Monday, 31 December 2012

Eye Veils and Gloves? Or Fitnah?

Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem
Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmathullah wa barakatuhu

It seems strange that there should be so much heated discussion amongst muntaqabāt as to whether it is fardh, mustahabb or totally unnecessary to cover one's eyes and hands in public or in the presence of na-mahram.  
For me, this answer is simple; whenever possible 'in public' I do cover my eyes and hands for two reasons:

Firstly, I do this as I feel it pleases Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)
Secondly, because I feel that leaving eyes and hands exposed is contrary to the idea that all of a woman is awrah.  This point is confirmed by many daleels, the two most evident being:

Tirmidhi with a Sahih chain reports... "Rasulullah (Sallallaahu “layhi Wasallam) said “All of a woman is “awrah.”
(Shaikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid quotes this hadith narrated by Tirmidhi with a sahih isnaad and says this is a direct hadith from Rasulullah (Sallallaahu “layhi Wasallam ) and has made it clear that a woman must cover everything including the face and hands!)

Shaikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid Quotes All of the woman is awrah based on the hadith of "Rasulullah (Sallallaahu “layhi Wasallam) said “All of a woman is “awrah.”
(Narrated by Tirmidhi with a sahih isnaad). (This is the correct view according to the madhhab of the Hanbalis, one of the two views of the Maalikis and one of the two views of the Shaafa”is. )

But even if I leave aside such daleels, as an ordinary muslimah I have to ask myself if leaving exposed such potent parts of a woman’s body as her eyes and hands can possibly be correct.  If we feel we must cover our faces, is it not strange that we should leave the most attractive parts of our faces -  our eyes  -  exposed? 

There is an old proverb that says “The eyes are the windows to the soul”, and a glance at them, especially when framed between niqaab and head veil, can show the mood of the muslimah wearing niqaab. Eyes reveal laughter or sorrow without showing the rest of the face, and sadly they can and are used for seduction and causing fitnah. So it must be simple logic that they should be concealed in front of na-mahram if possible.

Also are not the hands always being used to convey messages? Anyone who lives in the Middle East will know that no conversation is carried on without a lot of hand movements to reinforce the speakers points. Watch an Indian dancer and you can see how hands can be used as tools of seduction. In addition our hands say a lot about us and can undermine our anonymity and even hint at our beauty - a young woman’s hands are normally smooth while her mother’s will show her age.

So to me it seems logical that in front of na-mahram and in public places I need to cover eyes and hands so as to ensure I do not cause fitnah. Obviously there are times when I have to uncover my eyes to a degree or totally, like when driving or reading something in small print. But walking in the street or in rooms where there are na-mahram, it is not any trouble or handicap to flip down an eye veil. Yet we often see muntaqabāt walking in the souks, or on buses, or where they are many men, with the eye veils attached to the niqaabs flipped back so as to expose their often highly made-up eyes. I have to ask why these sisters bother to wear niqaab at all when they are showing, even accentuating, the most expressive parts of the face

My own belief is that covering eyes and hands whenever possible is mustahab. However I do sincerely think that it is up to every sister to make up her own mind as to the answer to this question. The fact that someone wears niqaab and covers her hands and eyes does not necessarily means that she is good muslimah, but I do think we should all individually look at this problem with open minds and come to our own answers. Surely it is a small matter, specially when niqaab equipped with eye veils are so easily made or bought with very little more effort or expense than ones without them.

And to those muntaqabāt who wear theirs flipped back all the time, I would say that lowering your eye veils does not make you freaks or half blind people who are liable to walk into lampposts. What the simple act of pulling down a thin eye veil does do is to help prevent fitnah. It is something done in a second or two that may well have beneficial consequences out of all proportion to the VERY minor inconvenience caused to the individual muntaqabāh.

If you don't wear eyes veils of gloves, as I said earlier, it is your choice. But I hope you at least consider the points I have put forward in this short blog insha'Allah.

"Niqab is Necessary in Islam" A Repost from Niqablovers

Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem
Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmathullah wa barakatuhu

I have never reposted other bloggers writings.  But I have just read a remarkably well argued and yet straightforward argument why Sisters in Islam should wear niqaab.  

It comes from Niqab Lovers wonderful Niqab Nuances blog

I hope you will visit her site as her blogs are all so worth reading insha'Allah



I already made a post on whether wearing the Niqab is necessary in Islam here.
But not all people are convinced of the necessity of the Niqab. The other day in Madrasa, my teacher was explaining the importance of the Niqab in the light of the Quran and Hadith. I think I wrote everything in my post about the Niqab being obligatory. But here are a few more proof that wearing the Niqab is actually very important and obligatory in Islam.

People who argue that the Niqab isn't necessary in Islam usually bring forward two Hadith. The first one is:

1) Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: Asma, daughter of AbuBakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands. (Narrated by Abu Dawood # 4092).

As we all know, the Quran wasn't revealed overnight. It was revealed in stages. Which brings us to the time the verse from Surah Noor was revealed.

Narrated Safiya bint Shaiba:
‘Aisha used to say: “When (the Verse): “They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms,” was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.” Volume 6, Book 60, Number 282: (Sahih Bukhari)
So, this proved that the Sahabi women covered their faces the moment that verse from Surah Al-Ahzab, verse 59 was revealed. Now tell me, wouldn't Asma (ral), the daughter of Abu Bakr (ral) a prominent Sahaba, have covered her face too? Of course she would have! They were the Sahaba women, and they followed Allah's orders the moment it was revealed!

So, isn't it obvious that the Hadith mentioned above would probably have taken place before the revelation of the verse in Surah Ahzab? Niqab wouldn't have been necessary before that verse was sent down, but it's obvious that the wives and daughters of Prophet Muhammad sallalahu alaihi wasallam clearly saw the Niqab as obligatory after that verse from Surah Al-Ahzab- which is why they covered their faces immediately after that verse was revealed!

The next Hadith now.

2) The Prophet (saws) said: "A pilgrim woman must neither cover her face nor wear gloves." Related by Bukhari and Ahmad

People who argue that the Niqab isn't necessary bring forward this Hadith too saying that if women weren't required to cover their faces in Hajj they obviously wouldn't have had to cover their faces outside of Hajj as well.
Well, this Hadith doesn't show the Niqab isn't necessary. It shows that the Niqab IS necessary. Doesn't this Hadith actually imply that women outside of their Ihram actually covered their faces? Otherwise, Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) wouldn't have mentioned that women should uncover their faces in Hajj if they weren't required to cover it in the first place.

Furthermore, there is another Hadith that you'll be interested in:

It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah said: The riders used to pass by us when we were with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in ihraam. When they came near us we would lower our jilbaabs from our heads over our faces, and when they had passed by we would uncover our faces. [Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1562]

You see sisters, this is the difference between us and the Sahabi women. When Allah ordered them to do something, they did it immediately. They recognized that verse in Surah Al-Ahzab. They understood that they were required to cover their faces. So they never hesitated in following it.

And we? When the Sahabi women never wasted a minute after that verse was revealed to cover their faces, we spend years and years contemplating- even arguing- that the Niqab isn't necessary!

If the women at the time of Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) covered their faces, shouldn't we be doing it as well? After all, aren't they the women we should be following?
It's up to us to decide whether we ought to wear the Niqab or not. I've done by best explaining it. Following it or not is up to you.

Wallahu 'Alam.
Jazakallah Khair!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Ramadan Mubarak

اللهُ أَكْـبَر، اللّهُمَّ أَهِلَّـهُ عَلَيْـنا بِالأمْـنِ وَالإيمـان، والسَّلامَـةِ والإسْلامِ، وَالتَّـوْفيـقِ لِما تُحِـبُّ وَتَـرْضَـى، رَبُّنـا وَرَبُّكَ اللهُ
Allaahu 'Akbar, Allaahumma 'ahillahu 'alayna bil'amni wal'eemaani, wassalaamati wal-'Islaami, wattawfeeqi limaa tuhibbu Rabbanaa wa tardhaa, Rabbunaa wa Rabbukallaahu.

Allah is the Most Great. O Allah, bring us the new moon with security and Faith, with peace and in Islam, and in harmony with what our Lord loves and what pleases Him. Our Lord and your Lord is Allah.

Ramadan Mubarak !!!

Wow, either I am getting old or time has flown past in the last year, as Ramadan is here again and I am trying to focus less on the mundane trivialities of my life, and more on my deen and on the spiritual aspects of my existence.  In fact this is the fifth day and I am settling into my Ramadan routine when I go back to studying our glorious deen, and trying to live more in accord with the teachings of the Noble Quran.

I have always loved Ramadan, maybe as a little girl because I knew at the end there would be presents and parties.  Later, after my dear Papa (may he rest in Jannah) had patiently taught me about the Holy Month's true meaning, because it was a time when, out of school anyway, I could find peace and start to learn more about myself so I could come a little bit nearer to pleasing Allah (subhana wa ta'ala). 

Now it is more a time of reflection which, in my case, is not always a comfortable experience as I look back at all the mass of things which I promised myself I would do this year.  Too many things remain undone but I have also done things which I have been promising myself I would do for ages.  However...........................

I am still unmarried, still childless, a state of affairs which horrifies certain sections of my family, even if my siblings are more laid back about my solitary status.   I have problems with my ex in-laws who are afraid that I will sully the reputation of their wonderful son  -  may he too find peace in Jannah.  In many ways I can understand their concern;  young widows just do not exist in their world, they are remarried as soon as is decently possible after the statutory period of mourning.   So to have a daughter in law who is not only unwed but who is living away from what they see as 'home' is, to them, a horrifying and potential catastrophic state of affairs.

Me?  I don't see myself as a catastrophe waiting to happen, but I do realise that I have gently and almost imperceptibly (for me anyway) swung away from the standards that I learnt from my dear Papa.  So I am using Ramadan as an opportunity to refocus on my deen and to try and rectify my failings.  One of the on-line groups I belong to, a wonderful sisters-only haven and peace and great advice, published a Ramadan Check List of things that we, as Muslims, should do daily during this month.   I printed out two copies  -  one I stuck to the fridge where I would see it whenever I got a cool drink during the day (I drink bottled water liberally at this time of year when it is so hot here), and the other on my 'office' wall where I can see it when I look up from my computer screen.  Like now................

I love the Check List but I am rather like Amina who says, almost whenever she sees the one fixed to the fridge door, "Oh NO!  I have forgotten to do................."  and then cites whenever is on the List and which she hasn't yet done that day.  We are only at the fifth day and already some of the Check Lists boxes are already starting to remain un-ticked.  One of them, "Gave some extra food from Iftar to my neighbours " remains unticked for 3 days so far.  And that is pricking my conscience as our neighbours are a poor family who have a tiny house 500m from here who have been very grateful whenever Amina and I have dropped in with some food for Iftar. 

And why?  Because it takes time, because we have to change into 'decent' clothes before leaving the house, because it means a kilometre walk there and back when it is still very warm outdoors, or else having to get out the car and drive there.  Because, because.................   None of these reasons  -  No!  they are plain 'excuses'  -  are valid.  All they prove is that I am not doing those things that make Ramadan so special.   So I have red-ringed all the boxes about giving food to neighbours and both of us are determined that we will make that trip each evening, insha'Allah.

Now I must go as my Check List tells me it's time to read one new Hadith and to study its meaning.  But, now I am blogging again, I think I will add a new (maybe weekly) box to my Check List: "To write a regular Blog, and to be honest when I do so insha'Allah."


Thursday, 28 June 2012

My Apologies

Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem
Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmathullah wa barakatuhu

It seems a lifetime since I last posted anything here, and even now I am not sure how long this posting is going to be.  With Ramadan rapidly approaching, I have a mass of things I would like to clear up before entering into that Holy Month and concentrating more of my Deen than may normally be the case insha'Allah.

Mashallah Life has been good although hectic as work has been piling up and so I have had to postpone some travelling than I had hoped might be possible during the winter.  Now summer is here and surviving the heat this far south is a full time occupation.  Luckily we have effective air-conditioning but when we step outside the heat is overwhelming.  And it's going to get hotter.

At least I have at least written something here, even if this blog is very short and not of much interest.  But next time I hope to find a topic and to write something more enlivening that this short blog insha'Allah.

Until then, may Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) protect and guide you all.  Ameen.


Monday, 20 February 2012

Pure Blogger, blogs and confusion !

Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem
Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmathullah wa barakatuhu

I always seem to be complaining that I waste good work time as I am easily distracted, and I get side-tracked into doing totally unnecessary things, almost as though I was avoiding work.

My latest distraction is a site called Pure Bloggers  (  I got an e-mail a week or so again from Pure Bloggers, telling me that, if I wanted the whole world to come to read this blog, I should join their site for free.   Being a sucker for anything free (and because my anti-virus software said the site was safe), I signed up and found myself in a site that looked like Face Book a few years ago.   The difference was that I couldn't and still can't find any explanation about how the site was going to benefit me or my blog. 

I started off with no friends and was surprised when I discovered that everyone else there didn't seem to have many or even any friends either.   So I made friends with several people with whom I shared one thing  -  we all had NO idea what the site was for.   A week later and I have several friends who are still as confused as I am, probably because it looks like the site went on stream a few days before I joined.  Even the links to friends' blogs have to be copied and pasted so as to access their blogs, as the site doesn't seem to have got round to opening any external links.  So I have been wasting my time dealing with applications for friendship and generally trying to find out how the site can be useful. 

What the site has done is to get me to look at blogs which I normally wouldn't bother about;  in the past the only ones I read were Islamic ones, and predominately ones written by my sisters in Islam.  So I have widened my bloggersphere which is no bad thing as they provide a micro view of the world, rather than the on-line newspapers, both Arabic and international, and sites from whom I get my world view at the moment.   But one thing has occurred to me after my on-going adventures with Pure Bloggers   -   it is that I am used to visiting and using sites that work perfectly all the time, and which have long ago got over their teething troubles.  So far it appears that Pure Bloggers is not only young but has yet to get over its teething troubles and hasn't yet got any focus.  It will be interested to see if it becomes just another social site like Face Book, or whether he becomes a useful tool for us bloggers.

Watch this space !!!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Evading Responsibility?

 Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem
Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmathullah wa barakatuhu

I was actually in Cairo a year ago during the wonderful demonstrations in Tahrer Square and even went to join the mass of people there on a couple of occasions, being swept along in the amazing feeling of optimist that seemed to fill the whole Square as the Mubarak regime toppled and fell.  When I left Cairo and came south to this haven of peace, Mubarak was under arrest and the army was promising democratic elections and that they would hand over power by next summer at the latest.

Since then we have had some elections but the tensions between the army and the civilians are getting worse all the time.  Stories of atrocities carried out by the soldiers against some of the demonstrators have emerged and there is a feeling that the army are not going to meekly hand over power, all of which had led to further and on-going demonstrations.   Of course what is happening in Cairo seems very remote from the tranquil existence that Amina and I share here.  And.........................  All of which makes me ask myself if I am evading responsibility as a Muslimah and an adopted Egyptian in sitting here and doing nothing to ensure that the army does step aside as they promise and that, for the first time since.............  forever .......... Egypt becomes a true democracy.

Oh, I have a whole regiment of excuses for now going back to Cairo or even joining the protesters here.   I am not even an Egyptian citizen, although I have spent more of my life in this country than I have in my native Jordan.  I am not political at all, and distrust politicians almost as much as I distrust the motives of the military.  I am just a young woman, without connections or affiliations that might make my voice listened to or even heard.   I could be ejected from the country as an undesirable alien if I got involved in demonstrations.  I am a naturally peaceful person, and..........................  And dozens other reasons for my inaction.

So I have lost sleep over what I should be doing.  I have prayed about it.  I have talked it over with Amina for hours.  I have sought my shaykh's advice.  And I am still as confused and undecided as ever.  Strangely, what it has brought home to me is that the two people who I would really have listened to are no longer there to guide me.   Two strong men, may they find peace in Jannah, whose views I respected, maybe even too unquestioningly.  Ahmed, my darling husband, and my Papa  -  I miss you now in a way that is new to me, and at a time when I thought I had become reconciled to Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) taking you from me. 

If I sound like a weak-spirited and submissive female, I am afraid that's not the truth;  both Papa and Ahmed have seen me argue my point with a great deal of heat and noise, even to the point of directly defying them when I really did feel I was right and they were wrong.  (Even if in most cases, time proved them to be right and that I was wrong.  But that's another story.) However the truth is that now I feel at a loss and in dire need of their wise advice.   Ah well, I suppose I will take what they call "the line of least resistance" and carry on as a spectator, viewing history being made from afar.  But I will have to ask myself whether I am doing that through cowardice, or because of my upbringing, or owing to what my family and friends expect of me as a young woman and as a muslimah. or because it's the most sensible thing for me to do.   For now I have no answers.  I hope it will not be too long before I can rationally answer my own questions insha'Allah.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Wanderer Returns

Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem,
Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmathullah wa barakatuhu

I am back................................. Amazingly three and a half years have passed since I last posted here. Those years have been the most momentous in my life and only now, escaping the noise and tensions of Cairo and moving south to Asyut, have I found the peace I have been seeking.

For those who don't know what has happened, I should explain that I am now a widow who married the man of my dreams when I was 21 and lost him less than two years later to a sudden illness, may he find peace in Jannah.

What happened after that was almost beyond bearing but I was supported by my deen and by Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) who, in his abundant mercy, granted me the strength to deal with such a tragedy. Yet, again thanks to Allah (swt), a very few years on from those traumas, I seem to have found happiness and stability, something that few young Arab 'femmes seules' seem able to do. Of course I am fortunate; when my beloved father died he left me the family home in Jordan, as my mother was well taken care of already, and my brothers and sisters were in stable marriages where money was not lacking. So, as the family charity case, our lovely home became mine and I now rent it out to a charming American businessman who works in Amman; he and his family enjoying the place where I had spent my own happy childhood.

I moved to Cairo but, when a old school friend invited me to share her home here in Asyut, I jumped at the chance as, thanks to modern technology, I can do my work on the end of a computer connection. Maybe it might be useful if I added something which sums up my life now.

Mashallah everything seems very peaceful today. I am sitting at a desk, my desk, while across the room Amina is working at the large table which she calls her desk. She is a freelance textile designer, a real artist who makes fabrics sing with joy and who can make the most mundane of material come to vibrant life. The quality of her work is even more amazing when you consider that she is 90% self-taught, yet many of the leading fashion houses in this part of the world are lining up in order to beg her to come up with an exclusive fabric design for their next collection. Also she is now getting an international reputation and her agent is talking to designers in Milan and Paris. But to me, she remains the same smiling girl with whom I shared my teenage life at school and during our holidays.

To add to the normality of the scene, her cat, Freak-Out, is asleep on Amina's desk, utterly relaxed in a nest of fabric swatches and a picture of the sort of happiness which only a much loved cat can show. Looking beyond him, the only male in our household, through the broad pictures windows I can see the sun-filled garden that ends on a three meter wall that protects us from the outside world. Our garden is not the sort of verdant paradise you see in France or Germany or England. Instead it is very 'Egyptian'. It is true that, like it's more northerly counterparts, it has flower beds, paths and lawns but these are baked by months of remorseless heat and sunshine and even now in the coolness of winter, any flowers being brown stalks, the lawn and pathways both dominated by grey-brown dust and cracked earth, any grass that has survived the summer months being sun-blackened and stunted, waiting for any rain, a rare commodity here. However they are managing to exist in this near desert that we optimistically called The Garden. In truth it's pleasant now; the daytime temperature still is about 20 - 25C, but that seems miraculously cool in comparison to the 40C we were experiencing regularly last summer.

So it is that Amina and I are spending the late afternoon, post siesta, working together in relaxed silence, each engrossed in what she is doing.

Of course I should be really working; I should be translating and mildly editing some articles sent to me by a Gulf-based journal. But instead, like millions of others round the world, I am writing for my own enjoyment. So I feel mildly guilty as I theoretically earn my bread by translating and editing, and the publishers are waiting for me to email back to him a pristine translation. But I tell myself that I promised it back by the 14th and it is nine-tenths completed, so I can afford to indulge myself in writing for my own enjoyment for once.

Strange how I see the life Amina and I share as being normal. It cannot be too common for a divorcée and a widow, both in their mid twenties, to be sharing a house together as we are. The divorcée is Amina who was married when she was eighteen, left her philandering husband when she was twenty and was divorced by the age of twenty three, while, as you know, I am the widow. Amina's financial security came via the divorce courts where her husband preferred to buy her silence rather than have the litany of his Don Juan conquests made public in court, even if the tabloids revelled in its details. And the house in which we live is also hers, bequeathed to her by her Grandfather, much to the disgust of her brothers and cousins. (I should say that I have Amina's permission to tell about her history, as I tell about mine. As she so rightly says, she has nothing to be ashamed off and has no worries about who knows about her past.)

So that is how we come to be sitting here at our desks this afternoon, Amina working and me enjoying myself in self-indulgent writing. In here, it is cool and tranquil, the only sound being the click of my keyboard and the occasional sound of a sketch being scrunched up and thrown into the waste paper basket by Amina's side. Normally we work to a background of soft-volumed music from Amina's vast library of CD but today, for some unknown reason, the room is a music-free zone, and no worse for it. Probably we will work (or write) for two hours before cramp, ennui or lack of inspiration will make one of us rise from her work place and stroll round the room, pausing at the window to watch the daylight fading from our arid garden. By then my iced water will have long ago been drunk, as will have Amina's Coke, so that one of us will yawn and say, "Coffee time!" and we will stroll down the corridor to the kitchen where we will talk about what we have done in the past two hours while the coffee percolates and fills the room with the mouth watering aroma of freshly made coffee.

Probably, as we sit, steaming mugs in hand, Amina will look at me and shake her head, her familiar grin spread across her lovely face, as for the hundredth time, will remark how sensible I am to wear a light and airy jilbab "in this weather". I, also for the hundredth time, will laugh and say it's only because I am old fashioned and totally lack her dress sense, while I admire the beautifully fabriced, but also cool, shalwar kameez she is wearing. Yes, just two young women discussing clothes, two friends relaxing together in a companionable and non-competitive environment. Two grown-up school friends gently finding their way from daytime to evening.

Yes, I do lead a normal life. Alhamdulillah, I am so lucky to do so.