The Sacredness of Dignity

Today, I made a foray into one of my most favourite subjects, spirituality. The Muslim Student Association on campus is putting on an Islamic Awareness Week, which is really cool. They’ve done a series of classes covering the basics of Islam, and the most commonly misunderstood facets of the religion, among them women in Islam and their clothing. Part of this included what they call the Hijab Challenge, where non-Muslim (or non-hijab wearing Muslim women) to wear the hijab for part or all of a day, to gain a first-hand insight into how wearing the hijab may affect a Muslim woman, and what wearing the hijab means. In the class they hosted, and through my own research, I learned that the hijab symbolises and means a number of things to Muslim women. It signifies thier modesty, the sacred nature of their relationships with thier husbands and Allah, and privacy. The more I read, the more I became intrigued, and I quickly began to see the truth in the statements made about privacy.

In our world now, especially in Western cultures, women are highly sexualised and objectified, even today. Think about this for a moment. All women want to be found attractive, even if only to their significant other. This has translated into an exploitation of this desire. Imagine, if you will, a courtroom. A very professional and conservative environment, where (generally) even the most base person will dress appropriately to the occasion. Now, picture the attorneys that are ever-present, and let’s say that there is one of each sex present. The man, dressed nicely in a dark suit, somber tie, hair neatly groomed, shoes shined. Now, imagine the woman. Hair perfectly and neatly coiffed, her own business suit a charcoal grey. But wait a moment… her skirt, while extending nearly to her knees, is so tight that her normal stride is restricted, higlighting each and every movement of her legs and rear under the material. Bare legs, maybe dressed only in sheer pantyhose, cut a striking line from the knee to the dress shoes she wears, the four-incch heels highlighting and emphasising the curve of her calf. The suit jacket is tailored to her curves, showcasing the curve of her waist, and the hourglass swell of her hips. Her breasts curve the upper portion of the hourglass, the fashoinably-cut top showing a hint of cleavage, with her chest adorned with tasteful jewelery that draws the eye to the exposed skin. Her face is painstakingly done up with makeup, making her features alluring and somewhat sensual, albeit mutedly so. Anyone else seeing the discrepancy here? The man cuts a strong, respectable figure, commanding that respect by his words, which everyone pays polite attention to. The woman, however. What do you think holds the attention of most of the people in the room? Her words? Or is it her legs… or rear… or the curve and swell of her bosom? Perhaps it is her enticingly made-up eyes, the painted lips? I think my point is fairly clear at this juncture.

How does this translate to me? I’m an intelligent woman, and while I’m not stop-traffic beautiful, I do think I’m attractive, but there is little that will anger me faster than someone staring at some body part while I’m talking, rather than listening to my words. While I don’t mind dressing up in clothing that is occasionally somewhat revealing, this is limited to when I’m out with in venues where this is appropriate, like a club, and only in fairly specific circumstances. In general, I tend to prefer fairly loose fitting clothing; not ill-fitting, mind you, but I’m not interested in the entire world knowing what my exact shape and dimensions are. Today, the only skin of mine that showed was my hands and face. My ears, neck, even most of my forehead, was covered by the hijab. I wore it today from the point I left the house until I came back home. Aside from my family (who by Islamic tradition are the only people who should ever see more than my face and hands uncovered), no-one today saw my hair, ears, neck, arms, legs…. anything. To be perfectly honest, the effects of that on me were somewhat surprising. I felt safe, secure, and more comfortable in my own skin than I have felt in public in some time. The one time I had to remove the hijab to readjust it, I was alone in a bathroom (I needed the mirror) and was startled by the feeling that hit me- I felt exposed and naked, and quite uncomfortable. Even more interesting than this was the reaction of others around me. I was not hit on or the subject of the casual and insulting suggestions typical of college boys even once today. Rather, I was treated with greater respect by strangers than I can remember at any other time  among my peers. My words seemed to be more carefully attended, and given more weight and consideration than usual. I will readily admit that some of it may have been my own perceptions, however some of it was definitely objective experience. It was wonderful, and amazing, and my day was so much less stressful than normal.

At the meeting this evening, a gathering of the participants of the Hijab Challenge, we sat and discussed and reflected on our experiences of the day. The responses from others were similar to mine. We all noted an increased of respect from others, a notable sense of feeling more comforatble in our own skins, and a feeling of self-confidence that was new for many, if not all, of us. Now, I’m not converting to Islam. I have a great deal of respect, a reverence even, for other people’s faiths and religious preferences, and I would never make a fake proclaimation like that. My personal beliefs are what factor into my own faith, which I broadly define as pagan. However, the hijab, and what it stands for, are things that resonate very deeply for me, on very personal and spiritual levels. For right now, I think I’m planning on adopting the hijab, and wearing one daily. From what I gathered, other Muslim women (in general) would not take offense to me wearing a hijab, because it resonates and means the same things to me as it does to the women who wear it as part of their Muslim faith.

To the MSA of UMSL, and specifically the Muslim women who presented and facilitated this, thank you so much for the opportunity to explore this, and learn so much about something so personal to you, and thank you for sharing something so sacred with me. I have a profound and deep respect for you all, and for your faith, and am honoured to have been able to have shared it with you, and to have found this connection between us all.

salaam alaikum



~ by Kelly on November 11, 2011.

2 Responses to “The Sacredness of Dignity”

  1. You are beautiful is more ways than most people know. Luv u sweets ❤

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