As salaam alaikum,
You know what I just realized? And if anyone says "No duh," sorry, I never thought of it this way before...
Among Muslims (both men and women), our appearance is so extra-scrutinized in a way that is never done with men. We need to do something about this.
What is to be done? I don't know. The more I think about certain things I don't like about how Muslims around me live Islam, the more I think forming a community of my own and disseminating that example to the outside for other Muslims to take note is the purpose of my life. Seriously. Some things I read by Muslims so disgust me that I almost, almost wish that I weren't Muslim. That I could just call myself a Submitter to God, follow the Qur'an and Sunnah and not associate with some of these people...gosh!
Anyway, I digress...this is not one such topic, but I can get passionate.
What do I mean by extra-scrutinized. It's not just the traditional, "Pious women wear hijab, pious men wear beards." So, men may be called out for not wearing a beard, not having it a certain length, not trimming it a certain way, or not applying henna, I suppose. They may also be called out for maybe the length of their hair and...I don't know, wearing clothing with logos or animals on it to the mosque? Tattoos and piercings are an issue for both genders, I would think. But, for the most part, Muslim men are invisible.
When it comes to women...gah-lee! And I'm not giving credence to the pop-Western "oh my gosh, these women are oppressed" spiel. No. It's not just about whether a woman is donning hijab or not. There are so many degrees of whether she is doing it correctly. Is it tied correctly? Is it covering all it should? Is some of your hair sticking out? Is your scarf too sheer? Should it cover your chin a little? Does it cover your chest, even if your clothing covers your chest? And speaking of clothing, how long are your sleeves? How tight is your shirt? How tight are your pants? Shouldn't you wear a skirt? These clothes need to be less colorful. Your hijab shouldn't have these colors and prints. All of this should be covered by a jilbab. It should be plain, it should be brown, it should be black. It should be unassuming. You shouldn't show your feet. You shouldn't show your feet or hands. You shouldn't show your feet, face and hands because they are all considered attractive, and you should not at all be attractive. You should not show too much around your eyes with your niqab. You should not show your eyes. As a matter of fact, it's better for you to be inside so I don't have to see you at all!
And that's not even touching accessories. Is painting nails sunnah or haram? Your earrings are showing or not? No makeup, no shaping eyebrows. No extensions, weaves or wigs because that is deception.
For non-Muslims who are reading this, no, these are not definitive mandates for how Muslim women should dress. These are just things that I've heard upon coming into Islam. This is what some Muslims encourage and believe, yes. So much energy, over and over, is put into regulating how a woman dresses. I think this is un-Islamic.
Yes, I said it. It is un-Islamic. What authority do I have to say this? No more than any other practicing Muslim that calls out someone as committing haram precipitously does, which happens a lot, so yes, I'm adding to the pool.
Why? Well, what at first seemed like a hadith that could only lead to dysfunctional gender relations comes into play with this issue. "The first look is for you, the second look is against you." But now, I can see some wisdom in that!
If you are worrying too much about what a particular sister is wearing, you are way past your first look. That is now on you and not on the sister who is not dressed to your liking...which you shouldn't have a liking, because to develop a liking, you have to look a lot!
There! This argument was inspired by a facebook meme, hehe.
The thing is, of course, the solution is not as easy as this. This is not a case of misogyny. Muslim men and women are partners in scrutinizing what a Muslim woman wears. I know, in the spirit of sisterhood, we should keep each other on the moderate path, right? Right?
Yes! But I feel like there's a thin line between advising and self-righteous scolding.
Not much I can say. That will come as it comes, though most of the sisters in my community are good about not making the hijab vs. no hijab criticism.
But, you know what...people are always setting out to deconstruct stereotypes about Muslims, and that's awesome. But I feel like we have an internal thwarting mechanism going on. What is that mechanism? Other Muslims!
People, in defense of Islam, try to say that Islam is a tolerant and open religion, and I belong to a group of women on facebook in which certain members proclaim, "No, Islam is not open, it's exclusive. Only certain people can be Muslims." Dismay face.
We try to defend Islam as a peaceful religion, and then random Muslims somewhere commit acts of terrorism that we condemn, but of course the people who say Muslims aren't condemning these things do not read Muslim media sources and if they did, they'd spam all articles with Islamophobic garbage. But the fact is, there are Muslims all over the globe doing horrible things in the name of Islam as we attempt to defend our religion.
And as we continue to act as apologists and laud the position of Islam in the scheme of women's rights...Muslim men and women, every day, in so many different contexts, relegate women. Oppress women. Injure, maim and kill women, restrict women.
Damn it! Seriously?
And this is one of those things that is not as extreme. The way we scrutinize the way we, Muslim women, dress. Personal stories of one's own journey to and/or from hijab aside, we purport that Islam is great for women...and yet we give women a hard time at too many levels of her self-realization.
Yet, in all of these examples, there is nothing wrong with Islam. One would say, how could there be nothing wrong with a religion that causes people to act this way? Who said the religion causes people to act this way? I think the manifestation of the violence and misogyny that we see in the "Muslim" world more reflects tribal conflicts and cultural tendencies towards certain types of violence, misogyny and immorality. The fact that we see such things as honor killings, child marriage, and female infanticide across religious boundaries in these regions of the world point that out clearly.
There is nothing wrong with Islam, but there is a lot wrong with Muslims. So much, it's not even just on the human level, it's disgusting. And relegating Musilm women is not even the thing that disgusts me...
It just reminds me...
Muslims, we have to do better.
We can't simply say, "Oh, they're not really Muslims." As true as that may be, they may still pray five times a day like us, frequent the masjid like we may or may not, fast Ramadan like we do, aspire to or have already made Hajj, give zakat...and they've done these horrible things that have us branded on the butt like cattle on the evening news, like, "Oh, look what this backwards-assed group of people did this time."
And some people are like, whatever, I don't have to defend myself against unbelievers. I'm not even going to use the k word, because I hate it! And true as that may be, we live in a society of people of the book, our monotheistic brothers and sisters, and yes, unbelievers, and the safety and livelihood of our Muslim brothers and sisters on this planet right now, yes, depends on our self-defense. And simpler than that, our religion deserves defense from people from all angles who smear it, not only non-Muslims, but Muslims as well.
Don't sit idly by, content that your life is good and the next life is better than this!
For the sake of our religion, for the sake of fellow striving brothers and sisters, many of whom struggle in isolation and are "educated" by media portrayals of us, yes, be apologists! Yes, speak out against the injustices and violence committed by Muslims! Yes!
Spend your time and energy doing that, as much as it may pain you to see that sister with her hijab tied just so a third of her highlighted hair is showing, or the sister with the earrings on the outside of her scarf, or the sister with the colorful hijab in the masjid...
Can you say, bigger fish to fry?