Gulf | Bahrain

Non-veiled but devout women defend choice

Women who choose to dress in Western style say it does not compromise their commitment to religion

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 15:12 August 2, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Habib Toumi/Gulf News
  • Mariam (left) with her two cousins, Manal and Anissa.

Manama: “I will be at the Qiyam prayers,” Rasha said, referring to the midnight group prayers Muslims hold during the last ten days of Ramadan, the month of fasting.

Ahmad could not believe his ears. He had not expected her answer and felt utterly confused, unable to respond.

The thought that Rasha, the free-spirited unveiled young woman who always wore knee-length skirts, was a devout and practising Muslim who performed not only Taraweeh, the evening prayers in Ramadan, but also the Qiyam prayers, the ultimate indication of prayer devotion.

He had known Rasha for months, a colleague at their company in the capital Manama. She had impressed him and most of the staff with her positive professional and ethical attitudes, and he particularly liked the fact that she was friendly with all, invariably ready with a smile to assist and consistently willing with good faith to listen and talk.

When their director invited them to the ghabga, the late dinner reception hosted by their company, in mid-Ramadan, he thought he could spend some time with Rasha outside the confines of the office. He had drawn up plans in his head to sit next to her and looked eagerly forward to a highly enjoyable evening with her.

But now, with the information that she would not be there and that she would be instead at a mosque, his plans were irrevocably shattered.

“Most of the women wearing the hijab (veil) said that they would be at the ghabga, and Rasha, who does not wear it, would be at the mosque. I do not get it,” he murmured to himself as he later recalled the conversation with his colleague. “Is there something I cannot understand here? The contrast is far too puzzling for me.”

For Ahmad, a practising Muslim himself, the paradox was beyond his comprehension. Raised in a conservative family, he had always seen the world from the traditional perspective and often failed to connect with the perimeters now overwhelming modern society.

“I have often been in situations where people think that, because of my looks and open attitudes, I am not religiously committed,” Rasha said.

“Unfortunately, there is a strong belief that you are religious only if you wear certain clothes in a certain way. The opposite is also true. Some people believe that showing off lots of flesh is a sign of civilization and freedom and that wearing modest clothes is an expression of underdevelopment.”

She added that she kept the same wardrobe whether she was in Bahrain or in Europe where she often travelled with her family.

“I am truly bothered by the sight of Gulf women who wear ultra-conservative clothes at home, but promptly throw them away when they are in Europe or the US. I do understand that culture and geography are critical factors in the way people dress, but I like consistency. It all comes down to why you are wearing what you are wearing and whether religion or social norms guide you,” she said.

Several non-veiled women in the Gulf tend to wear the abaya — the traditional black coverall — when they go out or go to work during Ramadan, but remove it when the sacred month is over.

Mariam, a young Tunisian woman, said that she was fortunate that the focus on women’s clothes in her home country was not as sharp.

“I wear the hijab and I have cousins who do not. Yet, we go together to the beach and we swim without attracting the attention of anyone. There is no defiance from any of us and at the same time, no one tells me that it is wrong to go for a swim and no one tells my cousins that they must wear the hijab. There is room for everyone at the beach. We do appreciate this high level of tolerance that we hope to keep despite the dramatic developments unfolding in our country,” said the business graduate.

Comments (24)

  1. Added 16:48 August 3, 2013

    The person who says it is not a order of Allah, you are unaware of Islam and for sure don't understand it. "And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their khumur over their juyub and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers,[...]" (Quran 24:31) Go read up on Islam, before talking about it.

    Moak khan, Ajman, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 15:54 August 3, 2013

    I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about hijab. I read in some comments that it is an order from Allah, but the reality is that it is not an order to wear hijab. As far as I know, there is no order like that anywhere in the Holy Quran. Yes we are ordered to wear modestly, and this modesty in clothes can be fulfilled without hijab.

    Salim, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 15:43 August 3, 2013

    We know Life is pleasant but Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome for Women and Men..

    Mujahid, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 15:41 August 3, 2013

    I request the author who has written this article to think about the pros and cons and highlight the same. This article shows young muslim practising a version of islam mixed with the western culture. This shows being muslims we don't value our culture and think this is not the best for us and for our women. We as individuals do have liberty to practice our desires which can go to any extent like indecency, nudity, free sex, getting intoxicated with drinks..etc. These are the things which Islam forbids and cleans us and purifies us so that we are elevated spiritually and close to Allah the Almighty. Truly Islam is a sacred religion and by mixing other cultures and practices which are contrary to Islam, just to fulfil our desires would in no way benefit us instead we would be fooling ourselves into thinking that this is best for us and which is not.

    Syed Kazim, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 15:16 August 3, 2013

    @ people who say it's personal choice. let me inform you that it's NOT A PERSONAL CHOICE AT ALL. all who believe this are breaking one of the rules in Islamic law. How you follow rules and regulations of a country, city, government office and so on... similarly you should follow Islamic rules rather than saying it's your personal choice. you can have personal choice in this world but in the world hereafter you will definitely not have!! On top of that, I see people like you who say that they are fasting but they are actually wearing clothes that completely reveal their body parts. SERIOUSLY YOU ARE FASTING??

    Mohammed Hussain, Abudhabi, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 15:07 August 3, 2013

    [Noor 24:31] And command the Muslim women to keep their gaze low and to protect their chastity, and not to reveal their adornment except what is apparent, and to keep the cover wrapped over their bosoms; and not to reveal their adornment except to their own husbands or fathers or husband's father, or their sons or their husband's sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or women of their religion, or the bondwomen they possess, or male servants provided they do not have manliness, or such children who do not know of women's nakedness, and not to stamp their feet on the ground in order that their hidden adornment be known; and O Muslims, all of you turn in repentance together towards Allah, in the hope of attaining success. (It is incumbent upon women to cover themselves properly.) Hadith: Abu Dawud narrated that 'A'ishah said: Asma came to see the Messenger of Allah (saws). She was wearing a thin dress; the Prophet (saws) turned away from her and said to her: O Asma, once a woman reaches the age of puberty no part of her body should be uncovered except her face and hands.

    Safnad, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 14:23 August 3, 2013

    Dear Publisher, please do consult with the people who have knowledge before you print and propagate these type of issues related to Islamic affairs. Thanks, by the way this is article is not correct. you should refine it and reprint it so that people will know the truth.

    Syed Ahmed Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 14:01 August 3, 2013

    Personally I find it so confusing when I hear muslim women acting like this. I have to admit as a revert in islam, in the beginning it was also hard for me to wear hijaab cause I couldn't find a good rolemodel or anybody to talk too how important it is, but lately that I see that it is an order from Allah I start wearing hijaab and alhamdulillah I feel free in it instead of wearing western clothing like I used to do.

    Sister, Leiden, Netherlands

  9. Added 13:57 August 3, 2013

    gulf news should be very careful when publishing such meaningless articles about Islam; religion, its not a social media where you publish one's opinion on religions or one's like or dislikes, if you are disagreeing or disobeying any single order of Almighty actually you are denying Islam rather you are following your own altered faith or religion of no name. and that should not be imposed on any one as an example or role model. Islam is Complete Religion no room for innovations. when publishing such articles you are actually denying Quran, its teachings that too during Holy month of Ramadan. Be Careful in your Deed and actions.

    Dr. Abdul Nasir, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 13:55 August 3, 2013

    Islam cannot be judge/practice by any personal opinion. That's her personal view and it against the Quran. Quran Says: O prophet! tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested: and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. [ 36 - 59]

    Abdul, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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