Friday, September 19, 2008

Hijab v. Niqab - Modest v. Covering

Odd, the thoughts that come to me when I'm walking the dogs.

So, I'm interested in women who cover from all cultural and religious traditions. I was reading some of the arguments between Muslims about whether or not the niqab (face veil) is required or not. The current general concensus seems to be (and I could be wrong), that the niqab is beneficial, and a good thing to do, but that it is not required in Islam.

The term is used, generally, to describe the headscarf the Muslim women wear. However, the term is actually meant to describe the modest clothing that the woman or man wears, their entire outfit. I don't recall what the requirements are for the men, but for a woman it is basically that the only part of her body that can be shown around men who she is not related to are her hands and face. The clothing must be loose, not form fitting. This is, according to what I have read, to protect her. This way there is nothing showing that could encite a man to lewd, inappropriate thoughts. She is guarding both her own modest and dignity, and helping the man to guard his. Hijab is, for most Muslims, the standard. There are, of course, some women who don't agree that covering the hair is required. But their opinion is not, so far as I know, widely accepted.

Niqab -
The niqab is the face veil. Some Muslims argue that the surah and ahadith speaking about the veiling of women actually mean that women are to cover everything except for one or both eyes, to see. They say that the hadith saying that a woman can show her hands and face in public is weak, and therefor suspect. Some women, obviously, agree, and veil everything while in public. I've seen some niqab that include screens for the eyes, so that, while the woman can see out, people can't even see her eyes. They also wear gloves, and, I think abaya, which are the loose robes that ensure that their figure can't be seen.

Now, not being Muslim, for me, I think that the niqab is a little...extreme. It's just my opinion, and I think that the women who do so, because they believe that it is commanded by God, should be supported, not ridiculed. The niqab is seen, in general, as something that is beneficial, but not required.
I feel more kinship with the hijabi, I think, because it's a more familiar look to me. I can see their faces, I can read cues off of them. However, the thought that came to me was this: Christian women who cover, all the time, are the niqabi of Christianity!

Modest- Now, most Christians, no matter the denomination, will agree that we are called to be modest in our dress. Not everyone agrees on the exact definition of 'modest'. Some insist that it means women must wear only dresses and/or skirts, never pants, because pants are men's apparel, and when tight, are not modest under any definition. Of course, tight pants aren't modest on men either, but that's another problem. And some don't think that modesty applies, anymore. They want to wear tight pants/skirts/dresses, see through tops, etc., because it's become the cultural norm. However, modesty is the generally accepted norm of Christianity. Whether that means loose fitting pants and tops or skirts and dresses only. No over the top makeup, etc.

Covering - Done by a small, but growing, percentage of the general Christian population, this is a tradition that, arguably, comes straight from the Bible. The Amish and Mennonites are two groups that, for the most part, cover all the time. Others cover only when they are in church. However, it seems that more and more women are, independent of their particular denomination, choosing to cover full time, in addition to the modest dress that is required. There are many, many styles for the covering, some of which have cultural and ethnic signifigance, but the scarf or kerchief seems to be the popular choice. Women who cover quote Corinthians, saying that a woman might as well shave herself bald as not cover her hair. They argue that the covering of the hair is a part and parcel of modesty, and that they are obeying God in this command. I, clearly, agree with them.
But, in general, only modesty is required, while the covering, when it is not being denigrated as old fashioned or a cultural thing, meant only for the time, is beneficial, but not required. It's a bit simplistic, yes, but I see some parallels there.

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