Monday, July 13, 2009


As cornily stereotypical as the title of this post sounds, that's exactly what it's about. I went to a segregated Egyptian wedding last night, and thus this post is born.

For those of you who know Arab women, you know that they like to go all out for weddings. By "all out," I mean wearing relatively revealing and fancy/sparkly dresses, coiffured hair, make-up, crippling heels; the whole shebang. And I completely get it - most of these women are in hijab every day of their lives, so the opportunity to dress-to-kill is snatched up in a heartbeat.

I'm personally not a big fan of the overwhelming sparkliness & fanciness of Arab weddings, but I will admit that Arab women definitely know how to party it up. I'll leave the rest to your imagination, so I don't expose too many of our secrets.

So I was in this room, and I looked around and realized that there was an astounding amount of beautiful women all around me. I turned to a friend of mine and said "wow, the world is seriously missing out on all this beauty." I first said it in a humourous tone, but that statement really made me think about what it meant to purposely cover one's natural assets.

I've been a hijabi since I was 11 or 12, so I've become very accustomed to not being gawked at for my looks (not that I'm saying I would be gawked at, or that I'm especially good-looking...moving on...) I've become used to the idea that I'm the proverbial wall-flower in the realm of all-things-beauty. Whether I like it or not, I'm on the sidelines of fashion (regardless of how fashionable I might be - which I'm not at all).

What I'm trying to say is that it dawned on me just how much hijabi women give up of this material world for Islam. Sometimes we forget how much we give up just because we're so used to the idea of being covered. We give up being at the centre of attention, we're relegated to the "religiously observant" category of people who are sometimes silently scoffed at. I don't think we're generally considered beautiful.

But regardless of how good it might feel to be physically appealing, I'm so happy that I'm able to remove myself from that. It's really priceless how I can get ready in literally 5 minutes in the morning and still look put-together, even if I'm having a bad hair day. It's good to not have to worry about make-up running and smudging. It's good to not be concerned that my feet will kill after a day in heels. In short - it's good.

Of course there are definitely more fashion-forward hijabis out there who need to match their hijab pins with their shoes and purses and cell phone cases. But even those super stylish hijabis give up so much to be closer to Allah.

And this point is paramount when you see how physically beautiful these women are, but still willing to cover their beauty for God. Only then do you realize how much inner beauty they have, too.


Elizabeth said... a non-Muslim understand. Why does Allah ask you to hide your beauty?

sara said...

I have this epiphany last summer at someone's wedding (who I shouldn't mention here). But yeah, wholeheartedly agree on the immense beauty unveiled.

It's really amazing. I'm glad the wedding good.

Asmaa said...

Elizabeth, I do not claim to be an authority in Islam, so please keep in mind that my answer is coming from a very personal perspective :)

Firstly, when Allah asks me to do something, I do it trusting that He (as the All-Knowing, All-Wise, Omniscient Creator) knows what's best for me. And He deserves my compliance. If I did not believe 100% in Islam as the best way of life, I would not cover myself. But I do believe that, and so hijab is something that comes relatively easy to me.

And Elizabeth, Allah does not ask us to cover our beauty altogether. Rather, He asks us to channel it in appropriate ways & to reveal it only to those who are worthy of viewing it.

By covering myself I realize that to a certain degree, I am ostracizing myself from my local community. However, even if I am looked down upon, isn't that a small price to pay for the pleasure of Someone whose opinion I care for far more than people?

We go out of our way to please our managers & superiors, but for some reason when it comes to pleasing God, suddenly people don't deem that to be a worthwhile cause.

By covering myself, I also detach myself from a lot of worldly things & acknowledge that the hereafter is what I seek, not the temporary enjoyment of this world.

You'll hear people saying things like "hijab is a symbol of such and such." The hijab is not a symbol. It's something that serves a very practical & spiritual function. I can't imagine my life without it. If you want more details, feel free to email me :)

Sara, you concur :D

Anonymous said...

In pre-Islamic Arabia there was a constant inter-tribal warfare which affected women most. Warring tribes raided the settlements and just like any other war, the vulnerable sections were most affected. In such a patriarchal society prophet made a reform. In that sense it was a progressive thought of those times. In the course of time tradition was frozen and people started following it blindly where ever Islam went or in other words it has become opium of the masses to use the phrase of a now forgotten social scientist. If faith is everything then there can be no space for history that claims scientific objectivity in its enquiries. At the face of history, faith becomes false-consciousness. Gone are the days of Leopold Van Ranke, the once great German historian who said if historian could take care of facts then the hand of god will take care of history.

Anonymous said...

y does revealing clothing have to be beautiful? arab women wear such revealing clothing to segregated events, it's not beautiful to copy the west in their idea of beauty to show the body, it's trashy

Asmaa said...

Anon 1, really? You're going to start this Marxian "religion is the opiate of the people" thing on my blog? It's getting old, and I've spent far too many years of university listening to that unenlightened drivel. I'm sorry, but I don't have much tolerance for scholars of atheism who claim to be so much more enlightened in thought than the rest of us "masses."

I don't deny historical facts - but you as a "social science" student should know that everyone approaches facts from a slant. To assume that there is any one objective way to look at history is naive. You clearly have an atheistic slant – which is fine for you if you actually believe what you’ve written. To you, yours; to me, mine. That's all.

Anon 2, you're right - I'm not a big fan of the lengths that some of the women go to reveal their beauty. And you'll notice that I didn't equate "revealing" with "beautiful." Regardless, I’d say the majority of women are usually dressed appropriately, so let's not knock them down :)

Anonymous said...

just my 2 cents...i think hijabis are beautiful regardless of extra clothing ;-)


Cookie said...

Haha! Really liked the post and could relate to it completely.

Rehman said...

Hello i am replying for Elizabeth, dear Elizabeth i am a man ok, i am showing you my personal observation.
when i see a girl there is erection in my body i feel, i do some thing in my mind with that girl, but when i see a girl with hijab or burkha, my felling remain the same, this is the reality, that only leaving some people all men see a women with a specific eye. that for hijab i thing important

Uzma said...

Learn about proper about hijab in community center) which is a non profit orginization.

Asmaa said...

Cookie, excellent.

Rehman, the only reason I'm not going to delete your comment is because it actually makes me laugh out loud. Uhh, thanks for sharing the male perspective; although, I assure you, your personal issues are not the reason I wear hijab.

Sammy said...

Music's said to be haram and if we were to get into the details, some say only that music which is innuendous (which basically means all music today)... So how does that not come into play when you say you're obeying Him blindly?

Asmaa said...

Sammy, can you be more coherent? I don't understand your question. How does music with innuendo being haram affect me following Him "blindly"? And how is that related to my post about hijab...? I'm not being cheeky, I actually don't understand.

Sammy said...

Wow you're not the first one to say that to me. I know it's got nothing to do with hijab but I read your response to Elizabeth's question and I thought I'd use the opportunity to get your opinion on music too.

Asmaa said...

Sammy, now I see :) Like I said before, I'm not an authority on Islam, so my personal opinion doesn't really count for much. I think the music issue has been overdone. To summarize my views: there are various opinions in the matter (some stronger than others). Every individual needs to determine what is right for him or her based on those opinions. Still, I don't think music is really the biggest issue Muslims need to deal with.

Good enough? :D

Sammy said...

I suppose. I've concluded over the last couple of years that people to the west of Arab world are pro-hijab and pro-music and the ones on the east are more anti-music and anti-hijab. Some of us like to say that the hijab issue has been overdone and that hijab is more about being dressed modestly than donning a headscarf. I have yet to form an opinion I'm completely comfortable with. :S

I do agree though, we have to determine some things for ourselves...