violence skyrocketed. Now that we’re getting back to teaching teens about sex, including about condoms and all the rest? All of those numbers are coming down.

      Again, this is true all over the world. The reason you feel “bombarded” by the female body is BECAUSE you insist it should be covered. I have not felt that way since I was a teenager, and I live in California – where there is no shortage of female bodies. That’s not a normal feeling. Most of us do not feel that way.

      As this blog mentions, most people just don’t care.

      1. Hear hear! Putting facts before emotion.

        Mind you, I don’t see anything wrong with hijab. I also know plenty of not-so-conservative women who wear it. I don’t think it’s an indicator of anything except faith in my community.

        But at the same time, when I’ve lived in certain Arab countries, I’ve found that the social pressure amongst women is so high that women who don’t wear it often feel ostracized. Whether the pressure is from the government a la Saudi, or from family, or from women, it’s wrong.

        How a woman dresses should only be the choice of that woman. No one else.

    4. “Only the Hijab, the full, covering everything except face and hands, like Mary used to do, can put the lust of men into peace”
      What is kept secret and hidden from others eyes’ view –what can be only “guessed”–may arise the most lust in men. And the eyes of a Muslim woman with the rest of her face covered by a veil can be indeed more sexy than the body of top-less women in a Western beach.

      1. I agree with your statement but the first reason behind that is my argument! What you said proves my point!!

    5. Thanks for your words, Sadek. Just a thought. Don’t doctors make mistakes and develop their understanding of medicine as more knowledge becomes available? Medical thought 50 years ago is very different from common medical thought today. I’m not necessarily making the parallel you’re making. But I’m questioning the parallel you use to prove your point.

      1. Dear Dr Nadia

        I don’t know much about you but I know that I’ve watched an inspiring interview of yours on utube and that you were part of islam-online team, a team that I respect a lot. Also I read your article regarding niqab and liked it very much despite not being a supporter of niqab in our days. And I know you’re a role model for many.
        Excuse my English, it is my third language. I wish I knew your email to send you the following. My email is xxxxx
        First, to answer your point briefly – and I thank you for your soft way of replying – yes, medical thought as well as religious thought changes.. but there are basics that don’t. But most importantly, what doesn’t change is the need to go back to the leading scholars whether they are medical scholars or islam scholar if we want to confirm any changes. When the verses concerning hijab were first revealed, women covered their heads and bodies; this how the Prophet understood it, along with Sahaba. The Prophet would never impose on women something that is not imposed by God. Not a single renowned islam scholar ever deviated from this: not imam ghazali nor ibn arabi nor nawawi… because it is based both on Quran and Sunnah. Ask me about it, i spent years of my life studying them.
        To tell u a little bit about myself, i graduated from a secular school having a westernized way of life, more a la francaise. I reshaped all my life, during the years of college, when i gradually recognized that life is about love and submission to Allah. and then i immersed myself into islam studies relying on my perfect arabic language
        Then i worked on understanding the wisdom of islamic law, to reinforce my faith but mostly as a tool for da3wa. Islaamic law is a consistent and solid system that aims to achieve many goals that lead people to the happiness in life and hereafter; this you probably know. I gave public lectures about topics that ranged from halal haram like alcohol or hijab to intellectual talking about Freedom and Justice in Islam.
        I can talk for 12 hours to explain the wisdom of hijab; this is why i am very uncomfortable in these tiny comments; it is like describing a city by looking at just one street in the night.
        islamic law, in its generally accepted basics not in ijtihadat, is in relation with absolute Knowledge and Wisdom of Allah. We can understand a great part of it if we invest the needed time and effort. But there is a point where at the end we should submit. This is why our religion is called Islam and Islam means surrender.
        I have a lot more to say but i don’t want to take more of your time
        may Allah bless your family and kids
        Sadek

  11. Well let me tell you that not only I think u r brave to experiment, but to write about it, also to search through your soul who you really are because that’s the most important thing. It’s tough when the inside doesn’t agree with the outside and results in confused decisions. I have taken the veil a long time ago too but that’s not the point! The point is that I have bee. Happy with the decision every single day. The only time I felt uncomfortable was in Europe last year which didn’t make me think of taking it off as much as it urged me to work on correcting our image abroad. Specially that in the US I was much more welcomed! So to test whether people will be racist or not, I think we know the answers but to test our comfort area and faith, sometimes we have to go through the test. Regards

  12. Nadia, I followed a twitter link to this blog post and I’m so glad I did. I live in Australia and where there is an unproductive debate about what is acceptable attire for women (unfairly targetting muslim women) and you have articulted my feelings exactly.
    What you wear on your head is between you and your faith and no one should interfere with that. Respect to you for thinking about the issue and experimenting, whatever the outcome is.
    As Sorates said ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’

  13. Descartes and Abu Hamed AlGhazali… That’s where I see you now. What they taught us in high school philosophy about doubting everything till you reach certainty. Bringing down all inherited structures to construct your own.

    Wish you arrive there.

  14. Yea, forgot to elaborate that what you entrench on basis of a long path of wavering till you arrive at the truth, you will no longer question or eradicate later on. The path shows you will build upon it. The journey is tricky, however, but you seem to be faring smoothly so far.

    This writing is not about a stance on the validity or authority of a veil, nor is it about the veil through others’ eyes. It’s really an exhibition of the “Inner workings of your mind”

    And this is why I am not going to write as much as one word on the yes, no, I support you, or reconsider sides….

    Again, wish you a safe arrival.

    1. Thank you, Radwa! But when you wish me a safe arrival, is it based on an understanding on your part that I’ll if I go through the journey and arrive at one particular result I’m safe but if I arrive at another I’m not? What do you mean by the journey being tricky?

  15. My thinking is that before patriarchy, people dressed in accordance with the weather, the task at hand, or what felt good to wear. Then came patriarchy and costumes appropriate for gender roles were assigned. Everyone, male and female, lost their freedom to dress as they chose. Who hasn’t seen a male in a suit and tie suffocating in the heat, or a female in a flimsy dress shivering in the cold because that’s what’s expected of them?

    In some desperately poor Muslim countries there are young girls who, with the approval of their families, dress like and pass themselves off as boys in order to earn money and help their families survive. There are females in western history who passed themselves off as males in order to join the military or go to sea.

    It is impossible to discriminate on the basis of sex if you can’t tell what sex a person is. In one famous psychology experiment, doctors would hand an infant to an unsuspecting volunteer in a room where they could be observed, and leave for a few minutes. The infants had white diapers and no indication of whether they were male or female. Most of the volunteers were unable to interact with the infants, and in their need to know if the infant was male or female, so that they could say either, “What a big strong boy you are,” or “What a pretty little girl you are,” tried to peek under the diapers.

    It never occurred to anyone to say, “What a smart, healthy baby you are.” ;)

    1. Mark; I agree with you completely. The argument you make is so obviously correct. Why more people can’t see this is beyond me. Thank you for expressing this!
      ~Stephane Von Stephane RE/Search

      1. Sorry, Stephane, I’m not. It’s a common name and I’m a common person.

        Glancing at your profile I thought seeing references to Jello Biafra and Gurdjieff on the same page quite impressive.

        “First you warm the teapot.” –Ancient Wisdom

    2. I just recently posted a song by The Fall ‘In My Area’ on the Tweetie-bird too, so I’d been thinking of Mark E. Smith, (that slightly less common one)…Jello I knew from early punk-rock-daze in S.F., Gurdjieff…whole other story…rather think I need a cuppa right now…

    3. Your thinking is absolutely FLAWED. If it were true, matrilineal societies would have NO dictated wardrobe whatsoever. Go look at Papua New Guinea or Kerala India and you’ll see that what men and women wear is still prescribed by society.

      Covering actually gives women MORE freedom in a patriarchy. Anyone familiar with “Objectification Theory” would understand this. Basically, people (men AND women) in patriarchal societies view female bodies as OBJECTS DESIGNED TO PLEASE OTHER PEOPLE. This means more rape, more pornography, more prostitution, more harassment. If a woman is walking down the street inside an object that is considered public domain (her own freaking body) she is powerless.

      Take that same woman and teach her to cover the curves of her body and to not attractively style her hair (or cover it) and she suddenly feels MORE power. The men who believe she should be objectified get angry with her for covering, because she’s broken the rule. She starts to see her body as an extension of her soul, the tool she uses to navigate through this life, and not an object designed to make other people (not herself) happy.

      This is hijab done right. And this is why Allah says that hijab is a protection. Not that hijab alone protects women from rape, but because it removes us from this sick, insidious side effect of patriarchy. It gives us freedom of movement in public spaces without losing our dignity. It removes our looks from the realm of “public domain”.

      1. Matrilineal societies can still be patriarchal. In fact, I’m not aware of any matriarchal or gender-neutral societies currently in existence (though that doesn’t preclude their existence I admit).

      2. Rape goes up exponentially where there are influxes of Muslim populations, and your statements are wholly unsupported. Your logic is highly flawed and this urge to excuse what is clearly not a woman’s choice is sad.

        You do know that more pornography is downloaded in Muslim-dominant nations than any other nation, right? They’ve counted the IP addresses. These poor repressed men get no glances at anything but fingers of close female relatives and you think there’s less pornography? Muslims traffic non-Muslim girls and women. This is not an Islamic edict, so why do they do it? Because non-Muslim women are uncovered meat and worthless. They have learned to equate worth with a religion as demonstrated by wearing of hijab. It is no different than making Jews wear stars of David so they can be identified in public as not walking in a place not meant for them or so they can be humiliated without the formality of having to play 20 questions to find out who is Jewish.

        Picture this: rebellious Egyptians are now banning the hijab from chic-chic restaurants. The reason? Well, alcohol is served there and it would be outrageous for a Muslim woman to be seen in a place where people are drinking alcohol. They are throwing this “I’m more pure than you” argument right in their faces. If a Muslim woman wants a drink, and she is not wearing a hijab, then no one will reprimand her or call the vice squad or whatever they do. But with her star of David on, she knows she’d better not order a drink, because then everyone will know. It’s a behavior leash.

        I don’t need to feel any power when I walk down the street. I dress appropriately to the weather and the social protocol of the event or place. I do not need to make a spectacle of myself trying to show how much better I am than other women because I drape myself ludicrously in man-prescribed quicksand. It is not modesty, it is pride. I have never seen a Muslim woman argue her hijab from a position of humility…she defends it with honey-badger belligerence and pride.

        I understand male nature is to lust after women’s bodies. They’re just wired that way, and there is absolutely nothing I can wear that will prevent that, nor is it my role (we’re not their mothers, ladies) to control his blood pressure or daydreams. At the same time, in a liberal society, such as has developed in the West, personal liberty and responsibility have developed together. I fully expect no one to attack me or grope me as I walk down the street. I expect men to behave as a law-abiding citizen with manners, regardless of what I wear. This is not the case in much of the world. Muslims are absolved of crime where their passions are inflamed…not subject to punishment is a father or mother who kills a wayward child…killing an adulterous spouse, killing a non-Muslim who criticizes Islam or its putative founders. Not just Muslim countries, there are all kinds of places where freedom does not coexist with order and equal justice.

        But let’s not make up pretend facts, nor pretend that men get mad if a woman covers and she therefore wins some kind of empiric victory over him. He sees through you no matter what you wear, and a male imagination is not daunted by crazy attempts by women to absolve a man from behaving himself. It is not women’s responsibility to protect herself from rape or groping. It is a man’s responsibility to simply not do it, and society’s responsibility to incarcerate those who do: random, date-rape, incest, or spousal.

        I applaud this author for her well-written article, her careful observational technique, and hope that she will get a bevy of her girlfriends to do the same, at home, in the way that Spartacus’ fellow slaves deflected wrath from him by all claiming his name. Once you are free of the hijab, you will have no more leash to jerk you into not participating in that which you desire.

  16. Not being a muslim myself – can I ask a question? If Allah did tell women to wear the hijab or niqab who did he say it to exactly and was there a reason given?

      1. Good humor ;) Makes me wonder why I’m not allowed to go to work naked either! Is it instict, or company rules that I need to break free from…

    1. Mara, these are two verses in the Qur’an that most Muslims consider to mean that the hijab is obligatory.

      “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 must ordinarily appear therof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” (Quran 24:31).

      “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:59)

  17. That was a brave thing to write and publish! And it was a brave experiment!

    I totally understand what you mean about feeling more feminine and even about being invisible. One thing I noticed when I took it off is that I felt that a barrier that had kept people away from me had been lifted.

    But I think if you eventually reach the conclusion that the hijab is not necessary don’t let people’s perceptions or reactions stop you from doing something you believe in. Besides, after the initial hoohaa, they’ll get used to it :)

    1. This is exactly what people say about ‘coming out’ to others as having something other than a heterosexual birth orientation. They feel free and empowered so much more to ‘be themselves’. Of course, depending on their own particular culture and social circle they may or may ot have problems with those not accepting.. But almost all say.. that is THEIR problem for not accepting my decision not mine.

      1. I’ve met many people (mainly women) who readily admit they weren’t born gay but chose to be gay.

      2. Really, modestgrrl? Because I’ve never met a single one. There are people who choose to experiment sexually, certainly, but people who admit they CHOOSE to be gay? I doubt it.

  18. Nice post ya Nadia,

    I dont think god cares if a girl covers her hair. I mean the earth in our galaxy is invisible, and our galaxy in the universe is invisible and if the M-Theory is right then our universe is probably invisible in the Multiverse, in all that some god will mind a girl showing hair that he created. Sounds more like a man subjugating woman.

    But thats only my opinion mind you i am an atheist. (and thats my real name -YES)

  19. Dear , first time to read a very honest and impressing experiment , GOD granted us to choose from the very beginning , and the choices are always there , but if we only follow our mind and feelings it’s not always guaranteed to reach safely , all the best , all the luck.

  20. I am not surprised by your findings Nadia.

    I always found it interesting back in the early 1980s when I lived in Saudi Arabia. On many occasions, flying back to the UK, Saudi women boarded the plane in full black traditional covering (head-to-toe) and got off the plane in London wearing typical European clothes, with hair, legs and upper arms showing.

    It was good to see them smiling and seemingly quite happy as they deplaned in London, somethig one couldn’t assess when they boarded the plane in Riyadh.

      1. You have projected your own stereotype of Andy and claimed for him something you inferred that he in no way implied.

        In fact, rather than “objectification,” he responded positively to their displays of happiness, relaxation, and willingness to shed the garments without so much as a tearful goodbye or anguished decision.

        It seems to me that you are the one objectifying these women, by concentrating solely on your projection that others seen only their bodies, and not their persona.

        But, I see you are “modestgrrl,” better than uncovered women, which is a value held by many Muslims, supported by your Qur’an.

        It is not a value I am admiring right now.

  21. Hi Nadia,
    Thanks for sharing your experience with everyone. This has only reaffirmed my statements that the choice to wear , or rather practice hijab (modesty in actions) should depend on your surroundings. To walk around most middle eastern countries without the headscarf would inadvertently draw more attention to you, or if you wore one you would be just as invisible as you were in Europe without the scarf.

    1. Farah, what would happen if Nadia had more inadvertent attention drawn to her in most Middle-Eastern countries? I mean, if she had one leg or used a wheelchair she’d get attention, too. If she wore a bright orange hijab with green goblins on it she’d get attention.

      What about non-Muslim women in the Middle-East. They are not required to wear hijab, but more are doing so out of fear.

      What kind of “attention” would they get? Wouldn’t the most Islamic lands have the safest place for women of all stripes?

  22. Thank you for your post, which I think opens up an important principle that I have attempted to articulate below.

    I believe the hijab is obligatory for the woman (though not niqab) in the context of the wider obligation to cover the “awra” and the body of Islamic evidence and juristic opinion is overwhelming. I’m sure their are those that will argue that all the scholars are male so their opinion is biased; but this is very unfair as you would really have to demonstrate with evidence that all such scholars were intrinsically misogynistic or biased towards fulfilling some sort of male dominance. I may be wrong bit have certainly not come across any such evidence in the biographies that I have read or listened to.

    This principle of covering the awra applies to both men and women so is fundamentally not a gender issue but rather one of understanding and obedience. Which is why I disagree with the very premise of your post, which is all what you feel, what you want, what you choose.

    In my opinion this is the very antithesis of an Islamic understanding, which is based on the submission to Allah’s will, *especially* when it contradicts our own opinion or desires. In fact, as you will know, Islam means submission and Allah is explicit in making this point in the following verses:
    5:48-50 and 33:36 and 2:216
    So if one believes an action has been obliged by Allah then I should follow it regardless of my opinion or whether or not I have been given or understood or been convinced by the rationale. And if I don’t believe an action has been obliged then fine, but I should be careful that this conclusion has been reached through an objective understanding of the evidences and not through looking for an opinion that matches the answer that I was looking for in the first place. My advice applies to me first and foremost and I hope it is not seen as being judgemental and can be of some benefit to others.

    1. Don’t you think “demonstrate with evidence that all such scholars were intrinsically misogynistic” is a bar set a little too high? That requires impossible evidence, right?

      It is true there are no female scholars who get to make the decisions.

      Considering that, shouldn’t it be up to you to prove they were not misogynistic, rather than up to someone else to prove they were?

      If an employer argued against workplace safety regulations, it shouldn’t be up to others to prove they are compromised. It should be up to them to prove they are not.

      Not here to bicker, I just didn’t follow your reasoning.

      1. Thanks Luke – always happy to engage in discussion. You might be right – perhaps I did set the bar high but let me explain what I was trying to get at.

        What I’m trying to say is that *just* because a scholar is male and provides an opinion that hijab is compulsory doesn’t of itself make him biased or pro a male-oriented society. That would surely assume that all men, by their nature, are misogynistic or sexist, which i don’t think is true. I don’t think it is fair or objective to start at that assumption and then expect each man to disprove it.

        Further, many of these renowned scholars were also great examples of Islamic personalities, i.e. they practised what they believed and were not just “academics”. A fundamental principle in Islam is that men and women are treated with equality (note: not *equally*, but that’s for another time I’m sure); hence their adherence to this principle would serve to refute any charges of misogyny.

        Lastly, as I said in my original post, I really don’t think this is a gender issue at all – it’s about humankind submitting to the commands and prohibitions of their Creator…based on evidence rather than desires, hunches, a scholar’s gender, a scholar’s notoriety or anything else. Evidences are there to be examined, challenged and understood – and should be done so in an objective fashion. One should either accept the strength of the argument or bring a stronger or at least equally strong evidence to refute it.

        Hope that’s clearer.

      2. Adding to Bekay’s answer to you: These ‘male’ scholars were not just concerned about what women wear or do. They have equally contributed to Islamic interpretation in all various fields. And to limit Islam or scholars to whether a woman should cover or uncover is not fair to the belief itself that needs to be taken as a whole and into context. Then a person can take it or leave it everybody is free.
        So while we are discussing whether a woman should cover or expose, why aren’t we discussing how Muslim women gained right to work, to own money and properties, to inherit, to chose a husband, to divorce..in comparison to the status of Women in the rest of the World at that time? If scholars were so anti women, they could’ve as well done something about that! ;)
        So let’s remember Islam is a package it’s not just about women or outfit it’s about a lifestyle that should offer some standard of life for both men and women IF practiced correctly.
        Yet another person could find this ‘lifestyle’ not suitable for him, that’s fine, just leave it!

      3. To Sue, clearly women had their own money and property, worked, chose a husband…all before Islam.

        I suppose you’ve forgotten Khadijah had and did all of these things before Mohammad had any purported visions?

        And Luke, you will often find that proving the negative is considered standard argument where the Quran and Sunnah are concerned, as is circular reasoning. It comes from the dissonance between the required absolute positivity and perfection of the Quran and its obvious contradictions. What choice would a follower have but to argue from those premises traditionally rejected by logic practitioners?

        I do not understand why Nadia should not be allowed to evaluate the two passages applicability to her own life and understanding. So many Muslims here just fall back on “submit” (honest and forthrightly), while others skate in these large, lazy circles, using the “because scads of other people who are dead now said so, that’s why” reasoning.

        I am just so befuddled…we all have the same access to books and the internet I do, right? I know some sites are banned, but not all right? How can this pass for reasoning meant to persuade, and why cannot Nadia remove a piece of non-essential clothing whenever she wants? Are you not a grown woman? Can you not make your own choices?

        If you believe Allah wills it and you want to submit fully to what Mohammad claimed was Allah’s will, then by all means, wear it. But what will happen to you if you just believe a little differently? More power to you, Nadia.

    2. “This principle of covering the awra applies to both men and women”

      I’ll state this bluntly: if there were a single Muslim culture where men routinely wore the headscarf, this would make sense to me. But there isn’t. Are you working to force men to wear hijab, as you clearly believe the Quran commands them to do? If so, I would be very interested to know what your organization is.

      1. Islam requires modesty for both women and men each depending on their body nature. So while head cover is not required for men it requires them to cover certain parts of their body, as well as lower their gaze. And sets rules for both men and women that are not related or married in how to deal with eachother in different aspects.
        Now it’s fine if this doesn’t make sense to you. But it does make sense to those who research and choose Islam. Not necessarily to those who are just born Muslims though ;)

      2. Nathaneal. The awra of the man is from the navel to the knee and for the woman is everything save the hands and face (according to the opinion I follow). As I said in my second comment, Islam ensures men and women are treated with equality – which is different from treating them equally, because by their nature men and women are undeniably different. Two further points to consider:
        1) All societies acknowledge that men and women should cover different parts of their bodies in the public sphere to reflect their different physiological make-up – just go to your local swimming pool for a good example.
        2) People might disagree with precisely which parts should be covered up. Fine. My point is that, for Muslims, that decision should be based on evidences and not personal preferences. If some Muslims want to base all their decisions on personal preferences then I would advise them to just be up front about it and not try to justify it through conveniently interpreted texts just to convince themselves that their behaviour is within the bounds that Islam defines. And for those Muslims who follow the evidences where it suits them, and personal preferences where it doesn’t, I would guide them towards the Quran 2:85.

  23. This is really interesting, and quite a brave experiment. I bet it’s something a lot of people have secretly wanted to try but haven’t had the courage.

    I have thought about what would happen if I did wear it in Egypt, because I think THAT would make me go invisible. And invisibility seems like it would be a good thing there. But it probably wouldn’t go over much better for me than it would for you if you took it off!

    I imagine every relative, every friend, every taxi driver I’ve ever interacted with, would coincidentally all happen to be in the same spot just as I walk outside the door for the first time to have a giant, simultaneous freak-out.

    1. I’ve spoken with a couple of women who have gone through a similar experience as mine. And we all seem to worry most about the door man’s reaction to us putting on or taking off the hijab. Isn’t that odd? Your comment re taxi driver reminded me of those conversations. And what you describe – wearing the hijab as opposed to taking it off – and people’s reactions to it is something many of us can relate to. Those of us who put on the hijab have had to go through lots of awkwardness when we start. You aren’t invisible. Not with people you know. it might make you as invisible as I was in Europe, though, with complete strangers. It’s interesting to think about the way women dress this way and how culture affects how a woman is perceived depending on how she dresses.

      1. That’s really funny, that is exactly what would have stopped me from ever trying it. Judgmental bawaab stares!

        I think part of my even considering an experiment like this is that after having been harassed, I wonder, “what will it take for men to show some respect?!” Apparently, the answer to that is, “nothing.” The problem is with them.

        Interesting (and a bit irritating) how society plays such a large role in what people perceive to be a purely religious expression.

      2. Very wise and accurate words:

        “I think part of my even considering an experiment like this is that after having been harassed, I wonder, “what will it take for men to show some respect?!” Apparently, the answer to that is, “nothing.” The problem is with them.”

        The problem is with the men who do not show respect. Nothing in *your* behavior will *ever* change what they do. They must change their behavior (or not). A better society may shame them and ostracise them if they are not respectful, but that is all that is possible.

  24. I was expecting you to do that, after reading your views I was thinking it is just a matter of time for you to take off Hijab one day. Many of your views contradict Islam so why are still keeping the Hijab!

    1. I’m still figuring things out, Nour. That’s why. I don’t know that my views contradict Islam. What I believe I’m doing in my writings/tweets that I assume you are referring to is I’m questioning some of the arguments that are used to support certain interpretations of Islam. I believe I have a right to question and be skeptical. I believe God Himself gave me that right by creating my brain. I believe God wants human beings to question and be skeptical. I feel safe with God because of that belief. I do not feel that God is angry with me or will send me to hell because I question even His word. You might disagree with me. That’s fine. And I understand where you’re coming from. But I’m fine with myself as well and with my current way of thinking. And I feel fine with God.

  25. An interesting experiment and an honest post. I personally, when deciding to get married, steered clear of girls who wore hijab. For some reason, the ones I knew who wore hijab, all (and yes, I mean ALL), were in relationships with men before their marriage!

    1. Only a virgin is good enough for you, eh? Were you a virgin when you got married? Highly unlikely.

      Your double standards are heinous.

  26. I read your post with interest. I am not a Muslim woman & find it difficult to understand why most Muslim women have to cover themselves up. It’s the men who have the problem, if they feel they cannot trust themselves seeing women in “normal” clothing. Also husbands must save a fortune not having to buy fashionable clothes for their wives. You should be allowed to dress as you please, particularly when you are in foreign countries. I admire you for taking the step to experiment without your hijab. You are all beautiful and should be proud of your beauty. Do most women agree with dressing like they do or would they prefer to have more freedom? If I went to a Muslim country I would dress more modestly than I do here (in Ireland), out of respect for your customs. I also think that Muslim women should dress “more western” when they come to our countries. They actually draw more attention to themselves by wearing hijab ect. and it is more difficult for them to integrate with the locals. I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my comments but it’s good to discuss different attitudes to other cultures. Bye… xx

  27. Ofcourse u r not muslim and u don’t pray any of the 5 every day. And – think also u have got mental retardation. Ya fandem el 7egab mafrod 3aleki zay salatek keda la
    W enty moslema we bataly door el mofakereen eli enty 3aysha feh sada2eny amthalek homa eli gahla we batly safsata in english gatko neela maleto el balad

    1. Muhammad, men like you are a disgrace to humanity. You embody the exact line of thought that is at the root of almost every single thing that’s wrong with this world.

    2. Muhammad, do you believe it is all right to judge who is Muslim and who is not? Who prays and who does not? Whether a person is good or bad depending on what they believe or what they practice or how they practice?

      1. How does that work, exactly, biologically? I imagine non-Muslims must be smart enough to figure it out. Maybe if they didn’t replace biology with Qur’an class we could get closer to reason on this one.

        Nadia would be more than safe in a non-Muslim country without her hijab. Notice it is in a Muslim country that she fears removing it.

        Ironic?

  28. Hi Nadia
    I commend your courage, but I am confused. If it is mandated that the Hijab be worn by your faith, then should you have taken it off? And if it is only mandated to be worn by the leaders of your faith, then why do you wear it at all? If God demands it then let it be done, if man demands it, then question it with boldness

    1. I’m confused too, Glenn. And admitting it. I don’t have an answer for you right now. All I have is my personal attempts at figuring things out.

      1. Nadia: Do you remember when your first wore the hijab and why? I think the answer could be the key to your dilemma…..should I keep wearing it or not.?.. whatever the reason is, you know that what matters is the intention. So really, just be honest with yourself and seek Allah’s guidance.
        Peace be upon you.

      2. the real muslims are not confused about their God order but I THINK U CONVERTED U HAVE TO SAY IT CLEARLY MAY ALLA PUNNISH U SOON

  29. I am a Muslim and I pray 5 times a day and fast in Ramadan. But if it ever turns out God really does want women to cover up from head to toe, I will completely reject my faith. I will never bow down to a god that a) demands things (only insecure beings DEMAND things),or b) is sexist enough to want women to cover up for the sake of sexually-frustrated men. If this is what God wants, he’s clearly not God.

    1. God does not need your acknowledgement in order to exist, you, on the other hand, are completely dependent upon Him.

      1. Actually, Ruth, that’s exactly what a god needs to exist – acknowledgment. History teaches us this. Before there was Allah there was Yahweh, before Yahweh there were the Roman gods who were derived from the Greek pantheon, and before that there were the gods of the Egyptians, and before them there were the Sumerian gods. On the other side of the world there were the gods of the Aztecs and Incas and before them the gods of the Mayans and Olmec.
        On the other hand, Khaled is in no way dependent upon any god for his existence. Life is a completely natural phenomenon that existed long before god was created to take the credit.

      2. Jax, here’s the question: Did God create man or did man creat God?
        It’s OK to have different views on this. However, the fact remains: Man has no effect whatsoever on his life! He can’t control being alive or dying tomorrow no matter what knowledge we reach, we will not be able to stop ourselves from dying. And whene we die we shall all find out once and for all if this was just a ‘useless’ natural phenomenon or if there was actually a God that sent us here for a reason.
        I can only speak for myself: If life was a pointless natural phenomenon and someone could prove this to me, I might as well commit suicide just now! Because it would be unfair to face challenges, create families, love, learn, work just for nothing! But the thought of having options after death, makes me challenged, makes me want to do something about my life, and makes me have hope that everybody I met and loved (family, husband, friends etc) are not just something that will soon vanish….
        It’s a sad sad thought, and I’m glad no atheist was ever able to convince me that there was no God :)

    2. Khaled, you made my day :-D

      I often thought – as an agnostic born and grown up in Italy – that what many believers say about their God is incompatible with his/her being really God.

      I am glad to learn that observing Muslims happen to share this view.

      1. This is an interesting thought. I will add this to my thinking list. Thank you, Khaled and Fabio!

  30. Nadia Hi,

    Just want to till you don’t let your head to be prisoner to Hijab. Free yourself. God created your hair to cover it!!!! Just find me one script in the Quran that says that Hijab is meant for covering the hair… nothing there isn’t it? let us not fool ourselves. Cheers from Bahrain

  31. I’m not going to tell you that you did a good thing or a bad thing, just that you have written a truly excellent few words on a fascinating topic.

    A few of the sentences I though were not only superbly written but almost profound. One of the best things that I’ve read in ages.

    Best

  32. Hi nadia,

    It’s great that you’ve been through this experience. My wife has worn the hijab all her life since puberty and sometimes she just wants to rip it off (only because her clothes don’t match or its too hot). So I feel you if only from outside.

    However, in your thoughts, you are only thinking about your experience as a woman wearing. However, along your journey, -i’d like to request you to also think about the effects of hijab on a man and potentially on society. I know you are thinking this is another islamist male chauvinistic comment. No, in fact, I did an experiment like the one you did and I decided to analyse women wearing and not wearing hijab. What I consistently found that it was easy for my mind to wander into sexual thoughts when it came to women without hijab, but when a women wore the hijab, I could not pass through the relm of the hijab into sexual thoughts, no matter how hard I tried, unless some body part was exposed. I’m not a pervert and I am amply satisfied so I can anecdotally say I may just speak for millions of other men who cannot get past the protection of hijab. I’m pretty sure this was also the case when I was not married. That said, I am muslim and I am conditioned for decades. The empirical question is, do other men face the same effect with / without hijab. This would really add some empirical weight to the conclusion you end up with.

    1. Sayed, Thanks for this comment. I understand exactly where you’re coming from. As a woman, I also find it difficult sometimes to prevent my mind from wandering to sexual thoughts if a good looking man – amply and modestly dressed – stands before me. Sometimes a man has a great set of biceps on him that I’d do anything to fit my arms around. Other times a sexy set of chest muscles burst out from behind a t-shirt that just beg to be touched.

      The point is, Sayed, that both men AND women get the thoughts you describe. So why is it that women are required to cover up from head to toe and men are not required to cover up just as equally? And is the solution that we all cover up from each other and live our completely separate lives? Or is it that we learn to control our thoughts and thus our action and act with civility towards one another? Why should a man have to cover up from head to toe because there’s a Nadia out there who gets these thoughts every once in awhile? Why, instead, does Nadia not learn how to control herself?

      1. Hi Nadia, now I find your remark pertinent and this has always been bothering me. We are all human beings, women are not pieces of wood insensitive to male beauty. However we women deal with this issue quite responsibly and respectfully in this matter and seem to manage quite well in controlling our libido – for the majority of us. So why don’t men act responsibly as well & control theirs instead of blaming women ? Part of the answer is to care for respecting people and respecting ourselves, and this of course applies in many other areas as well.

      2. please strengthen your faith Nadia, if you believe in one God but ALLAH(SWS), You will not come to this so called ‘experiments’, in my case, I work in the hospital in Montreal,Quebec.only person who are very proud I am MUSLIM…In 5yrs of staying here, i never come up with the idea like yours, you know why? because I HAVE VERY,VERY STRONG FAITH!, and because of this i earned a lot of respect from everybody here, even without telling them that i am a MUSLIM, they recognize me because of my HIJAB………..

    2. Sayed, as a Westerner we have learned something.

      “Control yourself. No matter how strong your urges, control yourself, it shows that you really are a man and not an animal.”

      If it is possible for millions of Western males to be confronted by the beauty of God’s creation all day long without disastrous consequences, then it is possible everywhere. I say this because I have also learned that sexual assaults are mostly a crime of power, and not passion or hormones.

      We must be honest with ourselves and admit whether we really do respect God’s beauty or if we instead simply feel that it is ours to take at will.

      Since the word “islam” means submission, giving in to one’s urges means one is straying from submission to God. It is up to us to decide how much that means to us and hopefully it will not surprise you to learn that it is universal, in the Christian world as well as that of the Muslim, and I daresay even the Jew as well.

      1. Yes, Jeffrey, agree with comment to Sayed. He is simply falling back onto learned behavior and even using that as an excuse not to be adult enough to feel he is the one who needs to ‘control’ himself. That is completely specious.
        We ‘westerners’ went through this somewhat with Victorian prudishness. But we knew the origin of that and there was no attempt to tie those rules to a religion, which only complicates the entire process.

      2. Yes, what Jeffrey said.

        I’d go farther, though, and say that a man who claims he’s not responsible for his actions when he sees a woman isn’t much of a human being—and that includes when she’s stark naked. One head garment or another is trivia.

        God said it? Many depictions of God have said many things. What a coincidence that in so many writings and interpretations, men solemnly give each other permission to act like babies.

      3. “If it is possible for millions of Western males to be confronted by the beauty of God’s creation all day long without disastrous consequences, then it is possible everywhere.”

        This is the biggest load of crap I’ve EVER read. The divorce rate in America is through the roof, there are so many single parents, people abandoning their kids, people having affairs. Rape is through the roof in America and good luck finding a man who doesn’t view porn. Also STDs are very frequent as well.

        But we have no “disastrous consequences” here in the West. Oh, no. These are not the objectified women you are looking for.

      4. modestgrrl:

        Divorce, single parents, child abandonment, affairs, and rape are caused by…how women dress?

        I think you could possibly be just the slightest bit confused.

      5. Wow, modestgrrl. So, if American women all wore hijab, everything would be just fine?

        There are so many other factors, I don’t even know where to start. Women are still unequal in terms of pay in the United States. We lack strong government support for mothers (maternity leave), and a health care system. The number one reason for divorce is money; and no surprise given the recession.

        But please, keep assuming it has to do with the fact that we don’t cover our hair. Because that explains everything!

      6. And another bit of information for modestgrrl: the incidence of rape is actually going down in the U.S., and has been for some time.
        Also: there is nothing wrong with porn. I’ve seen porn, and I’m still a decent person, despite what you may say. I need no invisible sky daddy telling me that my sexual urges are vile, hateful things that need to be brutalized.
        Addendum: STD infection rates are also falling thanks to renewed safe-sex education efforts. Surprise! Just teaching them abstinence doesn’t work!

    3. Sayed,
      I hope it offends no one to read that I have had sexual thoughts about women in hijab, so at least in one persons experience, your experiment does not succeed.

  33. Since your belief in hijaab being fard is weakening, I am curious as to where you have been seeking knowledge regarding this? Have you prayed istikhara for guidance?

  34. Dr. Nadia I, like many here, love you completely for your honesty and courage. You know a lot of us would have thought the same thing, but not all would have the courage to do it, let alone publish a post about it. I’ve been thinking of experimenting with my niqab too. I wanted to find out now years after wearing it if I still feel like it makes a difference.

    At the mention of the femininity part, you know something, when I put on my face veil I knew there was always the argument that men should curb themselves. It was hard to admit however, that when I argued matters with myself, it was not only curbing men but myself. You started the honesty track and I think I have something to say here: we women like that attention. It’s like it’s part of how our sexuality works. It’s part of it, but it was so hard to admit that, well, I’m a woman and I didn’t want to be that weak. It is very hard to have that kind of discussion with my brother for example – although my brother is one of the most understanding ones. The hard part is to admit that I’m not holy, and there’s nothing wrong with having a weakness, we all do.

    So just as a thought, maybe the hijab thing is about protecting a woman from herself too. I don’t know. God only knows. Good luck on your journey. It’s an important one. I don’t believe in absolutist answers very much now, but I’m sure that people who purely seek the truth find it. Love you.

  35. Love you too, Yosra. And you know it.

    I’ll go along with your questioning. Maybe you’re right. Maybe a woman needs to cover up to protect herself from her own feelings of needing attention.

    The question then is, do men not also look for attention? And if the answer is yes (I think it’s yes), why are they not required to cover up to the same degree that women are required to?

    1. That’s it right there, Nadia. It’s called Objectification Theory. There are many scholarly articles about it available for free online. To me, that is the biggest protection hijab offers me.

      Everyone talks about how they were “brainwashed” to wear hijab. Well, as a woman who grew up in the West I was brainwashed to expose my body in order to please other people.

      The first time I noticed this was when I went to a beach in Washington State with some friends. I saw a family playing in the edge of the water, because it was too cold to swim, even in July. The men were wearing t-shirts and shorts that were just above the knees. The girls were wearing bikinis, from the mother down to the six-year-old.

      Believe me, it wasn’t bikini weather. But the image stuck in my head. Why were the women exposing EVERYTHING when it didn’t even make sense? The little girl’s teeth were chattering. And yet everyone seemed happy.

      The second thing that happened was I read an article written by a female economist. It was very well written and she brought a unique point of view to the table. The first FIVE COMMENTS were men criticizing her looks, because she was over 50 and had that typical, American “grandma” style hair. You know, extremely short and curled to cover the balding spots. No make up. Very professional looking at yet no longer the 20-30 year old beauty that people are taught to desire by the media. These first five comments didn’t even ADDRESS what she was writing!

      If you look at the situation of men in America, they are starting more and more to objectify themselves. They’re wearing skinny jeans, highlighting their hair, some of them are even wearing makeup. Men are required to cover from navel to knees (inclusive) with LOOSE clothing. They are encouraged to cover more. And I’ve seen men in my masjid argue over what men are wearing. The men are starting to objectify themselves and that is both alarming and disgusting.

      1. i cant agree more sis, these tranformations in ppls thoughts and the lack of appreciation for there bodies is so rampant,soo evident everywhere these days that only a desensertised idiot would make excuses for them,unfettered freedom has destoyed ppls ability to reason

      2. modestgrrl, they were probably wearing those bikinis because that is what is expected of females at the other end of the spectrum. One of the important purposes of the hijab seems to be to protect men from their own urges that are stirred by a woman’s beauty and femininity (I apologise for oversimplifying for the sake of argument).

        In Western society, a woman is expected not to hide her femininity from the male gaze but to use it to constantly stimulate and satisfy the male gaze. Both are based on the objectification of women, either as objects to be controlled or to be exploited. Neither extreme is respectful of a woman’s value as a human being.

        Rape, prostitution, infidelity, STDs, all occur not because of the hijab or the bikini, but because of the attitudes that demand a woman be defined and contained by one or the other. Nadia’s exploration of where she fits between these two is courageous, and is something every woman should do, no matter her background.

  36. Next step – the bra…..

    (I’m a man, and I’m 70 years old, and breasts are boring to me now……….)

    Then you (meant collectively; you know who you are) can stop beating your head against the pavement 5 times a day….. and begin to free your thought and feeling (and forehead) of that kind of mind control as well……

    (Hey, I feel the same way about some of the practices of conservative Jews and Christians…. I don’t know that much about conservative Inuits… yet….:-)

    Seriously, my best wishes for all those trying to divest themselves of totalitarian village philosophies and hope they become doctors, medical researchers, and scientists to help others in this life, not the afterlife in the quantum fuzz…..

      1. Having a phd doesn’t mean a great deal, unfortunately. It certainly doesn’t ensure that person is well rounded.

        Effectively, it only ensures that they know A LOT about very little. And they’ve written a thesis about it.

      2. So half a billion Muslim females and most of them have Ph.D.’s? Is that your conclusion based on your circle of influence?

        The point is that it is difficult to reconcile Islam and science, and especially medicine. At our university and in pamphlets, blogs, etc., Muslim women are being begged to go into the health professions. To help humanity? To become role models? To get rich? No. To ensure enough female physicians for female Muslims to visit. This is the exhortation. Outrageous. Sad.

  37. What a breath of fresh air.

    At last there is confirmation, for me at least, that a female follower of Islam can and did come to the same intellectual conclusions as an American male at 60, raised Episcopalian and educated at public schools and universities.

    I applaud your effort to experiment for the sake of understanding. I also support all of our right to
    dress and adorn our persons in any manner we find personally in line with our taste and sensibilities.

    Keep the faith and accept the choices of others!

  38. Nadia, you should be respected by all men, married, single, Egyptian or non-Egyptian, regardless of whether you wear the hijab or not.

    It is the very least that they owe you.

  39. I fully respect your right to wear hijab if you want to wear it daily, but in my opinion there few extra things a women (muslim or not) has to consider:

    Hijab, niqab, long skirts, closed necklaces, long sleeves in summer, cloths in head… all this clothes have been used in all cultures along history to keep female body covered and try to hide them from the male sexual impulses that can lead to harassment.

    Clerks of all religions suppose that women do not have sexual attraction towards men, therefore, they can wear whatever they want.

    I live in Spain and I am fed up of seeing muslim couples where she is wearing a hijab+ long skirt dress in pure summer while he is wearing slippers, jeans and a t-shirt. For me, that is not equality.

    Sometimes i feel the impulse of stopping that women and ask her: “Excuse me lady, wouldnt you feel better without all those clothes? come on, you do not need protection of nobody, nobody is going to come and tell you that you are a bad spouse or muslim lady. Please, do not follow the precepts so strictly because your husband is not taking it seriously”.

    Got my point? Why APPEARANCES must be kept by muslim women why all men are wearing whatever they like?

    If religion is something you feel deep inside you, why do you need to wear like that and your husband doesnt?

    World has changed. Women do not need so much “protection” coming from covering clothes. As a woman I would like to see you all released from that cloth or at least, force men to wear like you and sacrifice like you do.

    Not fair, not equal.

    Cheers and thanks for sharing your experience. :)

    1. Did it ever occur to you that she is wearing the clothing because SHE WANTS TO?

      People harass my father when we go out in public because THEY ASSUME he is forcing me to cover. He’s a Christian. Believe me, he could care less.

      I know women at my masjid who cover even though their husbands don’t want them to. I know women at my masjid who WANT to cover but their husbands refuse to LET THEM.

      So don’t give me this crap. You can’t look at a couple and KNOW that SHE is covering because HE demands it. It happens but it’s not as frequent as you believe.

      Stupid Orientalism.

      1. And how many men cover because their wives or mothers demand it?….

        ….right, none at all. How many even cover voluntarily?

        There’s a problem here, one of massive sexism, one which I suspect you can spot. Why is there no male hijab?

  40. Ooops, I missed one thing:

    The ultimate problem is Sexual Freedom. Islam has many precepts to avoid contact between men and women if they are not married.

    In my opinion, those rules were OK in 7th century, but not in 21st century. Islam has to evolve as christianism in Europe has evolved as long as believers have changed their mind.

    The more bans, the more rules, the more restrictions and constraints, the more people tries to escape from them.

    If not, check this link to a Google Trends search and check which are the 10 top countries looking for “forbidden” things.

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=sex%2C+redtube%2C+porn%2C+tits&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0

    (Poland is a very very conservative and religious christian country)

    Sorry, no offense to your beliefs, just wanted to give an example sponsored by google, hehe . :)

  41. The next thing to do is you all go to the beach. I saw a Muslim family on a beach in Italy. The husband & 2 sons swimming happily in the sea & the wife standing on the beach fully covered. I really felt sorry for her in 28 degrees heat.

    1. I too have seen this in Hawaii. My only guess is that the woman went there to please her family even though she couldn’t enjoy the beach. Family and having kids is about sacrifice – you don’t always get to do and go where you want. Sometimes you take one for the team and put aside your children’s desires ahead of yours.

      Generally I think people coming from the middle east have a good understanding about heat and sand. And 28 cel (82 f) is not really hot by their standards.

      1. Wow. When did she say the woman was ethnically middle-eastern?

        Why, exactly, does one have to put a non-infant/toddler’s desires ahead of a grown woman’s wishes?

        And I invite you to stand on the white sands of Hawaii in 82 degrees heat wearing all that ridiculous fabric, calling attention to oneself, behaving inappropriately at a beach, acting the martyr while everyone else enjoys themselves for hours.

        In Hawaii or Italy she can enjoy the beach all she likes. It is because she would be beaten or worse if she wore what the locals were wearing.

        I notice you have no criticism of the hedonistic, narcissist of a husband who decides to swim and frolic while his wife is treated like trash. We don’t even let people leave dogs in the car in that heat here. What’s wrong with Muslim men’s minds? They could care less about a woman’s condition or desires. There is no chivalry there.

  42. Congratz!
    The only thing I object to is when others are persecuted for what they believe in. If women and men are forced to wear or act or do things that they don’t want then I feel that is a form of oppression.
    I can’t seem someone being beaten, tortured, and killed because of who they are.
    But if you feel comfortable in wearing it then Go for it!
    Be free in your beliefs and respect your fellow man; for as long as it does not cause any harm to others, then what should it matter?

  43. Hi Nadia, thanks for the courage in speaking up about this.

    I’ve noticed that many women took off their veils since the revolution started, maybe it has nothing to do with the revolution, but maybe women are breaking their fear in a way.

    I believe you should make sure you are doing what you feel is right for you, whether u keep wearing it or not. But I encourage to dismiss people’s reactions and dismiss their criticism and not be afraid to be what you really want to be, in case you make the decision of taking it off.

    Maybe this link could be useful.

    http://www.ramynasr.com/2010/veil-in-islam-society/

  44. Wow – what an interesting read. What you say about trying to open your mind and heart to discover your true beliefs really resonates with me. As a non-Muslim woman I re-read your article thinking of the hijab as a metaphor for something else, namely the facade we as women (human beings?) often present to the world – the image we carefully construct and try to project, which is rarely truly authentic. Interesting that you perceived no difference in the way you were received by others – that there were those who were positive, negative or couldn’t care less, regardless. Perhaps this is encouragement to all women to worry less about how others perceive them and to work harder at being who they really are. Thank you – you really made me think!

  45. I thought Mohammad’s wives came home complaining one day that people were talking about them in the market. Mohammad told them to cover up, then people would have nothing to talk about.
    That is one way to handle the problem of destructive gossip on a community. Another way would have been to decree that gossip was forbidden, path taken by other messengers of G-d. There is another argument that only the wives of Mohammad have to cover up. Can you clarify any of this for me, please?

    1. 1) Mohammad didn’t tell them to cover up. Allah did. “O you who have believed! Tell the believing men to lower their gaze… and tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to take the headscarves [they are already wearing] and pull the ends over their decolletage…”

      So the believing women, including the wives of Muhammad, were already wearing headscarves. They cast the ends over their shoulders. Allah ordered the women (all of them) to pull the ends to the front and cover their breasts/upper chest/neck (the Arabic word used is juyyub, plural for jayb).

      2) Gossip is forbidden in Islam. This includes backbiting (making fun of someone behind their back), gossip (which may or may not be true), and slander.

      3) The ONLY covering imposed on the wives of Muhammad was niqab (face veil). This was not enjoined on any other woman. The order was to talk to the wives of Muhammad from behind a screen; the niqab became a portable screen. This shouldn’t be surprising given that Al Azhar University recently issued a fatwa stating that niqab was not allowed to be worn in the University because it is not religious but cultural.

      The confusion about “only the wives of Muhammad had to cover up” comes from the insistence of Westerners to call both hijab and niqab as “veil”. Hijab is mandatory for all Muslim women. Niqab is not required by any stretch of the imagination but is optional. If it were required, women would wear it during prayer, during Hajj (pilgrimage) and when giving witness at court. In all three of these situations it MUST be removed.

      1. Then if it is not Islamic, why do some Muslims put their cultures before their religion? Are they all weak Muslims? Aren’t they ashamed to make their wives and daughters cover completely if it is not required in Islam? Why are they not in favor of the better/easier position for the woman?

  46. Hi,

    I wore my headscarf at the start of my academic year, where I struggled with gaining the attention (most girls get) on campus, and one that I would not get with Hijab. I have worn Hijab on/off around London, and for the past 2 academic years have stuck to wearing it based on the conviction — both from a feminist perspective — as well as spiritual one — that female modesty is an essential part of heightened spirituality, God-consciousness, identity of a proud/visible Muslim.

    However, I do respect Muslim women whether they choose to wear Hijab/none. I think it’s essential that women wear Hijab out of sincere love, conviction and spiritual conviction. It will have more meaningful, and a pleasant experience where people will feel both feminine, loved and casual.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, I hope I have not come across as judgemental, I do respect you as a person. x

  47. I may make more comments in a bit…but wanted to respond to this specific point. “There are layers upon layers of conditioning and memorizing and learning since childhood that one needs to dig through to reach an original innocence to start from”

    This cultural conditioning was exemplified so very well in the l949 (yep) song:
    YOU’VE GOT TO BE CAREFULLY TAUGHT

    ARTIST: Rodgers and Hammerstein
    from ‘SOUTH PACIFIC’, 1949

    You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear
    You’ve got to be taught from year to year
    It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught

    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made
    And people whose skin is a different shade
    You’ve got to be carefully taught

    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late
    Before you are six or seven or eight
    To hate all the people your relatives hate
    You’ve got to be carefully taught
    You’ve got to be carefully taught

    This was written actually about racism, specifically against blacks…although in the play and movie it is about a Philidelphia man being unable to resolve how his family would take his marrying a Tonkinese girl.

    But the essence presented was that yes. Each person must search for their own deep personal conviction about ALL ‘learned’ behaviors. Only those who reach the top level of maturity can do it. Others just take the easy path w/o thinking and say ‘XX’ told me I have to do it, so I do.

  48. I followed your post from twitter and I’m so glad I did. Although I never wore a hijab, I relate so much to your reverse-conditioning quest. I started a similar process 12 years ago (almost to the day) and I still keep finding layers to peel. You’ll shed some and you’ll keep some and you’ll get addicted to the element of choice. Best of luck :)

  49. The thing is – its fardh (obligatory) because God said so. Thats it. If we believe God exists and the Quran is Gods word we will strive to fulfill every command of His. He knows better than us – He who sees past, present & future & knows whats in peoples hearts and minds. He sees & knows all & we dont. If He says wear it – not a bunch of men – then we should wear it. I was born Muslim but became intellectually convinced with Islam as the truth – I coul not find errors or flaws and the mircale that is the Quran I could not explain. Heck, hundreds of scientists who have converted to ISlam cant explain the Quran what chance do I have of explaining how, if Quran was written by MUhammad (SAAS) did he know the mountains have “pegs” (roots) for example? Anyway if you believe you wear hijab knowing it is best for you as God has put our interests first. And when you see uncovered women you know the hijab is a beauty, protection & light for people to look at us and judge us on our characters not our bra sizes or hair colour. The encouragement to walk aorund half naked- now THATS been created by a bunch of men -who want to perve on us.

    from a former non hijabi to a hijabi – best decision i ever made aside from choosing to be Muslim

    1. “The encouragement to walk around half naked – now THAT’S been created by a bunch of men – who want to perve on us.”

      Hah! That was perfect. However…I do have a few things to add.

      1. “How tightly women grasp the chains that bind them!”
      I forgot who wrote / said this truth originally, I remember it mostly from the novel Gone With the Wind, as mockingly quoted from Rhett Butler to Scarlett at the hypocrisy that was so intrinsic to her contrary nature.

      Women are undeniably pressured to show off their skin in Western countries for many reasons – due to the men who rule the society and to the other women who judge them on their weight, skin, hair color, etc. Women in Islamic countries are also pressured in some circumstances to wear hijab / jilbaab / abaya / niqab / burqah , depending upon the specific culture in which they happen to find themselves in.

      Personally, I am a Caucasian American woman who will soon convert to Islam, because I could not help but believe in it as I finished the Holy Qur’an. And it was so simple – I could not help but believe in God, in whose existence I have always believed, and after reading the Qur’an as well as doing my own research on the life of the Prophet SAAWS I could not help but reaffirm my conviction…I have yet to take the shahada but insha’allah I will soon. I have read all of the comments above mine and carefully looked at the arguments (or lack thereof) to and for hijab. I will never claim to be a religious scholar, and can only interpret the message of the Holy Qur’an within my own, limited, capabilities – and anyways, Allah SWT knows best what is right.

      As many have said, modesty is the key. But the actual verse in my English translation of the Qur’an by M.A.S. Abdel-Halim (scholar and Professor of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University in Cairo) says this:

      “Tell believing men to lower their eyes and guard their awra: that is purer for them. God is well aware of everything they do. And tell believing women that they should lower their eyes, guard their awra,
      and not display their charms beyond what it is acceptable to reveal; they should draw their coverings over their necklines and not reveal their charms except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their womenfoldk, their slaves, such men as attend them who have no desire, or children who are not yet aware of women’s nakedness; they should not stamp their feet so as to draw attention to any hidden charms. Believers, all of you, turn to God so that you may prosper.” (Surah al-Nur 24:30)

      At the time of the Prophet Mohammed the “coverings” of women were khimar, or headscarves. So naturally the coverings could be taken to mean the same thing today. Most people turn to the hadith as well, and there is a story that says when the Prophet saw a woman who came to speak to him who was improperly covered – her dress was see-through slightly, please correct me if I am wrong, and he turned to one of his wives and said that once a woman passes the age of puberty that nothing should be visible but -and he pointed to his face and to his hands, respectively.

      So, personally, I believe it is fard (compulsory) to wear hijab. There are plenty of people who say that the Qur’an is not very clear…so after the Qur’an Muslims turn to the hadith and sunnah for guidance on what to do, and there I believe it is clear. However, many make the excellent point that a headscarf does not determine modesty alone, and they would be right, it does not. Hijab does not just refer to the scarf covering the hair, but the way a woman walks, talks, and the way she looks at men.
      The question has also been raised by non-Muslims as to why aren’t men held to the same standard? Why shouldn’t they wear hijab or khimeer (the actual headscarf)?

      I believe that in the West many confuse the two concepts of sameness with equality, which (in my humble opinion) is incorrect. When women fought for more rights in the West from the late nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, they wanted, not equality, but ‘sameness’, only they confused the two and called it ‘equality’. Equality is what Islam gives to men and women – for on Judgement Day no one gender will receive preferential treatment over the other – they will all be judged according to their piety and their deeds alone. Muslim men may dress differently then their women, but Islam acknowledges that men and women are completely different beings, different, not the same. Women are not inherently sexual beings – sorry, feminists! – and men are, on average, visual and sexual creatures. This is not to insult them, this is how they were created and it is a biologically proven characteristic of men. Sorry. But here I am, rambling on and defending as to why I want to wear the hijab, which I will God willing after I take my shahada.

      Anyways, I think Yasmine Moghahed said it best:
      “My body is not for public consumption…You see, as a Muslim woman, I’ve liberated myself from a silent kind of bondage. I don’t answer to the slaves of God on Earth. I answer to their King.”

      1. Firstly personally I don’t think one who is non-muslim at the moment and will convert to islam someday (if they are truly convinced)deserves a right to reply on such intense topic…
        Secondly madame I amn’t encouraging women to wear such clothes I am just criticizing those who roam in Jeddah like that…board a flight here..Mall of arabia is just 10 min drive from airport..visit it and you will agree with me in 15 min and yes women in kingdom are more confident then men are here so they will easily have a discussion on any topic you wanna discuss.

  50. Surah al-Ahzab ayah 59 says:

    Ya ayyuha an-Nabiyy qul li azwajika wa banatika wa nisa al-mu’minin yudnina alayhinna min jalabib hinna; dhalika adna an yu’rafna fa laa yu’dhayn. Wa kana Allahu Ghafur Rahim

    O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their outergarments (jilbabs) close around themselves; that is better that they will be recognized and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiving, Gentle.

  51. Surah an-Nur ayah 31 says:

    And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their headcoverings (khimars) to cover their bosoms (jaybs), and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments. And turn in repentance to Allah together, O you the faithful, in order that you are successful

    1. Or, we could make a society where men know that it is their duty to not feel sexual desire towards women who are strangers, and so all of them would be in this category:

      “the men who do not feel sexual desire”

      Why is it the women who are supposed to change?

  52. This is an interesting experiment. I’m glad you have the opportunity to do this and I appreciate you sharing your observations.

    I suspect that if you went hijab-less in Cairo, you wouldn’t be invisible. You would likely get plenty of people staring at you for NOT wearing it. I guess its the out of the ordinary that gets noticed. Only what is ordinary changes around the world.

  53. Nadia, Keep searching. You will ultimately arrive at your answer and become empowered because of it. When this happens, you will feel at peace. Whichever dress type you decide on, you remain the beautiful person that you are.

  54. What a beautiful and touching story. I am an atheist woman who was raised in a largely christian community; but your honest, self-aware account really resonated with me. Thank you for sharing.

  55. I gently want to say that I am a little disappointed. In spite of your spirit of exploration, you stop short when it comes to exploring the validity of your belief in an ancient, empirically falsified mythology that (like virtually all the world’s religions) denies basic facts about the world, such as evolution. I hope that your curiosity knows no bounds, and that you some day free yourself from all myths. Life is even more exciting, beautiful, precious, and important when you live entirely in the real world.

    1. You know nothing about Islam. We believe in geological time. We believe in adaptation to environment. We don’t believe “in” evolution because we believe Allah created everything. That doesn’t mean we can’t believe that Allah created the world BY evolution. It just means we can’t see the universe as some autonomous system acting without the will of Allah.

      I (and many other Muslims) have no issue with believing in primate evolution or the earth being older than 11,000 years. You have us confused with Christians.

      1. Hi Modestgrrl,
        I have read parts of the Quran, including those parts dealing with creation. Like Christians with their sacred book, Muslims interpret their holy book in a wide variety of ways. The most common (or at least the most vocal) interpretation, among both Muslims and Christians, is that a god made either the present species or their very recent ancestors, a view that is shown to be false by the fossil record. University professors in most Muslim countries appear to be under strong social, religious, and political pressure not to teach the full story of evolution. Some who have tried to do so have had to stop.
        I appreciate that the Muslim creation myth is more obviously figurative and poetic than its Christian counterpart, so that there is more freedom for interpretation. The Christian myth is fairly concrete, leading some to believe every word as if it were true (hence the 6000 year age of the earth). However, both these books have the same status; it is crazy to think that every word is true, in either book. These books are attempts by pre-scientific people to make sense of their universe. They have pearls of wisdom and they have much nonsense. There is no evidence that they contain anything divine. It is up to us to think about their words and draw the proper lessons, accepting the wisdom of some parts and rejecting the erroneous or now-irrelevant parts.

  56. First time reader (of your blog; I know of your journalism). Amazing, courageous post and kudos to you for embracing that vulnerability and invisibilty.

    You spoke of Europe as a Muslim woman. Here’s a bit of perspective of an American man with a South Asian (Hindu) woman. I was at a saloon where I play music (I’m a musician), and I saw woman to whom I felt compelled to say something: “You know, I’ve seen South Asian women drink wine, and I’ve South Asian women wearing salwar kameez, but I don’t think I’ve seen a South Asian woman drinking wine while wearing salwar kameez.”

    She jestured toward an empty chair at her table, and I spent the next two hours in a delightful conversation with her and her husband about being a global, secular person while still retaining connections to your local culture and tradition.

    My hope for you is that whether you wear the hijab or not, it becomes a focal point for conversations that increase understanding between cultures and reinforces the humanity we all share.

    1. Just FYI, alcohol is not forbidden in Hindu philosophy. Hindus don’t have blasphemy, heresy or apostasy. Infact Sensual Pleasure (“Kama” in sanskrit — yes, the kama of kama-sutra) is one of the 4 goals of Hindu life.
      The case is not same with Islam. Islam has many prohibitions that limit a person (esp a woman) from becoming a “a global, secular person”

      1. Agree with you that Hindu philosophy is totally different from Islam, but strongly disagree with you that Islam prevents women from being global secular persons. Not sure where you got this from, but I’m afraid it is not true. And if this is a judgement based on ‘dresscode’ then let me remind you tha a woman’s dresscode in Islam is for the reason of modesty and declaration of the faith and not for the reason of limiting her life or success or knowledge. This would be just like stating that a Jew with a Kippah can’t be a global successful person :) which of course isn’t true.

  57. Another offhand thought: I grew up in a part of North America with a large Amish population. I was in a large shopping center, where there were a number of young Amish women (with uncut hair, bonnets, and “simple” clothes). My young charge, a 10-year-old girl, had a lot of questions, and I said,
    “Ask them. I’m sure they’d be glad to talk to you about their traditions.”

    “No,” she said, “You ask them.”

    And I didn’t know what to tell her. “I can’t ask them. I’m a married man outside their faith. It’s forbidden for them to talk to me.”

    How do you explain that to a child?

    Next time you come to America, talk to young Amish women. You can; I can’t.

  58. Hi Nadia. Your blog is definitely interesting. It reminds me a lot of what my boyfriend went through by rejecting a lot of the religious customs that he had grown up with (definitely a struggle for him, but a way for him to discover who he really is and what he believes in). Make sure to keep doing what feels right to YOU, not what people expect from you. You should have the ultimate freedom over yourself, and you can only do that by ignoring what others think of your decision. You are strong for going against the norm – against what you has been engrained in you since you were 17 – and that’s admirable. Remember, it’s women like you who will lead others to gain that same strength to be independent and make their own decisions.

  59. An honest post, Nadia..we must appreciate your courage.
    Now if we look at the spectrum of garments people wear every day:

    Full Burka — Niqab — Hijab — Nun Scarf — Full length garments — Sleeveless garments — Shorts — Skirts — Mini skirts — Bikini — Nudity

    We should not be surprised that other cultures also have a limitation of what to wear.

    A Nun cannot go to the end of this spectrum, while others don’t tolerate full burka.

    It is upto us where to put the brackets (( Hijab … Sleeveless garments )), or tell our kids what is forbidden to wear when you go to any worshipping place (( Mini skirts …. Nudity )).

    Now to put a Question: Imagine you have to pass through a street full of misbehaving scoundrels, and you want not to draw their attention, which type of garments from the above spectrum will you choose?

    1. Khan: RE: Now to put a Question: Imagine you have to pass through a street full of misbehaving scoundrels, and you want not to draw their attention, which type of garments from the above spectrum will you choose?

      It should be up to the men to NOT MISBEHAVE, not up to the women to cover themselves head to toe so as not to attract the attention of men.

  60. For what it’s worth, I don’t think covering up was God’s idea. It was men. So, we should examine whether or not the reasons that made it a good idea long ago (if it was a good idea) still apply. It’s a personal decision, of course, and all are to be respected who think about it regardless of whether or not we agree with them. The thinking is the key. As you very obviously do, so I’ll be reading your blog regularly.

  61. Dear Nadia,

    I admire your courage all the way!

    you’re in my prayers to find peace of mind, i used to have that debate streaming through my mind, and i decided to put my hejab on.

    did that give me peace ? most of the time, else, i miss the attention, the crazy hair cuts and colors, the put your jeans on and run and simple swim suit.

    please do ignore who tells you what to do!
    follow your heart, that i believe will give you .. you

  62. I’ve not read your blog before, but I found your entry fascinating. I really admire your courage in questioning the truths you have been given and lived by until now. Whatever conclusion you ultimately come to, I hope you will be the happier for it. If every person lived with such honesty and openness, our world would be a better place. Best of luck.

  63. I see that Raven and others still ask you for authority, while you just describe your experiment and give the uncertain answers of science (the limited science of your subjective views, but still “science”).

    I know I am on a slippery slope, but I wonder if you share the view espressed with very strong words by Khaled, who told us he is a Muslim who prays 5 times a day and fasts in Ramadan: «If this is what God wants, he’s clearly not God» he wrote.

    Your experiment might give a similar answer.

    I always assumed that Islam is particularly hostile towards this kind of experiment/critical thinking, more than other religions, but I am glad to see that you’re not alone, and people with your and Khaled’s critical attitude are very comfortable calling themselves Muslims.

    Still, when you write that «it’s comforting to think I can continue to wear my hijab when I feel that’s more appropriate, whether for me or for the people around me» I think you are still moving very cautiously in the middle of a process.

    I understood you didn’t care about your father’s opposition when you decided to start wearing the veil, long time ago, and this is the stance I’d expect from you today.

    Sooner or later the “people around you” will have to understand that the only one entitled to decide what is “appropriate” about your dress code is you.

    1. It’s not always easy not to care, Fabio. I will admit that I sort of do care what my father would think if I took off my hijab. Just a bit. He’s my father and he loves me. That’s one thing I have absolute confidence in. So I don’t expect it to be much of a big deal with him. You know who I worry about more? The doorman. The man who cleans my car every day and keeps it protected in a garage. The sheikh of the neighborhood mosque. A woman’s reputation in her local neighborhood is very important here in Egypt. It’s just a simple fact of life where I live that a covered woman where I live, at least in my middle class conservative neighborhood, is seen as respectable if she covers. If she doesn’t, some will have a question mark about her. The fact that I’m a divorced woman makes this even more difficult. Some people automatically assume bad things about divorced women. A woman who divorces and then takes off her hijab….sheesh. I don’t want to be in a position where the people in my neighborhood gossip about me. I’ve avoided that quite well for years. And I don’t want to be in a position where my children are affected negatively by the surrounding community by my actions. I’d rather consider that I’m wearing the hijab partially because it’s more culturally appropriate where I live.

      I still have a lot of things to figure out. I still need to find my real and true inner space of comfort. It might be that I’m only truly comfortable wearing the hijab. It might be that I’m only truly comfortable not wearing it. I don’t have an answer to that yet. I’m still figuring it out.

      And as I’ve said elsewhere, I give myself the right to question God’s word and the Prophet’s word. I am absolutely comfortable with the thought that questioning even His word cannot anger God. God gave us a brain to think and question and be skeptical. I’m just starting to use it now in that sense. I don’t expect a quick journey. I expect a very long one. A very gradual one. We’ll see where it takes me.

      1. Dear Nadia, I just wanted to make sure that you know that you’re facing at least two different issues:

        * Do YOU feel your dress is niqab;

        * What can you do if and when you discover that you’re prisoner of societal pressure.

        My point is that maybe you’re now still mixing the two issues, and it is perfectly understandable for the reasons you gave.

        But I know you quite well, I think, and based on what happened in Italy (and elswehere) tells me that when you’ll make up your mind you’ll find the energy and the courage to do in Egypt what women like my mother did in Italy and elswehere: fight for the right to go around in your country dressed as you like, and little by little you will be able to change the mind of the average Egyptian.
        All over the world there are a lot of doormen, taxi drivers and maybe even Judges of the Supreme Court who view the women like the average egyptian, but in many countries they must be very careful when it comes to expressing their offensive views openly, because the societal values are against discrimination.

        As a non believer, I particularly like of Khaled’s position: when God is used to oppress and discriminate, he clearly can’t be God…

      2. All I can say is that I do know about myself that if I decide to do something I’m convinced with, I do it. So you are right. I’ll find the energy if and when I’m convinced.

      3. On one issue we seem to agree totally: those who think and say that God wants women to go around veiled, feel entitled to despise the women who don’t and expose even their children to discrimination, are wrong.

      4. You’re confusing hijab, niqab, and fard. These are three separate words.

        Hijab is the headscarf. Niqab is the face veil. Fard is mandatory.

    2. Fabio, you’re clearly more comfortable with the idea of not covering the hair, and with considering that head covering is a discrimination for women. Fair enough if that’s your opinion, but this is not the way it is in Islam.
      Now I’m not defending Islam because it doesn’t require any defending in my opinion it just requires proper understanding. And I’m just trying to explain the perspective of those Muslims who believe in Islam as a whole including modesty. (Because modesty is part of Islam whether Khaled or others are comfortable with this idea or not :)
      The purpose of head covering isn’t to discriminate women. And by researching well, we will realise there is no ‘head covering’ order per se it’s rather a modesty requirement that includes the head cover for men and other things for men! So There’s no rule in Islam that is stated for women that is not required equally from men! Now what modesty includes varies depending on the nature of both men and women. Just like the way they dress for prayer or pilgrimage is different due to their different nature. God did not discriminate women, in fact the God in Islam made women gain many rights they were not offered by society or other faiths and are sometimes not offered by some faiths until this day. In example the right for divorce. (By the way women in England only gained this right thousands of years after Islam permitted it!)
      So head covering can’t be taken out of context and out of proportion. Islam is a whole package, offering both men and women rights and duties, aiming for a positive society.
      it is very unfair to put the message of Islam down to whether a woman should cover her hair or not. It’s much more universal than this!
      Remember that Muslims you see today are hardly any representatives to what Islam really is.
      And also remember that God required modesty in other beliefs before Islam as well not just in Islam. a Jewish woman wears a tichel, a Christian nun covers herself head to toe, a Christian woman covers her head while praying because man is her master (as stated in the bible) but Muslim women they don’t cover because any body is their master. They cover as part of observing modesty that men should be observing as well!
      The fact that many followers of other faiths don’t take it literally or don’t observe it does not mean that Muslim women should follow them and that this would be a liberation. The real liberation is to be able to follow what you believe in with no restriction whatsoever. Be it to cover or to uncover.
      When Muslim women aren’t really feeling discriminated, why are people constantly trying to impose that feeling onto them :) It’s probably just down to their own perception of head cover. That’s all.
      Some women in the East might be discriminated due to bad traditions that have nothing to do with Islam. Just like it is all over the world related to other traditions and not a specific faith.
      Nadia’s feelings aren’t necessarily a flaw in Islamic rules. It is just a phase of being doubtful and it is her right to be so, and it is also her right to ditch her entire belief if she wants to. But that would be her own problem to sovle not Islam’s or God’s problem…

      1. Sue, sincerely I am not interested in saying whether this is «Islam’s or God’s problem» or not.

        I am just happy that my friend Nadia is using the brain she thinks she received from God to wonder about the things she heard from people who tell her what is right for her, often pretending they are speaking in the name of God.

        That said, while discussing about this post with some friends I realised that I would probably be sad if Nadia decided to stop wearing the hijab. I still have to understand why, exactly.

      2. I’ll tell you why I think you feel this way, Fabio, based on years of experience with people and how they feel about me.

        Completely beyond my control, I have come to represent something to people who know me. Yesterday, someone commented on an article written by my amazing and very accomplished young friend, Ethar Kamal. I digged up the article http://bikyamasr.com/wordpress/?p=24495. She puts into words a problem many of us women who wear the hijab who have had a certain degree of accomplishment in their lives face. It’s as if it’s completely unexpected for a woman in a veil to do anything with their lives. And when she does, she becomes a symbol. I cannot tell you the number of times people – mostly Muslims – have come up to me to tell me how proud they are of me for “representing Islam” or for doing the things I do as a veiled woman. One has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the other. I’d so much rather be seen as Nadia who has done a few right things and a lot of wrong things in her life and continues to try hard nonetheless than to be seen as the wonderfully accomplished, amazingly powerful, reverently symbolic thing I get turned into sometimes. Do you have any idea what kind of a burden that creates? That’s probably one reason I wrote this post. In certain aspects, I’m not the person some people insist on thinking I am. I do things some people won’t expect of me. I’m HUMAN. One of those things was that I went out and tested the hijab idea. I had to do it in private in Europe because I felt I’d be letting down a lot of people if I tried it out publicly. And I’d be severely judged. Then I suddenly decided that, you know what? I’m going to tell everyone about this. It was a very interesting experiment and I want to share. But I also am sick and tired of people idealizing me as the perfect little Muslim woman when I’m not that person. I’m absolutely sick of it.

        I had been discussing the hijab on Facebook, as you’ll have noticed, for awhile. And I stood up to defend a few of my friends who took off the hijab. I must have given off the impression that I am considering this. One of my younger male friends wrote to me that he’d be very disappointed if I took off the hijab because he “uses” me to prove to his friends that a veiled Muslim woman can practice her religion but still be accomplished and not be limited by her hijab. Although I understand what he’s saying – Muslims nowadays constantly feel they need to defend their religion – I don’t want to be used by anyone and I don’t want to be anyone’s symbol.

        The hijab is nothing more than a head cover. It signifies nothing more than the fact that this woman is able to practice that aspect of Islam. It does not represent in any way what she does in the other aspects.

      3. I have read only now.
        I perfectly understand what you mean: I even said myself, when discussing with some Italian friends on FB, that I’d be in a way sorry if you finally decided to take the hijab off.
        Because I know that you live well in your skin even when your “brain” pushes you to act against the basic tenet of all religions: obedience (of which the hijab is a strong symbol).
        Imagine a nun who asked publicly why she cannot become Pope, or get married.

        In my ignorance, I think that Islam is mostly made of people who don’t like your attitude, like most catholics would just ask for the excommunication of such a nun. That’s why your “being just human” appears to be so much revolutionary ;-)

      4. Nadia,

        You are a good role model for all women. Muslim’s alone can’t claim you, sorry. :-)

      5. Awwwww. Thanks, Andrea! And although I don’t remember the story you told, I have a hunch I know who you were talking about ;-)

      6. I think Fabio is correct. You are a revolutionary in more than one sense, noy just the obvious Egyptian one. Sometimes just questioning your own actions can be a revolutionary act.

      7. Hi Fabio,

        if you put it that way, I certainly agree with you!
        But I had no doubt that many many Muslims all over the world (not just Nadia) use their brains to think about everything possible including whether there is a God to start with or not!
        The Qoran asked Muslims and all people to do so on and on and on! To question whether what they heard from their ancestors is real or just some traditions they’ve invented. So I didn’t give much consideration to Nadia’s critical sense because I find it very natural and very healthy and very recommended as you will see from my main comment about the main article.
        What I see differently is whether the experiment answers important questions or not? I don’t think it doesn’t, because what a person does isn’t about how people feel about it, it’s about whether he sees much sense in it or not!
        I personally don’t know Nadia and I don’t mind if she keeps the headscarf or doesn’t. I think it is important that that a person knows what he’s doing and why and then it becomes important that we all respect his decision! So in that sense I certainly agree with you!

        Nadia,

        I understand how you feel about being idolized it’s indeed a burden. However, you should be proud of yourself if some people think there’s a reason to take you as a role model. And I think depending on how a person wants to see his role in this life it can be a push to be even better or a burden that we want to break free from.
        Having said that, being a role model still means your human and that you are imperfect and if people around you don’t realise this then tough!
        The only thing we need to be wary of, is that sometimes we are role models for people who will indeed follow our steps, i.e our children etc. And I don’t think it is wrong to try to be at your best or to implement your teachings to them in your actions because whether we want or not children will learn from us. And when we teach them that something is right but we don’t do it, they will find it their excuse not to do it either. So if I personally can allow myself some slips being utterly human, I try to avoid as much as I can that would contradict with what I want my children to be. I don’t want them to blame me for screwing up, if you know what I mean.
        So maybe you have it more difficult because you are a role model to more than just your children. But at the end of the day, what you want to do you will have to do, because it remains your life. You will alone take responsibility of your actions and people around you won’t be of much help if you just followed their expectations. I think it works the other way round: They follow you because they are convinced with your actions. If you do actions that are contradicting their expectations, some people might be disapopointed in you as a role model, but others will find you a role model in a different aspect. Because peole are just different.
        And last but not least, I don’t think people are proud to see a successful Muslim woman because they want to defend their faith. Although Islam is often acccused but as I said numerous times, I personally don’t think it needs defending, I think it needs understanding and respect whether people agree with it or not. But in order to help with that understsanding we need to show that the ‘model’ described in the Quran is a functioning model in the 21st centure. And this can be done through living that model ourselves. This is how Prophet Mohamed taught people, and thisis how Muslims taught the world at some point, they became the perfect model themselves. And the reason of the collapse of the image of Islam is often because the mentality of Muslims and their attitude and knowledge has collaped as well. So no wonder Muslims need to be good role models that contribute in this world not to defend anything but because this is what their God asks them to do ;)

  64. Thank you for writing this great article and sharing it with the world. It is difficult for a woman in every culture to find how she feels most comfortable with herself. This includes dress, demeanor and how she handles herself with her faith, whichever faith it may be. We can all be united in our search for our truths and I do believe that there are different truths for different people and different times. Just the way the ocean reclaims the beach and the wind eats the mountains, the laws fitting man change. As not all mountains are turned into hills at the same time different people take different paths along the way. You are not alone and you are loved, go search.

  65. I’ve always wondered what exactly the hijab (and other “hiding” of women – in workplaces, prayer areas at mosques, and so on) is meant to accomplish.

    • It does not make people focus more on the person’s character.

    I have female friends who have very meaningful tattoos about things important to them. I have female friends who change their hair style or color every few months. I have female friends who wear distinctive styles of clothing, who love to braid their hair in new ways, who wear amazingly unique outfits for special events. These things are a part of who they are.

    How does robbing them of (or restricting) all of these avenues of expression increase focus on their character, when these things help me gain insight on their character?

    • It does not make women more “precious” or “beautiful,” like hidden treasure.

    Does god hide the sunrise and sunset, to make them more beautiful? Would the Mona Lisa be more precious if da Vinci had glued a cover to it, so that no one else would ever know what it had looked like? If this is true, why are Mosques so incredibly beautiful and intricate? Shouldn’t they also be covered up, hidden to make them more beautiful and precious?

    • It does not protect women from rape or sexual harassment.

    All it does is tell men that they are not responsible for themselves, that it is up to women to protect themselves from urges that men cannot control. I’ve actually seen this said many times in the replies to this post – that men are lustful and the hijab protects women from their desires and urges.

    Yet, I don’t feel those things at all. I said and did stupid things when I was a teenager, as most boys do. I was told very firmly by everyone around me – especially other men – that that behavior was NOT acceptable. So I stopped it. I learned what was appropriate, I became accustomed to being around women, and now I never say or do things like that at all. I do not feel even the slightest impulse.

    Rape rates are lowest where people are most sexually liberal and open, and highest where they are conservative. Why would god ask muslims to place responsibility for appropriate male behavior in the hands of women, when only men can do anything about it – when teaching men responsibly is the only thing that works?

    - – -

    One of the core beliefs of all religions is that god is omniscient – that god knows all. Surely god would know that the hijab would not accomplish what it is supposedly meant to. Knowing this, why would he ask women to wear it? WOULD he ask them to wear it, or is it the will of men who – unlike god – don’t know better?

    I don’t know. I’m an atheist. That’s up for religious individuals to decide.

  66. Hello – new visitor here. Thanks for the fascinating post. Very very interesting – and the comments too.
    Best of luck with your explorations.

  67. As a western woman I can tell you how I feel when I see another lady wearing a headscarf or veil outfit….at first I feel sorry for her having to cover herself, then I wonder how she keeps the scarf so clean. The one thing I do not feel is that I can approach her or talk to her. I’m sure those feelings will change as we see more women in our area wearing these things.

    1. You know how I feel when I see a Western woman wearing uncomfortable shoes? Or when I see one wearing a short skirt in the winter?

      I feel sorry for her.

      How do we keep the scarves clean? With a #*)q&)#$#) washing machine. What do you think??? Our husbands make us boil water in the backyard and we grate lye soap into a powder and scrub until our hands are red?

      FFS get out of your protective bubble and talk to these women. Your assumptions are RIDICULOUS.

      1. Agreed, that was a pretty dumb comment. But if you feel sorry for a woman in a bikini/short skirt, aren’t you committing the same assumptions? Aren’t you pulling your own “cultural imperialism”?

        It’s hard to know, when you see someone. Are they wearing a short skirt because they’re oppressed/objectified, or because it’s a hot day and they enjoy looking like that? It could be either.

        Likewise, if you see someone in a hijab, are they doing it because they’re oppressed/objectified, or because they feel more liberated that way?

        I’m gay, but I could do the straight thing without too much crying. In some senses, I’d get a lot more freedom that way. I bet it’d be very liberating to get social acceptance: marriage, no more weird looks on the street, I could adopt kids more easily (if I wanted them…) In fact, things would be even easier if I bleached my skin a little, wore more skirts, grew my hair out, straightened it, and became a Christian because that’s what most of my neighbors are. Think of the freedom! I’d have a lot more social access to my community. And then, well, I don’t want kids, but I should have a few because who trusts a married woman without kids? That would open even more doors for me. Why not?

  68. It’s time to call the “hijab” what it is. It’s not a hijab, it’s a low-jab. It’s not a hejab, it’s a she-jab.

  69. Salam Nadia,
    I commend you for being that honest with yourself and your Lord. I hope your experience would inspire people give up paying much consideration to matters that shouldn’t really matter and invest more time and thinking in building their own perception of things, beyond any inherited influences. Regardless of the outcome you shall reach, I know it shall be honest.

    I am the co-founder and director of the newly launched online Islamic portal named The Muslim Tribune (www.muslimtribune.org), would you mind if I published this piece of reflections of yours?

    Best.
    Maha

    1. Please go ahead and do so as long as it’s clear that this was written as a blog post and not specifically for your portal and have them referred to the original source.

  70. Nadia, the little experiment you ran here, I ran 6 years ago. I had been wearing my hijab since I was 10/11. I was ‘forced’ into it by a very stubborn father. Needless to say, that person that you say you rediscovered was never known to me to begin with. So when one day, at the age of 25, I decided to take it off, it began an overwhelming journey of self-discovery. Six years on I’m still learning more about myself. I wish I had learnt all this during my teenage years. It would have saved me a lot of pain and suffering. I would’ve made better decisions in life & I’m certain I would’ve been a much more confident and happier person.

    With all due respect to the hijab & those who believe in wearing it whole-heartedly, I admire your ability to do it. And I can only assume that you wore it on your own terms, your own rules, your own time. I never had these choices and that devastated me. Sometimes by trying to protect someone so hard you inevitably ruin their lives. This is a lesson to all you parents out there who believe that forceful implementation of Islamic law is the way to go. It’s not.

    I live in the UK, I don’t wear the hijab permanently but I wear it occasionally, in the place and time when I feel myself for wearing it. When I am at peace with it. Nonetheless I dress very conservatively and don’t attract attention to myself. Which is what the hijab is intended to accomplish. In fact wearing it in the UK usually attracts the wrong type of attention.

    Not many people agree with me, in fact hardly any hard core muslims do, particularly those who believe that as a muslim you either take it all or leave it all. You’re either with us or against us ideology that has proven not to work because grey is very much a valid colour, just like black and white. And it is just as beautiful I think. It doesn’t make me less of a believer. I believe I’ve become more human, therefore more aware of my spirituality and the effect Allah has upon my life.

    Ironically, I have many friends who don’t wear hijab and their husbands have advised them to follow my lead: wear it some of the time, better than not wearing it at all.

    We don’t live in a world where it’s all or nothing; nor is everything around us in pure black and white; nor is leaving some means you’re rejecting the whole. We live in times where if we don’t learn to be flexible we will be like the rocks on the shores; we will get nowhere and the waves will slowly eat at us.

  71. I very much enjoyed reading your post. I am not muslim, but grew up in a strict Roman Catholic household, and I still struggle with throwing off our edicts that have nothing to do with God’s message of peace and love.
    What I have learned is that God made many things beautiful…yet we never try to cover the ocean, the mountians the forest or the sunset. We humans are blessed to be one of those beautiful creations. What better way to honor him than to take care of his creations (including ourselves)? What dishonors God is the destruction or desecration of the beauty he creates.
    To me, showing it off (or not) just seems beside the point. Best of luck in your journey.

  72. How very Cartesian of you. When I read the story all I could think of was Descartes trying to prove he existed. Bravo. Great story.

  73. Dear Nadia,

    To say that our post left me flabbergasted would be an understatement. I have done the EXACT SAME THING. The only difference is that I kept the “secret” to myself and I couldn’t dare spell it out to any of those who know me back at home. I first put on the headscarf because of peer pressure, and now I cannot take it off also because of peer pressure. It is an unfortunate state of affairs, how some of us (ie, me) allow society to take controle of their lives. My only solution thus far has been to work abroad as much as I can. The downside of that is that now I have become two people…

    My hat is off for you and for your courage. May you find the peace of mind whichever way you choose.

  74. “For the first time in my traveling years, I wasn’t noticed. And I IMMEDIATELY missed the attention. I was a bit hurt, I must admit.”

    I chuckled here – women are the same all over the world, bless them…

  75. Fabulously honest piece of writing. I don’t disrespect the wearers or non-wearers of any garment in particular within reason, although I have always considered the burka demeaning both to its wearer and to men in general. To women because it treates them differently from men, and prevents them from taking their equal and rightful place in the world; and to men because it implies that we are constituionally unable to control our sexual urges.

    My mother often wore a scarf about her hair to church, but she was free to choose not to do this with no fear of any criticism at all. They were just glad to see us there at all.

  76. Dear Nadia,
    I am from Iran. Raised during the revolution and lived there for the first 15+ year after the revolution. I had to wear scarf and Hijab until I left Iran. I congratulate you for what you did. I was 24 years old when I left Iran but it took me weeks before I could take my scarf off even though I could see that I was being looked at the way I never had. I was in Canada and could not take my scarf off!!! It was a part of me. It had nothing to do with my ideology any more.
    In my experience you will be stared at, looked at, questioned by looks or judged whenever you are different. If you are in Afghanistan and walk wearing a mini skirt, you will feel so uncomfortable that you want to wear the hijab, that is if you are not killed.
    If you go to the beach and wear scarf, you will be stared at like you are nuts.
    I am not very religious but I do believe that Allah’s rule for women’s modesty was not what is being preached these days. Khadijeh was a business woman in those days, and now women have to fight over driving?????? I think most of these restrictions are forced upon us to limit us. I don’t think women should wear two piece bikinis but I also don’t think women should wear Burka and chador and eliminate their capabilities and look like puppets when they can have modesty and be covered without them. As far as I remember and was thought in religious classes, women are allowed showing their faces, so where in the world does Burka come from?
    Again and again, congratulations and best wishes in everything you want in life.

    1. Nice comments Nas. Women should not have to be forced to ‘look like puppets when they can have modesty…’ women can be modest without being covered. And men can act civilly when in the presence of a woman wearing unrestrictive clothing…it’s just common sense in today’s world.

  77. Thank you for sharing your story. I am in tears reading about you, because it sounds so familiar.

    I was raised as a Mormon. At 19, I made the covenants and started wearing temple garments. They are long, “modest”, underwear meant to be symbolic: keeping God close to you. They are also meant to keep the body covered.

    At 30, I left the church I was raised in, but still couldn’t remove the garments. Its been two years, and just yesterday, I ventured out in public in a sleeveless shirt.

    I was terrified that people would think I was dirty, trashy, slutty, and then I realized most people didn’t think about me at all.

    Thank you again!

  78. Wow – what a fascinating post – thank-you. As a Christian woman I would love to share experiences of journeying in faith with someone from a different faith.

  79. What a wonderful post. Thank you for letting us have a glimpse of your feelings.

    I would very much like a follow-up in 6 months or a year, as this experiment either fades in your memory, or continues to be fresh and important to you. I want to know what you become because of it.

  80. I don’t know you, Nadia, and doubt we’ll ever meet. (Though who knows, right? It’s a small world!) Your blog entry came to me via a former Sudanese colleague working and living in the US who posted your entry on her facebook page, where I clicked with curiosity and opened it in my home in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    You are an excellent writer. Your words are powerful presisely because they are so clearly and selflessly honest. I’m moved to respond to you – without certainty that you’ll ever read this (my own little secret is that I entered a fake e-mail to be able to reply; I don’t quite trust the anonymity of wordpress) — I’m moved to respond as a woman who feels connected to another woman…. As simple and powerful as that.

    Two thoughts:
    1. Buenos Aires has the largest mosque in Latin America. To be honest, I’m not sure if it has the largest Muslim population on the continent, but it has a HUGE mosque and Muslim cultural center only a couple of blocks from my apartment in Palermo (an artsy, trendy neighborhood). Born and raised in Chicago, USA, I didn’t have front-and-center contact with mosques, especially ones of this size. In my years living in Argentina, however, I’ve become completely used to the mosque’s presence. I pass by it every day travelling downtown on the train. I walk my dog around it’s leafy perimeter on our way to the park. While grocery shopping, I look out from “Jumbo”, a mega shopping center here, and the supermarket’s window overlooks its giant minorettes.

    The other day – last Sunday, to be precise – I wheeled my shopping cart out of Jumbo and started towards my car. It’s always struck me as charming to see Argentines drinking “cafe con leche” in a fancy little cafe outside the grocery’s check-out. In the US, our mega-shopping centers (WalMart, Target, etc.) have fast food stands beside the check-outs. Sitting with friends to have gourmet coffee isn’t the norm after grocery shopping. Here, however, it’s quite common. Glancing toward the cafe on my way out, I saw a group of young women drinking coffee and chatting against the backdrop of a huge picture window showing off the illuminated Muslim Cultural Center across the street. All four women were wearing headscarves. It caught my eye. As I continued to wheel out the cart, I nearly ran into a gentleman who was distracted looking down at his shopping list. He was wearing the full Jewish dress: black coat, kippah on his head, prayer strings dangling from his pants. He caught my eye, too.

    I’ll tell you another secret, Nadia. Two secrets, actually. One: Argentines are curious folks. My Eyptian friends say that they feel right at home when they come here. Argentines unabashedly ask your weight, your height, your religion, your marital status… they’ll point out if you have a pimple on your forehead or a stain on your blouse. At first, the full-on sincerity from complete strangers was daunting for me as a Midwestern American girl. I felt… exposed. Where was their tact? Where was their discreetness? What happened to personal space and filters? They aren’t there. And I’ve learned to laugh and love it.

    That leads me to my other secret: I’m blond. My bright blond hair makes me stand out here. And — shhhhh — I quite like the attention. In that Jumbo check-out corridor, if we were to line up the group of Muslim women chatting over coffee in hijab, the Jewish man reading his grocery list, and me wheeling my giant cart, I’m not sure who’d get the first glance. In the US, it wouldn’t be me. Here, however, I’m different. And different means I get looks.

    One final thought reading your blog….. My best friend in Chicago was diagnosed with cancer six months ago at the age of 29. She’s in remission – thank god – and is on her way THIS MONTH (!) to starting a new chapter in her life. Shaving off her hair was a central battle in her spiritual and emotional struggle against cancer. We talked at length about her reaction to the imagery of women with shaved heads. Sometimes, she told me that she looked in the mirror and saw a Bad Ass Warrior, like Demi Moore in G.I. Jane, and sometimes she was reduced to tears, overwhelmed with the images of concentration camp victims.

    My point is this: Her image of herself was altered depending on what was on top of her head. Bald or wigged, head scarved or stubbled, the woman inside didn’t change, but the perception of that woman did. Sometimes, she rocked 1940s-style bathing caps (so creative!). Sometimes, when we talked over skype, she would pull off her hat, warning me “not to be alarmed.”

    Alarmed? How could I be alarmed? She’s my best friend. You think I care what she has on? I can tell you with utter certainty that I don’t. What does matter to me is how she feels wearing – or not wearing – what she chooses to put on. If she feels vulnerable without a covered head, I want her to cover up and feel comfortable. If she feels itchy with a wig, I want her to take it off and feel comfortable. Then we can get down to the business of chatting… or laughing… or crying… or gossiping… or whatever. That’s what I care about.

    Anyway, Nadia. My apologizes for such a long-winded entry. I want to thank you for bravely sharing your experiences, and inspiring me to share my own. It’s remarkable how the truth resonates. I feel, therefore I write. Love it!!!

    Thank you. Gracias. Shokran. :)

    1. Maggie, I read your comment when you posted it but from my cell phone so I wasn’t in a proper position (in terms of typing) to reply. I just want to thank you for your beautiful words and for sharing. Shokran to you!

  81. Okay, this was a highly interesting post. As a white woman of Christian background, I’ve always been fascinated by how Muslim women feel about their headscarves. It’s something I just don’t know anything about. Anyway, I wonder if, perhaps, I would feel the same way if I went to a Muslim country and suddenly started wearing a headscarf. Would I suddenly feel invisible? Is it maybe simply because people aren’t used to seeing headscarves in Spain? Perhaps its a relative thing.

  82. Nadia,
    Assalamu Aleikum. As many have already written, it is refreshing to hear that others struggle in their personal journeys of faith. I’m actually on the other side since I decided that Islam was a better fit for my personal faith about ten years ago. I choose not to wear hijab on a day to day basis so that I ‘blend’ better. In the US, I prefer to have someone judge me for who I am first and then learn that I am Muslim. That seems to work for now. As you wrote, who knows what the future will bring but I thank God that I’ve made it this far. So far so good. I strive to stay humble in the mystery that surrounds my journey and glad to know that I’m not alone.

    Insha’Allah, I’ll be in Egypt this August for Ramadan and am looking forward to my own experiment; being able to wear the hijab more freely there. Crazy huh? I wonder what that will be like… I know the only person to feel the biggest difference will be me. I savor these opportunities of self discovery and reflection. Sounds like you do too.

    To me, in these moments, I ‘debate’ with myself about what I truly believe, who will care, and check how separated I am from ego at those times.

    Thanks again for making me think about this today and for sharing your experience.

    Peace.

  83. … very clever post! And a treat to read. (a buddy of mine posted this on FaceBook–maybe you’ll go viral… :) )

    –this is one of the great things about travel… the awakening to possibility.

    Will go trawl your archives, now.

  84. Dear Nadia,
    I read ur post and have been watching the replies for a while. To begin with, nobody forced you to follow the Islam , and nobody forced you into wearing the hijab as well. I don’t know if you actually believe that God exist , but we were given minds to think and decide for our ownselves according to our beliefs! Try to think about what you have faith in .. Cause sometimes I also think what if Hijab is not obligatory ? And what if God isn’t really there ? But then I come to the following conclusion : First, Islam puts for us many laws which include helping others , respecting others’ beliefs , having a social life with relatives and parents and working for the community to help … etc MUCH MUCH MORE TOO! That i would have done if there was no Islam , cause that is the right thing. Second, if hijab is not obligatory i will be wearing it too , for many reasons. It makes me feel much more independent not having men thinking of owning me , I think I am much more precious to be seen by everyone. Third, relations between men and women without marriage are acutely wrong , owing to the diseases they might spread , the children with no fathers that are born , dont they deserve to have a family? Fourth, drinking beer and eating pork which Islam inhibited are unhealthy habits ! Pigs originally feed on food remains , thats not good. Alcohol causes liver diseases , stomach ulcers and heart diseases. Thank God I found a book “the Holy Qura’n” that tells me whats good for me without having to search myself (: Finally , that may seem out of subject but in my own opinion you gave people a negative idea about muslims and I thought its my right to redeem it. We muslims respect others’ opinions , we were never forced into anything , nobody would kill me if i accidently changed what i believe in. Not all muslims are unsatisfied with their hijab like Nadia , its our lifestyle. My hijab is my way of living :)
    Thank you for reading my post , I do respect your experience Nadia , and I respect your opinions mates. So please dont judge a woman from her appearance , I have feelings as you do believe me!
    Sincerely

  85. May Allah guide you. Allah has not prescribed hijab for you except to dignify and protect you. Thinking hijab isnt obligatory because of whatever made up excuses someone gave you, doesn’t excuse you of the sinning of not wearing it. Hihab is your beauty, respect, and honor. Why would any woman what to abandon that? Most of all, why would any believing muslim woman what to disobey Allah in that? First it’s removing your scarf, then what? Wearing tight clothes, then hanging out with men. then only Allah knows what else. No good can come of this and I hope you see that. I know how hard it is to be stared at all the time and deal with peoples’ comments, but if you wear hijab to please Allah, after that, who else’s opinion matters?

  86. I really don’t understand why some people still question whether the Hijab is mandatory or not. It is clearly stated in the Qur’an and Hadith that the Hijab IS mandatory. Women have NO choice whatsoever. Islam by definition means “Submission to Allah (SWT)”. It requires us to acknowledge and trust that Allah knows better than we do what is best for us. Here’s an excerpt from Surah An-Nur, 24:31 “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts from sin and not show of their adornment except only that which is apparent, and draw their headcovers over their necks and bosoms and not reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women (i.e., their sisters in Islam), or their female slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants free of physical desires, or small children who have no sense of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah altogether, O you Believers, in order that you may attain success.” There are other verses in the Quran as well as in the Hadith that state that the Hijab is mandatory. The following is an excellent explaining the status of the Hijab is Islam: http://islamic-world.net/sister/hijab_in_quran.htm

  87. I just want to add that being a Muslim requires us to put Allah before anyone or anything else. We are Allah’s slaves. Why should we care about what other people think?? Worrying about what others think and not worrying about what Allah ordered us to do is a Shirk sin. Again, Islam = “submission to Allah”. Muslims can’t choose to follow part of Islam’s teachings and disregard the rest. Allah said that those who do that are not Muslims, but are Kaafirs.

  88. no offence coz u might be good looking for an almost middle aged women, but if u were atleast 10 years younger and wore the most common of provocative cloth many women n girls wear these days, then maybe ur experiment would have been much more desisive

  89. I just wanted to say I found this completely beautiful. I once upon a time experimented with wearing a scarf (I don’t want to say “hijab” as I’m not Muslim) on my head, and felt…stared at. In the same way I felt stared at when I was young and dressed provocatively. I find, personally, that somewhere in the middle (covering up things that men stare at, but not, say, my arms) suits me best. I hate that the concept of modesty has to mean covering one’s hair; I don’t mind hijab one bit, I just hate the idea that, for many, it’s the only way to be modest.

  90. An incredible post, Nadia. It made me think a lot too. I’m not muslim, and I’m from Barcelona. I really think that people should do what they want to do, what they feel is better. Unfortunately we are influenced a lot about what people think about us, what they will tell about us to others… But Nadia, all this is senseless in the end. There is only one life, and you have to feel comfortable in it. Me myself, I don’t wear make-up, I don’t wear heels, because I feel unconfortable, not because I don’t like it in other people. Buf… It’s a hard discussion the one of the hijab… Compulsory, choice, obligation, faith…?

  91. thanks for the post, and insight. But it’s important to note that not all Islamic societies require hijab – for example, in Senegal, which is 90% Sufi Muslim, women wear either no head covering, or a traditional African headscarf, which does not cover all the hair.

    Hijab is at least as much a cultural practice as a religious one.

  92. It’s interesting that you said ‘dig’, we do associate digging with what’s hidden…when I thought about it, I thought in the same way…and I just asked myself…why am I digging? why aren’t I looking up instead of down…not literally ofcourse. Anyway, wanted to leave you with an interesting book, I recalled it when you mentioned the programming and the conditioning and the memorising. Enjoy

    It’s more exciting than Wikipedia can hope to explain.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus_Rising

  93. I loved your blog, so open and honest and non pretencions.
    As a non Muslim western woman, I would love the opportunity to be fully covered or head covered when its suits me.
    Of course this has nothing to do with religion, but I would find it so freeing. What stops me is concern over offending Muslims as its not an act of faith for me and how non Muslims would also treat me. What would happen if all women chose to cover fully or their heads on a regular basis. Could be very interesting.

  94. Dear Nadia,

    Welcome to the world of identity and belonging crisis :-)
    I discovered your blog few months ago, and got the opportunity to read some of your amazing posts. This is the first time I feel the “need” to comment some thing on your blog, regarding your exprience with the Islamic headscarf :-)
    But first, I’m not trying to consider you as a “subject of studiy” :-). I simply found your story very useful to refer to what I consider key ideas which may be helpful, and want to share with you :-)

    1- There is not doubt about the freedom of any woman to put it or not or even to get it off after a period, or to try a short experience to put it, or to get it off. All of that is definitely a personal decision, and any person has the right to define himslef (to construct or define his self-identity), and to express it by words and/or acts.

    2- Your act/expeirence relates to what is called: self-identity construction/negociation and tranformation. In the terms of muslim believers, this may show a weakness of engagement (weakenes of imaan), but I personally prefer not to use such qualifications, even if I consider myself as a “true believer”. insetad, I prefer to find the true reasons of such “malaise”:
    - Many people (including myself), after living long time with some beliefs, feel a kind of routines in their practise or thinking.
    - we may feel “betrayed” by the behavior of others aroud us who share the sae beliefs but live in contradiction with these beliefs.
    - we may feel the need to rediscover our beliefs: were they adopted by reasoning research or by cultural influence, or simply by sympathy or imitation of others to construct a sense of belonging ?
    - this malaise may become more visible when we live with more than one identity or belonging. in fact, we all lie with different identituies at the same time (race, color, religion, citizenship…). But, sometimes, these identities may become conflictual when we find them somehow incompatible or incoherent. And this happenes commonly with religious and cultural identities, and we feel that we belong at the same time to different lifestyles or ways of thinking. Overlaps and Intersections between our different identities (or belongings) may push us to an experience of crisis.

    It seems to me that your last experience without headscarf is related to one or more of these reasons :-)

    Best wishes, and take care !!

    Mohamed.

    1. How very insightful! More! I want to hear more! You are scientifically explaining this process to me. You are putting into scientific words what I’ve been trying to get at. It’s perfect. And all of that! More! I’m listening.

  95. Thank you so much for bareing your head with us and for sharing your experience inside and out. We are all the better for it, I hope someday you shall be also. It is a great looking glass that can see both sides.
    My love and respect to you,sister.

  96. Good for you. I’m not saying that because I agree or disagree with the hijab or anything, but because you’re on a journey of self discovery and finding out what works for you and makes you happy. Regardless of what anybody else says, follow the path that you feel in your heart is right for you. No one else can live your life but you.

  97. Hi there,
    I have a question for Nadia and others who are reading this. Do you feel more comfortable as a woman in Europe or Cairo? You live in Cairo it seems and travel in Europe. In Cairo the norm is to wear headscarf and the culture has been built around that. In Europe, it is as you described, everything goes. So I’m curious.
    I’ll put in my 2 cents. As an American Muslim woman who does not wear headscarf but dresses conservatively-t-shirts, nothing low cut, knees always covered- I have never felt so disrespected as the feeling I get in the Middle East. I have traveled in the Mideast-Syria,Jordan,Iraq,Lebanon,Egypt-and in Cairo specifically I felt the worst-it wasn’t just a matter of the typical lewd sexual comments -it was cab drivers disrespecting me, during negotiations about pricing threatening me and telling me to get out of the cab if I wasn’t happy with the price he was offering, shopkeepers yelling at me again for bargaining. And in general in the streets just feeling disgusting because of the stares and comments. Now mind you, I lived in Madrid for 1 year so I know that men in Europe have a tendency to comment as well, but it’s not the same. I don’t have the feeling of being dirty after a day out in Europe, as I do in the MidEast. Ladies who have been to both places, do you know what I mean? So I’m not talking here about hijab or no hijab, what I’m wondering is why in a culture where hijab is the norm and part of the culture are women so disrespected? Honestly, if I were living in Cairo I’d cover up from head to toe and I’d be afraid of being molested every day(I had that fear when I was there). But living in Europe I felt safe in my own clothes. And honestly, the safest and most respected I’ve ever felt is here at home in America. When I got back from Europe I thought I had gotten uglier because the comments just weren’t comin! But that’s because in my experience American men respect women on the street most-far fewer stares and comments.
    In conclusion, I see hijab as something that is more culturally/location based and I see a need for a cultural revolution in the Mid-East, to go along with the ongoing political Arab spring. This next revolution I’d like to call the Spring Awakening :) -where women demand more respect and don’t feel bound to hijab for fear of molestation or cultural/societal repercussions as you described, Nadia.
    Thank you for the article,
    Marwa

    1. Dear Marwa,

      I absolutely understand and I’m so sorry this has been your experience in this part of the world. Many women will tell you that this is their experience as well.

      Let me tell you mine. And this is the truth. As a woman wearing the hijab – because this is where my real experience is – no matter where I am whether the US, Europe, the Middle East, or Asia, I’ve never felt disrespected or mistreated. I can count the times I have been mistreated on the finger of one hand. One time that stands out in my mind is when I visited Moscow. And I could tell that their problem with me was probably because of the problem with Chechnya. I suppose I might look a bit Chechnyan or something. Several times men would stand in my face and yell at me in Russian. Just like that. But I understood why that was happening and disregarded it. Moscow remains one of my favorite cities in the world. But other than that particular experience, I’ve been respected wherever I go.

      So the hijab has never been an obstacle to me. It hasn’t been an impediment. It hasn’t been a problem. I’ve climbed mountains, I’ve dived to the depths of the sea, I’ve jumped from airplanes, I’ve gone shopping, and I’ve talked at international conferences with the hijab on and have been respected always.

      So the hijab isn’t really a problem with me. But I do need to understand why we’re told we need to wear it. For the sake of understanding. And if I find that no matter how hard I try I still can’t understand it, I’ll review my position with it.

    2. One theory is that the problem *starts* with a society where women are treated as “other” by men and men aren’t supposed to know them as people and colleagues.

      This then becomes a society where women are disrespected. In a society where women are disrespected, then women are blamed for the disrespect men give them, and so they are ordered to wear something like the hijab, or Victorian-era English clothing…. whereas in a society where women are respected, the *men* would be ordered to behave themselves.

      So the disrespect comes first, and the society demanding the hijab comes second. In a society without the disrespect, women would be allowed to wear what they thought was appropriate and respected regardless.

      This is not an original idea, you can find it in the women’s rights literature easily.

    3. In answer to your question, my experience was a little different. Growing up in Cairo I faced a big challenge to dress modestly and eventually cover my head. The society I lived it didn’t see this as ‘cool’ or ‘modern’ etc. etc. And the reason I decided to go for modesty was not because I was harrassed or anything, in fact I had a very ‘normal’ life in my community, going in an out and partying and doing anything I wanted without any fear or danger! And without crossing any lines that were set to me by my parents. However, I wanted to be modest because I started becoming interested in religion in general, and after studying, and comparing, I felt that Islam is something I believe in, and modesty as part of Islam, and I just wanted to follow what I believed in because I was struggling with what I felt was a double life. Strongly believing in something but doing something else.
      Anyway, I faced that challenge, I started dressing modestly gradually over 3 years until I finally wore a head scarf as well. It was one of the worst years of my life because of the pressure people around me put me under, because I didn’t feel I am fitting in anymore, because people were continously talking about having to look good, date, marry , work, career bla bla.
      In the meantime the society changed! The middle class vanished, lower class started replacing it and these are the people who wear a head cover out of tradition not really out of belief. So they wear body tight clothes, but cover their hair cause this is what a girl is ‘meant to do’. But their traditions didn’t really go deep into what a Muslim needs to do other than covering their hair or why they are covering their hair in the first place or what Men need to do!
      At the same time other well educated people from higher classes started learning more about their own faith and wanting to practice it. Then just like I did, they too feel the struggle in their own society, the mix up between classes, the disrespect they still face on the streets because these uneducated lower class consider head cover as a tradition and don’t have any boundary in still harrassing you regardless of what you’re wearing.In addition to the disadvantage at work due to head cover etc.
      But I’ll tell you something: In 1991 it was the first day I walked on an Egyptian street with my head covered and not a single person looked at me! My head cover had back then really done the trick. And the trick is: Declaring that I am a practicing Muslim woman, demanding respect and to be taken seriously, because I’m not offering anything else. 20 years later: I left Egypt and live in England since a lot time. No social pressure, no career pressure, no harrassment..nothing at all. Because people can do what they want and be respected! As long as they are not limiting the freedom of others.
      When I go back to Egypt for holiday, I still face the two contradictions: One end claims head cover isn’t required and wonder why I’m doing this to myself, probably think I’m stupid, can’t think clearly or have been forced or all this rubbish, and others don’t take it as a boundary and harass me as if I’m naked.

      If you want to know where the mistake lies in my opinion it’s in the following points:
      1. Ignorance in the Middle East. Number of ignorant people, Education cirriculum, in addition to ignorance about their own faith!
      2. Mixture of tradition and actual belief requirements.
      3. Sticking to specific rituals and abandoning the majority of what Islam is really about including education, behaviour, real modesty, charity etc.
      4. No respect for personal freedom. No respect for other people in general.
      5. Blind fascination of the West taking the shallow appearances and abandoning what really makes the West so advanced!
      These are the things that just come out on top of my head but I’m sure there’s more!
      So as I said in my comment below, Islam is a package to be taken or left as a whole! The reason Muslim countries are so far behind is because they have abandoned a lot of crucial parts of Islam. It has nothing to do with whether women cover their head or not really :)
      When Muslims were true, the Islamic culture prospered in the World, a simple look in history can shed light on this. And back then, it wasn’t a big deal whether women covered their head or not, but it mattered that Muslims were pioneers, and had so much knowledge and honesty and were true role models to the world.
      I agree with you in wishing for more Awakening in the Middle East, but Not to let women take off their head scarf or demand more respect, rather an awakening for all Muslims Men and Women to understand what Islam is really about and start learning, working, behaving and moving forward!

  98. I admire you courage Nadia…not all the Muslim women have the same curiosity just to experiment “not doing what you were told” without feeling guilty about it. You’re a role model to many and this experience could open the door to challenging some other rules you can be against to.
    But I have a doubt: now you can take the hijab off in a foreign environment but you remain a bit hesitant to do it at home…does it make you feel more confident and happy with yourself or not? I mean, before you wore the scarf no questions asked, period. Now, you wear it with questions…does it make you question the whole faith and principles?
    Again, I admire and respect your intentions and hope you find the right path, the one your heart and brain tell you to follow and who knows, probably you start a trend for Muslim women to be treated not like 1400 years ago.

  99. thinking back at the early 90s those who dared wearing hijab were very few, brave girls mostly in defiance to their families and society at large. now it is the other way around! anyway..salute your bravery and honesty either end..couldn’t care less whether you keep it on and take it off..xx

  100. There is something curious in history. Europe got the idea of chivalry from the contact the Crusaders had with people in the middle East. They saw how women were protected by Arab customs.They also got the four poster bed, but that is beside the point. From the comments of women on this blog the idea of chivalry of Arab men to women seems to have gone out of the window if they see them uncovered to some extent.

  101. For the almighty one and only God you can be covered or naked, He will love you no matter what.

    For society of today in Egypt (and most countries) there are rules of decency and here logic and rationality apply. A girl wearing a head-cover but with tight jeans and shirt, and makeup, high heel, nail polish got is totally mixed up. But a girl without head cover modestly dressed is certainly universally respectable.

  102. Very touching and honest post! Like Ethar commented above, I, too, want to be you when I grow up – I actually want to be you now! Good luck with your experiments and investigations, and I hope you continue to share with us your inspirational thoughts along the way.
    Much love and respect!
    Zainab

  103. I will say like people say, you are courage to share these thoughts but I have something to say to you, try to think also in other ways I am not saying I know how you think so sure I am not commenting on your thoughts or judge your personality
    Please people try to differentiate between what we feel right or wrong, and what Allah told us to do.Let’s assume if I believe I should obey Allah’s orders whatever they are , in your case I will try to figure out the concept and the wisdom and the reason of hijab, not try to see how I feel, I may feel something, go through a whole experience then find out at the end oh that was wrong Allah obligation was really right I should have gone this way from the beginning. That is the point of obligations it is like mom I don’t want to go to school , hey son it is important for your future. So in our religion if you try to think of the reason why you will easily find the answer but based on the thinking that this is obligatory for a very serious reason . Allah created us, and gave us the user manual he knows better..

  104. I respect you,ur honesty and ur experience trying to figure it out.I have been thinking about the same issue,yet I haven’t take any action.I think I need to read more and to know more.Thank you for sharing your secret.

  105. if u don’t want to be a Muslim.. it’s up to u.. no one is forcing you Nadia… but don’t say “I’m a Muslim” and then deny one of the facts of Islam… just as Hijab.
    and “yes” Hijab applies to all times and places… i’ve been to Europe and dealt with some foreigners and i’m not talking without knowing… Hijab is running value that doesn’t fade with time.. because it was set by Allah himself in the Holy Quraan.. it wasn’t a bunch of men who thought it would be appropriate for women to wear it hundreds of years ago as u said…
    cut it Nadia and Quit this useless and funny argument.. it won’t trick a true believer :)

  106. I’m not a Muslim, but a Muslim friend of mine said that the hijab was not compulsory, but rather, women wore it because the women in prophet Mohammed’s wore it. He said that there were a lot of traditions like this; They weren’t mandatory exactly, but were just done to emulate prophet Mohammed and his family. How do you react to this?

  107. I congratulate you on your decision to experiment, and thank you for sharing your thoughts. And I indeed understand your feelings about keeping the hijab not because you’re convinced you should keep it but because of the people surrounding youn in Egypt.

    When you wrote recently about the hypocrisy of women that covered their heads in their countries but took off their hijabs once they reached Western countries, I remembered a Spanish proverb that says “A donde fueres, haz lo que vieres” (Wherever you go, do what people do there.), and I did not thought it was hypocrisy, but just a matter of tradition or of wishing to be unnoticed.

    Keep experimenting.

  108. Dear Nadia,

    I passionately read the post, and I pretty much Read all the comments,and honestly I didn’t Do so for the sake of your story as much as it is for the sake of how challenging a certain mindset that has been there for years might feel,as I get such similar feeling a lot, And I’ve Personally fought against similar ideas that were generally thought of as Haram and completely sinful, and I found that most of them were at specific cases, and that my faith in Islam has payed off, and my logic of how I should perceive Islam has strived, now I BELIEVE that Hijab is obligatory for A muslim, But I completely Understand your motives behind what you do, and how you might double-think about it. I’ve personally looked into the whole Hijab thing a lot, i’ve googled it several times, I’ve tried to hear from all sorts of sheiks, the extremes and the non-extremes. and I’ve reached my conclusion al hamdulillah.the Question I ask you, If after your research process, you find that Hijab is obligatory, and its done for the sake of pleasing GOD, Would you still believe you should go on with your hijab, or would you drop it while keeping your other muslim acts intact.

    again thanks for a very bright experiment, and I hope you get to your satisfying conclusion just as I got to mine. Hope I hear from you.

  109. Congratulations. If this is an after-effect of the Egyptian revolution, this was worth it. For you and all those like you who re-discovered their inner self. Who can deconstruct and reconstruct. And who can do that, freely. I’m happy for you.

  110. I’m a muslim male and I applaud your critical thinking. Too often do I see people act by their religion due to tradition alone or because of “this is what my parents do”.

    Screw that.

    How are we supposed to approach a better truth if we remain stagnant? Keep experimenting (with everything, of course. not just the Hijab), and keep an open mind.

    I’m in a bit of a quagmire myself with religion in terms of certainty.

    Insha’Allah we all reach the truth.
    Salam.

  111. Consider this: don’t women also sexually objectify men? If this sexual objectification business was really a matter of such importance to god, wouldn’t god want men to observe hijab as well? Why is it that god is so much more concerned about how women dress? Could it be that god is really just a character developed by the minds of men who view women as property rather than equal human beings?

  112. …but the purpose of the hijab is NOT to be invisible..what kind of religion would tell women to be invisible?
    the arguments in favour of blending in by taking off your hijab in Western countries & by blending in by wearing your hijab in Eastern countries is absurd. that is not the purpose of hijab! in fact, we are supposed to differentiate ourselves from other religions! it’s GOOD to stand out. standing out is probably the number one way of having people question you about Islam. being a walking billboard for Islam is the honour Muslim women get!

    “Islam began as something strange & it will end as something strange, so give good tidings to the strangers!”

    it’s fine to be different..weird even. that really shouldn’t be a fear. your fear should be with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

    as for your decision making, I wish you the best & may Allah guide you to His path.
    if I could say something to push you in the right direction, I would advise you to read. to learn. you can’t decide based upon your own feelings or what people tell you. let’s not sugarcoat things. Islam has rules. Allah has given us these rules, whether we favour them or not. while it would be great to just take what you want from these rules, that is not Islam. that is not submitting to God.

    read more about the hijab. read the Prophet’s (salallahu alayhi wassalam) ahadith. read the Quran. read books by scholars. read about the Companions. Knowledge is everywhere just make sure you take it from the Quran & the Sunnah.

    May Allah ease your hardship. Ameen.

    1. “being a walking billboard for Islam is the honour Muslim women get!”

      It’s both funny and sad that you don’t grasp why that’s not an honor, especially when it’s forced upon you.

  113. I love the experiment. I tried something similar a few years ago. I live in Dubai and wear the abaya and Sheila. I walked past a cafe with the abaya and Sheila and got states at By every woman there WITH an abaya and Sheila. The kind of catty, judgmental stare to decide whether I was of “their standard”- which unfortunately is nothing but “fashion/wealth”. 5 minutes later I walked past without my abaya and Sheila- in a t shirt and jeans- and those women didn’t even glance at me.

    When I travel I do not wear the abaya and Sheila but sadly I have noticed slightly negative reactions to it when I am with people who do. In some cases We are treated as though we are sheltered women who don’t know how to read a menu or order.

    I personally feel that one must dress modestly for ones own self respect. Simply Wearing a hijab does not make u a good Muslim. Asserting one’s faith and religion should be an internal matter between yourself and Allah.

  114. This post is spot-on for me. In a few days, it will be 20 years of hijab for me; although I started at 10 – my choice. A few months ago, I realized I haven’t made that choice as an adult; I was merely a yet-to-menstruate fourth-grader. On a trip abroad, I took my hijab off. While walking down the street, I felt like me. No difference at all. Except when ppl didn’t try and talk to me in broken Arabic like they normally do. The only difference is the double-take I did whenever I passed by a mirror or a glass pane.
    Everyday while getting dressed, I felt more feminine like you said – even though I was still in jeans and a tshirt. However exhilirating that experience was, doing it in Cairo is completely different. I’m not sure I have the energy for that experiment. But the lesson learned is that nothing is definite, and it’s damn good to have options.

  115. Very normal feelings! :) we all doubt, we all worry, we all need change (especially reaching midlife;), and most importantly we all have to research and really think and understand what we want to do and what we believe is right not what we were ‘told’ is right! However, this should’ve normally happen ‘before’ making our decisions so we can have a solid ground to go back to when we are reaching a doubtful period in our lives.
    Mind you, we have to also consider that people also change and can change their beliefs as well, up or down or across:) this is just part of the human development :)
    However, I’ve got some things to point out that might help you along your way. Now is ‘Hijab’ or head cover a request per se, or is it modesty (including head cover) that is required from Muslims? Because if it is modesty, which I know it is, then it is not a matter of just covering your head or not, it is not a matter of what women do and men don’t, and it is not a matter of how you feel on a day or two, what matters is modesty for the whole community that on the long run can help create a healthy society, where healthy boundaries are set between people in general, and where human relations take a healthy path in terms of mutual respect, creation and perservance of a family etc.. Now this is not something that you will be able to feel by covering your head today and not covering it tomorrow. It is something that a whole community needs to work towards men and womon together both need to practice modesty. What the Quoran described is a guideline for this modesty. Not a restriction for one sex more than the other!!! And this guideline is extended much more than the way we dress (while including it). But it also describes general relations with eachother.
    And here we can ask ourselvers, is this modesty a crazy new idea that Islam invented, or was it a common value over and over in different countries and religions and times throughout life? I’ve recently visited some castle where you could learn about people from the middle ages in England, and they were all well covered head to toe men and women! Which brought me to the question, who changed our perception about what to wear, about what freedom really is, and about being comfortable to expose because ‘this is the way we are made’ and we shouldn’t hide it. And was this person right to do so? Is exposing part of being modern? Does this help the society develop, and human and family relations prosper in any way? Or does it even matter at all to show off or cover?
    Everyone is free to find the answer that suits him/her in the context of belief that he/she chose for themselves.
    Last but not least, coming back to the experiment, and how you felt no much difference taking off the head scarf. Of course you didn’t :) Because it’s not magic :)
    Example: If you decide you are not going to pray today you might feel OK about it, a little excited that you are ‘free’ with no commitments during the day etc. It doesn’t mean that praying could not be required or isn’t essential, in Islam that is. Because the effect of praying is all about a continous relationship between a person and God that gradually builds and gradually helps us spiritually and at some stage helps us monitor our actions as well, knowing we have a ‘meeting’ to review them 5 times a day. And only when all people understand this, and feel as committed, that we can start feeling that positive impact on a complete society.
    Same thing about head cover or what I like to call modesty because modesty is much more than head cover, and some people might not cover their head and be more modest than those with a veil, and also because men are supposed to be modest as well. The effect can be seen on a complete society when this society starts observing modesty. But you yourself will not feel an instance effect observing or not observing. However, what you may feel is that you are keen to practice a belief or not, that you are heading to God’s direction (from a Muslim point of view) or not. And in a time where the majority of people are not well obvserving Islam, or religion in general, it comes down to each individual to decide, who he wants to follow. If he wants to do what he believes is right for his own good, if he beliefs that just by doing what he believes is right he could make a difference. Knowing that at the end we will be judged as individuals ALONE and not as a group.
    This is not just applicable on Islam, this is applicable on everything else in life even atheism. People could be atheist, but still believe that they can do right for their own good. What ‘right’ is is what each of us needs to figure out for himself. The important thing is to apply the right measurements when researching, and not just expect some magical experiences nor try to move the experiment towards what we ‘feel’ like doing.
    So if you want to research Islam, you need to research it as a complete message that is meant as a life long guideline and not an instance miracle. See what Islam really requires in general, what’s the logic behind this faith, what does it include and what doesn’t it include, compare it to other options i.e other faiths, even atheism, and then decide for yourself if you want to accept this faith. Does it make sense to you or not. If you want to accept it, you will then be able to accept it as a whole, knowing the deeper meaning behind it:) Because at the end it’s meant to bring us meaning in our life and guide us to God, not just tell us to cover our heads or not! :))
    Remember things taken into complete context could mean much much more than they appear to be!
    Good luck!

  116. Nadia,

    The only trouble I see here is your obvious acknowledgement of negative consequences/drama for you if you went without the Hijab in Egypt.

    That’s the part that bothers me with any view, not merely regarding the hijab, where those holding that view think it’s their business to keep you in line to their view on things.

    And please don’t think this is about Islam for me — it’s not. If all religious folks took more interest in the workings of their own conscience, and less in that of others, I think we’d all be better off.

    I am nowhere near knowledgeable enough about Islam to state with any authority whether it’s obligatory in the Koran. Honestly, I think it’s up to you and your conscience, pure and simple.

    Beliefs change over time, for example the Catholic Church in which I was raised once stated that the Pope’s infallible sense of things was correct when he stated that the Sun revolved around the Earth, and Galileo and Copernicus were heretics for saying otherwise.

    Obviously, that particular divinely inspired infallible belief didn’t work out so well for the Pope! And there are many other such examples, regardless of the faith we’re talking about.

    The best outcome would be your freedom to do what you please, without getting drama from anyone else. Those who believe the hijab is right can wear it themselves, without inserting themselves into your business.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, and I wish you all the luck in your personal journey.

  117. Religion is stupid. Great that you tried it, to feel what it feels like to be who you want to be, to bad your religion says otherwise. Islam is one scary “religion”.

    1. No, I don’t believe religion is stupid. In the C17th the original term for science was natural magic. How many rationalists / atheists would have had time for that. You could say Newton was stupid for putting in a needle in his own eye to study light, but that doesn’t get you very far. Many of Newton’s ideas that he later used to formulate scientific laws were inspired by astrology.
      Religion is important to people as they can see how God values them if they value God.

      1. I second Ian that Religion is important to people who believe in it, and I have to assume that atheism is important to people who don’t believe in Religion…
        Atheist s might think believers are stupid, but believers could equally think that atheists are stupid :)
        It’s all about perception Foo, and just because you don’t share the same perception like others it means they are stupid…Cause stupidity is a relative matter…and just the way you view others could be exactly the same way they view you ;)

  118. I love that you have taken some risks & shared these with us all to learn & grow. Thank you for this.
    It is really natural to feel all that you are up against in yourself, which has been deeply rooted in societal & religious beliefs, some centuries old. Being willing to listen to yourself is a courageous step towards really understanding all of the above. Please I am not wanting to criticize however as a woman in your culture you will have internalized a lot of beliefs on how you “should” be. God (& the Goddess) would never put such “shoulds” on you. The excitement you are feeling is the voice of you soul, connected to God (Goddess) within you giving you the clear signal that this is absolutely right for you. The freedom you felt as a young girl is also deeply connected to this place. The part of you that has been doctrinated to a certain belief of family, religion & society won’t feel safe making these changes & may become quite loud as an attempt to keep things safe & to the expectations put upon you. To follow this will keep you safe, however this is not what your soul (or God, & Goddess) would want for you & you will really be limiting your potential as a woman & to truly feel the divinity within you. This is where you will find your answers.

    You are very courageous & I wish you many blessings & lots of love. I truly hope you continue to listen to yourself & be the guiding light for many who can feel very oppressed by external expectations.

  119. Nadia,

    I love that you’re questioning things. So many people just do things a certain way because those that came before them did those things that way. It is a tribute to your life and your intellect that you have the courage to examine your motivations in order to arrive at a conscious choice, whatever that may be.

    But I would like to tell you a story. It is not my intention to turn the focus elsewhere, but to provide another perspective about the whole hijab issue. A woman I know works at a public university library in a small town in the middle of the United States. There are many international students at this university and so she comes into contact with many different people from many different cultures. This woman always dresses modestly by American standards, and she is no beauty. However, she has a trait or two that individually could be said to be attractive, but not overly so. One day about fifteen years ago, a bearded man who was obviously from a middle eastern country walked by the office where she worked and glared at her as though she was Jezebel. She wasn’t doing anything that would’ve caused such behavior. As it happens, this man had occasion to walk by the office repeatedly during the day. And day after day, week after week, month after month, every time he walked by the office, he glared at her. It didn’t take her long to figure out the real problem: the man came from a country where women were not allowed to show their hair – one of those slightly attractive traits I alluded to earlier (she had hair about hip-length at the time; it’s longer now). So, she, in her own country, was made to endure this harassment from a foreigner. In the U.S., when hair inspires lust, we call it a fetish and tell the person to seek professional help. It is not normal to be lustful only because a woman has long hair. If women were free to show their hair everywhere, perhaps men would not be so lustful over such a trifle. Perhaps tolerance would gain some traction. His reaction to the woman reminded me of a Muslim friend I had in high school. One day I told this friend she had beautiful hair. Silly me, I thought I was just stating the obvious to anyone with a working eyeball, but she looked at me as though I’d slapped her, grew very agitated and said she should be ‘covered’ – over a comment from another girl! To be ashamed of her own beautiful hair! As if she’d done something bad by just existing. I couldn’t understand it and still don’t. The onus should be on men for understanding, accepting and dealing with their lustfulness, not on women for just being. Lustfulness is part and parcel of being human. Without it, the species would die out.

  120. it’s a very nice post

    Hijab is no more than garment that cover your head,
    but Faith is within your heart

    So I never judge anyone base on what he/she wears, because appearance could deceive us

    thank you for sharing this with us
    I learn a lot from this article :)

  121. That was extremely interesting to read, and I sincerely applaud your your efforts to keep an open mind within yourself regarding what your convictions truly are. It’s something we should all strive to do.

  122. Hi, Nadia.
    Assalamualaikum!

    And peace for all of us here. ^_^

    First of all, I am pleased to read your writing here since I am a Muslim as well. I am Syayid from Indonesia. In my place, Islam and Muslims are dominant. Even in the college where I am working now, female students are encouraged to wear hijjab as long as they are Muslims. For other students whose faith is not Islam, they are not encouraged to do that. That’s a matter of choices here. What matters is the attitude and intention behind the “hijjab”. People never see others through hijjab but indeed through action and behaviour toward one another in social relationship. ^_^

  123. Most religious people I’ve encountered aren’t “spiritual” at all, that is, they believe that they will retain their physical characteristics, like sex and appearance, in the next world.

    As an atheist, I believe that if there is a next world, it will not be a physical world and that therefore we would have to leave our bodies behind and could take with us only that which is in our hearts and souls.

    Therefore I try to judge people in this world by what is in their hearts and souls, not by their physical traits.

    If you are male or female and believe that in the next world you will still be male or female, you believe that the next world will be a physical world like this one, not a spiritual world. If that’s what your religion teaches you, it is a physical religion, not a spiritual religion. Religions should awaken spirituality. If all they do is reinforce and replicate the physical world, they’re useless, which is why I have no use for patriarchal religions.

  124. Most Muslims especially the newer generation in Bangladesh, india, Indonesia, Malaysia where 60-70% of the worldwide Muslims live dont wear hijab. They just wear the traditional sari, salwar kameez here.

    The quran does not call for head to toe. It just tells women and men to dress modestly and to cover their bossoms. The whole hijab, burka thing came from Arab, Persian culture.

    1. I agree with you, Xrg.
      All that matters is what “inside”.
      However, if a woman wears hijab mainly due to her spiritual needs and it derives from her heart, then, I dare say, whoever the woman is, she is great and pretty. She knows that her beauty is only for her “loving husband” and not “for sale”.

      I always love modestly-style people either inside or outside. ^_^

  125. It is so sad that a major part of the world, ie the islamic countries where the hijab is mandatory, is to this day making a big issue about what women should and should not wear. they keep their minds occupied with such matters and are blinded by the most trivial religious convictions (which in their minds is pretty big and without which the world them is utterly terrifying). no wonder they do not seethe wonder that is life. truly sad.

  126. Thank you so much for sharing, Nadia. I’m happy to see it prompt such a great discussion. It seems nearly every possible point of view has been represented by someone, so I’m not sure I have much to add.

    But I do feel compelled to share with you in some detail, as you have shared with me, my own internal experiences around the hijab, and issues of how our choices of how we present ourselves to each other affect our spiritual selves.

    It may be best for me to start by sharing about my frame of reference: I am an American man, raised by a very Christian mother and a very Atheist father who divorced when I was quite young. Both left me free to determine my own relationship to religion and God, for which I am grateful.

    I take God very seriously and believe there is one, which has been given many names and faces by humans over time, in our various attempts to cultivate a good relationship with him/her/it (if we are truly talking about an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing deity, I do not see how it can be meaningful to think of it as a man or a woman, except as a convenience of language).

    As Kabir wrote,
    “The Hindu says Ram is the Beloved,
    The Turk says Rahim.
    Then they kill each other.
    No one knows the secret.”

    I still attend Christian church, and believe in the historical Jesus more than the mythological Jesus- to me his teachings have more power, and our tradition around them has more authority, if we understand that he was a human in a natural world, than if we insist on dressing it up as a fairy tale. At the same time, I see no incompatibility with attending Buddhist services, which offer complementary spiritual guidance without in any way contradicting the tradition I was brought up in. While I have not studied Islam as extensively, I find much in it that rings deeply true to me. Yet fundamentally I believe we must listen for God’s voice in a constant conversation with us, and expect that our relationship will evolve over time. And fundamentally I believe spiritual traditions are at their best when practitioners understand them as guidance for our personal conscience and conduct, not as a basis for imposing our wills on each other and rendering judgment on each other.

    With that context set, I want to comment in the vein that many others have, on the idea of the Hijab as an expression of modesty and protection against “sexual thoughts,” and the like. First, it seems to me that our sexuality is a sacred and basic part of ourselves as whole human beings. To declare that there is a problem with having sexual thoughts and feelings at all seems to me a denial of how we are created.

    I think the problem does not come with having the sexual thoughts and feelings, but with having them blindly, and not being considerately present to the whole humanity of the person we have them about. To understand something like the hijab as a guard against this spiritual error is necessarily to enshrine that spiritual error as a given, when it should not be.

    I have spent time in nudist environments, surrounded by beautiful, naked women, and had no problem relating to them as whole humans. If anything, I found there was far less problem with harassment or disrespect in these environments than in more restrictive ones.

    And I have had wonderful conversations with women in hijab in clothed environments, where the hijab communicated something of how she wished to be related to, and so that was helpful.

    And there’s the rub. I don’t think we can uniformly say that a given outward way of presenting onesself always reflects the same inner spiritual reality. A woman who chooses to express her sexuality with revealing, adventurous dress may be expressing deep confidence and comfort in her own skin, or she may be expressing an unhealthy need for male approval and looking for validation in the wrong way. One needs to be present to her as a whole human to even begin to understand.

    Similarly, a woman in hijab may be expressing fear of judgment and repercussions in the community she lives in, or she may be expressing enthusiasm for a spiritual tradition that has given her deep inner peace and meaningful guidance. It may mean shades of a thousand things. One needs to be present to her as a whole human being to even begin to understand. This is true whether we are naked to each other or completely physically concealed.

    I am grateful for your taking the time to share so eloquently; I think it is a great help in our journey to understand each other better and live together in peace, even if we may make some spiritual choices differently.

    1. I liked this answer a lot. Simply because I relate to it as a person interested about God in general and relating to every tradition that teaches love of God and commitment to faith. I relate to Jewish prayers, obedience, to Christian love of God etc.
      I also totally agree with you that a garment worn in the same way by two different people can have two different meanings to each of them as well as to people around them.
      As you say some people clearly think of Head cover as protection. But what protection?to me for example modest including head cover is a self protection not a protection from others! It simply won’t stop peep from harassing me if they wanted, but it stops me from many actions because by declaring I am a practicing Muslim I am conscious and aware of my actions more and I care about not sending a bad image about Islam. Without head cover I blend in more and can get away with more slips because I feel that sinning only effects me not the reputation Islam because without head cover I’m rather declaring that I’m a non practicing Muslim or not fully practicing.
      At the same time by wearing a head cover I set my own boundaries so my male colleagues while being very close friends sometimes but they respect my boundaries and don’t get physical with me or share rude comments or anything of that kind knowing I’m officially a religious person.
      So by wearing head cover we aren’t really expecting a miraculous protection, we are rather setting our rules and boundaries.
      I believe that this is what it’s all about and it works for me.
      Other women could however wear it out of tradition, or fear, or pride or or. We can’t put all Muslim women covering their head in one pot. But I can comfortably say that Muslims in general believe that what God asks us to do is for our own good. And we follow it because we believe in him and we trust him. And this belief and trust comes from what we have found in the Quoran and general message of Islam. Then people start to individually think about the logic behind a certain rule. But all are attempts to find a logical reason behind it and what is logical is relative to each persons views. But bottom line is: if we believe in Islam we want to follow it completely.
      And I don’t see much point of making a fuss out of head cover while we accept a sari or a turban or a kippah or any traditional or religious garment. What should concern us really is women’s freedom of choice! No woman should be forced on anything. As long as women make their own choices, everybody should respect that choice even if they can’t see the reason behind it. It’s enough that this woman finds that reason :)
      Thanks!

  127. Thanks for sharing this. I can definitely relate to the idea of peeling away all the conditioning and finding the things that are truly you.

    While I was not raised a muslim – I was raised in a fundamentalist christian tradition – I received huge amount of conditioning related to all aspects of life. Once I started on the road of finding out and removing the conditioning I did not want, it took a long time, about fifteen years, before I could finally think to myself that I’m free of the conditioning. I am now me, the man I have become because of who I am, not because of what I was conditioned to be.

    I am truly glad that I did all that work – it has taught me tremendously about myself, as I am sure you will learn about yourself.

    I wish you many happy and good days in your journey. May you find your true self and your own relationship your God.

  128. What a wonderful article and global discussion!
    I am moved by the honesty and intelligence of the author.

    Unless a religious act is chosen, it is invalid. Compulsory, sure, you can make anyone do anything, that’s not faith or love of God. It’s being forced to do something. It’s the opposite of religious observance.

    I read the Qur’an excerpts, and it sure looks to me like: cover your body and jewelery, not your face or head at all times.

    Some imams in my country have told niqabis (not hijabis) that their dress is the opposite of modesty. It is the most attention-seeking, ostentatious, egoistic thing they can wear in our society.

    Nadia, you are a star. Thank you for sharing your life, your thoughts, your uncertainty and your faith with us.

  129. Hi Nadia!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights. Your post was really a treat to read. I wasn’t quite expecting the outcome, either. It has made me pause and reflect on women and dress and all the little things intertwined with femininity.
    I’m about 17 myself, and a non-religious westerner. Perhaps it is narrow-minded of me to think so, I always felt that the religious were brainwashed a bit, and non-questioning to an extent. I’d just like to let you know that your post has really changed my mind about that. Honestly, I still don’t understand how so many people can have faith in a transcendent being, or in anything at all, without concrete proof. But you have, at least, managed to make me more open-minded about those who are devout and eradicate my stereotypical view of all religious people. So thank you for that, as well. :)
    There was also one particular paragraph that I felt like I could strongly identify with. You mentioned that you are trying to question everything in your life, to strip away all your beliefs that were learned or imposed upon you, and determine what your true beliefs are. I’ve found myself in the same position recently. As I have begun to read more, gain a lot of new knowledge, and reflect upon issues that I encounter, I am also wondering- would I believe in what I do if I were raised in completely different circumstances? In fact, I’ve come to realize that a lot of the beliefs that are common here in the U.S. don’t quite match my own convictions, when I really think about and rationalize the issue. I feel like I can really relate to you, in that I have been trying to strip down to the bare bones of my true self- and you’re right, it i’s rather difficult.
    That being said, I’ve encountered a bit of a roadblock in this process: can one’s self and one’s beliefs exist without those environmental influences? Don’t we form our beliefs based on my experiences, rather than just being born with them? If so, how would one be able to determine who they really are? It seems to me as if this quest is futile, that I cannot have beliefs without having experiences on which to base them.
    I am afraid that I probably did not explain my thoughts as eloquently as you are able to, but I thought I’d give this a shot. On that note, I really enjoy reading your insights- thank you so much for sharing.

  130. Wonderfully refreshing. As to the substanbtive meaning of the hijab, surely it originates in the need to be modest, not attracting attention to oneself on the basis of physical appearance. Strictyly speaking there’s nothing in the Qur’an that specifies anything other than this (other than the injunction only to show what is normally shown). What Dr Nadia’s experience shows is that ‘normally’ varies from environment to environment, and that in that context in some environments it can be much more modest in the real sense of the word, to go without hijab, than to insist on it, as in such places it does the opposite of what is intended – i.e. attract attention. The only women, after all, for which a form of fuller visual seclusion was arguably specified in the holy texts, were the Prophet’s wives (but even there it was perhaps merely applicable to when visitors came to his family abode).

    1. While this partly makes sense to me, it was followed by asking myself: then why do Muslim women cover their hair while they are praying or doing pilgrimage? If Muslims decide to ignore the Prophet’s hadith in regards to what a woman’s modesty is (even though they are confirmed hadiths), and ignore the interpretation of the 4 main scholars about the modesty in the Quoran, then why do we accept them during prayer and pilgrimage?
      Here I need to stress that modesty doesn’t describe a certain outfit (i.e dress or abaya which are all traditional outfits). Instead modesty can be fullfilled with modern clothes that follow the norm of the place we live in to the extent that we accept for ourselves and not the extent that fashion designers force on us.
      In addition to the fact that Islamic rules and guidance are clear, we might personally interpret things differently, but unless we are Islamic scholars and have a basis for our conclusions that we can share and prove to the world, I’d be wary with following my own interpretation of the Quran and Hadith.
      Besides, the most important point is that ‘normally’ is a very broad word. So by applying this we can comfortably go topless on a beach or fully naked on a nudity beach because in these places this falls under ‘normal’.
      And here I remember the bikini song, here’s part of the lyrics as a reminder:
      “She was afraid to come out of the locker
      She was as nervous as she could be
      She was afraid to come out of the locker
      She was afraid that somebody would see
      Two, three, four, tell the people what she wore
      It was an itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, yellow polka-dot bikini
      That she wore for the first time today
      An itsy, bitsy, teentie, weenie, yellow polka-dot bikini
      So in the locker she wanted to stay”

      What I get from this song is that ‘normal’ varies from time to time and in fact it isn’t really always ‘normal’ but it is a pressure that society puts on people/women to follow that changeable norm. As you will see the woman in the song wasn’t comfortable wearing a bikini at all, but obviously it was the latest fashion :)
      So society from one side puts pressure to follow the norm, and the norm is changeable, and currently the norm in many places is less clothes and more pride of ones body or ones freedom or whatever changeable reasons. But just a few years back the norm was modesty and some more years back the norm was complete modesty with headcover regardless of one’s faith.
      Religions on the other hand encourage modesty.
      And I am intentionally saying religions in plural and intentinally saying ‘encourage’ rather than ‘force’.
      Because religion only sets guidlines to what the best for us is. And the best for us isn’t because of fashion, or short term reasons that we will experience once we step down to the streets, but it’s a long term target for an entire society.
      However, religion can’t be forced. And God Himself gave the people the choice to believe or not believe and He knows that some will believe and others won’t and each will have to be responsible for their choices. Each one alone, so it wouldn’t help much that we just followed the ‘norm’ blindly.
      So religion has to be an internal conviction based on research, logic thinking, or simply just belief.
      Force always comes from humans. We can refer to parental force, traditions or society pressure etc.
      While I do not accept social or traditional pressure and believe in a woman’s /person’s freedom to break free from anything that doesn’t make sense to her (this is also what God urges people to do in the Quran on several occasions saying that we have to question on whether our ancesters were wrong). Yet, I see it different with religion. Because religion is actually only our belief that we have to choose in the first place. We might learn new information and change our ‘choice’ but any belief has to remain a choice or it isn’t a belief to start with.
      Accordingly, I don’t believe in inheriting a religion. Our parents give us a faith, but God (for those who believe in God) will certainly judge us on our choices and our true belief, not whatever our parents decided for us or whatever we did to please our parents or society or follow the ‘normal’.
      Parents and society can only teach us what they believe is right and it remains our responsibility to make our own choices.
      As a result, I disagree with comfortably following the ‘normal’, and instead I promote to comfortably follow what we see as right for us.
      So back to Nadia I’ll tell her: I can’t see your point on worrying about the doorman at all. If you choose modesty and/or Islam or you chose something else believe me you are the only one who will be responsible for these choices. It might make sense though to worry about the effect of your choices on your kids, because your decisions and choices will be a guideline for them at least until they learn to make their own thoughts. So whatever you do, I hope you have good reasons for it, so that you remain a role model for your children.
      But I’m sure you don’t need to worry about the doorman :)

  131. For the first moment, I starred in shock to my PC, opening my mouth.. not believing you actually did it (I thought you made up ur mind & took it off). People like you give a very positive image of Muslims and what real Islam is, which is why i felt very sad reading the first few lines…

    In the end, I started to think if it’s right to question the logic of Hijab. I, like many others, always believed it is obligatory and frankly, i wouldn’t dare to think about it freely let alone speak about it.

    Yet, you made me face my inner self.. now, i’m thinking abt it, questioning.. i really dunno.

    Maybe it depends on the community and general perceptions? Ya3ni if you’re living in a naked place where its normal to see ppl naked on the street then its very appropriate to just dress modestly coz no one will pay attention to you?

    I thought before abt kissing from the cheeks as a way to salute ppl. We dont do it here coz a girl cant kiss a guy who’s not her husband, me7rem etc but in the west its very common.. so if i do it with ppl who think it’s common, it’s dif. than doing it with ppl who think it’s not and may have other impressions/feelings etc??

    Do I make sense?

    Feeling feminine is smth i will realize best that i’m missing if my Hijab isn’t on. I kinda make it up by watching TV series..

    Good luck with your journey (which may be mine too) but i’ll be disappointed if you took it off.. its not that i’m telling you not to, but rather i’ll feel bad coz you (and I) believed in an illusion (if it turned not obligatory) or maybe you (and maybe I) will be making a BIG mistake :(

    1. I hope you read my comment above you might find some answers to your reply as well ;)

      One point I’d like to add: If you don’t feel feminine, or need to watch TV to make up for what you are missing (if I understood you correctly) then you might not be living your life and expressing yourself they way you’d like to. And this hasn’t necessarily to do with modesty because you can still be modest and feel feminine and proud of yourself.
      A woman needs to learn to feel complete and capable and confident. While this is partly through our looks (because we’ve been programmed by society to think this way) it is also greatly through achievements and attitude and independence.
      Remember that by being modest you don’t need to dress like a certain tradition or follow others in their style, which might not suit your personality. So try to find the type of outfits that make you feel comfortable and confident. Like the Sheikh Sharawy once said: it is important to fulfill the rule of not describing the body and not transparent, whatever fulfills this you can wear, be it a hat, and scarf, a dress shirt whatever suits you.
      Try to look after yourself and take care of yourself, because again modesty doensn’t mean neglecting life or yourself.

      As to your other point: If head cover turned out to be not obligatory a lot of women will take it off. This isn’t a negative thing, nor wouldn’t it mean that it doesn’t have an effect or a reason beind it. It just means that these women followed what they believed God asked them to do, knowing that God knows what’s best through their belief in the Quran as the word of God. That in itself is a good thing, to believe and be committed even if the matter is against our own ‘comfortability’. Since who wouldn’t do what could be more fun if allowed to? Being undressing, drinking alcohol, not fasting etc.
      Wouldn’t we all make the ‘sins’ if we weren’t told not to? And isn’t this the reason God told us ‘not to’ ? Otherwise, what’s the point of these regulations in the first place? To follow the religion you need self discipline on numerous occasions and this in itself means that if left on your own you might want to act differently.
      Just like we all would speed on a motorway unless we have speed cameras :) It doesn’t mean that the rule of speed limit isn’t in fact good for us! Even if we feel confident enough to break it.
      But if the headscarf is proven to be obligatory, we shouldn’t be ‘upset’ about it. Because the main reason of believing and practicing a faith is following a logic as to why we are believing, and then trusting our God.
      Just like we obey the governmental law because we trust in it’s postivity to the society. Even if we are not 100% convinced with certain laws.
      If we are ‘unhappily’ doing so, then maybe we need to understand more. Because a person who understands the reasons behind his actions and is convinced with his decisions isn’t normally upset about it ;)

      cheers.

  132. First I would like to praise your honesty. Being honest with yourself is the first step on the straight path to Allah. Second and being old enough to be your mother (I think), I permit myself to give you the following advice: “learn more about Allah”. By learning more about Him you will get to love Him. When you love Him you will forget all about other people’s reactions, i.e. you will be free.

    1. My parents are in their 70s. I doubt you’re old enough to be my mother :-). But thank you for the advice.

  133. dear nadia! thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaank you for the article .. this is precisely my experience :) thank you very very much for the last paragraph.

  134. I donno if you will read my comment as there are so many yet i will still make my point. Sister your bravery is commendable yet you like many other muslims today are mistaken. You see muslim women have to wear hijab not for what people will think but because Allah wants them to wear it. There should be no more reason required after this. And yes hijab is required to day like it was required 1400 years ago if you accept that islam is a deen for all times and places as it claims to be. And lastly it is best to consult a good scholar on an issue such as this rather to wait for your feelings to make things clear. That might never happen. Asalamu alaikuma and may peace be unto you.

  135. You’re brave to trying to figure things out on your own, and questioning the legitimacy of what you’ve been taught. You go girl! I wish you good luck!

  136. My problem is whenever it comes to the woman in al-Islam it seems to always center the issues around the way she dresses (hijab). It like the whole religion has been reduced down to nothing but a style of dress for the woman. Al-Islam is more comprehensive than that.

    Another issue of contention for me if we are going to make the focus on what is required for the woman wear (speaking of hijab), we should at least study the arabic terminologies in the verse that speaks of the dress code for the woman. It never says “hijab”. The term is khamaar and that carries a different meaning from hijab. And it says to extend the khamaar over their bossom.

    Whenever Allah uses different arabic terms for seemly addressing the same things, there are subtle hints of wisdom in them that we should be inquisitive about.

  137. Nadia,

    A wonderfully written and thought-provoking entry. Very honest and truthful about yourself and what you seek.

    I have worn the Hijab since I was 16 and for the last 24 years. Growing up in the U.K and now living in the U.S has defined and changed my wearing of hijab and why I wear it.

    At the age of 13, I started to wear it, because my family was religious and this is something which now that I had “come of age” was a requirement and necessary as a Muslim girl approaching womanhood. But, I was never “forced” into it by anyone. In fact at that age, I would wear it in certain places and not wear it when in others, specifically not wear it in front of my non-muslim friends and at school. At that age, you have enough differences as a Muslim in a non-muslim society (U.K) and hijab is just another alien belief and practise you have to explain. The need to “fit in” surmounts any other need. But, paradoxically, when I was about 15/16 – the “hijab” gave me my identity as a Muslim and as a woman. I felt a strong desire to wear it full time. Religiously it made sense to me and I had a very feministic approach to why I should wear it. I felt it was my God given right. I relished the chance to explain why I wore it and how it identified me as a Muslim. This was in the mid 80′s. The Iranian Revolution had taken place. Madonna was huge…

    I moved to the U.S in the early ’90′s. Muslims were not visibly present or known about at all. There was real ignorance about Muslims and who they were. Again, at that period in my early ’20s – the hijab gave me defintion as to my identity and represented me as a Muslim woman to the society around me.

    I want to say here that as a teenager my “hijab” was much more “conservative”. Living in the U.S, my dress style has changed and I wear very western styles with a scarf to match!

    I feel that “hijab” gives women a sense of dignity and identity which cannot be found when not wearing it. Living in this day and age in a time of extreme “islamophobia’ – I want to be identified as a Muslim woman – one who represents her faith for the good things and not the stereotypes that are rampant. It is not always easy or fun. In fact, there are times when I would rather slip into “oblivion”.

    Have I always put on the ‘hijab’ with such nobility and purpose, probably not. Do I do it ‘perfectly’ according to some – no. It is not the societies and cultures around me that persuade me. It is my own understanding, faith and practise. This maybe my “saving grace”. When I feel that I do it for none other than the pleasure of my Creator and Lord and because I myself have made that choice then I feel the strength and beauty of it.

    I am also very disturbed by the situation of Muslim women around the world. In fact, for most of the world…what to cover and not cover is the least of the worries. I understand that I am in a very different position in terms of choice and freedom and privilege that I have been given. What is my struggle on a day to day basis is not the same struggle for others on this planet. Everyones set of circumstances are different. So, I do not judge or presume to know why someone wears the ‘Hijab’ or does not wear the ‘Hijab’. But, I understand the reasoning and wisdom for it.

    To each his own path and hopefully – “the right, straight and balanced path”. We are here for a very short time and then we are gone. Hopefully we try and make the best of it. This ‘struggle’ you are facing has definitely made for good and healthy discussion and thinking. Thank you for that.

  138. Salamou ‘alaykom

    First of all I admire your honesty. It is great to read this kind of thinking from Egypt, since your country is ‘the leader of the Arab world’ (or since Egyptians like to think of it that way :) ) voices like yours can open up lot’s of minds in the region.
    Why I feel connected to your story: I am a Moroccan Muslim woman living in Belgium. I grew up in Europe and decided to wear the hijab when I was 19. I only started believing the hijab was obligatory when I became 18. Before that I believed it was one of the tools men invented to control women.. Now I’m wearing it for almost 6 years, and I still don’t regret it. But I think the context I’m used to here in Belgium has shaped my thinking of hijab. For me and lot’s of other Muslim women we have to struggle for our right to wear it during our job, at school… I have other experiences in Europe with the way people look at me, with or without hijab. Some don’t want to talk or work with me because it’s obvious that I’m a Muslim, some non-Muslim women shout at me saying they find my headscarf ugly, there are men who keep harassing me and others don’t care and just want me to be happy.

    But anyway, I started by saying that I admire your honesty, that is because I know it’s not easy. I haven’t read all the previous reactions here, but I truly understand why you would ignore some of them :-) While I keep fighting for the right to wear the hijab, I also fight against those who bully women and girls who don’t want to wear it. I think this is an issue for women to discuss, because it’s their body. So if you would decide to stop wearing it, I wouldn’t judge you – I don’t even know you! – and I would defend your right to choose.

    The real problem is the way some men look at women. Even when they cover from head to toe, it’s hard for them to understand that every human being should be treated with respect, and this is a real sad situation.
    Good luck on your journey, I hope you’ll find your own path of satisfaction, with whatever clothes you want to wear.

  139. Asalamalaykum Nadia. May Allah continue to guide us all, and may we never go astray. Honestly i didnt have any problem with your experiments and all, but i thought in the long run you were going to compare the two and conclude that Hijab is the best option, but i didnt get that. Anyway, it could be a bit misleading for those who find all sorts of excuse not to cover, may Allah forgive us our shortcomings.

  140. Hi Nadia,
    I have a question. What do you exactly mean when you say you felt more feminine? Can you explain a bit? More playful with men? Something else? Or is it just excitement you were doing something you hadn’t done in years?

    Also, isn’t it a bit hypocritical to your religion to say I should wear the headscarf in Egypt but I am free to take it off in Europe?

    Thanks,
    Ili

  141. Hello Nadia, you should check out my blog on islamicity.com under the headings of islamic matters. I would like to see what you think about all the questions and statement I listed on that website.

  142. ASA Sister,
    I’m not sure how to react to this. I have to admit my first thought after reading it was, “well that is pretty silly.” If you’re so independent and liberated as to make this decision, what is the big deal about doing it all the time? It either is, or it isn’t. Being a convert, I know how the struggle goes to deflate your ego and search for the truth of the hijab. The verse is actually very clear and it’s historical interpretations. It took me five years to make that choice, but once I did I knew that was it. I can’t imagine going back now.
    I’m not trying to get preachy on you & for God’s sake I am trying my hardest not to be judgmental here, but when you took it off you’ve felt the most feminine you ever had? What you wear really shouldn’t have that effect on anyone. You are man or woman and what you have in your head is how you perceive yourself, not what you wear. I’m not trying to invalidate your feelings, but what exactly is not feminine about the hijab?
    I don’t agree with what you did for one reason: you weren’t convinced the hijab wasn’t obligatory before you took it off. A muslim is supposed to hold Allah above all else sah? If you reasoned it wasn’t obligatory then this story wouldn’t have disturbed me so much. I really don’t understand it and I’m sure you don’t fully understand it yet yourself. It is brave and honest to share this story, but I don’t think you were honest with yourself and perhaps are still deceiving yourself if your faith was so shaky you could just “experiment” like that. I wish you all the best, but trust me when I say the grass is always greener. Try to intellectualize the issue and then take actions. It works to your advantage.
    Jazak Allah Khairan!

  143. as a man we never show women were eyeing them or if were behind them watching their behinds as they walk with tight jeans. sorry yo , u aint got eyes everywhere. men do watch just in european and western countries we are trained better n how to look without noticing u watching us. covering yourself does not make me think of u sexually i think of u as more respected and wife opportunity but uncoveringmakes any man ssee u when they want as women are like a pearl beauty indeed. but sis dont publicise your haramness and b proud bout it. all it does is spread the disease of your heart to others :)

    1. Totally agree that Western men check up women just as any other men in the rest of the world. They just know their limits ‘by law’ or by tradition and would therefore not harass women depending on their traditions. Some Italian men would show their impression, English men won’t. But both will check women’s body even if women don’t notice it. So we could say that some Western men (depending on the country) are more civilised in checking women and that is the main difference between them and the Middle Eastern men who are more annoying and more daring because the whole culture, laws, human rights have collapsed…However, there’s no doubt that what the woman wears sets the boundary she wants for herself. Not to be ‘safe’ as it’s not a magic outfit that prevents danger :) but just to set her own rules! And her own boundaries to those who respect boundaries in the first place…

  144. Assalamualaikum Nadia,

    I apologize in advance if my comments are redundant, I did not read all the posts. I’ll try to be brief.

    First, remember to look to the ahadith (the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) to understand the meaning of the verse in surah Nur before you try to understand it for yourself. After the verse was revealed, the women of Medina, who used to show their chests and their hair, covered both immediately, indicating that it was the opinion of the women of the time that the verse meant to cover your hair. Other ahadith reveal that the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him specifically told women to show nothing but their face and hands when they go out.

    Secondly, remember that outward actions can be deceiving. As a Muslim man I can assure you that although my friends and I try to treat all women equally, we definitely notice (and I’m sure you know what I mean by that) women who do not wear hijab more. “A man’s lust is not a switch he turns on and off in his head,” my teacher told me “if he sees something attractive, he’s going to be attracted to it.” Men will treat a woman in a bikini the same way they treat a woman in a burqah, but what’s in their hearts when they talk to them is completely different. Even the Bible warns that when a man lusts after a woman in his heart, he has committed adultery with her. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said the same thing. If you take off your hijab, you will be treated the same, but your record on the day of judgement will be very different.

    Thirdly, I’d like to remind your readers that this is just one woman’s experience. My wife converted to Islam and she tells me a completely different story. She told me how she never had a man open a door for her before she wore hijab, and she’d never been so respected by men in general. She told me how at work, she would be constantly sexually harassed (this is in Buffalo, NY btw) at work and that her supervisor (a woman) refused to do anything about it. “The day I wore hijab, the harassment stopped,” she said.

    I’m sorry, I guess my comment was not that brief after all.

  145. As a man:

    Hijab turns a beautiful road into an ugly road. It reduces my quality of life.

    As a philosopher:

    Does Islam need the suppression of women? Does any religion need the suppression of women? I don’t think so. Hijab is not a question of religion. It’s a mere question of culture.

    Regularly religion is used to enforce culture. Then religion turns to facism. But that it’s not the fault of religion. It’s the fault of those, who abuse religion.

    Almir

  146. not sure how i feel about the fact that you can’t face the drama that’ll come with you taking off the hijab – to be honest I would probably not care if I wasn’t convinced – but you did say that you’re working on figuring that out. In all cases, your piece struck a chord because I’m going through the whole questioning phase right now! Strange that you’re going through it too. I’m finding out some unpleasant truths but the entire experience is proving to be very liberating. Good luck with trying to peel off the layers, it takes lots of effort and trust in ones own judgment.

    1. I feel a similar way. My questioning started in 2007 and it is just recently that I am being honest with myself about many things. There is so much, sooo much more to Islam than the hijab. Pick up the Quran and see just how much more. But people are so hung up with this piece of fabric. I think I wil lose it if one more male ‘advises’ another female about the hijab! Especially when they walk out in public without s second’s thought about how the hijab impacts upon our lives.

      So many other questions too! But yes, I feel a similar way!

      1. Most of the women who are trying to be modest feel this way at some point or another. We doubt, we read, we think, we come back or go away. It all depends on how strong we are, how confident we are, how honest we are, how knowledgable we are, and how much we trust Islam and God in Islam.
        You are right that there’s sooo much more in Islam. But is this an excuse to leave some parts out and focus on the ‘sooo much more’ ? I wonder. The prophet (pbuh) spent years and years just educating the Muslims, so that when the rules came down they had no reason whatsoever or no doubt that what is required they will do. However, maybe because these days we are educated in a different way, and the main concept of Islam, the main logic behind, the full picture of that Islamic purpose is not explained to us well it becomes the reason why we find it very easy to practice parts of it and very difficult to practice some other parts, depending on our personalities and own pleasures. And I feel embarrassed from myself amongst Muslim converts that I know who don’t go through all these ‘worries’ and ‘hesitations’ and struggles. They educated themselves, they thought of it all and about other faiths, and they made the decision. Full stop! They don’t keep saying oh but what about this and I can’t do that. They take it all or leave it all. Why can’t we do that? It must be a lack of knowledge, that results in a weakness of faith.
        In addition, I never found anyone debating whether we should pray 5 times a day or not, whether fasting is required, pre marital relations etc. (Yes, because they are stated very clearly in Quoran). Fine, then I also never found anyone debating why women cover their hair while they’re praying, or in the pilgrimage for instance. Why I ask? They tell me it’s not our concern. Perfect! That’s exactly what I’m saying! Our concern is to do what pleases us and makes us comfortable, NOT what is really required! Because if it was searching for what is required, we would really be thinking why are we supposed to cover at all while we’re praying? And if we believe the prophet (pbuh) taught us so, why don’t we on the other hand believe he taught so regarding head cover in every day life as in hadith?
        It is much easy to doubt what doesn’t please us, and whole heartedly believe what we find easy. And never even research it!!
        There is indeed some room for debates in the Quoran and God did that to test us as He declared in some verses. The true believers want to do what God asks them whatever way, however difficult. The weak believers (and I’m not judging anyone because I am one of the women who think and rethink :) want to find a way out and that becomes their concern.
        Frankly I see the excuse of ‘there’s soo much more to Islam’ not convincing to me, because I am not doing that ‘soo much more’ 100% either. So I want to collect all the ‘points’ as much as I can, I don’t have a guarantee that allows me that it’s OK to leave something out. And what is this something? It’s something that I will be leaving out ‘everyday’! What does that means? It means I am deliberately not intending to follow what is required, so I’m out of the forgiveness criteria (those believers who do the sins ‘bejahala’). It also means that this potentially ‘small’ sin becomes a big one (kabira) because the presistence on saghira makes it kabira. And it also means that I am collecting sins for every man who sees my body or hair on a daily basis! These are surely uncountable :)
        As a result, I know myself, and I know that unfortunately, I do not have that many good deeds that cover all those potential sins.
        On the other hand if I wear modestly as required, we’ll be talking about taking a thawab on a daily basis for following what God requires, I sleep at night knowing that inshallah I’m doing a good thing the next day and I’m walking towards God’s direction. And I can sincerely ask God for forgiveness knowing that the sins I’m doing aren’t intentionally pre planned! In addition, especially living in Europe, I think more than once because I act imporperly because I have already declared my commitment to Islam, and don’t want to be a hypocrite by covering my head and behaving badly! I also don’t want to send wrong messages about Islam and make people think that Muslims aren’t good people. o I try as much as I can to be at my best at work, with my friends, and with people here in general. So without thinking, this piece of clothes really helps me to be better, while before it I never thought of things this way, and never thought that as a Muslim I am responsible to set a good example in every way of behaviouer, work, education etc.
        Then by reading and learning in general about Islam and other faiths I notced frankly the more I read about other faiths, the more I move towards Islam. And the more I read ‘generally’ about Islam, the more I get the picture! The more I realise like you said, that Islam has sooo much into it, and modesty is part of it, and if we take it as a whole, we will really manage very well.
        It’s all much more than to make women suffer. And please note: the reason women suffer, is because of society, NOT because of Islam! Society has changed and will keep changing, values have changed and will keep changing. If we were born hundreds of years ago, covering our hair would be the least of our worries. And if we were born 100 years in the future, God only knows where we would’ve been. Maybe nudity wouldn’t even be enough :)) This is how it is.
        So are we following society? Yes or no and why? Or are we following a certain belief? Yes or no and why?
        Do we think Islam needs to be ‘changed’ like Christianity in order to fit with what people want (i.e Protestant etc.) or do we really believe that Islam will enable us to have a decent life if we want to at any time or century?
        This is how we should be thinking, we shouldn’t be thinking what can I leave out of Islam and how important is it anyway :)
        Having said that, it is important to know what is required, why it is required, and where is the borderline between what is required and traditions! Islam never limits our freedom in living our daily life. So if someone asks me to do anything that limits my daily life that would be a question! i.e cover my face, wear black, wear a dress only, not work etc. etc. Any ‘man made’ restriction is not something I necessarily have or want to follow! According to Islam that I know, God asked us all (men and women) to be modest, Women to cover all except face and hands when in public (no specific outfit was required except no transparency or fit and tight also for both men and women). Accordingly, I have no problem to enjoy my life at all.
        And all that is just a part of the bigger picture, which is the type of relations we set with our community, the type of borders we set for those relations to make sure we are protecting ourselves, our family, our career etc. etc. In Islam sex and temptation have their place, and professionality and friendship etc. have their place. As simple as that. Can we be modest without a head cover? Yes certainly we can, but will we be? Because if we decide not to believe any verse or hadith about head cover, then there’s nothing really elsewhere in the Quoran asking us for a specific modesty. And without modesty, we will find ourselves gradually allowing ourselves to take other things more easily.

  147. Nadia, my sister, May God protect you. I don’t know you or your situation. May Allah have mercy on you and bless you and all the people of the world with His Guidance. This is what Allah says about clothing:
    [يَـبَنِى آدَمَ قَدْ أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ لِبَاسًا يُوَرِى سَوْءَتِكُمْ وَرِيشًا وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَى ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ ذَلِكَ مِنْ آيَـتِ اللَّهِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ ]

    (26. O Children of Adam! We have bestowed Libas (raiment) upon you to cover yourselves with, and as Rish (adornment); and the Libas (raiment) of Taqwa, that is better. Such are among the Ayat of Allah, that they may remember.)

    Allah Himself has sent down the guidance for how a human is to dress. Do not be deceived by those who try to fool you into believing that the ultimate judge is society. The ultimate judge is Allah, and His guidance is more worthy and deserving of your heart than others. You went out in societies that are desensitized. Sex is all around them, so you were nothing special. When you allowed them to view of you what they wanted you became normal to them.

    [يَـبَنِى آدَمَ لاَ يَفْتِنَنَّكُمُ الشَّيْطَـنُ كَمَآ أَخْرَجَ أَبَوَيْكُم مِّنَ الْجَنَّةِ يَنزِعُ عَنْهُمَا لِبَاسَهُمَا لِيُرِيَهُمَا سَوْءَتِهِمَآ إِنَّهُ يَرَاكُمْ هُوَ وَقَبِيلُهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لاَ تَرَوْنَهُمْ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا الشَّيَـطِينَ أَوْلِيَآءَ لِلَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ ]

    (27. O Children of Adam! Let not Shaytan deceive you, as he got your parents out of Paradise, stripping them of their raiment, to show them their private parts. Verily, he and his tribe see you from where you cannot see them. Verily, We made the Shayatin friends of those who believe not.)

    God tells us that the Shaytan has deceived our parents into committing the same sin. May God protect us from deceit. I truly pray that Allah guide you to that which is best.

    Wassalam

  148. I found your blog and this article after typing “I hate my hijab” in google (really).

    I started a small blog the other day just as a place to let go of some of the feelings about my hijab that I have bottled up inside of me.

    I appreciate this post of yours. Very much. And I want to say thank you.

    So, thank you :-)

  149. Hi Nadia,

    today I have something to share with you.
    I’ve met with an Egyptian friend who knows me and my family for a long time but we haven’t seen each other for some time. As we were making conversation and catching up he laughed and said out of the blue: Aren’t you going to forget about the scarf on your head yet?
    I was really surprised, cause I haven’t been hassled about it for a long time recently and didn’t know where that came from! :)) Although I’ve certainly noticed that the Egyptians are focusing and discussing and confusing each other about it so much recently :)
    I asked him back: If I take it off, will you feel different about me? In example will you find me nicer or funnier or a better friend? He said of course not. So I told him thank you very much! That means there’s no point for me whatsoever to take it off unless I really want to show everybody how beautiful I can be :) Other than having people looking out for my looks, it is not effecting my life in anyway or my achievements or my relationships with people. Accordingly, the only reason for me to take it off would be a purely personal decision but not because I need to do that in any way! Certainly not when I know that my looks didn’t matter in anything I have done in my life so far. (Considering that I never inteded to become a model, an actress or a singer:))
    So since the subject has been raised up too much recently (hence I’ve been very enthusiastic about responding to posts here, while I usually never check blogs:) I’ve come to the conclusion that: Religions are clear, truth is clear, but it is always our own perceptions, feelings, fears and weaknessess that make us try to deny them or question them. And when we feel we can’t do something, we try to find a way out. Not just that! We also like to have encouragement, so we’d tend to talk to those who can encourage us, or even do the same like us, because we don’t want to ‘worry’ or make ‘potential mistakes’ alone.
    While when we want to do the ‘right thing’ whatever it is, we are couragous, don’t give any attention to what people think because we are certain of what we are doing.
    That is why people who find it very hard to accept something like modesty (be it in Islam or not) keep negotiating and finding ways out AND trying to collect as many people on their side as they can in addition to making those who have different opinions hesitant like them.
    Because the subject has been provoking me, I decided after many years to look into it again, as I always say, perhaps some know it better than all the scholars since over 1400 years :)
    And my conclusion again was that there’s not any single disagreement between ‘real’ Islamic scholars about whether a woman should cover her hair or not. One of the Sheikh’s fatwa was: Modesty including head cover is an Islamic requirement but leaving it out does make someone a non believer. So it doesn’t effect the faith. I.e like lying, it’s a sin, if a Muslim lies he has sinned but remains a Muslim.
    I liked this very much, because I think that accordingly, we can all come to terms with the matter understanding that it’s up to each persons own decision what he wants or doesn’t want to do, if he wants to take a risk for additional ‘sins’ or not. And people can stop hassling each other about discussing over and over again what is required and what is not. Not that this will happen :) But I think that people need to let each other be. And they need to be able to admit what they can or can’t do, without dragging the whole faith into it, and whether it’s a requirement or not because let’s be clear: most of the people who are claiming head cover or modesty aren’t required, aren’t really Islamic scholars at all, and some of them aren’t even experts in Arabic language or history or so. So we can’t really take an engineer’s opinion for a medical problem. This is how I see it.
    I thought to share this with you, because that conclusion made me comfortable again that I can continue to live my life the way I choose, not thinking much of what people think of me or of what I do. Not being based in an Arabic country, I think I can easily get by without questioning the faith I’m practicing every day! It is the Egyptians in particular who are giving each other a hard time, and people in Egypt need to learn to ignore each other a little and just be what they want to be without hassling each other over it.
    Finally, I’ve reached my conclusion for I don’t know the ‘how many time’ :) But I am still interested to hear your conclusion. Not your decision because it’s your private matter, but what you found out about the subject and whether you’d reach a different result based on Islamic knowledge.
    Because everyone calling against head cover that I’ve ever spoken to has basically just followed their ‘feelings’ and have no real logical explanation as to why head cover may not be required. So that is why I am interested to follow up on your conclusion perhaps you will find something logical that I wasn’t able to find. So please keep me posted!
    cheers,

    1. Its not just about ‘feelings’. The Quran doesn’t actually say to women that they must cover their heads. It is implied rather than explicit.

      And Islam is not clear on many things. If it were so cut and dry, there wouldn’t be so many people claiming that only certain scholars can interpret the Quran.

      Also, why do so many people equate not wearing hijab with being models, singers or acters? Serisously?

      1. Take it easy, it’s just a discussion :)
        1. It is often about feelings but not always of course. Yes, Quran says to women to extend their head covers to also cover their chests. It didn’t say take off your head covers (which were already worn by women) and cover your chest ‘instead’!!
        As a result, God confirmed the head cover and added that it required adjustment to also cover the chest instead of leaving it in the open. If this wasn’t the case, and if the Hadith confirming that is denied as well, then why are women covering their heads during prayer or pilgrimage without any fuss about it? No woman decided to take off her head scarf while praying saying it wasn’t said clearly, is there?
        If this is not clear enough for some people that’s up to them, but this is the meaning of the verse that was accepted by ALL scholars, also in my German and English Quoran translations this is the same meaning. So yes, it is clear for those who want to see it. But not all the people see the things the same way because we often get overwhelmed by how we feel about the matter rather than look into it objectively. And because of this reason, there are different faiths, different attitudes and different beliefs and people fail to see each others interpretations of things because they see things differently and can’t accept the other opinion even it it was a fact.
        However, as I said to Nadia, should anyone have a confirmed scholar opinion confirming that head cover is not required, please update me. Because, I have looked into it over and over and never found anything but weak attempts by ‘modern’ people who have nothing to do with Islamic knowledge.

        2. I believe Islam is clear on the rituals and on what is right and what is wrong. Things are stated over and over in the Quoran and most of the requirements are pretty clear. What is not clear though is the difficult language of the Quoran. Most of the people even the Arabic speakers do not have the quality of language of the Quoran, in addition to the general knowledge of history, science or so. That is why most of the Muslims need to refer to an interpretation. And that is why the more science develops the more interpretations we can find in the Quora as well. However, this doesn’t mean that rituals or rights and wrongs are not clear or are changeable. So the reason we need scholars is because they are experts in their fields. And the fact that we have so many scholars is a good thing so we can compare and reach conclusions.
        All the main rituals and requirements were agreed upon, and there are differences on the ‘optional’ things.. But please note that scholars ONLY have a difference of opinion in non compulsory things so not the main rights or wrongs. You will not find a scholar saying a Muslim can lie and the other says he can’t. But you will find a scholar saying a Muslim can pray Kasr and the other say no he can’t etc.

        3. Finally you didn’t get my joke, and that is fine :)) I am not equating those not wearing head cover with models and singers, come on you, seriously? :)) Firstly: There’s nothing wrong with models singers and actors!! Some of them are certainly good people.Just to be clear on that, so it’s not even offensive had I meant it the way you understood. But nevermind , secondly: I meant my looks were never a reason I achieved anything in my life. And I joked saying considering that I wasn’t planning to be come a model or a performer, why did I say that? Because these are the jobs that require good looks! Not because I am insulting them, nor because I am insulting anyone who is not covering their head! I wasn’t covering my head all my life you know, I didn’t think I was a bad person then :) Everyone is free to do what they want, and it doesn’t indicate anything about them being good or bad. And if you had read my post precisely, the fatwa of one of the scholars clearly stated that not covering the hair does NOT change anything about the womens’ faith. So it doesn’t make one less Muslim than the other, it just makes one doing a sin and the other doesn’t. But everyone is doing sins all the time, so it’s a matter of our own decision on what each one can stop doing or not. (I realised I forgot the NOT in my original post but thought it’ll be understandable from the rest of the post ;)
        So bottom line is, I believe everyone is free to do what they want. And people need to stop hassling each other over religious things. If we have a difference of opinion, we can consult scholars, and then everyone remains free to do what they want without being judged. As a result, please if anyone does find a confirmation from scholars that head cover is not required in Islam, please let me know. I don’t care how people ‘feel’ about the matter, I need logical explanations by people of knowledge in the matter as to why this might not be required.
        And I don’t mean this in an offensive way, but even when I learn about Christianity, Judaism or any other faith I read their books rather than ask for their opinions.
        thanks.

  150. As a convert to Islam, I was once uncovered, and therefore I have a wealth of experiences over a number of years to reflect on. I was an attractive and voluptuous American teenager, and I was harassed quite a bit. At part-time jobs and after-school clubs, jokes and remarks about my figure were made regularly. I was scared to walk by a large group of teenage boys, because I just knew one of them would whistle or say something crude. And they always did. I was dressing in the normal American way—jeans and T-shirts. It was not immodest for my world. It was the way everyone I knew dressed. As I grew older, I became even more curvy, and the problem became serious. Men teased me, grabbed at me. One even molested me on the subway.

    I hated it. I was shy and I had no idea why this was happening to me. Frankly, I wasn’t that lovely; it made no sense. I blamed myself, blamed men, blamed society, but did not know what I could do differently.

    Then I met some Muslims, and Islam quickly followed. At that point, I was willing to try anything not to be harassed—even looking like a foreigner, even being too hot. But never did I expect the power that would come with covering my figure in fabric. Walking by a large group of teenage boys, Absolutely Nothing Happened. I had become invisible to them. Walking into a store, older men held open doors for me. I had become a lady to them. Late at night, on the subway, in a bad neighborhood—none of it made any difference to my safety. Something about me had become untouchable to even the most infantile and ignorant of men. I still had to “steel” myself before walking into an unfamiliar place, but it was for God’s sake, not because I was afraid of what men would say or do. Letting men see my thighs didn’t make me free—for me, it was a prison, in which I was nothing more than my body. Hijab, frankly, had freed me from the panopticon of the male gaze.

    Not all my experiences in hijab have been positive. It tamed the men, but unleashed some women—I began to get dirty or pitying looks from strangers, was stared at with surprise or scorn. I, too, once went on vacation minus hijab, but still covered everything else. It was a relief to be anonymous, a relief to be treated as a privileged majority rather than a despised minority. But the scarf had kept me cooler than I’d realized, by absorbing sweat from my head and brow. I did not feel quite as spiritual without my scarf, which had somehow ‘completed’ my modesty and made the rest of my clothing make sense. My conclusion was, hijab is worth it for me. It’s easier than being sexy.

    1. Jenna, I can feel your reply and relate to many aspects of it!
      That is why I believe that people need to learn what Islam is about then decide themselves what they can or can’t do without having to drag the whole faith into it to alter what they can’t do, and without judging and hassling other people about their way of practice…

  151. Thanks for your honesty, I learned alot from your blog and the comments listed here. Recently I moved to Europe from the US, in the US I had never really seen a woman who wore a hijab and when I moved to my new city here in Germany there are lots of women who wear it. Not having any friends here that wear this and I don’t personally know any Muslims, so I had to turn to the internet to find out more info about it. Honestly though there is a lot of disinformation and propaganda about this particular article of clothing and your blog is one place that I could research a little what it is really like and why women wear this. I have a couple questions about it, and excuse my ignorance and I don’t mean to offend: would you consider this as something sexist or is it a choice that women make to wear it? is there a lot of pressure from your family or is it left up to your to decide? and lastly, Is it more a religious or a cultural garment? The internet seems divided on some of these topics and I don’t like to trust what the media says about everything, and well as you are someone who does wear it thought you might have more info, I am just curious about it and I hope you don’t take my questions the wrong way, just interested about it. Your blog is interesting as well and will keep reading it as it provides a glimpse into another world for me. Thanks

  152. اللهم يا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلوبنا على دينك اللهم يا مصرف القلوب اصرف قلوبنا الى طاعتك

  153. Salaams,

    This is a very interesting blog post. Just for the record, I began wearing the hijab when I was 26, and have been wearing it for 15 years. I think we’re around the same age? :) Unless I miscalculated. And I’ve lived in the U.S. since I was 5. I remember my “pre-hijab” years well, and while I do occasionally miss the ‘anonymity’ of not sticking out in the crowd (it’s not in my personality to draw attention to myself), I love that I am doing something for me. That’s what hijab means to me. That I control my image, and not the ‘Western’ expectation of me. I dress in American clothes, that cover, and are worn by other women (I love my jeans). I consider myself very American. But the hijab is for me.

    Above of all, it comes down to why you choose to wear it. For me, it’s always been about Allah, and not men. It’s a personal spiritual thing, and above all, I believe it should be a free choice, and not something forced on women.

    Peace~

  154. fear Allah All of you women taking off the hajib is one of the worst sins for a women and all of u should be wearing at age 10 or 7 fear Allah dont experment to see how it fees like buacse of u and u dont repent to Allah with ur heart fire is where u belong soo fear Allah and keep ur hajibs on sisters tehres better life in Junnah then Earth.

  155. Sorry I’m a man but please don’t ignore my comments sisters. I just stumbled upon this by mistake (my intent was to find out what happened to islam-online website). Anyhow, the sister who took off hijab as an experiment and is now trying to justify her doing, the only thing that comes to my mind is weakness. Mind you this weakness is not blameworthy but what is blameworthy is to justify your wrong. Compare Satan and Adam, both committed wrong but think about why one was condemned and the other one was forgiven. Adam was sorry but Satan was arrogant by justifying his disobedience. As a man, it was difficult for me to keep a beard but with the help of Allah and a little effort I managed to have it. It was weakness on my part that prevented me. Even now there are times when faith is down and up but I never justify my incapability. Everyone knows that few people become rich but why do you think everyone is trying thinking they will be the one. We shouldn’t give up trying to maintain what we stand up for. Women should maintain their hijab and men should should maintain their beards. Most importantly maintain your Islam as a whole because the length of your beard or the extent of your covering isn’t what really matters in the end. How much you truly fear and love Allah is what really matters and of course the hijab and beard follow the two wings. I encourage you read the works of the great scholar Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah.

  156. A Man is a beast
    A Women is a noble

    you cant change a man nature.
    you cant change a women nature.

    that’s why women wear more dress. Man will always be a beast unless he lose his dick. And you nadia, become invisible not because you took of your hijab..

    But because of your age/looks.

    1. Intriguing. So if I became invisible because of my age and my looks, does this mean I should no longer be required to wear the hijab because I do not awaken the beast in men any longer?

      1. I congratulate you on your patience, reflection and critical thought. I hope it leads to sincerity wherever you go.

        Additionally, how you have the patience with some folks is a huge credit to you.

  157. “A Man is a beast. A women is noble. [etc...]”

    Goodness. I am interested to hear from Muslim men if they agree with this. It would explain the terrible behavior we see from so many of them, which I am gravely afraid does not honor the prophet. But forgive me if I err; I have studied his words little. What I have studied, I have studied in earnest, as I do the words of anyone claiming to speak in God’s name. He has spoken truth from what I’ve read.

    It seems to me the prophet spoke of our natures, man and woman both, as having an animal component and a human component.

    Again, please forgive me if I err, but allow me to say my feelings of this truth in my own life.

    Being God’s creatures, we have an animal nature like His other creations. I do not think this should be seen as a base or hateful thing. Is it not a criticism of God to think so? There is a nobility in our animal nature that is available to us merely by being honest with ourselves and each other. That is what it means to be naked before each other in Eden.

    As humans, though, as the prophet says, we are endowed with another, higher nature not available to animals. This seems undeniably true to me. But I think to realize the nobility that can come through this nature, we must make creative choices that bring something new and beautiful into the world. It is not guaranteed that we will. In fact, I think our inevitable failures at this are what Jesus meant when he said “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But when we succeed, what could delight God more?

    I believe we are in a constant, living conversation with God. Every day we walk in His garden. There are many paths through the garden, and all of them are beautiful beyond measure, if we only have the gratitude and awareness to be open to it. I believe the truest meaning of the idea of “sin” is simply a failure of this gratitude and awareness. That manifests in behaviors, which we humans then list out and mark off, though one action may have a multitude of meanings depending on the intent. But they are at their root one mistake, I think.

    I believe all paths through the garden lead to God’s house eventually, and all are welcome there. When you arrive, and He asks you how your walk was, will you tell Him you were surrounded with hate and wickedness, and saw little beauty?

    I should rest there. But I want to specifically reply, as a man, to the suggestion that women become invisible to men because of their age/looks. Is your grandmother invisible to you? We have a choice in how we conduct ourselves. That is what makes God’s creation such a beautiful mystery. Would it delight God if it weren’t so? We will fail and make fools of ourselves a thousand times over in the attempt, but let us at least try to choose nobility.

    Once, the Muslim world was the center of humanity’s proudest achievements in science, math, culture, and the elevation of our species’ own condition. As a Westerner who disapproves of his country’s conduct in the Muslim world, I feel what I think is a shared pain that this once grand state of affairs no longer seems to be so. The reasons are many. To see Egypt working to come into its own brings me great joy and hope. Our God-given creativity and power to bring something new and beautiful into the garden is the wellspring of that hope.

  158. Loved your article!!! I am a 17 year old boy and I am doing the same as you are doing. I am trying to fegure out if all of the things that I was taught wore really obligatory or of it’s just a custom turned law. I live in Saudi so many of the things I seem to have took in school or in the society become more of a custom then God’s law. I really respect and admire you through this beautifully will written article. Keep up the good work.

  159. I tried to read all the comments, but there were just too many, so apologies if I am repeating anything. Hijab is about modesty (for both men and women) and only the stupid male chovenists made it into a dress code. Becoming invisible in a crowd is more hijab than being noticed.

    The question is, would you experiment with immodesty? When you didn’t wear the headscarf, I doubt you changed the rest of the dressing style too much. So you in fact may have been more modest because you blended in. Only you and your God know that. My brotherly advise is to be true to yourself, even if the results say that what you have been doing all along is right. “intellectuals” in today’s age feel so compelled to prove old traditions wrong that they just don’t see the truth, so pray for guidance from HIM, but also be open minded to receive it.

    Also, to the guy who gave some bogus statistics about conservative areas having higher rates of rape etc happening, that is the sorriest propaganda I have heard. Here’s the deal: a liberal girl living single and frustrated (at work, friends and no relationship) ends up believing that the guy who bought him drinks and slept with her while she was drunk is an acceptable thing. Those are the lands of booty-calls and friends with benefits, so yes, the officially reported “rape” incidents will be much less. Please don’t insult our intelligence.

  160. Interesting perspective.
    And how true that the people who are close to us always seem to have a strong opinion about our hijab. And how strange is it that hijab which should be such a simple matter is always so controversial even within oneself.
    I recently started covering at the age of 39, and it was a very personal choice based on my sudden feeling that I just want to obey God even more. And the reactions from my family varied, some supportive, some against it with hostility, and some thought I covered to please my husband of 10 years…
    I still have some wondering issues about it though. Like when you mention that in Europe you became invisible when you took it off. And if one believes that hijab is meant to protect women wouldn’t attracting attention and some of it may be hostile attention be the opposite of that.
    At any rate hijab for some reason remains and stays an issue.

    1. Hi Maissaa,

      so you “want to obey Good”? Do you really feel God needs a world of slaves, that obey him? Be sure, God doesn’t need you as a slave. He has made you as a free being. Don’t you feel how you insult him by covering what he has made?

      It’s not a friendly image of God you spread by covering your head. Who has blemished God by teaching you such an unfriendly image of him? Trust in God, but query what other people teach you about.

      Hijab is definitly a form of culture. It’s an ugly abuse of religion, if men use it to enforce a culture. If it’s a culture of suppression of women this is true even more.

      Almir

      1. Re Almir’s comment : indeed! and only by abuse of religion can those in charge of it maintain it for their own ends

  161. hi, i just came across your blog now and I absolutely LOVED your post! I was always curious how it might feel for a Muslim woman who was wearing her headscarf for the most part of her life to remove it for some time and compare experiences.
    Thank you for writing this post, it was very insightful!

  162. Thank you for sharing an aspect of your inner journey.
    You’ve proved a number of important aspects .. some of which are:

    1. Muslim woman too have their own minds, precious individual souls and personal journeys through life (just like the rest of humanity – unfortunately much of contemporary narrative talks ‘about’ Muslim women as though they were somehow in need of managing/protecting/patronising/liberating etc.)

    2. That Muslim woman have their own voice and are more than capable of eloquently articulating your thoughts, feelings, ideas and concerns

    3. The sheer number of responses to your post relating to what is essentially a piece of cloth (and all that entails) means that your intellectual and emotional grappling of the pros and cons in your own life, reflects what many others are going though (either themselves or in their understanding of others) .. otherwise it wouldn’t have elicited a response.

    4. Whilst respecting the views expressed by others regarding not publicising ‘wrong-doings’ (if indeed this act was a wrong-doing?!), only Allah knows your intention and therefore it is not for others to judge you (surely that only belongs to The Judge to do).
    Maybe in your narrative many may realise that they are not alone, that struggling to know (not just believe) what is right is in itself part of our deen. Sometimes we may get it wrong .. but how else would be sincere if we didn’t ask, challenge, seek, trust .. at the end of the day you and I and each person will have to stand in front of the creator and give account and the intention matters.

    Bless you and thank you for writing and sharing … may Allah guide, protect, enable and ennoble every single human being as we are all from the same parents and we are all seeking.

    So

    1. Point #4: Dead on in my opinion. Sincerity in our beliefs/actions (regardless of what those beliefs/actions are) is the whole point.

  163. I would weep with humility at the turn this discussion has taken, but I may have done all the weeping I need do. I may be ready to dance with joy.

  164. Hi,
    I am not sure how I came across this blog but I found it a very interesting read. I think I have an similar yet kind of opposite dilemma. I am a muslim girl who has grown up in a Western society in a muslim way – yet kind of liberal way too… I believe but I don’t really have any muslim traditions particularly associated with majority muslim countries.

    I don’t wear a hijab other than when I pray and neither does my mother (who prays five times a day)…we have always dressed modestly but never wore a hijab on full time basis. We have talked about this and wondered are we really committing a sin by not covering our hair in public. Our understanding of the message from the holy Quran and Prophet, p.b.u.h. about modesty is that you need to cover your body as not to attract unwanted attention and put yourself in a compromising position by ‘strange men’. Now, here is our dilemma; We never experienced any unwanted and/or inappropriate attention from anyone because our hair was showing that is until we started mixing more with muslims from Asian and Arab origin who can be very opinionated on the issue and any inappropriateness we felt has been directed at us from people from these origins as well as borderline racism and exclusion because we are as they termed ‘too western looking’ to be a muslim. Its unfortunate and extremely narrow minded . Which further got me questioning if these muslim men are truly muslim then surely they of all people should be respectful and exercise some self control and not try to control women and blame women for the lack of their own will to know the difference between right wrong behavior. If a bit of hair showing on women’s head excites any man to commit an abominable act against a woman then those men should be psychotically evaluated as that is not a normal human behavior!! So hijab is supposed to protect you from psychotic men!! In this day and age men and women should know better, the difference between right and wrong behavior towards any human being. Whats in your hearts and how you treat other people regardless of how they dress is what counts at the end of it all… You could wear a hijab but if you don’t believe it wont matter in the end. I have seen some badly behaved hijab wearing girls that deserve little respect but yet they seem to fool ‘the muslim man’ that they are more pious that the non hijab wearing muslim girl…go figure…Also, some muslim women I’v spoken to, particularly those of Arab origin, don’t wear the hijab out of their own will…they say its their society and to be part of it they have to conform or there will be consequences…how ironic…Ins’t belief supposed to be our own free will!!!??? I think pre Islamic traditions are still deeply rooted and now entwined with the pure religion that for some people who have been brought up in them its hard to see whats Islamic fardh and whats tradition.

    Allah, how us the right way!

  165. What a refreshingly mature approach to this (sensitive) subject.

    Well done. I like the matter-of-fact way you have dealt with this and continue to do so.

    Good for you. I wish you all the best as you discover yourself.

  166. الأميرة السعودية بسمة بنت سعود تكتب : عن الحجاب والتجارة بالدين وصور زوجتي الشيخين شعيشع ومصطفى إسماعيل

    September 1, 2011

    هل كان الدين الإسلامي مختلفا قبل سفر ملايين المصريين إلى السعودية؟
    وجدت هذه الصور لأثنين من كبار مقرئينا، الشيخ مصطفى إسماعيل، والشيخ أبوالعينين شعشيع، والصور عائلية بها إلى جانب القارئ الشيخ زوجته وأولاده، والغريب أن زوجتىّ حفظة كتاب الله سافرتين، أى والله، وهو أمر عجيب فى زمننا الحالى، فكيف يكون شعرهما مكشوفًا فتنة للناظرين، وإنى لأرجو أن يتكرم أحد رجال الدين الإسلامى الحالى الأفاضل أن يوضح لى لماذا كان الدين الإسلامى مختلفًا عنه الآن، ألم يعلم شيخانا أن شعر المرأة عورة وأنها ستدخل النار من جراء ذلك، بل وبلغت بهما الجرأة أن تقفا بهذا المظهر الفتان الفتاك أمام المصور، بل وتم نشر هذه الصور على صفحات الجرائد والمجلات، نشرًا للفسوق عافانا الله وعافاكم، ولذا وبعد أن رأينا بالدليل الدامغ جرأة هذين الشيخين على الدين وماهو معلوم منه بالضرورة، فإنى أطالب برفع تسجيلاتهما من الأسواق وعدم التعامل معهما جزاءً لما بدر منهما من تطاول على الدين وجهل بأحكام القرآن الذى يتلوانه دون فهم نهارًا ومساءًا

    بعد ما سبق إيجازه، أرجو أن تكون هذه الصور مفيدة لكل من يتصور أن عفة المرأة وشرفها فى تغطية شعرها، فهاهو الدليل أمامنا أن حتى زوجات رجال الدين لم يتصوروا آنذاك -كما هو الوضع حاليًا- أن الحجاب أهم من الأخلاق وإعلاء القيم النبيلة التى ينص عليها هذا الدين العظيم، حيث وقر فى نفس المسلمين أن عفاف المرأة يكمن فى لباسها المحتشم دون الحاجة إلى تغطية الشعر، وإننا لو آمنا بكل ما ينادى به فقهاء هذا العصر لكان آبائنا وأجدادنا فى النار إلى أبد الآبدين لعدم قيامهم بإتباع شيوخ الفضائيات وفتاواهم التى أتت على الأخضر واليابس، وأصبحنا بفضلهم نشعر إننا مهما فعلنا وعبدنا الله وأقمنا شعائره فنحن مقصرون فى حق ديننا ومصيرنا إلى جهنم وبئس المصير

    إن المراقبون لتطور مسألة الحجاب لابد وأنهم لاحظوا الدور الخطير الذى لعبه بعض التجار ورجال الأعمال الذين إتخذوا من الدين وسيلة للتربح فقاموا بإملاء أجنداتهم الخاصة والتى تصب فى مصالحهم التجارية على بعض رجال الدين الذين باعوا ضمائرهم لمن هم من نوعية السيد السويركى مالك سلسلة محلات “التوحيد والنور” والذى تزوج ما يزيد عن ثمانين إمرأة، بل ونشرت الجرائد ووسائل الإعلام أنه تم القبض عليه لإدانته بالجمع بين خمس زوجات فى وقت واحد، هذا فضلاً عن العديد من محلات ملابس المحجبات التى أُشير فى بعض التقارير إلى قيامها بدفع مرتبات شهرية لبعض رجال الدين للترويج للدين الجديد الذى لا يرى من المرأة إلا عورتها التى يجب إخفائها بالملبس الإسلامى الشرعى المتواجد فى هذه المحال المتخصصة، وأهلا بك يا أختى البريونية

    أرجو ألا أكون قد أثقلت عليكم ولكنى رأيت أنه من واجبى أن أنشر ما رأيت فإن الساكت عن الحق شيطان أخرس، وأنا لا أقبل أن أكون شيطانًا ولا أدافع عن دينى العظيم الكاذبين والأفاقين.

  167. الحجاب من اوامر الله وهذا معلوم من الدين بالضرورةوالدين هو الحجة على الناس وليس العكس وليعض المنافقين ايديهم من الغيظ لن يستطيعوا طمس القران وسيظل المسلمون الصادقون متمسكون باوامر الله بكل حب وامتنان لخالقهم على نعمة الشريعة الاسلامية العظيمة قال تعالى{ ومن يطع الله ورسوله فاولئك مع اللذين انعم الله عليهم من النبيين والصديقين والشهداء والصالحين وحسن اولئك رفيقا ذلك الفضل من الله وكفى بالله عليما } وليسجد من يشاء للعفن الغربى قال تعالى (والذين كفروا يتمتعون ويأ كلون كما تأكل الانعام والنا ر مثوى لهم

    1. هل الحجاب أو النقاب هو لحماية المرأة من الرجل أم لحماية الرجل من المرأة؟ … أرجو أن تفكرى قليلاُ قبل الرد

  168. Salam Alaykum again,

    Don’t think I’ll be able to get through your blog in one day, but you and our old college days have been on my mind these past few days. Comes with age I guess, now I’ve tagged on another year to my ageing life I reminisce on the old days-good or bad is controversial.

    You’ve certainly spilled the beans here Nadia, almost 400 replies to this topic so I’m adding my tuppence to help reach a round number. :)

    What do I think? Well it’s not an unnatural action, in fact it’s a very common act of leaving one state to another, a human adaptation process a ‘when in Rome’ sort of thing.

    You know it’s all in the mindset. Nothing is either right or wrong but thinking makes it so. Where is the right from the wrong? I remember when I first started my residency and rolled up my sleeves to scrub I would mumble please God forgive me again and again to myself because I was baring my arms to my elbows before my fellow colleagues. Sometimes I would wait until everyone scrubbed then scrub.

    But time moves on and I find myself not thinking about it it’s a reflex now. Is it right? Well as far as the scrubbing is concerned it’s kind of inevitable. One must scrub to enter the operating arena.

    Hijab is a different thing altogether. One does get strange looks when one wears the hijab in a western country. It’s only natural after all.

    People are more akin to those that resemble them in thought, in dress, in actions and I dare say one does manage to fit into Western society more comfortably when one adopts their mode of dress.

    I guess the most important point to be made is why it would trouble you what complete strangers think of you?
    Naturally one doesn’t want to be in a hostile society but then would that faction of society actually extend hostility to a woman wearing a hijab and one not wearing a hijab?
    My guess is seeing as those people you were exposed to were shopkeepers, their main aim was to sell their goods and had you worn anything so long as an exchange of dollars was taking place I doubt they cared what you wore or didn’t wear.

    I think more importantly Nadia is that you thought to wear the hijab in front of your colleagues and back again in Egypt. Why did you? I think that is the most important question. Why do we wear the hijab, or pray, why in fact are we Muslims when lets face it being a muslim really really does suck right now. It’s not in the favourite listings at the mo.

    So yes there has to come a time in everyone’s life when they should question why they are Muslim.
    You don’t have to be, you can be anything you like but something has made you Muslim, something makes you pray and something makes you wear the hijab to pray. You are quite right to think about all this because this is the basis of belief, it’s really delving deep down into that area of one’s soul that clings to the hope for salvation and another life after death.

    I’ve read some of the comments about the verse in the Quran not really meaning hijab as hijab per se, I guess the answers to that are pretty much strewn all over the net. Not the point.

    Nadia before you call it experimentation be honest with yourself and come to terms with you, if you decide to remove the hijab or decide to keep it on it has to be for the right reasons.
    If you decide to also stop praying, stop fasting and stop becoming a Muslim it also must be done not because of what people will think of you but because you have found your path, noone can find it for you, your parents may guide your first steps but you’re alone now and decisions of belief can never be made because of what people’s reactions are towards you.
    Is the wearing or not wearing of hijab a decision of belief? I’m afraid very much so.
    You’ve got my email, talk to me or write me if you ever wish to, I’m not judgemental and certainly your life is your own, I just want you to know that I’m here to talk if you want.
    salam alaykum

    1. It’s so wonderful to hear from you after all these years ya Iman!

      Just a quick response here as I’ve decided not to engage in lengthy debates about this.

      It’s important that I clarify that I’ve spent the past ten years traveling around the world with the hijab, engaging with people and engaging in many types of activities (including mountain climbing and diving) all with my hijab and almost never with any negative interactions as a direct result of my hijab. I only very rarely feel like people are looking at me in an odd way. The only time I really felt it was in Moscow where men came up and shouted what were obviously insults to me. A waiter also refused to serve me in a restaurant on Red Square. But I attribute this particularly harsh reaction in Russia to the problems they have with Chechnya. Perhaps because I’m Caucasian they thought I was a Muslim Chechen woman. But other than this one visit and a couple of very minor and insignificant incidents, I’ve never felt my hijab didn’t allow me to blend in and do whatever I wanted to do.

      The reason I did this experiment was that I wanted to test the argument that I’ve been given since childhood that the hijab protects women from the gaze of men. Or that a woman’s hair is a tool of fitnah for men.

      My conclusion is that that argument is correct in some cultures and incorrect in others. In Europe, a woman walking around with her hair showing will certainly not turn heads simply because her hair is showing. A woman in Europe wearing the hijab will turn more heads than a woman not wearing it. In the Arab world, however, the hijab does indeed protect women (in my opinion and to a certain extent albeit not fully) from the gazes of men. But the reason it does is very cultural.

      I made it a point here not to argue the fact that God does or does not require women to wear a hijab. That was not the point of this post. I was testing the reason(s) given supporting the necessity of the hijab by fellow human beings. I can’t say I’m convinced by those reasons.

      Do I (or most other people in this world for that matter) do things to please members of society? Of course I (we) do. If I took off the hijab in Europe it was not to please the Europeans, though. As someone who does not have to live or work with them, my hijab is irrelevant to them. But imagine the repercussions of me taking off the hijab in Egypt or the Arab world? The mere act of questioning in our part of the world (as I am learning first hand) illicits accusations of apostasy and in some cases veiled or direct threats. Our religion not just encourages us to question, it DEMANDS that we do, over and over again. Yet most of our fellow Muslims cannot bear the mere thought of it and interpret questioning as apostasy. This is very very sad.

      Some people argue that we are free to do what we want. That we shouldn’t allow society (any society) to affect our beliefs and actions. That’s all very good in theory. In reality, though, not many people can bear the dire repercussions of being a free thinker.

      1. Salam Alaykum,
        :) Not debating then just trying to clarify a few things.

        The argument for wearing a hijab to ensure a woman’s protection is specious. I would hope that the majority of women who wore the hijab did so because it was ordered by Allah.
        whether men gaze or don’t is irrelevant since you must know that the hijab is also worn in the absence of men and the presence of nonMuslim women the hijab is also worn.

        The removal of the hijab is not equivalent to apostacy. There are hundreds of thousands of muslim women who do not wear the hijab and they are muslim and accepted as muslim by the muslim community. Apostacy is the denial of the basics of belief.

        I agree with you totally that in many cases the hijab is worn not for the original aim of following God’s orders but rather because it is expected of us as muslims in a muslim society, because in a world ridden with spinsters it is more likely that a muslim man will marry a woman wearing a hijab than otherwise, because we want God to answer our prayers in ramadan and so its better to look and act religious on that particular month in the year, because it is the dress of a our heritage.. and so on ad infinitum.
        But that’s why I said one must think before one wears or doesn’t wear what society expects of you. It must be your choice. There is no experiment in the business. Do what you think is right for the right reasons.

        Do you or others act in certain ways to please society? Of course! One would not wish to be anti social. But you see I have done as I pleased in the face of society under the disapproving eyes of society and my relatives and everyone else, it’s not a big deal Nadia. Women don’t have to get married just because that’s what women do at the end of college. Women can jolly well wear the hijab in the operating theatre if that is what they think is right and women can be surgeons and orthopedicians and mechanics and anything they please, what has society got to do with it? If you are afraid to take off the hijab because you are worried about what the porter or the neighbours would think of you then I urge you to take it off. Now and go out. Do it. Don’t wear the hijab because you’re worried what they’ll think, ten to one no one really cares what anyone does. No one has time for anyone else and in secular Egypt with half the women wearing head dress that is in no way a semblance of hijab and the other third not wearing the hijab at all what could it possibly matter? My dear you are talking to a woman who has worked for many a long year and counselled prostitutes as well as salafis as well as college girls who didn’t know you could buy contraceptive pills off the counter. Don’t you know your own society? Egypt is as secular as you can get. So no, wearing the hijab in Egypt because you are afraid or worried what people will think of you is a no go for me. If you will wear it, wear it because you feel that it may be another thread in the rope that holds ones salvation, wear it because you feel it will please God, wear it because you love God, don’t do it for any other reason.

        As for free thought, free thought in the world of philosophy brings up the whole deal on deitism and agnosticism, I’ll not go there at all because that’s another tale althogether and we will be debating then. :)
        I have no intention of debating unless you want that, I just wanted to clarify that society will never be pleased with you, you’ll be damned by it whereever you are whatever you do, it’s a fickle partner, deal with it as it deserves with great reservation and do what you know is right.

        As for Islam, God orders that we use our head certainly but once you’ve used it a accomplished the task of realising the meaning of Islam and the existence of God and His prophet then the next step is to follow the path-but you don’t need me to say this stuff you were and always have been so much more knowledgeable and religious than me.

        God bless you and guide you now and always.
        :)

  169. Hi Nadia,

    I, like many others respect your courage and honesty for posting.

    I am currently undergoing a similar struggle. I am 99% sure that I do not want to proceed with the headscarf anymore. I have told my husband, and although he prefers it, he says he will support whatever decision I make. He says the fact that I save my hair for him makes him feel really special. But what about how I feel?

    I believe the Quran and Islam encourage modesty and it is up to the follower themselves to decide the best way to be modest. If wearing a headscarf (I say headscarf and not hijab because they are not synonymous. Hijab is modesty. Headscarf is the cloth worn on the head) is the best way you can carry out the concept of hijab, then so be it. It is different for every person. But I believe I can be modest without it.

    I chose to wear a headscarf when I was 17 years old. I did not believe that the Quran mandated the headscarf but I wanted to defy the post- 9/11 stereotypes non-Muslims commonly saw through media in my American community. It was four years after September 11th and I felt the best way to support my fellow Muslim believers is by identifying with my religion. Now, I feel the burden of constantly “symbolizing” on my shoulders. I feel the urge to be invisible and I want people to appreciate that I am my own person. I am tired of being viewed as a “Muslim girl”. I want to walk in the grocery store and not have people stare, or little kids run to hold their parents hands. Yes, I want to be normal. Is there anything wrong with that?

    Also, I was getting close to being college-aged and I used the headscarf as a vehicle to keep me on the “right” path. I thought it could help me focus on my studies by avoiding un-islamic college distractions such as drinking and partying. I would make friends with people who were not interested in those things, and would avoid sticky situations. However, I feel that I am strong enough to avoid a bad situation today.

    You could say I took advantage of the headscarf. Maybe I did. But now I don’t need it anymore being in grad school and married.

    I wish it were an easy decision to take it off. My biggest problem is similar to yours Nadia. What people will think. Mainly its that my husbands family is very conservative. I don’t know how they would handle it.

    The bottom line is- people shouldn’t judge. Let people live the way they want to as long as they are doing no harm to others. Why is my headscarf such a big deal?

    I pray to God for strength to finally help me take it off and deal with the consequences that follow. I also pray that my husband and family fully support my decision.

    Nadia, thank you for starting dialogue! I will pray for you as well.

    1. I feel like the same thing with college, it really did help protect me and keep me on the right path and that’s why i feel guilty abandoning it today. Now that i took it off, if I decide i would like to wear it again, I feel like my school is going to be confused and like, man,…make up your mind lol, but that goes back to what people think, and literally it isnt fun. The only thing is not being married I feel like that kind of doesnt help me keep my intention pure, its kind of hard. its weird when you read something someone wrote and its exactly what you were thinking, it helps you think that maybe i’m not crazy and my thoughts are warranted. and I did that too for a whole month i asked God to make it easy on me when i took it off, and so far, besides the intitial shock when i told my mom and family its been ok. So Alhamdullilah, praise be to Allah, allahuma la sahla illa ma ja3alatahu sahla wa anta taj3al al hazna itha shi2ta sahla. “O allah, nothing is easy unless You make it easy, and you make sadness if you want easy”

      Ameen
      Ola

  170. Been there done that. I was a hijabi for 7 years then was too tempted to try, because I never did. I wanted to feel feminine as well. Took it off. Felt great. Then I got used to the feeling and it was no longer an ‘adventure’. I think once you get over this ‘high’ of looking good and ‘normal’ you will start to have lots of thinking, like me. I spent years, non veiled years, thinking about the issue, weighing it in my head, researching and I’ve finally, recently, come to a decision that has stopped me from feeling confused, sad, scared,.. I put it on again, this time with a much stronger faith, understanding and I’ve never been happier. I urge you to take your time, do your research, listen to your inner self, and may Allah guide you in the right direction. =]

  171. My mum started wearing a hijab when I was 11 years old. Both my parents started to pester me about it when I was 12, though they pestered my older sister who was 14 more. When I turned 13 and my sister was 15, my parents forced it on both of us even though I assured them I would start wearing it when I made the intention to and when I knew what I was doing. They said that what they were doing was best for me. No matter how much I tried to tell them I wasn’t ready to, they did not listen. Now, 15, I’m still as confused as ever and am thinking of taking it off. Mind you, I took it off for a bit last year even though my older sister kept it on. She’s always been the type that gives in quickly. What do I do?

    1. Take it off and put it back on when you’re ready, and just deal with the consequences. You’re only 15 now and it won’t be as hard as you think it will.

  172. Um, sorry to burst your bubble but hijab is mandatory. Firstly the Quran tells women to only show what has to appear (meaning hands and face). The reason the Quran doesn’t directly speak on hijab is because women at the time would cover their heads but leave everything else open, which is why the Quran is so much in detail of a woman needing to cover her chest and legs.

    And there’s many clear hadiths as well but here’s a good one:

    “Ayesha (rad.i-Allahu `anha) reported that Asma’ the daughter of Abu Bakr (rad.i-Allahu `anhu) came to the Messenger of Allah while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: ‘O Asma’! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands.” [Abu Dawud]

    That one is a relliable, authentic hadith.
    Hijab is mandatory, you sin if you reject it. However it says you wore the hijab for 25 years since you were seventeen, the Quran says those women who are passed the age of marriage don’t need to wear it anymore.

    Oh and by the way, all scholars throughout history and all scholars today say Hijab is mandatory, please find me one that says it isn’t.

    1. Some problems with your conclusion:

      1) hijab is an arab word used in the Quran a few times. Not in a single use does it refer to or mean clothing or head cover. How can you or anybody use this word to mean headcover when Allah does not even do that even though he revealed the Quran in arabic thus mastering the language?

      2) Allah does not command any head cover, only modest clothing which he leaves to us to define. But he say what cover he thinks is the best. Now you should known that IF you have read the Quran which I can see you havent as it will refute your reply completely.

      3) The hadith from the Sunan of Dawud is reliable and authentic? How do you know? Did Allah guarantee this? Or were you present? How can you vouch for some other humans writings or recordings? Are you aware how easily human memory is impaired with time? We cna vouch for nobody. Perhaps not even ourselves. If you believe in Allah, then you must believe in his book, the Quran. If yes, then you should have read it because then you would know that Allah says, he has revealed the Quran in full detail. But you claim that we should seek this detail in the hadith. So Allah is not perfect or he forgot? Not possible. That is the difference between Allah (dvinity) and humans (fallible). But according to you Allah sent an incomplete book and left the details to humans? Come on. you really should read the Quran in detail. This topic if FULLY covered.

      4) Allah found the time to mention legs and breast but not head? Allah says modest clothing. He does not mention headscarf, turban, caps, burkas, niqabs or such. He leaves that interpretation to people. He does however mention what cover is best.

      5) Even if your claim is to be assumed true, then that hadith is simply not considered reliable and any scholar claiming so is blatantly lying. Dawud himself noted the unreliability of this narration. You would have know that if you had studied the complete volumes of the hadith collections including bukhari, muslims, dawud and several others. This will take a lifetime.

      6) You seek religion from scholars. How can you know with 100% surety they will not mislead you? Afterall they are humans and can be mistaken. Maybe if you seek directly from the source, Allah, then you will be wiser. Allah commands us to use our senses so we don’t end up like sheep following the herd.

      I would advise you, if you are so fascinated with covering womens heads, that you should seem those muslims who disagree with you and have written about the topic. I am confident they will happily engage in a religious debate with you. Otherwise I think you should leave women and their hair alone.

  173. I should add its because of culture that makes people think hijab is optional. In the Pakistani/Indian culture hijab is seen as unusual, most women in Pakistan don’t wear hijab (I’ve went there for college and humanitarian work). But throughout our history Muslim woman wore hijab once they reached puberty, and took it off when they got older. We are not to reject anything we don’t like, what’s written in the Quran and Hadith stays.

    1. What a shame that you don’t think the headscarf is part of arab culture not Islam – after having noticed the absence of wearing headscarf in Pakistan. How can a great country with 200 million muslims in Pakistan practice Islam throughout time accept everything in Islam but “leave out” or in your words “reject” it? They don’t reject it. That is the point. It is not part of Islam. Its arab culture and there is not incitament to follow arabic culture and traditions when you are Indian, Pakistani or something else. They have their own understanding of the word “covering”. They use chadors and shawls and such around the body. Different country, different interpretation. Many converts in the West don’t wear headscarf either. Why should they? Anything Arabic is not the same Islamic. To claim that entire countries are rejecting something Islamic, is wrong and judgmental. It shows your lack of understanding the world as it is. Islam is universal but Muslims are not a homogenous group. You believe like majority anything in hadith stays on the same level as the Quran. That is close to shirk. The Quran is Allahs direct pure words guarded by Allah personall for truth. Hadiths have been compiled by humans 200 years after the prophets demise. Clearly you dont think those humans, no matter how pious or nobel, could make mistakes. Not all Muslims feel that way. Shia Muslims, for example have their own set of hadiths. and then you have many sub sects of Muslims around the world. Nobody believes exactly like you. In the many ” sahih authentic “hadith it also says Aisha was 6 when married and 9 sexually active with her husband. Will you marry your sister, daughter off when she is 6 years old then? to a man aged say, 50? What about female circumcision. Some sahih hadith support this act and calls its honourable for a womans husband. Will you have your daughter undergo that? hadiths also say Nigella Sativa seeds can cure any illness except death. So if your child is terminally ill or seriously ill, will you rely on these seeds or run off to the nearest hospital? The hadiths also say women are inferior to men in worship deficient in intelligence and their menstruation keeps them away from worship 25% percent of their lives and because their testimony equals that of 2 men. If you believe that, then you are insulting half of the worlds population. Yes, indeed, hadith say many things. Yet I have no come across a single Muslim arabic or other who has devoted their life to actyally studying ALL the MANY volumes of the hadith collections (7 of them are considered superior and authentic) yet they have no problems defending what it says, How can you defend something you have not read? picking out 1 or 2 online or hearsay is not the same as studying them. So kindly use the senses Allah has given you and understand that Muslims think and sometimes practice Islam differently. Not because theyr reject but because they genuinely believe it to be so. It is a shame traverlling has not eniched your mind let alone opened it.

  174. It surprises me that women must be blamed and forced to change their behaviour, dressing or how they live their lives because of man’s failings! If only men could change theselves as a consequence of their weakness instead of blaming women. many women without the hijab are modestly dressed and if men find them sexually attractive to make them sin or do something illegal then the men deserve the punishment not a pronouncement placing further restriction on women. Another alternative is to make it mandatory for men to wear deep shades s

  175. I’m kind of going through this right now and its tough, I have spent my best days in expanding the religious knowledge. Lately I’ve had a tough time and have taken the decision to remove the hijab, it is much easier since I am not with my family, however when I told my family they broke down because I was always the strong religious one with unwaivering faith. So here’s my thought process, maybe it will help you, maybe it won’t.

    I am studying my faith more, i’m trying to strengthen myself from within, and i know that it IS an obligation, and i know it is not easy, its part of the struggle with one’s self, giving in to what one’s desires is part of why we live this life. Yoga lifestyle is all about discipline. Islam is as well. I know i should cover my head, but for now its not very convenient, and unfortunately I have run out of ammo to fight my own demons. It not about the scarf, its not about hijab its the little things that slowly go. The scarf helps things, it makes it easier, other people watch out for you. Personally, even waiters and waitresses will tell you if there is alcohol or swine in anything. People know you don’t drink, you don’t date casually etc etc, its easier to do all of that because by simply wearing a scarf, that explains all of that, it makes it easier. In fact, taking off the scarf and holding on to your faith is a little harder. Personally, when you wear a scarf you can pray anywhere and people will understand whereas if you want to respect the scarf, you find a fitting room or a mosque, it takes more of an effort and my only hope is that praying and not doing all the other stuff takes more effort so those good deeds balance out the not listeing to god about the scarf thing. Right now my family has faith that this is just a bump in my spiritual road, but its something i have to do, and for my own sake i hope that this is true, but the last twelve years i wore it, i loved it and that love seeped out of me when i wore it, and i am not one to do something i’m not convinced of 100%. I’m not even worried about the heat, in fact i took it off in the winter, i try to keep it tied back as to try to keep my intentions pure. The biggest thing i feel guilty for is the fact that i feel like i was an example for my siblings as i have very young siblings and everyone in the family looked at me for spiritual guidance, and i feel like i let them down. So out of respect for them when i visit them, i wear it. I know that this is slightly hypocritical, but at least i told them, my mom just isnt ready to see me wearing it. Same as if I were gay, it is a life choice, but i shouldnt rub it in her face.

    Anywyas these are the thoughts going through my mind right now, and it has me torn, hopefully it gets better.

    Salam
    Ola

  176. Awalan I wanna wish you a happy new year. :) Sanyan ba2a I need your advice about this whole hijab thing. I don’t believe in hijab anymore and it feels like a burden and I wanna take it off. The only thing that is stopping me from actually doing it is: what people are gonna think about it and how they’re gonna react and whether or not they’re gonna disrespect me just ’cause I took it off. I’m 19 and I don’t wanna look back after a few years from now and think “I should’ve took it off before”, and yet I’m afraid of everyone’s reaction especially in college. I’m really confused and I’ve been in this dilemma for months now, which brought me here. Should I take it off? Will it be worth the consequences? Please help!

    1. I know that nobody asked for my advice. But I have a question?

      Why can’t you just wear the hijab when you need to?

      An American tourist walking around Cairo would need to cover her hair and remove her shoes before entering a mosque.

      As Egyptian women, you will probably have more places to wear your hijab: out of respect for some people or maybe to avoid conflicts with others. My grandmother used to cry if she saw me smoking; I avoided doing it in front of her. If your grandmother, for example, starts to cry because she thinks “you have lost your way and forsaken the hijab”, just wear it when you visit her. If you work at an office of a multinational company, you might find it easier to wear a regular business suit.

      I do not think it is hypocrisy if you just adapt. I do not like wearing a business suit. I have to wear one at the office and during certain social engagements.

      The hijab can be your business suite.

      One thing I see all the time now though: any of you young ones getting suitors (3arees) coming to ask for your hand, if he is Muslim, he will tell you and your family that “it is assumed you will wear a hijab after marriage”. It will not be worded as a request.

      Good luck with this. I would love to know your experiences.

  177. Hello,

    I live in Cairo and so does my sister. My sister does not wear a hijab. I was out with her a week ago and noticed she was the only girl I saw on a 2-hour errand who was not wearing a hijab.

    It used to be that in rural areas of Egypt only the Christian woman did not wear a hijab. Now the big cities are the same way.

    I feel that it should be up to you whether you wear a hijab or not. However, if your friends, family and co-workers in Cairo are used to you wearing it, it will not go over smoothly if you just show up without it.

    You should at least mention it to them before you do it. Your family will most likely engage you in a long discussion about it. Your co-workers may not care as much. Your friends should not care either way.

    Good luck,

  178. i actually felt sick reading this. I am a revert to Islam Alhamdulillah and Im shocked. You cant just choose to not wear it again. dont you want to please Allah? Dont you want to go jannat? dont you want rewards? it seems like you don’t really care. Hijab doesnt represent the religion, but once you take the scarf off then shaytan has won. The you’ll get inot more bad sins. This is shaytan in ur head Wallah. May Allah forgive you.

    1. Jameela, if you feel sick every time somebody speaks or writes something you dislike or don’t understand, then you may want to consider cancelling your internet subscription, tv, radio etc.

      Islam is many things. Headscarf is not one of them. Thats why many don’t wear it. Do you think these are bad muslims? how can you know, when ONLY Allah swa can know the matter of the heart or the mind? Are you Allah? No then kindly don’t judge others. Hijab does not mean headscarf by the way. So perhaps you should acquaint yourself with that arabic word and the few times it is mentioned directly in the Quran. Not once relating to clothing or covering of the head/body.

      Allah speaks of modesty clothing. In my country it has always been custom to cover one self and preferably in loose long clothing.But never headscarf. This has only arrived now. Thanks to the outsiders visiting. Yet we fast, pray, pay zakat, have mosques, recite the Quran and eat halal, no interest -how is it possible to embrace Islam as a country and not accept the headscarf? Simple. It was never part of Islam.

      If you think wearing it is is right for you. Then so be it. But don’t judge others for their choices based on their understanding. Their conclusion and understanding is also right – for them. Muslims are not a homogenous group. I find the authors choice to don the scarf even if briefly, refreshing. Her choice, her life. She answers to Allah. not you. When will majority of judgemental Muslims learn this common fact of islam? There is a judge already. Allah. Leave the judging to him. Mind yourself.

  179. I couldn’t read all comments I am sorry if I am repeating any…
    I am expat living in Jeddah and all i have noticed is women only wear hijab as they are forced to wear it by their government,there isnt fear of God for them to protect their body need example?
    Whenever i board a flight from saudia to other liberal countries..women enter plane with abaya and 90% usually leave without it..infact sometimes the 5% even take off their abaya before the flight at Jeddah airport’s lounge…
    And i dont know which type of abayas you are discussing over here which could cover your all body ..all i see in malls and cornice is women wearing skirts,3 quarters pants and God knows what else under abaya and every step they take their naked legs are visible,sometimes over ankles ..
    Once i even witnessed a Saudi women in public who was sitting with crossed legs and had unbuttoned her abaya beneath the stomach,her short clothes and legs were easily seen..

  180. Asalamu Alaykom from Giza,

    I really should try to find a posting which doesn’t have a gizillion comments already. However, the reason this posting has so many comments is that it’s so debatable—at least to others looking in on your life.

    In the end, it is YOUR life and your deeds. I am at peace with whatever you’ve had to do to get to this point of your life. If you tried to tell me what I MUST do for me life, then we’d have some fightin’ words.

    I recently posted the 40th (and last) installment of my first year living in Egypt. http://afterhardship.blogspot.com/2012/01/making-hijrah-40-running-my-own-race.html I arrived August, 2009 and really I’m on hijrah here. It took me almost a full year to fully grasp the idea of “live and let live”, or the “malish” of getting by in Egypt. Whatever. Whatever! WHATEVER!

    I do wear hijab. I’ve had my moment of wondering and wandering. Astragferallah for any times I could have done better. I will be judged by Allah for what I have done. I will say that I believe in the power of hijab. It got me fired in the U.S. If it truly was just a cloth, then it would not have acted like a truth serum on my fellow employees.

    I do believe that hijab must first start as an intention in your heart. It has to be for Allah. If it isn’t for Allah, then it is actually good to check yourself. Why wear it? Fashion? Culture? Easier to hide the roots that need a dye job?

    I’ll end with a lesson I had to teach at a Muslim school in The States. It was a very diverse student population at the time. We had first-generation kids whose parents were from all over the globe. Some moms were very Western, others were very “back home” in huge robes and floor-length head coverings. Some wore niqab. Some wore a scarf tied in back (Spanish style). The first-grade girls began to tease others whose mom didn’t wear…or didn’t wear it the “right” way.

    So, I brought in a photo of a group of women (just as diverse as their moms) and each wearing hijab a different way. I asked the class to pick which one was wearing it the “right” way. Everyone voiced and voted. I listened. In the end, I said we really didn’t know because we couldn’t look inside their hearts to see WHY they were wearing hijab. Only Allah SWT can look inside our hearts so we needed to leave it to Allah.

    Do your best and leave the rest (to Allah).

    However, it’s so FREAKIN’ COLD in Egypt right now that it seriously makes sense to have something on your head! LOL!

    Stay warm, Sister. Stay centered and focused. And whatever you do, stay close to Allah.

  181. Dear Nadia and all the lovely people who replied:

    I am a western woman writing from California, many months after this post its replies have gone up. I arrived here today researching the hijab for my daughter’s girl scout troop who is studying Egypt right now (“Girl Guides” in Egypt and many other countries). I am really touched by all of you, beginning from the very start with your honest sharing, Nadia.

    I have very few muslim friends, and I think Americans as a whole who are not muslim, or have muslim friends in their circles, would benefit from knowing all of you. We think a lot more alike while living so far away, than many realize. Thank you, and God bless you.

    Lori from California

  182. Thank you for writing this.

    I am an agnostic (cultural cross between Episcopal and Russian-Orthodox Christian) US woman who was shown how to put on an everyday winter scarf as a headscarf (hijab) a couple years ago by some fellow strangers on the subway, while traveling within the US.

    My observations, as a non-Muslim who had never worn a headscarf before were as follows:
    - It was very warm, with the scarf I was wearing that day. I have since occasionally worn my “normal” scarves this way purely for warmth.
    - I found myself thinking about the English and Russian traditions of wearing headscarves (wimples for the medieval English, and diagonally-folded square scarves, worn further back on the head, for the cold-oriented or religious Russians). All three traditions seem to be exclusive to women, as men wear hats, with scarves only for the neck.
    - I did receive some unexpected glances (but no more), similar to what I’ve heard described from my friends who wear green or purple hair. The really odd looks (or at least, heightened self-consciousness) came when I was putting it on or taking it off, in public, even a public restroom.
    - As I happened to be traveling by plane that day (several years post-2001), I noticed that I was allowed to walk through the metal detector (unlike when I had worn a bow tie around my neck) but received a full-body scan and wanding. Fortunately for me, this simply involved stepping aside and being auto-scanned by some sort of a camera, rather than a strip search or somesuch, as that airport had instituted recent technology for that purpose.

    Today, the reason I am writing this, is that I was cold this morning and wore my scarf on my head, which prompted two questions:
    - How does someone wear a headscarf over (or under?) a telephone headset?
    - Why wouldn’t people wearing a headscarf be allowed to drive? (I’ve heard that it’s due to a restriction of peripheral vision due to clothing, but the manner in which I was shown to put on a headscarf creates no obstruction in the visual field.) I suppose it might be difficult to turn one’s head independent of the shoulders with some clothing, but a headscarf is not the restricting factor.

  183. You are brave. You did the right thing. Allah, God, Dios…knows your heart. Don’t ever let man dictate what you should do, how you should dress and what you think about. Only God knows your heart. No one else matters. In the end when all is said and done, only God will decide what is right and what is wrong. He’s on your side….because you seek Him with your whole heart.

    Allah Hafiz

  184. How could you take your hijab off???!!!, you shouln’t do that not for anything, even if it was just an experiment…

  185. hi nadia,
    i think every single women who have worn hijab have questioned hijab many times before and after she wore hijab. however, i do not think someone should still be doughtful about something he/she doing for 37 years because this might mean the problem is within u and not with question of whether the hijab is obligatiory or not.U should have already finished all ur searches a long time ago i beleive. i think u are getting bored of hijab and deep inside you u are trying to find a new way to get out it. Sometimes, this thinking of taking off hijab still comes to me but it shouldnt be extended to start all over again questioning hijab and doing new experiments about how would it feels walking down the street without hijab. I tell myself try to remember ur feelings of the past and how i use to feel when i was not wearing hijab. i use to feel guilty without hijab and that showing showing my hair didnot ever seem to add anything to my life. i am not against expressing ur feelings no matter if they are wrong or right.

    1. Mai, I think it’s actually very healthy to question and re-question and then continue to re-question things until the day we die. We may discover that some of the things we’ve been doing for 37 years need to be changed. And we may discover that other things we’ve been doing for 37 years are fine. As we grow older, we mature more, and we realize how little we really know. As we grow older, the more we realize the importance of re-thinking decisions we made when we were younger. I feel sorry for people who think that they are finished with all their “research” and know everything. I’m pretty sure that I know very little and that I’ll be “researching” until the day I die. I’m happy with things that way. Alhamdulillah.

  186. I’m going through the same. I’m experimenting with and without the hijab. People treat me the same either way, but I don’t want take it off and deal with the family drama because I’m not sure If I really want to take it off. I do feel like is worse to do what I’m doing than not to wear it at all. I think that covering for people is worse than not covering at all. I guess I need to figure things out…

    I covered as an impulse when I was going thru some tough times. I started having second thoughts the very next day, but I had already been seen by my family. I feel like a hypocrit because I’m not praying and that’s more important. I feel like my hijab is not pure because I’m not as religious as I look. I also feel like a hypocrit without my hijab because I’m still a muslim, but don’t look like one…I love when people say assalamu alaikum and recognize I’m muslim.

    I want to be happy with myself. This is driving me crazy.

  187. I just accepted Islam, I’m from America. While trying to persuade my girlfriend to drop Christianity as I did, she now denies the trinity and prays to the one god (god of Abraham). She really likes Islam and the Quran. All but the “obligatory” wardrobe. After a while I nearly given up in convincing her and realized what I was pushing when I said “you’ll be judged on you intentions”. My girlfriend doesnt intend to flaunt beauty, she is to be my wife next month. She is actually trying not to draw attention because that is what the whole verse you have quoted is about. Not standing out and flaunting. But in this country wearing hijab would draw more attention, more people would stare, and unfortunately dislike you because of the 9/11 lies that zionist have spread. So in the mean time I think we should take this verse as what it is. A good suggestion from god to earn women respect, and for everyone to remain modest in there beauty.

  188. As an European feminist atheist I have to express just the only feeling I have from reading some of the comments. Hijab is the ugliest thing imposed by men to women. Everytime I see pics of the veiled woman, I feel like my pressure goes up. I wish I could tear that hideous thing out of her head. Luckily my country has still not been invaded by Muslim immigrants like the Western Europe. But it is enough for me to see these convert stupid women of my own country who accepted Islam because of their Arabic husbands. Let me explain what happened. I didn´t know what Islam is, I didn´t care about it, I never knew ….. until I met my future husband in Egypt. But on the contrary I didn´t embrace Islam after getting together with him, I started to know more and more of it TOGETHER WITH THE ACTUAL POLITICAL SITUATIONS in Muslim countries cause you cannot separate a theory from the practice. Almost all Muslim countries are horrible places to live, A HELL ON EARTH. And I truly understood what islam is, the real islam. It is a repulsive cruel ideology comparable only to nazism. The hateful unfriendly Qu´ran just spits hate toward infidels, as he calls us and, Christians, Jews. I swear if you ever, you Muslims replace the words infidel, Christian, Jews, with the word “Muslim” you would definitely feel how ugly and evil and hostile Qu´ran is. It is a ideology, totalitarian system that does not allow anybody to freely leave it, under the death threat even the newly-born kids must be Muslims if their father is, they don´t have options.I swear I will do everything I can in my life to save my unborn baby against this rubbish.

    PROUD INFIDEL

  189. Yes, it is obligatory to wear a head scarf in Islam. When you have a question then you should go to knowledgeable and trustworthy Muslim to learn the lessons, and not to think that “it might be or might be not”. If you are sure about something (rules of Islam) then only you can teach your kids or family members. But when it comes to your blog and Hijab matter, then I will surely say that people do notices us and behaves the way, proper or improper way.

    1. In the name of Allah the most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

      Not wearing hijab doesn’t mean waring sexy clothing.

      Islam do not required women to wear hijab. It is not the hair but the chest/bosom/cleavage that need to be covered.Covering of hair is a Jewish and Christian traditions, which, now being follow by Muslim unknowingly because most of us follow our tradition and( “expert” ) religious leaders without research and further thinking.

      Whoever dare to oppose are label as apostasy .

      Literally, Hijab means “a veil”, “curtain”, “partition” or “separation.” In a meta- physical sense, Hijab means illusion or refers to the illusory aspect of creation. Another, and most popular and common meaning of Hijab today, is the veil in dressing for women. It refers to a certain standard of modest dress for women. “The usual definition of modest dress according to the legal systems does not actually require covering everything except the face and hands in public; this, at least, is the practice which originated in the Middle East.” 1
      While Hijab means “cover”, “drape”, or “partition”; the word KHIMAR means veil covering the head and the word LITHAM or NIQAB means veil covering lower face up to the eyes. The general term hijab in the present day world refers to the covering of the face by women. In the Indian sub-continent it is called purdah and in Iran it called chador for the tent like black cloak and veil worn by many women in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. By socioeconomic necessity, the obligation to observe the hijab now often applies more to female “garments” (worn outside the house) than it does to the ancient paradigmatic feature of women’s domestic “seclusion.” In the contemporary normative Islamic language of Egypt and elsewhere, the hijab now denotes more a “way of dressing” than a “way of life,” a (portable) “veil” rather than a fixed “domestic screen/seclusion.” In Egypt and America hijab presently denotes the basic head covering (“veil”) worn by fundamentalist/Islamist women as part of Islamic dress (zayy islami, or zayy shar’i); this hijab-head covering conceals hair and neck of the wearer.
      The Qur’an advises the wives of the Prophet (SAS) to go veiled (33: 59).
      In Surah 24: 31(Ayah), the Qur’an advises women to cover their “adornments” from strangers outside the family. In the traditional and modern Arab societies women at home dress quite differently compared to what they wear in the streets. In this verse of the Qur’an, it refers to the institution of a new public modesty rather than veiling the face.
      …When the pre-Islamic Arabs went to battle, Arab women seeing the men off to war would bare their breasts to encourage them to fight; or they would do so at the battle itself, as in the case of the Meccan women led by Hind at the Battle of Uhud. This changed with Islam, but the general use of the veil to cover the face did not appear until ‘Abbasid times. Nor was it entirely unknown in Europe, for the veil permitted women the freedom of anonymity. None of the legal systems actually prescribe that women must wear a veil, although they do prescribe covering the body in public, up to the neck, the ankles, and below the elbow. In many Muslim societies, for example in traditional South East Asia, or in Bedouin lands a face veil for women is either rare or non-existent; paradoxically, modern fundamentalism is introducing it. In others, the veil may be used at one time and European dress another. While modesty is a religious prescription, the wearing of a veil is not a religious requirement of Islam, but a matter of cultural milieu.2
      “The Middle Eastern norm for relationships between the sexes is by no means the only one possible for Islamic societies everywhere, nor is it appropriate for all cultures. It does not exhaust the possibilities allowed within the framework of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and is neither feasible nor desirable as a model for Europe or North America. European societies possess perfectly adequate models for marriage, the family, and relations between the sexes which are by no means out of harmony with the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This is borne out by the fact that within certain broad limits Islamic societies themselves differ enormously in this respect.” 3
      The Qur’an lays down the principle of the law of modesty. In Surah 24: An-Nur: 30 and 31, modesty is enjoined both upon Muslim men and Muslim women 4:
      Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for Greater purity for them: And God is Well-acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women That they should lower their gaze And guard their modesty: and they should not display beauty and ornaments expect what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that They must draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, or their women, or their slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their ornaments.
      The following conclusions may be made on the basis of the above-cited verses5:
      1. The Qur’anic injunctions enjoining the believers to lower their gaze and behave modestly applies to both Muslim men and women and not Muslim women alone.
      2. Muslim women are enjoined to “draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty” except in the presence of their husbands, other women, children, eunuchs and those men who are so closely related to them that they are not allowed to marry them. Although a self-conscious exhibition of one’s “zeenat” (which means “that which appears to be beautiful” or “that which is used for embellishment or adornment”) is forbidden, the Qur’an makes it clear that what a woman wears ordinarily is permissible. Another interpretation of this part of the passage is that if the display of “zeenat” is unintentional or accidental, it does not violate the law of modesty.
      3. Although Muslim women may wear ornaments they should not walk in a manner intended to cause their ornaments to jingle and thus attract the attention of others.
      The respected scholar, Muhammad Asad6, commenting on Qur’an 24:31 says ” The noun khimar (of which khumur is plural) denotes the head-covering customarily used by Arabian women before and after the advent of Islam. According to most of the classical commentators, it was worn in pre-Islamic times more or less as an ornament and was let down loosely over the wearer’s back; and since, in accordance with the fashion prevalent at the time, the upper part of a woman’s tunic had a wide opening in the front, her breasts were left bare. Hence, the injunction to cover the bosom by means of a khimar (a term so familiar to the contemporaries of the Prophet) does not necessarily relate to the use of a khimar as such but is, rather, meant to make it clear that a woman’s breasts are not included in the concept of “what may decently be apparent” of her body and should not, therefore, be displayed.
      The Qur’anic view of the ideal society is that the social and moral values have to be upheld by both Muslim men and women and there is justice for all, i.e. between man and man and between man and woman. The Qur’anic legislation regarding women is to protect them from inequities and vicious practices (such as female infanticide, unlimited polygamy or concubinage, etc.) which prevailed in the pre-Islamic Arabia. However the main purpose is to establish to equality of man and woman in the sight of God who created them both in like manner, from like substance, and gave to both the equal right to develop their own potentialities. To become a free, rational person is then the goal set for all human beings. Thus the Qur’an liberated the women from the indignity of being sex-objects into persons. In turn the Qur’an asks the women that they should behave with dignity and decorum befitting a secure, Self-respecting and self-aware human being rather than an insecure female who felt that her survival depends on her ability to attract or cajole those men who were interested not in her personality but only in her sexuality.
      One of the verses in the Qur’an protects a woman’s fundamental rights. Aya 59 from Sura al-Ahzab reads:
      O Prophet! Tell Thy wives And daughters, and the Believing women, that They should cast their Outer garments over Their Persons (when outside): That they should be known (As such) and not Molested.
      Although this verse is directed in the first place to the Prophet’s “wives and daughters”, there is a reference also to “the believing women” hence it is generally understood by Muslim societies as applying to all Muslim women. According to the Qur’an the reason why Muslim women should wear an outer garment when going out of their houses is so that they may be recognized as “believing” Muslim women and differentiated from street-walkers for whom sexual harassment is an occupational hazard. The purpose of this verse was not to confine women to their houses but to make it safe for them to go about their daily business without attracting unwholesome attention. By wearing the outer garment a “believing” Muslim woman could be distinguished from the others. In societies where there is no danger of “believing” Muslim being confused with the others or in which “the outer garment” is unable to function as a mark of identification for “believing” Muslim women, the mere wearing of “the outer garment” would not fulfill the true objective of the Qur’anic decree. For example that older Muslim women who are “past the prospect of marriage” are not required to wear “the outer garment”. Surah 24: An-Nur, Aya 60 reads:
      Such elderly women are past the prospect of marriage,– There is no blame on them, if they lay aside their (outer) garments, provided they make not wanton display of their beauty; but it is best for them to be modest: and Allah is One who sees and knows all things.
      Women who on account of their advanced age are not likely to be regarded as sex-objects are allowed to discard “the outer garment” but there is no relaxation as far as the essential Qur’anic principle of modest behavior is concerned. Reflection on the above-cited verse shows that “the outer garment” is not required by the Qur’an as a necessary statement of modesty since it recognizes the possibility women may continue to be modest even when they have discarded “the outer garment.”
      The Qur’an itself does not suggest either that women should be veiled or they should be kept apart from the world of men. On the contrary, the Qur’an is insistent on the full participation of women in society and in the religious practices prescribed for men.
      Nazira Zin al-Din stipulates that the morality of the self and the cleanness of the conscience are far better than the morality of the chador. No goodness is to be hoped from pretence, all goodness is in the essence of the self. Zin al-Din also argues that imposing the veil on women is the ultimate proof that men suspect their mothers, daughters, wives and sisters of being potential traitors to them. This means that men suspect ‘the women closest and dearest to them.’ How can society trust women with the most consequential job of bringing up children when it does not trust them with their faces and bodies? How can Muslim men meet rural and European women who are not veiled and treat them respectfully but not treat urban Muslim women in the same way? 7 She concludes this part of the book, al-Sufur Wa’l-hijab 8 by stating that it is not an Islamic duty on Muslim women to wear hijab. If Muslim legislators have decided that it is, their opinions are wrong. If hijab is based on women’s lack of intellect or piety, can it be said that all men are more perfect in piety and intellect than all women? 9 The spirit of a nation and its civilization is a reflection of the spirit of the mother. How can any mother bring up distinguished children if she herself is deprived of her personal freedom? She concludes that in enforcing hijab, society becomes a prisoner of its customs and traditions rather than Islam.
      There are two ayahs which are specifically addressed to the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (S) and not to other Muslim women.
      These are ayahs 32 and 53 of Sura al-Ahzab. “.. And stay quietly in your houses,” did not mean confinement of the wives of the Prophet (S) or other Muslim women and make them inactive. Muslim women remained in mixed company with men until the late sixth century (A.H.) or eleventh century (CE). They received guests, held meetings and went to wars helping their brothers and husbands, defend their castles and bastions.10
      Zin al-Din reviewed the interpretations of Aya 30 from Sura al-Nur and Aya 59 from sura al-Ahzab which were cited above by al-Khazin, al-Nafasi, Ibn Masud, Ibn Abbas and al-Tabari and found them full of contradictions. Yet, almost all interpreters agreed that women should not veil their faces and their hands and anyone who advocated that women should cover all their bodies including their faces could not face his argument on any religious text. If women were to be totally covered, there would have been no need for the ayahs addressed to Muslim men: ‘Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty.’ (Sura al-Nur, Aya 30). She supports her views by referring to the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (S), always taking into account what the Prophet himself said ‘I did not say a thing that is not in harmony with God’s book.’11 God says: ‘O consorts of the Prophet! ye are not like any of the (other) women’ (Ahzab, 53). Thus it is very clear that God did not want women to measure themselves against the wives of the Prophet and wear hijab like them and there is no ambiguity whatsoever regarding this aya. Therefore, those who imitate the wives of the Prophet and wear hijab are disobeying God’s will.12
      In Islam ruh al-madaniyya (Islam: The Spirit of Civilization) Shaykh Mustafa Ghalayini reminds his readers that veiling pre-dated Islam and that Muslims learned from other peoples with whom they mixed. He adds that hijab as it is known today is prohibited by the Islamic shari’a. Any one who looks at hijab as it is worn by some women would find that it makes them more desirable than if they went out without hijab13. Zin al-Din points out that veiling was a custom of rich families as a symbol of status. She quotes Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Maghribi who also saw in hijab an aristocratic habit to distinguish the women of rich and prestigious families from other women. She concludes that hijab as it is known today is prohibited by the Islamic shari’a.14
      Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali in his book Sunna Between Fiqh and Hadith 15 declares that those who claim that women’s reform is conditioned by wearing the veil are lying to God and his Prophet. He expresses the opinion that the contemptuous view of women has been passed on from the first jahiliya (the Pre-Islamic period) to the Islamic society. Al-Ghazali’s argument is that Islam has made it compulsory on women not to cover their faces during haj and salat (prayer) the two important pillars of Islam. How then could Islam ask women to cover their faces at ordinary times?16 Al-Ghazali is a believer and is confident that all traditions that function to keep women ignorant and prevent them from functioning in public are the remnants of jahiliya and that following them is contrary to the spirit of Islam.
      Al-Ghazali says that during the time of the Prophet women were equals at home, in the mosques and on the battlefield. Today true Islam is being destroyed in the name of Islam.
      Another Muslim scholar, Abd al-Halim Abu Shiqa wrote a scholarly study of women in Islam entitled Tahrir al-mara’a fi ‘asr al-risalah: (The Emancipation of Women during the Time of the Prophet)17 agrees with Zin al-Din and al-Ghazali about the discrepancy between the status of women during the time of the Prophet Muhammad and the status of women today. He says that Islamists have made up sayings which they attributed to the Prophet such as ‘women are lacking both intellect and religion’ and in many cases they brought sayings which are not reliable at all and promoted them among Muslims until they became part of the Islamic culture.
      Like Zin al-Din and al-Ghazali, Abu Shiqa finds that in many countries very weak and unreliable sayings of the Prophet are invented to support customs and traditions which are then considered to be part of the shari’a. He argues that it is the Islamic duty of women to participate in public life and in spreading good (Sura Tauba, Aya 71). He also agrees with Zin al-Din and Ghazali that hijab was for the wives of the Prophet and that it was against Islam for women to imitate the wives of the Prophet. If women were to be totally covered, why did God ask both men and women to lower their gaze? (Sura al-Nur, Ayath 30-31).
      The actual practice of veiling most likely came from areas captured in the initial spread of Islam such as Syria, Iraq, and Persia and was adopted by upper-class urban women. Village and rural women traditionally have not worn the veil, partly because it would be an encumbrance in their work. It is certainly true that segregation of women in the domestic sphere took place increasingly as the Islamic centuries unfolded, with some very unfortunate consequences. Some women are again putting on clothing that identifies them as Muslim women. This phenomenon, which began only a few years ago, has manifested itself in a number of countries.
      It is part of the growing feeling on the part of Muslim men and women that they no longer wish to identify with the West, and that reaffirmation of their identity as Muslims requires the kind of visible sign that adoption of conservative clothing implies. For these women the issue is not that they have to dress conservatively but that they choose to. In Iran Imam Khomeini first insisted that women must wear the veil and chador and in response to large demonstrations by women, he modified his position and agreed that while the chador is not obligatory, modest dress is, including loose clothing and non-transparent stockings and scarves.18
      With Islam’s expansion into areas formerly part of the Byzantine and Sasanian empires, the scripture-legislated social paradigm that had evolved in the early Medinan community came face to face with alien social structures and traditions deeply rooted in the conquered populations. Among the many cultural traditions assimilated and continued by Islam were the veiling and seclusion of women, at least among the urban upper and upper-middle classes. With these traditions’ assumption into “the Islamic way of life,” they of need helped to shape the normative interpretations of Qur’anic gender laws as formulated by the medireview (urbanized and acculturated) lawyer-theologians. In the latter’s consensus-based prescriptive systems, the Prophet’s wives were recognized as models for emulation (sources of Sunna). Thus, while the scholars provided information on the Prophet’s wives in terms of, as well as for, an ideal of Muslim female morality, the Qur’anic directives addressed to the Prophet’s consorts were naturally seen as applicable to all Muslim women.19
      Semantically and legally, that is, regarding both the terms and also the parameters of its application, Islamic interpretation extended the concept of hijab. In scripturalist method, this was achieved in several ways. Firstly, the hijab was associated with two of the Qur’an’s “clothing laws” imposed upon all Muslim females: the “mantle” verse of 33:59 and the “modesty” verse of 24:31. On the one hand, the semantic association of domestic segregation (hijab) with garments to be worn in public (jilbab, khimar) resulted in the use of the term hijab for concealing garments that women wore outside of their houses. This language use is fully documented in the medireview Hadith. However, unlike female garments such as jilbab, lihaf, milhafa, izar, dir’ (traditional garments for the body), khimar, niqab, burqu’, qina’, miqna’a (traditional garments for the head and neck) and also a large number of other articles of clothing, the medireview meaning of hijab remained conceptual and generic. In their debates on which parts of the woman’s body, if any, are not “awra” (literally, “genital,” “pudendum”) and many therefore be legally exposed to nonrelatives, the medireview scholars often contrastively paired woman’s’ awra with this generic hijab. This permitted the debate to remain conceptual rather than get bogged down in the specifics of articles of clothing whose meaning, in any case, was prone to changes both geographic/regional and also chronological. At present we know very little about the precise stages of the process by which the hijab in its multiple meanings was made obligatory for Muslim women at large, except to say that these occurred during the first centuries after the expansion of Islam beyond the borders of Arabia, and then mainly in the Islamicized societies still ruled by preexisting (Sasanian and Byzantine) social traditions.
      With the rise of the Iraq-based Abbasid state in the mid-eighth century of the Western calendar, the lawyer-theologians of Islam grew into a religious establishment entrusted with the formulation of Islamic law and morality, and it was they who interpreted the Qur’anic rules on women’s dress and space in increasingly absolute and categorical fashion, reflecting the real practices and cultural assumptions of their place and age. Classical legal compendia, medireview Hadith collections and Qur’anic exegesis are here mainly formulations of the system “as established” and not of its developmental stages, even though differences of opinion on the legal limits of the hijab garments survived, including among the doctrinal teachings of the four orthodox schools of law (madhahib). 20
      Attacked by foreigners and indigenous secularists alike and defended by the many voices of conservatism, hijab has come to signify the sum total of traditional institutions governing women’s role in Islamic society. Thus, in the ideological struggles surrounding the definition of Islam’s nature and role in the modern world, the hijab has acquired the status of “cultural symbol.”
      Qasim Amin, the French-educated, pro-Western Egyptian journalist, lawyer, and politician in the last century wanted to bring Egyptian society from a state of “backwardness” into a state of “civilization” and modernity. To do so, he lashed out against the hijab, in its expanded sense, as the true reason for the ignorance, superstition, obesity, anemia, and premature aging of the Muslim woman of his time. He wanted the Muslim women to raise from the “backward” hijab into the desirable modernist ideal of women’s right to an elementary education, supplemented by their ongoing contact with life outside of the home to provide experience of the “real world” and combat superstition. He understood the hijab as an amalgam of institutionalized restrictions on women that consisted of sexual segregation, domestic seclusion, and the face veil. He insisted as much on the woman’s right to mobility outside the home as he did on the adaptation of shar’i Islamic garb, which would leave a woman’s face and hands uncovered. Women’s domestic seclusion and the face veil, then, were primary points in Amin’s attack on what was wrong with the Egyptian social system of his time.21 Muhammad Abdu tried to restore the dignity to Muslim woman by way of educational and some legal reforms, the modernist blueprint of women’s Islamic rights eventually also included the right to work, vote, and stand for election-that is, full participation in public life. He separated the forever-valid-as-stipulated laws of ‘ibadat (religious observances) from the more time-specific mu’amalat (social transactions) in Qur’an and shari’a, which latter included the Hadith as one of its sources. Because modern Islamic societies differ from the seventh-century umma, time-specific laws are thus no longer literally applicable but need a fresh legal interpretation (ijtihad). What matters is to safeguard “the public good” (al-maslah al’-amma) in terms of Muslim communal morality and spirituality. 22
      In The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam, the Moroccan sociologist Fatima Mernissi attacks the age-old conservative focus on women’s segregation as mere institutionalization of authoritarianism, achieved by way of manipulation of sacred texts, “a structural characteristic of the practice of power in Muslim societies.” In describing the feminist model of the Prophet’s wives’ rights and roles both domestic and also communal, Mernissi uses the methodology of “literal” interpretation of Qur’an and Hadith. In the selection and interpretations of traditions, she discredits some of textual items as unauthentic by the criteria of classical Hadith criticism. In Mernissi’s reading of Qur’an and Hadith, Muhammad’s wives were dynamic, influential, and enterprising members of the community, and fully involved in Muslim public affairs. He listened to their advice. In the city, they were leaders of women’s protest movements, first for equal status as believers and thereafter regarding economic and sociopolitical rights, mainly in the areas of inheritance, participation in warfare and booty, and personal (marital) relations. Muhammad’s vision of Islamic society was egalitarian, and he lived this ideal in his own household. Later the Prophet had to sacrifice his egalitarian vision for the sake of communal cohesiveness and the survival of the Islamic cause. To Mernissi, the seclusion of Muhammad’s wives from public life (the hijab, Qur’an 33.53) is a symbol of Islam’s retreat from the early principle of gender equality, as is the “mantel” (jilbab) verse of 33:59 which relinquished the principle of social responsibility, the individual sovereign will that internalizes control rather than place it within external barriers. Concerning A’isha’s involvement in political affairs (the Battle of the Camel), Mernissi engages in classical Hadith criticism to prove the inauthenticity of the (presumably Prophetic) traditions “a people who entrust their command [or, affair, amr] to a woman will not thrive” because of historical problems relating to the date of its first transmission and also self-serving motives and a number of moral deficiencies recorded about its first transmitter, the Prophet’s freedman Abu Bakra. Modernists in general disregard hadith items rather than question their authenticity by scrutinizing the transmitters’ reliability.23 After describing the active participation of Muslim women in the battlefields as warriors and nurses to the wounded, Maulana Maudoodi24 says ” This shows that the Islamic purdah is not a custom of ignorance which cannot be relaxed under any circumstances, on the other hand, it is a custom which can be relaxed as and when required in a moment of urgency. Not only is a woman allowed to uncover a part of her satr (coveredness) under necessity, there is no harm.”
      In the matter of hijab, the conscience of an honest, sincere Believer alone can be the true judge, as has been said by the Noble Prophet: “Ask for the verdict of your conscience and discard what pricks it.”
      Islam cannot be properly followed without knowledge. It is a rational law and to follow it rightly one needs to exercise reason and understanding at every step.

      1. Wow, dude, that’s not a comment, but a book! :)
        I’ll go back and read your comment in greater detail, but it just struck me how much controversy, angst and passion surrounds hijab/ head scarf. So just for the sake of argument we say that the head scarf is actually not required/ prescribed in Islam. Why should anyone care if a woman CHOOSES to wear it? Why all the drama and passion? Why blow something so personal out of proportion? If a woman chooses to wear it, especially in a non-muslim country, why should anyone oppose it so much? Am I missing something here?

      2. So, wearing hijab doesn’t necessarily mean “cover your hair”? It’s basically about wearing decent clothes and covering your one’s bosoms?

  190. I had logged on to leave a comment on your “How to Find God” post but comments are closed over there and since I’ve got a couple of thoughts that I totally want to share, I’ll leave them here…:)
    So, Nadia, your writings have struck a deep chord with me for some time….even way back in your Islam Online days. I stumbled across your blog a few months ago and again was struck by some of the parallels with my own life, most recently a time of personal soul searching. I too had started to go down a path of questioning. I’ll admit though that my questioning was never a systematic peeling away of layers, but perhaps fueled by a little bit of anger/ disappointment/ confusion, I started to wonder what is all this about? Instead of reading more and more, I kind of just listened to my heart. My heart told me that sure there’s a creator, there is a meaning to all of this. But I’ll admit, at times I wasn’t 100% sure. Again, I wasn’t systematically trying to search for the “truth”, but I was coasting in my life, doing what I’ve always done (praying, wearing hijab, etc), but there was an under-current of just not being sure any more. Today, a light bulb went off…I was confusing healthy questioning (which presumably would then necessitate a purposeful knowledge seeking in an attempt to understand) with unhealthy doubt, which perhaps is a manifestation of ego, and God-forbid arrogance. So now I’m not sure about being unsure. Damn, how’s that for existential angst? So what does my heart do…well, it prayed to the Almighty Creator for guidance. Yes, the Almighty Creator who I had at a time of weakness doubted ever so briefly. He knows that we will keep on wavering. And that’s why we are instructed to at least 5 times a day ask for His help and His guidance. So bottom line, I don’t have a straight answer to give you (what was the question, anyway :)?) or any deep insight to share. But something in your writing moved me and when the light bulb went off today (however dim it may seem), I just wanted to share.

  191. i’m 17 years old and i started wearing hijab when i was about 11 not by force it was my choice, but i guess i just felt the need to wear it bc i wanted to make my aunts and mom happy since im the youngest of 4 older brothers and the only girl. anyways ever since like 8th grade i’ve been thinking about taking my hijab off, but my problem is that i always worry about what others think, what my family would think, and basically all the people that watched me grow up with my hijab on. now im going to be a senior in high school and this decision has been bothering me for soo long now and i constantly think about it, one part of me really just wants to take my hijab off cause i dont feel like im a good muslim (i know im not horrible, im nice, and do charity work but i dont feel like i need to wear hijab in order to get to heaven) and the other part of me just wants to keep it on just to avoid confrontation and not wanting to disappoint people i love. I know at the end of the day this is a decision only i can make but reading your story really helped me, and just getting a little bit more help would mean so much!

    1. Dear Sofia,

      A decision like this can only be made by you. There is no advice I can give you, especially since you are not yet an adult and because it is your parents, and not me, who you should be discussing this with. That is what I’d like someone to tell my daughters if this is what they were thinking and this is what I’ll tell you. Adults should be able to take decisions on their own. They have sufficient life experience to understand the consequences of their actions. They usually have enough knowledge of themselves to know what is best for them. Young people do not have this yet, although they would like to think they do. Trust your parents, Sofia. Talk to them. Tell them what you are thinking. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, speak with a close family member like an aunt who you are comfortable with and tell her.

      I hope the best for you. Life is hard and is full of many difficult decisions. This, unfortunately, is just the beginning. :-)

      Best,
      Nadia

  192. Hello, great post and so welcome. I am a recent covert and am contemplating when / if I will wear a hijab.

    Most of the people in my life don’t know yet that I have converted and I work in a company where it could negatively impact me.

    So I think it is really a matter of progression for me. And I plan to do the opposite experiment to you!

    I am going to spend my vacation in Dubai and I will wear hijab there. And I am moving to London soon and plan to try wearing it on the weekends. I am very excited for the experience!

    I wish you the best and am looking forward to reading how your journey goes.

    Best

  193. Well done on your investigation – most of us Western women are not against women wearing the hijab but against the perception that the reason you “have” to do it is because of cultural pressures put on you by men (and some women) who use the lack of it as an excuse to justify their own inappropriate behaviour towards women and the attitude of both genders that you can be defined by the clothes you wear rather than the person you are. We see it as you having your choices taken from you through manipulation, guilt and an expectation of cultural norms not through any genuine need or desire to comply with God’s law. With regards to a couple of the comments here stating that this is/was a monotheistic practice now lost to Christianity and Judaism – there has actually never been a requirement or command in the Old Testament for women to cover their heads or faces. There are three references indicating a cultural tendency to this practice in books written up to 6000 years ago – as opposed to it being a command from God. These are: Genesis 24:65 “For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself.”; Numbers 5:18 “And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse” and Isaiah 47:2 “Take the millstones and grind flour, put off your veil, strip off your robe, uncover your legs, pass through the rivers.” So in terms of was this a practice that all the monotheistic religions attributed to God’s command at any time in their history – the answer is no – for the Christians it was for a period of time a cultural practice associated with a perception of modesty not a command from God – but an interpretation by the religious scholars at the time, which over time has been reviewed and reinterpreted not to be a requirement. In other words it was based on the attitudes of men at the time and reflective of accepted practices during that era – over time it changed and our religious scholars did not feel the need to push the point to any level that significantly influenced society from about the 14th century onwards. For the nuns their covering was not based on a command from God but was related to them not giving into the sin of vanity which could take them from their devotions to God – hence the reason they also shaved their heads, dressed alike and took the religious name they were given when they took their vows – it was leaving their old life behind for a life devoted to God.

  194. I really like your article.i have a boyfriend whose parents do not allow him to marry me because I do not wear hijab. It is so much relief to hear that it does not make me less modest than the girl who wears it. And I feel discriminated because of it.

  195. Hijab is not mandatory…or else all those who lived before the 1980′s were kofar….Egypt was never like this…it is a tradition now rather than a religion….

  196. Usually I don’t learn article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, quite great post.

  197. Thank you for sharing your experience, Nadia. I’m 26 and I went through a period of experimentation at the age of 18-24 (before that I wore it all time), before finally settling on not wearing it. And I’m at peace with my decision, alhamdulilah, feeling like mind-space has been freed up to think about other things.

    As an interesting parallel to your doorman story, the person who had the strongest reaction to me was the caretaker at my regular masjid, whom I had never spoken to before! :)

  198. This is very attention-grabbing, You’re a very professional blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to in the hunt for extra of your wonderful post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks

  199. i think that the hijab actually enhances our femininity; as you said, you became invisible and even when wearing what you would consider feminine, you were not reacted to in that way. i cover up and when i do uncover, i get a reaction from my husband – what i think should be how men react to seeing a woman uncovered and seeing a woman displaying her beautiful body; i think because naked bodies have become so commonplace in our world today, women’s beauty has become cheapened. men in fact look for greater thrills than seeing a woman’s body, because everywhere they look are cheapened women’s bodies – on billboards, on magazines, on tv. no longer does it hold the mystque and value it once did.
    Also, here you are talking mainly about the hijab as headcover but it’s a whole attitude and full way of dressing; the headcover is just one part. you could take off this one part and still be in semi-hijab if you covered the rest of your body, for example….so when you question how important it is to cover the hair as a reason why you doubt hijab, you are only questioning one part of hijab. Would you question the importance of covering one’s curves/legs? clearly they still do hold sexual value in the marketplace of such things….
    lastly, i think that the hijab is an honor for women – it is the sign of worshipfulness and holiness. It is not solely about men’s gaze. After all, if it were, then why do we have to fully cover up when we pray, even if we are alone in front of God? we still cover, though there are no men around. That tells me that this is about holiness.
    In the past, amongst the Jews, only the truly holy women had the right to cover – like Mary – and we see the continuation of this tradition in the covering of nuns. When Islam was gifted to the world, God honored ALL Muslim women, giving them ALL the signification of being holy – so that not only the super pious ones would get to wear the coverings of a holy person, but ALL – this was an encouragement and an honoring of us- and an invitation to be as holy as the super pious of past peoples.
    Even the average Muslim woman is, in the Eyes of God, as holy as a nun is for Christians.
    We are very honored.
    And if you doubt teh connection between coveredness and holiness, look no further than religious men. Priests, Rabbis, Ulema – they all wear robes, and are extra covered compared to the average men. IN fact, many cover their hair!

  200. i think it is sad that you did not get a reaction to your feminine beauty. i don’t want things to be like that. i want to wear hijab, so that when i don’t want reactions to my beauty (like when i walk in the street, when i am at work, when i am out buying groceries) i don’t get them; but i want to not wear hijab when i DO want those reactions – and i want to GET those reactions. Islam is not about devaluing those reactions, or neutralizing the female body – quite the opposite. it’s about preserving that powerful sexuality so that when it is needed, when i want to fulfil my sexual desires, it is potent, and can be used to its fulll potential.
    unfortunately, the west, in making this kind of feminine beauty available at all times, has rendered it meaningless and powerless.
    That is super sad.

  201. by covering when in public, i ensure that when i uncover with those i love (my husband) and dress in a super feminine way, i get adoration, love, and attention…and more.
    that is super fuflilling for me, and i feel like it is putting things in their right place….there is a place for being admired physically, and there is a true value to that…and there is a place for preserving that from public eyes so that its value remains very high and its power remains that much more potent.

  202. I am 14 and I started to wear the hijab at a much younger age.i wore it at 13. I did not wear the hijab because I wanted to but because I thought I did I wore it cause I wanted attention. I love attention and I’m gonna admit it. I was bored the same old me always never changing same routine every day nothin exciting going on. I wanted attention.all my freinds were wear it at the time and they seemed happy.my cousins looked 10x more gorgeous than they did with out it and how they made up their outfits and everything it made me wish I was wearing one. They are beautiful I looked up to them. So I convinced my self that it wa the right thing that you would get so much out of it And wore it. It all started pouring in. The gifts,congratulations, ur doing the right thing, I was an only girl in my family and the smallest between my cousins so of course I liked attention. And this was just me announce it I still didn’t wear it in public. The party’s, I got to redecorate my room I got a new wardrobe it wa amazing. How happy my dad was I haven’t seen him this happy in years. My first time out in public with it deep inside I didn’t like it. But I conviced myself again. A month passed and everything started slowing down no more attention. After a couple of month I relised that was the reason I wanted to wear it. But it was too late. Now I am considering taking it off but if I do I want to take it off as soon as possible before its too late. It made me less religious I used to pray everyday and not miss one prayer I stopped. I was the #1 kid in schools in almost every subject, it stopped. I read Quran every night before I went to sleep for an hour and an hour everyday that stopped too. It made me less religious. I wish that I could take it off
    I find what u did very brave and I too question that do we really need to wear it at this time it’s only making people look at us like we’re some aliens or weirdos or something
    If anyone wants to yell at me and tell me that I am too you g I be saying that and I am saying the wrong things and all that be my guest but its not going to change anything. I wish that I could take it off and find my old self the religious good nice girl I used to know

  203. This was fascinating to read…as a US woman, I’ve often wondered how it would feel for a Muslim woman, used to wearing the hijab, to then go without in a western setting. I suppose it makes sense you’d feel more feminine, as more of what makes you a woman is being shared with the world at large.

  204. I think for many Muslims around the world, Islam is ‘prescribed’ for them i.e. go to religious school/classes, listen to the teachers/imams/sheikhs etc, take in what they say and then, that’s it. No pondering. No questioning. No wondering why. When I was a child,at religious school I was told not to ask why because asking why is tantamount to ‘doubting God’ and doubting God is *tsk, tsk* a ‘grave sin’. Which is why, hijab is thought to be mandatory. Because nobody dares question. Even if you ask for one concrete verse that says for a certainty, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the hair must be covered, there are many ways and directions that pro-hijabis would go about to justify it. And then, there’s the many volumes of Hadiths. You’ll be surprised at the number of Muslims who know hadiths far, far better than they do the Noble Quran. It’s such blind acceptance that I find so, so baffling.

    I personally am NOT against hijabis. To me, if they wear hijab, well and good – i see it as the ultimate level of modesty and I do not criticise them. What I am against is the fact that we are taught to believe that it is compulsory – that if you don’t, you will for sure, 100% be destined for the hell-fire regardless of whether you fulfil other religious obligations, be a good wife,woman,daughter, mother. That is what I cannot accept. I may not be a religious scholar (even scholars do make mistakes – which I think is one of the problems plaguing the Muslim ummah because we tend to think ‘they learnt religion, so they MUST be correct. They must know God better than I do!’).

    I also think that the argument that if you don’t wear hijab, men will ogle at you is flimsy. To say that, is tantamount to insulting men in general, and also, a gross generalisation of ALL men. I live in Southeast Asia and I have personally witnessed men ogling and checking out women in hijab. My mom, who is 62, and wears hijab with loose clothes, get checked out by older men and she was once even molested on her thigh by a man on a public bus once. It’s moments like these when I wish I was still in contact with my religious teacher to tell her, ‘Ummm…that thing you taught us about wearing hijab so that men won’t see us as sexual objects, yeah…I have something to say about that…..’.

    At the end of the day, my wish is for a Muslim ummah that accepts that the definition of modesty is not a one-size-fits-all in ALL societies in all countries. My wish is for a Muslim ummah that does not view women’s God-given sexuality as a shame. My wish is for a Muslim ummah that is not judgmental, critical, opinionated about other Muslims who may not practise Islam the way they do.

    1. I agreed, in the Quran we are directed to cover our bosom/clevage not hair. Islam is a universal religion for all places and time.

      How people interpret the Quran show the mixup between culture, tradition and religion, for most it hard to tell the different between Islam the religion and Arab culture or any other cultures.

    2. You need to do more research on Islam. The Quran does not directly mention coverings of the head, which is why secular, liberal Muslims have said hijab is not mandatory. Do you kow who the first commentator on the Quran was? Ibn Abbas, a close companion of the Prophet. It was he who said the verse about modesty refers to covering everything except the hands and the face. All scholars use Ibn Abbas as a guideline when interpreting the Quran.

      In addition to, we have the ijma (consensus of scholars). Because in a hadith the Prophet said “My ummah will never agree upon an error.” ALL scholars have said hijab is MANDATORY for all Muslim women, once they reach the age of puberty, and they can take it off once they pass the age of marriage.

      The best thing to do right now is dawn the hijab.

  205. Hmm it seems like your site ate my first comment (it
    was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any recommendations for newbie blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate
    it.

    1. WordPress.com is a good place to start. And just write whatever is on your mind. You’ll eventually discover the style and topics that work for you.

  206. It’s amazing to see how many Muslims are misguided, and willing to misguide other Muslims.

    Hijab has been mandatory for Muslim women for 1400 years. Every single scholar has CONCLUDED hijab is compulsory for all Muslim women. Let me take all of your little hands and show you.

    A woman’s dress appears several time sin the Quran. None of them directly mention the covering of the head, HOWEVER, the first commentator on the Quran was Ibn Abbas, a close companion of the Prophet. It is he who said in his commentary that a woman is to cover all parts of her body except the hands and face (and feet). All scholars use Ibn Abbas as a guideline when interpreting the Quran. And a Sahaba can NEVER be wrong.

    There’s another thing called ijma (what the majority of scholars believe) because in a hadith the Prophet said “My ummah will NEVER agree upon an error.” Are you really saying for the past 1400 years, all scholars (8000 of whom were women, including Aisha, the Prophet’s wife) were wrong? That they were misguided?

    You can google “hijab is optional” and all you get is liberal, secular sites whom have no academic backing.

    I hope this serves as a wake up call to Muslim woman who ignore hijab. It was mandatoty from day 1, and it will be until judgement day.

    1. SAHABA do make mistake and can be wrong. Quran state the requirement for both men and women to be modest including in dressing. However hair covering is not one of it(clevage is).

      If a women choose to practice hijab because she want to dress modestly that is part of her freedom, not because of peer pressure, society or culture. May Allah s.w.t. accept her good deed. If she choose to dress modestly by not wearing hijab may Allah rewarded her too.

      However the practice of hijab is CERTAINLY NOT ONE OF THE DIRECTION FROM THE QURAN, but men/society made law

  207. I know it is none of my business , but this is utterly heartbreaking wALLAHi :( , la 7awl wala Kowwata ila bALLAH :( , this news brings sadness that I will take to my grave !

  208. Asalamu aleikum warahmatullahi wabarakahu, Mash’Allah Sister, I am happy you decided to wear your hijab again, we pray Allah swt will guide you to know this is not just culture it is right decision.

    To the non Muslims who think it is enslaving a woman to wear hijab it is not. Suban’Allah I am new Muslim as of 2 Ramadan 1433 H. I come from Catholic background and began studying Islam just after the Egyptian revolution began in 2011. Friday February 11 2011 renewed my faith 100% the power of prayer is powerful for a reason and it was this, the will of Allah swt answering the prayers from the unity of Egyptians and their prayers that brought down the Mubarak regime in 18 days as a sign that the Arab Springs in Egypt in my opinion was a great sign and invitation of a mass Exodus for the world watching, Muslim and Non Muslim alike to leave behind their carnal desires of sin including our never ending attachment to our iPhones, iPads, iPods, etc and come towards the right path. As Allah swt reminds us in the Qur’an

    “And (remember) when We rescued you from Fir’aun’s (Pharaoh) people, who were afflicting you with the worst torment, killing your sons and letting your women live. And in that was a great trial from your Lord.” (Al-A’raf 141)

    I felt living in the society in which I grew up in I was both living as one of the people of Pharaoh and also a Hebrew slave of the Pharaoh’s from the pressures of vanity and the monetary policy which puts a price tag on our life, what we feel is freedom in this ‘free’ society is really enslaving our spirit with a heavy price to pay, in the end if we don’t heed the warnings, we suffer great regrets in our individual life and as a community.

    I had been very confused on many issues in Christianity most of my life, but I recognized the Egyptian’s praying in Tahrir Sq the same way I had read the Prophets (peace be upon them) prayed in the Bible, I heard the call to prayer for the first time coming out of Egypt being the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard and when I purchased the Qur’an in March 2011 and began to read Suban’Allah I knew immediately I was about to find out the meaning of life and salvation.

    Alhamdulillah, my life completely changed, a very long story but in the year and half of studying and began embracing the Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu alayhi Wasallam and the Muslim way of life the blessings of rewards I was and continue to receive are irrefutable.

    Wearing the hijab is one of the many true gifts and blessing from Allah swt. Throughout my study occasionally I would see a Muslim woman in hijab I would say to my daughter if she was with me, one day I will go to the Mosque and maje Shahada and I too will wear a hijab. Suban’Allah the 2 Ramadan 1433 H was this blessed day. I began wearing hijab right away even though I was told by my sisters because I am new Muslim I can take my time, but I was so in love with the way of life of Muslims, as I had already began practicing and praying 5 times a day and fasting since Muharram 1433 H I prayed to Allah swt to let me love my hijab. I admit it was difficult because I would look in the mirror and didn’t feel I was looking at a Muslim looking back. I would actually cry feeling this pull to just stop wearing it but I would pray to Allah swt, please Allah swt let me love my hijab. I would then not go out without hijab. I would struggle with how to wear one and many of the struggles of letting go of the old me and my old way of life looking in the mirror, the mirror one of our worst enemies. At times it would take an hour just to learn to wrap one, I would even watch Youtube videos. I was wearing it proper but I know it was a test to see if I would continue in the struggle and pray to Allah swt to grant this to me. It took me many months of fighting in the mirror if I wanted to go out taking sometimes an hour and in tears until one day I cried so much on my bed and I felt a gentle tug at my heart to go try one more time and I did, Alhamdulillah it took me five minutes and was so easy Alhamdulillah, when this happened I also saw a Muslimah looking back.

    Every time I cover I feel secure and I feel like I am now in constant communion with Allah swt, just as I dressed for my communion when I had first communion in the church I wore a veil but now I felt always in communion dressed in the right way. I also feel pure and clean unlike anything I felt before. I also explain to people this is what Eve must have felt like when she realized she was naked and felt ashamed because of her transgression. I came from a life where my clothes were somewhat revealing as part of the society I live; now I feel so secure. I am not one that likes attention and wearing hijab I do get attention yet I would get attention with whistles or comments prior and to a normal western society girl would seem complimentary but really it’s not since any woman can grab that kind of attention, it’s really negative, not positive attention. Now I get a different kind of attention, people show me respect and it is through actions not words. I have only taken my hijab off 3 times to leave the house to the store in 6 months, the day after my Shahada to get pins for my hijab and 2 times after when struggling with my hijab but I honestly can say I felt naked. I am a divorced woman for 2 years and I feel if Allah swt is going to send me a husband he will send me a believing Muslim husband. If I don’t wear my hijab any man could approach me and probably only wanting one thing on their mind, they will probably not be the kind of believing man that holds respect as they will not see me as a woman they must respect. The hijab commands respect in my opinion as a man sees a woman in hijab whether they are Muslim or non Muslim and know that woman is with Allah swt. Not all men will respect a woman in hijab but if they don’t respect woman in hijab they will not respect a woman who doesn’t wear one.

    I live in southern Ontario Canada so I do not live in a large populated Muslim community and very rarely except when I go on the other side of the city where the Mosque or to the mall do I see Muslim women so when I venture out in my part of the neighbourhood it is very rare I see a woman in hijab. I also live in an apartment building attached to a Lutheran church and when I moved here I was still studying Islam but had yet to make Shahada at Mosque, but in my heart I already did. Once I began wearing my hijab people were a bit taken back seeing me at first yet they received me so very well and treat me so kind.

    I enjoy not being bothered by men as wondering if I’m an available woman to be picked up. If there is someone for me, Allah swt will send him my way, the right time in the right way Insha’Allah.

    When I became Muslim this passage from the Gospels stuck in my mind;

    27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell (Matthew 5:27-30).

    I didn’t really understand this statement very well as a Christian until I began studying Islam and the Muslim way of life and why we are told as woman to cover up, even in Christianity Prophet Isa alayhi Wasallam suggests the dire repercussions if we don’t heed the warnings. Muslim women when they cover are not responsible for men if they can’t control their desires and why Allah swt tells us in the Qur’an we should lower our gaze. The Prophet’s (peace be upon them all) came with stern warnings and we as believers need to heed those warnings. I also would like to be in the state of a belief Insha’Allah on the day of my death on earth

    You may have been under the illusion nobody was treating you different without your hijab but you must ask yourself how happy Shaitan was and whispered in your heart, “now doesn’t this make you feel like a free and sexy woman?”

    There is a news story from the U.S. I heard; please forgive me I forget the state but it was about a Muslim woman who was walking by herself. Two men on the street saw her and started following her planning on raping her to make an example how they dislike Muslim woman. This woman felt these men behind her and began reciting to herself Al-Kursi. The two men backed off and the same night raped a Non Muslim woman. When the police caught the two men they confessed to the rape and when asked why this woman they told the story of the Muslim woman they were following first but suddenly two large men in pure white appeared on each side of her so they backed away. When this news story was in the paper the Muslim woman came forth and told her story of remembering these two men and told the journalist she began reciting Al-Kursi when she noticed the two men backed away from her. She didn’t know two men in white appeared on each side of her.

    Take comfort in wearing your hijab and remember Allah swt always. I realized the Beauty of a Muslim woman is felt more then seen. Be proud and humble to be Muslim and show the world a woman in hijab is to be respected. We are intelligent human beings who are more then a hijab but hijab is large part of our identity so we can be recognized as an individual and not just like everyone else.

    Insha’Allah you just needed to experiment but if you keep having doubts or wonders of feeling like you feel more like woman without hijab, believe me you become just another face in the crowd and it is then you will actually loose your identity and risk being put on the market for every tom, dick and harry to think they can approach you.

      1. Asalamu aleikum warahmatullahi wabarakahu, I would greatly appreciate if you could point me as to what i should be reading about a more up to date view. If I have offended Muslim women about wearing hijab, please forgive me. This is my experience and my opinion from coming from the wrong side of the tracks, growing up with little morals regarding religion in the society I live and not having faith and moral obligations of religion placed in my life which ultimately led me to a very sinful existence that I now live to regret daily and will ask for forgiveness for until the day of my death even though Allah swt forgives me, my memory of transgressions will never be wiped clear from my memory. In my opinion, hijab is more then culture or religion. I also wear hijab in hopes when people see me expressing religion and my belief, fear and respect for Allah swt will remind then at that moment instead of judging me or wondering about me or if a man should approach me they instead will be inspired to say a prayer at that very moment in time, whether they are Jew, Christian or Muslim as they don’t know if the next step they take could be their last and one last prayer at any moment can be a lifesaver. I also wear in hopes people without religion or have left their religion because of lack of faith will inspire them to go back and rethink their decision. As a person walking around like an everyday person what message can I send unless I hold up a big sign that says ‘Repent’. Isn’t the life of religion all about repentance and inspiration of faith? Isn’t it our job to remind people to keep the faith even if it is as simple has wearing a hijab? Ultimately faith and belief is the choice of every individual, “unto you your religion and unto me my religion” So please if you could point me to what I should read you are referring to this would make much easier for me to understand your comment. And if I have offended in any way, please accept my apology, I don’t mean to offend, just share my experience and meaning of life from one sister to another