Saturday, April 22, 2006


Since we have been in Egypt for one year, I have had many conversations with women and men concerning hijab, and their opinions. I suppose their opinions don't really count; what really counts is what I think and what is the right thing for me to do.

The Quran says: "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 thereof; 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 women. . ." Sura XXIV Aya 31

The aya is vague and referencing how "beauty" and "ornaments" are defined, and by observing women wearing hijab in Egypt, every woman has her own interpretation. Some women believe that full coverage is best -- niqaab, but most believe that hijab is best.

After speaking with many women, and I would say that almost all women in Egypt wear hijab now, they say it is a personal preference. I do not want to be persuaded one way or another -- either to wear hijab or not wear hijab. And this reasoning has left me in limbo. I respect women who decide for themselves whether or not to wear hijab. What I do not agree with is having one person persuade another person to do or not do something (redundant, yes).

An American friend of mine who lives in Alex, moved to Egypt to marry her sweetheart, put on hijab a day after she arrived and has never regretted it since. Actually, I have not heard from any woman who regrets wearing hijab. I hear that women wish they could wear shorts, or short skirts or something like that - but hey, I have only seen one woman in shorts over the past year, and she was British. And her shorts were longer than most skirts in the US - just past the knees (at least as short as skirts were when I was in the US last).

Spouses have a part to play in all of this decision making. While Hassan said it's my decision, he also brings to light the fact that once I put it on it stays on. When a woman wears hijab and then decides to take it off and not wear it anymore, she is asked many questions as to why, what made her decide, etc.

A woman I work with wore hijab before I met her, and no longer wears it. Apparently she was influenced by her father to take off hijab because he told her something to the effect that her wear hijab was preventing her from getting married. I actually didn't hear it from her, but rather second and third-hand so it has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Hassan challenges me each and everytime the topic of conversation arises. He always asks me why. I tell him, it's not because of peer pressure (although at first it was), but because for me personally it holds me more accountable for my actions and my behavior. Then Hassan said it will change me. Well, maybe it will change me, yes, but for the better overall.

I know people will see me differently, but don't they see me differently already? I'm a foreigner in Egypt, not just a foreigner, but an American, who is trying to be a better example of a human being for my family.




Layla said...

Marian :)

It is true about how vague the referencing of how one should cover their beauty. So many Muslim women interpret this in so many different ways. Some wear hijab, some wear khimar, and some wear niquab, thinking that what they think is best for coverage. The truth is that in Islam, we as women should ask ourselves, "What would define as "coverage" for me?" Only then we will have the answer. And in my humble opinion, whatever we choose to wear doesn't mean that the other ways of coverage is wrong. It is what we believe within our hearts.

When I first started wearing hijab full time here, I really felt odd wearing it, being that I only wore it to pray and go to mosque. But after some time, it became a part of me in such a way I cannot describe. And yes, my personality did change after wearing it. I felt that because I am wearing it, I should become a better person. I believe that if one does cover, she should act accordingly. But with that being said, I am still me. I laugh, I joke around, I am pretty much the same person I was in the US, but I know who I am as a covered Muslim woman.

Mo told me before I came here that once I put the hijab on, it stays on. Period. I really gave it a lot of thought about "to hijab or not to hijab" before I came here and decided that it would be best for me to wear it. At first so that I don't stick out (yeah I know it's bad to think that way), but ultimately so I could please God (and not my husband as a lot of people might think). My husband respected me a lot by wearing it, especially my first summer here. He thought I wouldn't handle wearing it under such extreme heat. LOL Truth be told I barely made it and now can handle it a little better.

Marian, people will always see you differently, no matter what you do or what you wear. You can't please everyone. Believe me, I know. I know people see me differently here. A Foreigner/ American/ Muslim who wears hijab. Whatever you decide to do, you know you have my full support :) Just be the wonderful person, wife, mom, and friend that you are :) That is what matters most!!

Love and lots of hugs!!

PS - Will get you that tummy pic tomorrow! :)

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