December 12, 2010

Niqaab: my personal dilemma

A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. I've thought alot recently about wearing the niqaab, the reasonings for and against it, etc. I'll be honest, I've always felt very strongly drawn towards it. Maybe because of my early pre-teen warping from reading trashy romance novels where the ladies in the harem were always covered in diphaneous wisps of face veils. :-D However, I'd like to believe it's a bit deeper than that. lol

From the time I first became Muslim I have thought about wearing niqaab. I've grown leaps and bounds in my modesty and haya since I converted almost 5 yrs ago. *Not that I was necessarily WRONG in what I wore in the beginning* but I do personally feel if a sister is drawn towards the niqaab she should be exceedingly modest in her manner of dress as well as her actions.

When I was a new Muslim alhamdulillah I had such a piece-meal, mixed up wardrobe. Wallah I laugh when I see my early pictures from India. Subhanallah!!!! Pleasssse my sisters, picture this (mentally cause I don't have these photos on this laptop):  newbie-issue al-amira pull over hijab COMPLETE with lace edging, long green poly-silk kameeze gifted from friend, long peasant-style denim skirt from Wal-Mart (super cute, still have it just a little too snug at the mo'), and dark grey/neon green New Balance shoes.

Oh my aching sides!!!! I still giggle when I see those pics. Oh wait, the coup-de-etat (sp?): I tossed a niqaab on top of that hot mess. Yes my sisters I did. You see, at least where and when I was in India (Mumbai/Maharashtra/Nagpur area, 2006) Muslims sisters ONLY went  out of the house in full on, black head-to-toe, abaya/hijab/niqaab ensemble. I kid you not. WITH full clothing on underneath. Ya Rabb, I am sweating just thinkin' about it!!!!! So imagine how I stood out! Warning, another side-splitting description coming up:

White skin, green eyes, southern US accent even in my "a'salaamu alaikum", chubby, dressed to kill (with laughter!), and a smile bigger than Texas permanently on my face. Ya'll, I had just married and was having the adventure of a lifetime. My fashion woes would NOT hold me back. Anyway so all this together *kinda* stand out from the average niqaabi sister floating around oh-so-gracefully. I wore the niqaab to fit in and to please my new husband while in his home country. I do, in my rather weak defense, have to go ahead and say I quickly had more appropriate clothing made and eventually made some of my forays in a lovely black abaya I still own, and my first ever purchased.

OK sorry I got sidetracked. Then when I was in UAE I wore a form of niqaab called a ghashwa (please see post topics on the sidebar for a pic of me decked out in that). By that time (last year) I was very modest in my dress (and alhamdulillah matching!!! lol) and felt it was a much better fit for me.

So where is my problem? Well turns out I got lots of them! I'll just list them for you.

1. My non-Muslim family. Already how I dress makes them uncomfortable sometimes. I am afraid if I wear niqaab it will totally alienate them, especially when I would tell them that it isn't required. Hmmm. I don't want the few times I am able to spend with them to be awkward for them or me.

2. Dawah issues. In the West women in niqaab are somewhat feared I think. Right now I have the opportunity to speak with people, give a smile, make some type of interaction with them which I think isn't as possible with the niqaab. I might be wrong.

3. Perserverance. I am afraid I might start it and then find it too difficult and give it up. I don't like to fail and I don't like to start a thing and not be able to finish it. Except for craft projects, noooo problem with that!

4. Loss of identity. I am not positive I would feel this way but I guess when I think of this, it's mostly in mind that when I am out with Aaminah and she can't see my emotions on my face; my happiness or pride in her.

OK so that pretty much sums up my "Things that make you go 'hmmmm'" list. :-) So why WOULD I want to wear it? Where is the dilemma?

I want to please Allah. I want to have more good deeds than bad on yawma-qiyamat. I want to do more to improve myself, make me feel closer to Allah. I know, it would be better for my soul to pray all my sunnah and nafil prayers or became a hafiza. I can't do those things. I get side-tracked or the kids are crazy or dinner needs cooked. Sometimes I'm just downright lazy. :-(  I feel wearing the niqaab, like wearing the hijaab, is an easy way to please Allah. It's as simple as that.

How many of you have flirted with the idea of niqaab? Who used to wear it but removed it and why? Pros, cons, questions of your own... please post them all. :-)


Angelle said...

My Muslim friends always say that their hijab (by extension niqaab) is their own choice, since it is an expression of their personal faith. Their husbands are supportive either way. I imagine your husband would be the same. (I'm not Muslim, and please know I say this with the utmost respect.)

I think your non-Muslim family members love you for yourself. Whatever your style of clothes, they will know that you are you. With some, there will be a period of transition, but that is always the way with them.

Just my 2 cents.

Safyiah said...

salamo aleikom wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

sis, alhamdulilah you brought it up in your blog. i'm wearing niqaab since my 18 years old, few days before i got married. i'm wearing it for more than a year now, alhamdulilah. i want to say my opinion according to the points you had made inshaAllah.

1. Alhamdulilah, you have a husband that is of the opinion that niqaab is mustahhab. Although, there's a lot of husbands that end up divorcing their wives because they simply don't recognise niqaab as something from Islam or something good at all, astaghfirullah. anyway, my husband is of the opinion that niqaab is fard (yes, there's this opinion as well, if you didn't know about it before) and i came to the same conclusion after studying extensively before wearing niqaab, alhamdulilah. (BUT, someone being of the opinion that it's fard is not necessarily saying other sisters who don't wear it are sinning, they are following a valid opinion just as mine). Another thing is: i would definitely wear it no matter what my husband would say. Obedience to Allah comes first.

2. Well, my non-Muslim family didn't even get shocked, except my grandmas (they get shocked with everything since i became a Muslim anyway). My mom knew already that i wanted to wear niqaab and then i came to Egypt and saw the opportunity, alhamdulilah, but if i go out of Egypt, to my country (Portugal), i still won't take it off inshaAllah.

3. subhanAllah, that's one of the opinions i find interesting really... i never had an issue in giving da'wah, nor through internet, phone or while outside. Normally niqaabi sisters here in Egypt give da'wah by actions, give lectures in the masjids, do group works, etc. They are much more respected for what i see as well. but no, no problem for me in the da'wah field alhamdulilah. i do use to read a lot of books and fatwas though.

4. Believe me, i had the same issue before wearing niqaab "will i be able to keep it on?". and the answer is: it's difficult at the beginning, it was difficult for me for 2 weeks or something but alhamdulilah, with the help of Allah i could make it through and i could master my skills of eating outside my house. lol. one thing i noticed though is that here in Egypt, people would stare at me when i was wearing hijab because i was a foreign. I mean, it would be ok if it was only the ladies, but it was the guys as well, both Muslims and Christians...

5. Loss of identity... Well, you do have your ID or a passport, there's not loss of identity there, lol. But no, after you start wearing niqaab, you'll still be you. No problem with children, believe me. Even if they don't understand at first, they'll get used to it. I see many women here starting to wear niqaab and the kids get confused at first. But some of them go to a corner or a private place and show to their kids it's their mom and they start getting used to it. And pride is not shown only by your face expressions, your eyes count a lot and your speech (you'll notice that your speech will be very important to you if you wear niqaab, because it will express what you mean, most of the time).

inshaAllah, I hope I helped in that. Sorry for the long comment though.

jazakAllah Khair

أم ترافيس said...

salam sis,

I wouldnt worry about the reason *not* to wear it, because if Allah wills it he will make it easy for you.

My family also do not like it - but then they have never liked anything I do. Wearing the niqab isnt what keeps them away from me - they were always like that in a way. Similarly, about dawaa... just being a good Muslim is dawaa enough, and ignorant ppl will be ignorant regardless... perhaps it will be more of an exam for you, but inshaa Allah the reward will be bigger too.

Anyhow my point is, none of these reasons are reasons to not wear it. You should really just expand and ponder the reasons TO wear it, and see if you agree with those enough to do it. Thats all Im saying ;)

Love u in Allah sis, and I for one hope you do!

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

For me, since I believe niqab is mustahaab (or in the very least) a sunnah, not fard, I wear it when it most beneficial for me. When I am tempted to show off that I am foreign in Oman, or when people might think I am beautiful more than others, or when I want to insire myself to be more like the women of the Sahaba. I beleive it is okay to put it on, and take it off, for situations, unlike khimar and jilbab. So I say, wear it when there will be reward for it for you, when you do it purely for Allah's sake, and that is the reward in it, whether you take it off later or no. Allahu alim. And Allah protect you when you wear it. He has always protected me when I wore hijab (niqab also) only for His Most Merciful sake.

I agree with Angelle about your husband's opinions on niqab when you wear it if you decide to, and your family. Some members will love you anyways, and those who struggle with it, you can make it easier on them, by making sure you are super modest without niqab after.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

And if you want to wear it always for Allah's sake with a clean heart, then, do so. He will make it possible for you, no matter what stands in your way, for then it was His will for you to do so;)

Latife said...

my mazhab Hanafi we are not closing face and arms. niqab is not question. its depend of yor mazhab, not from you i think...

Rene´s Bare Essentials said...

Salaam Alaikum Sister,

Alhamdulillah I am also a convert and have struggled with niqab as well. I am now living in spain and in my area it has be banned so at the moment I am not wearing it but do miss it...
Alhamdulillah your husband is an educated muslim. I just wanted to clarify that niqab not being fard is his interpretation. Many well known scholars would say otherwise and say that niqab is fard or at the very least highly encouraged. It is part of the sunnah so we cant dismiss it =) So it might be better for him to say in his opinion niqab is not fard so that we dont mislead sisters who are trying to figure out if niqab is fard or if they should wear it =)

Lets start with some of the issues at hand... Family... This for me is the hardest. Even born muslims have this problem when they decide to wear niqab. Sadly a lot of our muslim families are against niqab even though it is part of the sunnah and instead of encouraging their daughters to wear it they talk them out of it =/
I dont really have any advice in that area. The best thing to do is educate them about islam and perhaps stay away from family gatherings were non-mahram men will be present so that you dont have to wear niqab. Or, have them over your house and have the men in one room and the women in another room so you dont have to wear it.
As for your husband, gently remind him that our role models, our prophets wives all wore niqab as did the women in that time. It is part of the sunnah and explain to him how it helps you feel closer to Allah. When we do something to please Allah inshaAllah he makes it easy for us. Make lots of dua that your husband will embrace niqab and support your decision. His support will make you the best muslima you can be inshaAllah, without his support it can be challenging.

When it comes to dawah, I feel wearing niqab is the best way tomake dawah. You clear up misconceptions women have about islam by showing them that niqabies are sweet, educated, friendly and so on. If you feel uncomfortable making dawah with it on, invite them to your house and you can take it off =) I have made lots of dawah with my niqab on and youd be surprised at how shocked women were that i speak english and am educated lol.

I know its easy to say you dont want to try something because you might give it up or find it too difficult. That is shaitan talking! This is why its important our husbands support our decision so that they can encourage us to wear it when times get tough. (btw feel free to email me and we can chat and ill help you the best i can when times get rough =)

As for loss of identity... well, just remember, you are only wearing it around non-mahrams... Many of my friends who have children have no problem with their moms wearing niqab. They actually lecture the women who dont wear it and tell them they should lol.

Anyway, best of luck to you and inshaAllah you will find the strength to wear it. May Allah (swt) make it easy for you.

Muslim Convert said...

Salam Alaikum

I know a woman who wears niqab and even though she's covering her face, her personality and expressions still shine through. She is still able to be who she is with niqab. I think it's a really big decission to make, one that you will get resistance from both non Muslims as well as Muslims. For me it's one of those things where I would work on my inner Islam before my outer Islam, I'm just speaking about myself here, Muslims come in all ways of dress from the very modest to the fashionably modest, to the not so modest.

Umm Aaminah said...

Salaam my sisters and a big ole southern-style "jazaki allahu khair!" for your comments.

One of the things I love about my sisters, both online and IRL, is that we can have differences of opinion and be respectful. :-) I really appreciate all of the varying viewpoints and ya'll have given me alot to think about.

I would like to state that I agree wholeheartedly with MuslimConvert who says we should always be working on our INNER Islam. This is the best type of improvement to make and insha'Allah we all strive for this. Amin.

Oh and did I mention I love open dialogue with my sistahs? This includes you Angelle. :-) Ma salaama!

Um Zakarya said...

Assalamu Aleykum,

Im of the opinion that Niqab is fardh, especiallyin those times of Fitna.

I think if your husband is supportive and does not forbid you to wear it, then go for it sister INSHALLAH.I myself would love to wear it, but it has been banned in France.I think dressing more modestly with the intention of pleasing ALLAH SWT can only be positive INSHALLAH.

And don't worry too much about your non muslim family, they love you for who you are, and when you are in seclusion with close family you can remove it anyway!

May ALLAH SWT make it easy for you and all our muslimah sisters.Ameen!

Mona Z said...

I've never worn niquab so I can't comment on that but I think you should do what you feel is right for you. Make istikhara and leave it to Allah. If you do wear it and one day decide not to, it's still not fard so it's not the end of the world but it might be worth a try to see how you like it.

Life's Balance Beam said...

Salamualaikum sis! new reader here, and i just wanted to chime in a bit :)

I used to wear the niqab, from 15 - 17 years old by choice and i loved every bit of it! it wasn't until i started working that it got hard, and i took it off due to that, and my iman and letting shaytaan get the best of me with it. I was off and on with it from 17 until i was about 19. i moved over to egypt and when i put it on there... subanaallah it was like something in my changed drastically. i wore it for the sake of Allah only, to be closer to him, and thats exactly what i got! Alhumdulilah.

my prayers were fulfilling and i felt light hearted and happy, and the more i learned the better i felt.

i eventually did take it off how ever, due to personal reasons and i DO plan to put it on again inshaallah, and NEVER take it off again! (inshaallah ameen!)

what i'm saying is, everyone has struggles with the niqab (those who wear it or used to or want to) but it's a part of faith. for iman to go up and down i mean. it's a beautiful thing, and inshaallah Allah will make ur decision easy, and if you do decide to wear it he will always protect you and make it easy for you inshaallah! (ameen!)

Love of Islam said...

Assalamu alaikum wa ramatuAllahi,

I don't want to comment too much, as I've never had a desire to wear niqab; therefore I don't want to sound hypocritical by going on about it. However, I do admire the sisters that truly wear hijab within their hearts first, and then outwardly. I didn't always feel that way, but alhamdulillah I have come far since my shahada 12 years ago.

I feel the same as you, in that I do not believe niqab to be fard, but rather a sunnah, alhamdulillah. I have read the opinions and reasoning for both sides, alhamdulillah. The hadith of the Prophet, sAaws, telling us to cover all but our hands and face is not only a sound hadith, but rather it is STRONG. In addition to that, the wives of the Prophet, rAa, wore niqab, so it is obviously a very admirable thing.

In regards to your family, knowing them, I agree with you, some will be turned off. Does it mean they won't love you? No, but they won't be comfortable with you. However, I don't think that should be the deciding factor for you.

Funny enough, someone just asked me the other day what I would do if my husband asked me to wear niqab. My husband mentioned in passing that he may want me to wear hijab when I visit him in Jamaica, but he never asked me to when I got there...this was because of course I was stared at "intently" everywhere I went because 1. I am a muhajibat 2. I am white. 3. I am part of a bi-racial couple (not too common there). Anyway, as I told her, I would certainly wear it if my husband asked me to. In Jamaica I wouldn't mind too much, in USA, I would be uncomfortable, but I would do it to please him. But I also don't need to worry about that, bec my husband is not the type to force me to do something I'm not comfortable with if it's not fard. Especially since he is happy with my level of modesty.

In the end, I think the best thing for you to do is pray istikhara, and ask Allah for guidance, and then go wholeheartedly from there, inshaAllah.

DD said...

i love the niqaab and i have been toying with idea of wearing it for a long time but the thing is that i can't because i'm always going here and there by myself at all hours for work and shizzle and it'd just look weird. it would be impractical for me now which is gay but i REALLY wanna wear it. i would definitely wear it if i were a housewife with children or if i at least had some family or something but i'm all lonely like so i'd just look all weird and stuff

Umm Aaminah said...

Um Z, thanks for your support. Insha'Allah the situation in France improves. Oh btw, since meeting you, I can now say I like more things from France then just french fries. :-))

Mona that's a good idea and you're right, I should do what I feel is right.

Hey Love o' Islam, bout time you showed back up on my blog! ;-) And thanks for the good advice.

DD, you are funny. lol I think a big part of wearing niqaab in the West is feeling comfortable. If you don't then it would be an awkward situation. You could try what OPNO does (see comment above) and try it out a few times. I have several that came with different khimars I bought. Just trying to get up my nerver. :-)

Anonymous said...

Salam Alaikum Umm Aaminah..

I don't wear niqab.
I believe that niqab is something cultural, not sunnah or fard.
(and yes, there is a valid opinion about that as well).

I just want to tell you, I love you for Allah.
I only read some of your posts, but I'm in love with you already.

so, i'm sending my sisterly hugs and kisses, and inshaAllah I will visit again.


Jamilah said...

I'll chime in with my 2 cents too. I am one that follows that niqab is fard, but like another commenter said, I would never say someone was sinning for not wearing it. Although your husband is very educated you should always do your own research to find the answers you seek.

If you are interested in a book that might help you decide, try: 4 Essays on the Obligation of Veiling

Anonymous said...

As Salaamu Alaikum I too had issues at first wearing niqaab I tried off and on for about 7mths but Alhamdulillah as I read more into and Understood that I was pleasing my lord another thing also that made me change my mind was that the fact the mother of the believers covered there faces it inspired me even more. I had no opppositon from my family at all 1. with me becoming muslim, covering or finally covering my face they acted as if I had always done it, Alhamdullilah now I feel naked if I even try to go outside with out it, also im married now so I also think about my hubby and I dont want strange men staring at what Allah has blessed him with. And yes I do feel it is Fard after reading the Three essays on vieling but it is a decision that you have to make for yourself at the same you are not sinning either if you do not wear it.

May Allah guide you on this matter. ameen
I know im so late posting as i just discovered your blog Which by the way is wonderful and I love you fisbillah