Hijab in Islam: What are the different interpretations? Keep reading!
From my travel journal, written while I lived in Morocco in the Fall 2009
Background info: Sukeina’s family is high-class, originally from Fes, but stayed in a residence in Ifrane close to campus during Ramadan, just so they could be together in such special time. This “data” might be important as to customs and traditions do vary across the country
The second week of September, I was invited by my Moroccan roommate, Sukeina, to have futuur and dinner with her family. At first, I was hesitant to accept the invitation. I’m a Christian who is not fasting this month (I did fast the week after, though). It is not the fact that I’m from a different religion that deterred me from going at first–it was the fact that these people had been fasting diligently, while I had been eating like a pig all day. Meaning, I felt bad eating like a pig again when this was their very first meal of the day. Get it? However, my roommate was so persistent, I felt just as bad declining the offer. Paradox has been a common word in my vocabulary while living in the Arab world.
We drove for about 10 mins. until we reached the residence. It was not time for futuur yet, so Sukeina, our other roommate Siham, and I walked around the grounds. I was curious to know their views about the hijab in Islam (head covering or veil), specially after the strong views I heard back in Egypt. For instance, the husband of one of my Arabic teachers is a tiny bit liberal: He told me that hijab is not Islam, but rather a “political move” by Saudi Arabia to “control the region. Before, Egyptians didn’t wear hijab or anything!” He also added: “They do not have real land to control, like Egyptians do. For this reason, they use their women as property, as that’s all they have” *gulps* Note: He really did NOT like Gulf Arabs and did NOT consider himself an Arab, but a Pharaonic Egyptian, or even part Nubian, instead.
Conversely, my wealthy friend Hussein (high class, like my teacher) was appalled by those views and said that of course, the hijab in Islam is essential.
Concurrently, my Moroccan roommates’ reaction was not any different. In fact, they asked me to repeat my Arabic teacher’s take on the hijab in Islam being “a political move,” as they couldn’t believe it. After gasping several times and highly doubting whether this man is truly Muslim or not, they told me hijab is Islam. The reason why they don’t wear it is because they are “not ready” and feel they “must be better persons” before they do. They basically see the hijab in Islam as the jewel in the crown: Once a woman feels “good enough,” then she must show it by covering up with a veil. Otherwise, a woman is not “worthy of admiration” by wearing a hijab in Islam, as they are not “good examples” or “role models” yet. Or so I understood from their explanation…