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Open Letter to Mona Eltahawy | From A Very Visible Niqaabi to Her Self-Appointed Champion


By Zainab bint Younus

Disclaimer: Though the message is sincere and heartfelt, the details are not meant to identify one specific individual (i.e. the author) but rather to represent real niqaabis around the world.

Dear Mona,

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As much as you no doubt think that you are doing great good by appointing yourself as a champion for (or against? You\’re a bit confusing on that point) Muslim women who wear niqaab, I\’d appreciate if you stopped and listened to me first.

I am a Muslim woman who wears niqaab, and I neither believe that I am the paragon of virtue nor live in fear of Hell should an inch of my skin be seen in public. I am neither oppressed nor invisible. I do not consider myself so beautiful that I must cover myself to save men from temptation; nor do I believe that men are sex machines who will be turned on by the tip of my nose or the curve of my ear. I am not ignorant or brainwashed. I am not Salafi or Wahhabi.

I am a Muslim woman.

You say that niqaab has been made into the pinnacle of piety. There may be some people out there who say that, but I don\’t believe God says that. In fact, God says that none of us are safe from Hell just by doing one specific action or another. Earning Paradise and protecting ourselves from Hell is an ongoing process, a constant struggle 24/7. I don\’t feel that wearing niqaab has earned me a ticket to Eden… but I do believe that it\’ll help me get that little bit closer.

You say that Muslim women are forced to wear the niqaab in Saudi Arabia. While I don\’t agree with anyone being forced to wear niqaab against their will, I don\’t see how that has anything to do with me. I don\’t live in Saudi Arabia and never have. I live in America and I chose to wear the niqaab despite my parents\’ opposition to it and my husband\’s unease with it. He was worried that I\’d be considered extreme and targeted for my beliefs. Turns out he\’s right, but just because people like you want to take away my freedom of belief, it doesn\’t mean I\’m just going to roll over and let you dictate what I should and shouldn\’t do or believe.

You say that niqaab makes Muslim women invisible. I have no idea where you got that from, although invisibility has always been the one superpower I\’d love to have. As it happens, people can see me pretty well. It\’s just that they can\’t see every single bit of my skin or physical features. If you mean that I\’m invisible in that niqaab reduces my role in society and the public sphere, you\’re wrong.

I\’m a successful businesswoman, who left a thriving career to become an entrepreneur. The company I founded has blossomed and we\’re becoming quite well-known in our field. My best friend, who started wearing niqaab after me, is a high school teacher. She\’s been recognized by the school as one of the best teachers they\’ve had for several years running. The local Imam\’s wife is getting her PhD and volunteers at the women\’s shelter “ and gets a kick out of going horseback riding on the beach where people\’s eyes bug out when they see a veiled Muslim women galloping across the sand.

We Muslim women who wear the niqaab come in all shapes and sizes, of every ethnic, religious, social, and educational background. We are businesswomen and artists; writers and community activists; teachers and stay-at-home mothers; philosophers, intellectuals, and housewives. You have no right to gloss over our places in society, the roles that we have and will continue to fulfill. You have no right to tell me or others that I am invisible when I very much know that I am not.

You say that niqaab objectifies women as sex objects. So does the mini-skirt and tube top. Are we going to ban those too? I don\’t deny that some men obsess over women\’s bodies “ but those men are non-Muslim as well as Muslim. Just as there are men who would prefer that I covered my body completely, there are men who wish I\’d walk around half-naked. I don\’t wear the niqaab for, or because of, either of them. I wear it for myself. I am not repressing my sexuality nor exacerbating it. I am demanding that you mind your own business about my sexuality, and deal with my ideas, my words, and my actions instead.

You say that niqaab has been the reason that Muslim women have been oppressed in countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. It\’s not. Poverty, illiteracy, government corruption, backwards misogynistic mentalities that have nothing to do with Islam… THEY are the reason that Muslim women have been oppressed. Hijaab, niqaab, and whatever else is used only as a tool to enforce Islamically incorrect ideologies. It is not the root of the problem.

Furthermore, what of countries like South Africa, Mexico, and Britain where the daily statistics of rape, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, peer pressure, and so much more are all forms of crime and oppression against women? Oppression of women isn\’t limited to race or religion. Unfortunately, it extends throughout the entire world, across every racial, social and economic spectrum.

You imply that it is only extremist Salafis and Wahhabis who wear niqaab or demand it of their women. That\’s kinda funny, because I have a Sufi aunt who wears niqaab; and the nice Indian aunty at the mosque is a Deobandi, and she wears it too. The Nigerian convert who campaigns for women\’s space at the mosque and demands that Muslim men stop acting like caveman and behave like gentlemen has been wearing niqaab for several years.

I\’m sorry that you have had bad experiences with the niqaab. I\’m sorry that you\’ve had bad experiences with Muslims who insult you.

Sister Hebah Ahmad “ the one you debated on CNN “ said something really beautiful that I agree with completely: Mona is my sister in Islam and even though I must disagree when she misrepresents Islam and Muslims, she still should be protected from the tongue of her fellow Muslims.

That\’s how I feel about you. I strongly disagree with what you say about the niqaab and much about what you say about Islam and Muslims in general. But that doesn\’t mean I\’m going to threaten to kill you, or swear at you, or condemn you to Hell. What I will do is invite you over for coffee at my place, with open arms and a warm smile that you can detect even beneath my niqaab.

Your sister in Islam,

A Muslim Woman Who Wears Niqaab

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Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of



  1. Carlos

    April 17, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    Well said, Anonymouse, except for the part where you say, “people can see me pretty well.” Actually, if you wear a niqaab, no, they cannot see you very well. They would not likely recognize you if they saw you a second time. If someone cannot see your face, then you are like a permanent stranger to him/her, regardless of the fact that you have seen each other or even spoken with each other. The niqaab has the affect of making you anonymous (anonymouse?) to people outside your family. You have no identity. Facial recognition is essential for building human relationships. Furthermore, your veil sends a message to non-Muslims that you are off-limits; that you are probably not willing to form relationships with “strangers,” including your fellow countrymen and countrywomen. It is a way of saying I am one of “us” and you are one of “them.” And since, so I have read, niqaab is not required by Islam, it is a voluntary and unnecessary barrier separating people and cultures. You are and you should be free to dress as you want, but I think the niqaab is actually detrimental to you, your community and humanity as a whole.

    • abu Rumay-s.a.

      April 17, 2011 at 1:34 AM

      Dear Carlos,
      I do hear what you are saying, although I respectfully disagree with your contention. Perhaps, in the West, we are lead to believe that facial recognition is essential in building human relationships, however, this is an opinion not a fact.

      When you think of a dear friend or a collegue in their absence, what automatically pops up in your mind, it is the person, not their face. Many times I build very strong relationships with my clients overseas through the phone, although I have never seen them, our relationship is not affected, in fact, it is very healthy, even though often times, there is not even a business transaction, just a common friendship. We understand each other through our communication that is what is most important.

      Also, we should not unequivocally judge that niqab is either required or not because there is clear difference of opinion amongst the jurists, therefore, we should respect both opinions even though we may be more inclined to one of them.

      • Hamna

        April 17, 2011 at 6:15 AM

        Actually once you see a woman who wears the Niqab regularly you can recognise and differentiate between then pretty well. I speak from experience.

        • Amira

          April 17, 2011 at 6:13 PM

          Very true, Hamna.

          I have a few friends who wear niqab. Even when I was in a convention with tons and tons of people, I was still able to recognize them from all the women who wore niqab. :D

          • Hana

            April 18, 2011 at 2:55 AM

            I easily recognise them from just looking at their eyes…

        • Me

          April 18, 2011 at 10:45 AM

          I’ll have to disagree with you on this, I have many friends that wear the niqaab and unless I get really close and hear them talk I won’t recognize them :D. I’ll have to agree with Carlos on this.

          • newboy

            April 18, 2011 at 7:07 PM

            Um….woman don’t have to wear niqab in front of other women. The point is to keep women a stranger to a man with whom she is not related or married to.

            So yeah, that’s the point – to keep men at a distance.

      • Abeer Khan

        April 19, 2011 at 8:54 AM

        I have many niqaabi friends. In fact, half of the girls who cover their heads in my class wear niqaab. However, I have never had any difficulty in telling them apart, because they all have their unique styles of taking niqaab like different colored pins, different ways of pinning it up or just different styles of tying up their scarves and, and, of course, let’s not forget, the different set of eyes which appear through the slit of the niqab!). Once you get to know her/ meet her/ talk to her, you can easily distinguish her, even if she were standing in a sea of niqaabis!

    • AnonyMouse

      April 17, 2011 at 5:41 AM

      Hi Carlos!

      Thanks for your comment, although I disagree with you.

      If someone cannot see your face, then you are like a permanent stranger to him/her, regardless of the fact that you have seen each other or even spoken with each other.

      I know from experience for that to be untrue. I’ve been wearing niqaab since my last year of high school (technically I was homeschooled but I used to interact with students and teachers regularly by going into the school office), and I developed a great relationship with my teachers. Many of them told me, when I graduated, that I was both a friend and a student. And none of them had ever seen my face!

      The niqaab has the affect of making you anonymous (anonymouse?) to people outside your family. You have no identity. Facial recognition is essential for building human relationships. Furthermore, your veil sends a message to non-Muslims that you are off-limits; that you are probably not willing to form relationships with “strangers,” including your fellow countrymen and countrywomen. It is a way of saying I am one of “us” and you are one of “them.”

      Again, this is untrue. I lived on an island and people would be used to seeing me and my mom (who also wears niqaab) all the time… the librarians all knew who we were and would say hi (we’d say hi back and chat about the weather); the cashier at the grocery store knew of our penchant for sushi and fresh French rolls and told us if they were having a sale on them; even random people at the mall would recognize us weekend after weekend and would strike up conversations with us!

      In fact, my wearing of the niqaab has resulted in conversations and relationships (however brief) that I might never have had should I not have been wearing it.
      And since my family and I used to go to all kinds of places (the petting zoo, the park, the beach, horseback riding, camping, the Luminara Lantern Festival (Google it – it’s one of my favourite events of the year)… we’d be surrounded by non-Muslims who were curious and often happy to see us around. They realized that we were just as Canadian as they were, and that our religion – and our veils – were no reason to hold us back from going anywhere or doing anything. And that includes making friends!

      • Mustafa

        April 19, 2011 at 3:29 PM

        Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullaah wa barakatuhu,

        I don’t see any need to go on the defensive here. While the niqab doesn’t necessarily prevent people from building relationships, it does make the whole process more voluntary and intellectualy demanding. One of the reasons Muslim women wear it is exactly because they do not want to form relationships with everyone, particularly a certain part of the (male) population they encounter. Word “relationship” sounds fuzzy, but considering they can be bad as well as good, “building relationships” is not a positive process by default. It depends with whom you’re building it and why, and niqab enables one to more easily make the right choices and decisions in that regard, since it excludes much of the involuntary reactions and subconcious motivations that are usually the part of the human interactions.


    • Miriam

      April 17, 2011 at 9:01 AM

      Peace & Blessings Carlos,

      You said: “Furthermore, your veil sends a message to non-Muslims that you are off-limits; that you are probably not willing to form relationships with “strangers,”

      My Reply:

      Let’s talk about: boundaries! Nobody owes anybody anything. No one is obligated (outside of family or contractual agreements) to share their time, resources, or support with anyone else. This idea that outside “common courtesy” and “compassion” that some one of any gender is obligated to do anything else is absurd and dangerous. I am NOT obligated to form relationships with random strangers. I have the right and the authority to screen and vet the individuals I wish to deal with. I have the right and authority to determine the degree to which I want to bond with said individual. I am NOT obligated to accept anyone or everything—I am not a dumping ground. My body is my business. My physical space is my business. As far as I’m concerned I want my hijab to SCREAM off limits to anyone of any gender who assumes they are entitled to anything from ME. Speaking only for MYSELF and NOT all other Muslims.

      Although I do not wear niqab and I don’t subscribe to any Islamic interpretation that mandates niqab out of honor I am obligated to defend ALL interpretations of Islam that don’t encourage violence, abuse, or criminality. The reason I AM honored bound to do so is because I understand that if one interpretation of Islam is prohibited it won’t be too long before ANY or ALL interpretations of Islam are prohibited. There are ANTI-ISLAMIC industries and movements out there who sole purpose is on destroying ALL interpretations of Islam. It is NOT in my mind it is the truth. I am defending this particular practice because I don’t want to see hijab banned.

      Finally, I will NOT deny that there are Muslim women who truly are being abused and oppressed. They are NOT being abused and oppressed because of various religious interpretations of Islam: they are being abused and oppressed due to the CULTURE, POLITICS, and PATHOLOGY of THEIR society NOT the Qur’an. I think I’m going to write an essay about the women’s right movements in my ethnic group and what I see happening to other women in other ethnic groups. There is some serious one-sidedness hypocrisy going on up in those movements.

      • Mostafa

        April 17, 2011 at 8:52 PM

        Mashallah, good post sister!! We need more dialogues, regarding the subject of Hijab, that include the arguments which you have given!

      • Carlos

        April 17, 2011 at 10:26 PM

        Peace, Miriam.

        I think you misunderstand the spirit as well as the letter of my post. Also, I am an adult, and I do not need a lecture on personal boundaries.

    • UmmHamzah

      April 17, 2011 at 10:10 AM

      I wear a niqab and I’m surprised when people I have met only once with my niqab on – recognize me. I don’t even recognize them without a niqab.

    • Abu Abdurrahman

      April 17, 2011 at 6:27 PM

      Hi Carlos!

      Thanks for your note, yet I was reluctant to voice my diverging view, as it seems several bros/sisters may have already done so.

      The note I’d like to add to your comment is simply that there is actually a substantial amount of research that was carried out by univerisites, just from a saciological point o view (encounters, meetings,dating etc..) and it was fairly conclusively agreed that it is the eye contact that is always the primary marker for interpersonal recognition.

      Other than that, as the comments here seem to also reflect, real life experiences add weight to this position – with many of us very easily recognising our mothers/sisters/ distant relatives one from another.. as does anyone else who meets them a few times

      Thanks once again.


    • Brother

      April 17, 2011 at 10:31 PM

      Carlos, I respectfully disagree with you. I think the internet, chat rooms, and forums like this one demonstrate that not seeing someone with your own eyes does not make them neccessarily anonymous. For example, I’ve never seen you but I can start drawing an opinion of you based on what you write on this board. Also, people have chatted with each other on the internet and have gotten into relationships without even seeing one another. Lastly, I’d like to give the example of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. I’ve never seen him, so how can I possibly love him? Same goes with God. If you are Christian, then you can say the same about Jesus since I’m sure you have never seen him (pictures don’t count since those are just speculation on how he might have looked).

    • Aideh

      April 18, 2011 at 11:52 AM

      “They would not likely recognize you if they saw you a second time.”

      Not necessarily. I almost always recognize my niqabi friends.

      “that you are probably not willing to form relationships with “strangers,” including your fellow countrymen and countrywomen. It is a way of saying I am one of “us” and you are one of “them.”

      sounds like a subjective issue. Some people may feel like and others may not. I am sorry that you evidently do. I can tell you about a niqabi friend of mine who makes friends with strangers much faster than I do. She can walk in a store and by the time she walks out everyone who works there is best friends with her. I think this is an issue that goes beyond niqab or hijab or whatever the perceived “obstacle” may be.

  2. NAS

    April 17, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    this is absolutely brilliant.

  3. abu Rumay-s.a.

    April 17, 2011 at 1:18 AM


    .May Allah reward you abundantly without limit sister and May He (The Exalted) guide us and our sister Mona to to the path that pleases Him…ameen..

    • abu Rumay-s.a.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:44 AM

      What I will do is invite you over for coffee at my place, with open arms and a warm smile that you can detect even beneath my niqaab.

      in this case, since it will be in your house and of the same gender, maybe you can share your smile without the niqab???

      • AnonyMouse

        April 17, 2011 at 5:28 AM

        Only once we get inside the house :D

  4. kevin

    April 17, 2011 at 1:37 AM


  5. Sadaf Farooqi

    April 17, 2011 at 2:30 AM

    Well-written and well-said. :)

  6. Sister N.E.

    April 17, 2011 at 2:40 AM

    Masha’Allah, a beautiful article. Insha’Allah it would be nice if Sr. Mona read this, may Allah SWT reward you for giving Muslims sisters (niqabi or not) a voice, and for defending our right to do what we believe will bring us closer to Allah SWT.

    Dear Carlos,
    There are many women who wear niqab, like myself, who would tell you that they are perfectly able to maintain healthy relationships with people. Even a child passing by me knows when I am smiling warmly at him. All you have to do is be polite and speak kindly and respectfully. Respect and kindness are the basis of friendship- NOT a person’s facial features. Do you like or dislike somebody because they have a button nose or Roman nose? Or perhaps because they have freckles and high cheek bones? I think not. If this were the case, I think it is high time we rethink the values of social interaction and friendship.

  7. Brother

    April 17, 2011 at 2:51 AM

    Doesn’t ‘niqaabi’ mean ‘unionist’ in Arabic?

  8. Brother

    April 17, 2011 at 2:52 AM

    We know what is implied though… ‘one who wears niqaab’.

  9. Farhan

    April 17, 2011 at 3:27 AM

    Great post! Wonderful, eloquent and succinct.

    And yes, Sr Mona is our sister and Islam and we have to defend her. I’m annoyed with ignorant attacks against her person. She’s done a tremendous amount of good in the world- more good than I could ever hope to accomplish.

    • Cartoon M

      April 17, 2011 at 12:44 PM

      yea i agree. Although we disagree with her on this issue and should express our dissaproval, we should also recognize the good she has done.

      • Ahsan Sayed

        April 18, 2011 at 1:29 AM

        That is perhaps true, but the virulent way she attacks the niqab and those who don it, is inexcusable.

  10. Amal

    April 17, 2011 at 4:38 AM

    So articulate mash Allah tabarak Allah! <3

  11. WAJiD

    April 17, 2011 at 4:51 AM


    Excellent article. We need more of these unapologetic letters to the various people out there trying to control the Muslim narrative.

    On the point of invisibility (@Carlos and others) I lived in Saudi Arabia my whole life and even with Niqabs on I had no problem identifying who was my mom, who was my aunt and who was my best friends older sister etc…

    Although I don’t agree with the forced wearing of Niqaab, I have to say that not once in my 16 years there did I hear a single description of a woman based on her looks or lack of it. Everyone was judged on their personalities and their achievements. Seems utopian compared to the relentless objectification we have here…

  12. Faraz Omar

    April 17, 2011 at 5:44 AM

    Excellent article! However, I don’t get it from where they get the idea that in Saudi Arabia women are forced to wear the niqab. Families may force their daughters, but certainly not the authorities. Here many women don’t cover their hair, let alone their face. They just wear the abayas without the scarfs.

    For proof, go to any mall on any given day at any given time in any given city.

    • Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

      April 17, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      Very true.

      I think what people are referring to (knowingly or unknowingly) is social pressure. What they seem to forget is that social pressure occurs everywhere on Earth.

  13. Hamna

    April 17, 2011 at 6:13 AM

    BarakAllah feeki Sister Zainab for this beautiful letter.

  14. Sumera

    April 17, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    Masha Allah barak Allah feek sister,

    There are so many misconceptions out there. Like the one of women been forced to wear the Niqaab in Saudi. for real, just like bro faraz said, go check it out yourself. I was there 6 months ago and not too many women were wearing niqaab.
    and yes no one can force the other to wear niqaab. i’ve been wearing it for the past 4 years WITHOUT my father and my husband’s “pressure” infact they do not approve of me wearing it out in the public. so what exactly is the world talking about?
    lets not just exhaust our energies in deciding for others what they should wear and what not. the sisters who choose to wear it for their Lord let them have this connection with their Lord.
    we are definetly not a threat to the soceity, let us deal with the real threats and oppressions against women.
    Wake up Humans.
    May Allah guide us and keep us all on the straight path. ameen

  15. Abu Hamzah

    April 17, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    As-salamu alaikum

    I would like to comment about the accusations against Saudi Arabia. I am not Saudi, I am Canadian, born and raised. However, I live in Saudi Arabia. I dont appreciate that you are inferring all these negative things about the country in which I chose to live. I find it a little hypocritical that everyone is talking about how Mona is trying to pressure Muslims to view Islam her way. I do not agree that anyone back bites those who rule this counry nor its citizens, just as you do not want anyone to backbite Mona.

    Whatever you may personally think about this country, this country is better than America and Canada. This is a Muslim country led by Muslims. Alhamduliallaah this country has been protected by the fitnah that is engulfing the Arab world. The reason: Saudi’s respect their leaders because they try to rule according to Islam as much as the West will let them. This is much more than what I can say about North America and Europe. Moreover, I am a male. I have worked side by side Saudi and non Saudi women, Gasp! Yes, thats right women have the right to work here, and they work with men within the restrictions of Shariah. In addition, not all Saudi women wear niqaab, and no one is forcing them to wear it. I have seen many Saudi and non-Saudi women walk around without wearing the niqaab.

    Women here chose to wear the niqaab, my wife didnt wear it in Canada. However, she chose to wear it here and not because some beared mutawah came and said cover her face.

    So before you are so quick to say that Muslims should not backbite Mona, do backbite the leaders who spend their wealth to ensure that Muslims all over the world can come for hajj and umrah.

    • The Shardul of Allah

      April 17, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      Bashing gulf countries with all sorts of negativity has become the norm.

      People may choose wherever they want to live, but it saddens me sometimes when Muslims before migrating to America/Canada/Australia say, “Do you know brother? Those countries are so free and liberal that you can actually practice Islam much more than what you can in gulf countries.”

    • muslima1

      April 17, 2011 at 5:04 PM

      assalamu alaikum brother

      i really dont want to argue with you about the gulf countries, especially where you said “Saudi’s respect their leaders because they try to rule according to Islam as much as the West will let them”
      subhan Allah!!! really i am speechless hasbeya Allah wa ne3ma al wakeel !!!!!
      all i want to say is that may Allah guide you to the truth and open your eyes to what u cannot see.
      Allahuma arena al haqa haqan wa erzokna eteba3aho wa arena al batel batelan warzokna ejtenabahu
      oh Allah show us the truth and help us follow it and show us falshood and help us stay away from it.

      • Abu Hamzah

        April 18, 2011 at 2:19 AM

        Prove me wrong then….

        • ibn Muhammad

          April 18, 2011 at 2:35 AM

          Saudi is a muslim country? I almost LOLed, but frowned instead. There are more illegitimate male-female relations in Saudi then the Muslims in the U.S. and the same can be said about drugs, music, etc. Including amongst those who wear niqaab.

          • Abu Hamzah

            April 18, 2011 at 3:50 AM

            At the time of Prophet these things existed amongst the people. You have an idealist view of how a Muslim country should be. I never said anyone was perfect, but yes it is a Muslim country.

        • muslima1

          April 18, 2011 at 2:57 PM

          assalamu aliakum
          i really dont wanna prove u wrong,i just wish that people like you are able to see the reality of things ,u see i believe insha Allah u are sincere , and this sincerity maybe doesnt allow u to see the reality of things.
          in my opinion saudi and all muslim countries are responsible for the ummah, Allah subhanahu has given saudi soo many resources, these resources are for the whoooole ummah, but its not like that in saudi. saudi is implementing as much of islam as it can so the religious people in saudi dont make an uprising, its not implementing islam as mush as the west will allow it!! !!!
          and y should saudi not be stronger than the west , i mean it has the oil; but the thing is when america was in an economical hardship , it was saudi who helped……. etc
          saudi and alot of other muslim countries, dont have islam as their best interest,
          y is it that if i have a foriegn passport i have soo much more of a chance to land a job there??
          There are alot of BIG issues in which Saudi is letting the ummah down. for Saudi, home of Mecca and Madina, the Prophet’s city, it is very disappointing.
          the way i see it is that as long as we are living in our own comfortable bubble we just turn a blind eye to the problems of the ummah.????
          again i ask Allah to show you the truth and help u to follow it and show u falsehood and help u stay away from it
          and may He subhanahu return the ummah to the straight path

          • Abu Hamzah

            April 19, 2011 at 6:58 AM

            I have been in this country for several years. I know this country very well. I know Saudi’s and other nationalities very well. I know exactly what is good about this country and what is bad about this country. However, let me use this as an example. An Imam in Canada was asked a question about whether or not we have to make wudhu after we eat camel meat. His response was that this question is not appropriate to ask because ti does not affect you. You live in Canada and not the Middle East. You will likely never eat camel meat, therefore, ask questions that are of benefit to you. What I am saying is this, I do not need to speak of the many bad things about this country. I will not speak about the many bad things that have happened to me in this country. Being Canadian does not make me immune to having hardship in this country. Not all of us work in Aramco, some of us actually work in other places too, that are not so good. Whether you are American or Benghali, in this system we are all the same: agnabee.

            I will never speak to someone what the bad things in this country to someone who has never been here. It is none of their business. It does not affect their daily life. I will onyl speak good of its people and leaders.

            Yes, the governent implements Islam as much as they are allowed to. If the government said today that we will implement Islam to its fullest and we will go against the Americans and their influence, this country would look like Libya or any other Arab country now.

            I liken this situation to the treaty the Muslims made with the people of Quraysh: Hudaybiyyah. In this treaty the Muslims appeared to be at a disadcantage. The Muslims made compromises that gave the Quryash the upper hand. Th leaders know very well that a time will come when Islam will be raised in the lands.

            I find it insincere to blame the problems of Ummah one just Saudi. To do so is worng and unjust. This government helps the Ummah in so many ways. They do many thigns to help people in Palestine by donating huge sums of money. Everyone expects the saudi’s to fix the worlds problems, and because they cant they are blamed for all the problems. Thats silly.

          • Siraaj

            April 19, 2011 at 4:19 PM

            Abu Hamzah,

            The actions of the Saudi govt and the way they implement shari’ah do affect my life and that of others in the US because of the poor leadership example they set. Even if you’re hypothesis were true, that if they implemented shari’ah, they would become 3rd world (very far-fetched) dictatorships (what are they now?), they also don’t practice Islam very well personally.

            I appreciate the donations they provide to support the Ummah, just as much as I appreciate donations for the masjid from wealthy “muslims” who drink, socialize, and have illicit relationships, but appreciating their donation doesn’t mean I have to also turn a blind eye to their mistakes, especially when they’re in a position of leadership where responsibility and accountability is much greater.


        • Me

          April 19, 2011 at 4:53 PM

          LOL @ the credit you’re giving to the Saudi government, they’re the most corrupt government in the world and I would choose any western country before them…

          • Abu Hamzah

            April 20, 2011 at 1:01 AM

            By the way, I just noticed that Muslim Matters edited some of my posts. I said nothing haram or against Islam. This proves you cant even speak freely about our religion in America and Canada. If you can speak so freely about islam, then why is this site editing comments that I said, when I said nothing against the shariah.

          • Amad

            April 20, 2011 at 1:27 AM

            No one has a right to leave a comment here, that is a privilege provided by the site. When you enter someone’s house, you have to observe their rules. We have a strict comments policy and what we deem appropriate or not is up to the discretion of the many editors here.

            People who continue to flaunt the rules or become overly argumentative are free not to participate (and we’ll help them with that).

  16. Noussa

    April 17, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    Salam Aleikom,

    Barakallahu fik for this article. I believe Ms Mona Eltahawy did not aim in offending niqabis she even opposes the french law banning niqab. Although I do not agree with her personnal opinion about niqab (I am not a niqabi nor even a hijabi, but only the fact that the wives of the Prophet were wearing it should be enough to any muslim to not reject it fundamentally even though they don’t personnally wear it), I think it is important to protect her right to express about it.

    The only thing I deeply regret about it is that this debate bagan during the french burqa-ban law, as if France had any intention with this law to enter into a theological debate on muslim women’s rights: that is terribly wrong! I know France for linving it, this law is not about women’s rights, its about stigmatizing Islam and muslim migrants, at less than 1year from presidential elections, where the worry about massive migration is what make French citizen chose right-wing parties. If France wanted to defend Muslim women freedom, they wouldnt have proposed to Ben Ali so send him the french police to help him in the persecussion of protestors, they wouldnt have been making business with Qaddafi and the Seoud, etc.

    We are all wrong (Mona included) to bring that debate into an inner debate on burqa that has nothing to do with what people in France are experiencing in terms of racism and discrimination.

    Wa Salam,

    • Cartoon M

      April 17, 2011 at 12:49 PM

      yea, It probably would have been best if people focused on the political motivations of this law and that the president was just using it to get votes.

      But of course, people will ask if the law is justified and whether or not the niqab is repressive to women. So we have no choice but to discuss the issue of the niqab.

    • Elizabeth

      April 17, 2011 at 3:58 PM

      Bismillah as salamu ‘alaykum

      It is obvious from the video where Mona debated Hebah that she opposed niqab and the ban on niqab. Her views are not founded within Islam and her call is away from Islam, against Islam, and to oppression of women who choose an interpretation that is SOLID within Islam. Alhamdulillah, within Islam, we are taught to either speak good or remain silent. She fights the idea of religiosity in women that shows on the apparent. I don’t know if it reminds her too much of the importance of external actions or what but she is wrong and we should not let people like that be the majority. SubhanaAllah, even non Muslims will defend our right. And here you have a woman who ascribes herself to Islam who rejects based on pure whim.

      Allah guide her and all of us. Amin

    • Aideh

      April 18, 2011 at 12:02 PM

      wa alaikum asalaam,

      very good point. Thank you for reminding us of the bigger picture.

  17. Nour Kamel

    April 17, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    I am a Muslim young woman who always found Niqab somewhat unappealing and unsafe. As a matter of fact i always worried a little and found it unfair that while you saw my face I didn’t see yours and figured that given the fact we must remove it when we go to pilgrimage, it is clearly unnecessary and uncalled for. Just like a lot of other Muslim factors, I also disliked its Missuses and how it became a security threat in my country at some point.

    As young teenager, a friend of mine got veiled and shortly after wore the Niqab. Eventually we drifted apart. Not because of her, nor me but because clearly our interests grew in different directions.

    Personally I don’t even wear the head scarf but I am a believer, and I do invest effort into being as good of a Muslim as I can be. I am quite liberal and I m pro-choice. Be it niqab, or anything else.

    This letter however has left me speechless and brought shivers down my spine. I would definitely take up this invitation for tea if i could. (even thought it was not intended for me)

    You make for a very clever writer and a very inspirational character.

    You inspired me.

    Thank You.


    • AnonyMouse

      April 18, 2011 at 4:38 AM

      As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh!

      Dear Nour, I’m so glad that my letter affected you in this way :)
      May Allah increase you in your emaan and bring you closer to Him, ameen.

      And you’re always welcome to my house for tea! :)

    • Elizabeth

      April 18, 2011 at 7:49 AM

      wa ‘alaykum as salam Sr. Nour

      Dear sister, people change through changes in life. Our interests change. It’s just a part of life.

      As for the niqaab not being allowed on hajj – this actually shows that it was a common thing for women to cover their faces.

      Imām Ibn Taymiyyah said,

      “…It is proven in As-Sahīh that the woman in ihrām is forbidden to wear the niqaab and gloves. This is what proves that the niqaab and gloves were known among women who were not in ihraam. This implies that they covered their faces and hands.” (Majmoo’ al-Fatāwa, 15/371-372)

      Also, if the books of fiqh are read it will be understood that the terms Niqaab and Jilbab are two different things. Niqaab is that which clings to the face (what we know today) and many scholars understood the word “Jilbab” in surah Al Ahza 33:59 where it says “jalaabeebihinna” to mean the garment which covers the entire body and the face. There are narrations supporting that the Ummahat al mu’mineen and sahabiyat (such as Asmaa bint Abi Bakr) brought down their jalaabeeb and covered their faces during pilgrimage. We just have to educate that the two are different so that this type of confusion does not occur.

      Here is one narration:

      وعن أسماء بنت أبى بكر رضي الله عنهما قالت : كنا نُغطِّي وجوهنا من الرجال ،
      وكنَّا نمتشط قبل ذلك في الإحرام . رواه ابن خزيمة ( 4 / 203 ) ، والحاكم ( 1 / 624
      ) وصححه ووافقه الذهبي . وصححه الألباني في كتاب جلباب المرأة المسلمة

      From Asmā’ bint Abi Bakr, (Radhiya Allahu ‘Anhā), that she said, “We used (i.e. during the time of the Prophet) to cover our faces from the men, and cut our hair before that in Ihrām (for Hajj).

      (This hadīth is narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah 4/203, and Al Hākim and he declared it Sahīh according to the conditions of the two Shaykhs Al Bukhāri and Muslim. Imam Adh-Dhahabi agreed with him. Imam Al Albaani also declared it Sahīh in his Jilbāb Al-Mar’atu Muslimah.)


      عن هشام بن عروة عن فاطمة بنت المنذر أنها قالت : « كنا نُخمِّرُ وجوهنا ونحن
      محرمات ، ونحن مع أسماء بنت أبي بكر الصديق »

      From Hishaam ibn ‘Urwah from Fātimah bint Al-Mundhir that she said,

      “We would nukhammir (cover) our faces while we were Muhrimaat, and while doing that we would be with Asmā’ bint Abi Bakr As-Siddeeq.”

      (This hadīth is reported by Imām Maalik in his Muwatta’. In the Arabic edition it is on page 217. Its chain is Sahīh.)

      Another narration:

      رواه ابن أبي خيثمة ، من طريق إسماعيل بن أبي خالد ، عن أمه قالت : « كنا ندخل على
      أم المؤمنين يوم التروية ، فقلت لها : يا أم المؤمنين ، هنا امرأة تأبى أن تغطيَ
      وجهها وهي محرمة ، فرفعت عائشة خمارها من صدرها فغطَّت به وجهها »

      Ibn Abi Khaythamah reports from the way of Ismaa’eel ibn Abi Khaalid from his mother that she said,

      “We entered upon Umm Al-Mu’minīn on Yawm At-Tarwayah and we said to her, ‘Oh Mother of the Believers! Here is a woman who refuses to cover her face and she is a Muhrimah (in ihrām). So ‘Aa’ishah lifted her Khimār from her chest, and covered the woman’s face with it.”

      (This hadīth has been mentioned in At-Talkhees Al-Habeer of Ibn Hajr Al-’Asqalaani 2/272 or number 1083 in some prints. The chain of this hadīth is strong.)

      Just some narrations to clear this idea that not being allowed to wear “niqaab” meant they did not cover their faces in front of ghayr mahram men.

      Please read this article:

      was salam

  18. Sabeen Mansoori

    April 17, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    Jazakallah Khair to you and Sis. Hebah for providing to an entire generation of Muslim girls an understanding of a Niqabi women that many of us did not have when we were growing up. Many of them are choosing to wear it while others are considering it as something that is pleasing to Allah and ‘cool’ at the same time. The legacy of colonialism was that wearing niqab was for those of a lower class and was some how not “modern” enough. Apart from individual rights, this is also a debate about how we understand and define beauty. A group of young sisters sat and watched the debate on CNN and answered the following questions:
    1. Who would you be if you were one of the people on the screen? Why?
    2. Do you think Spitzer is fair?
    3. What would you say to Hebah if you met her?
    4. What would you say to Mona?
    5. Define beauty in one sentence?
    The answers were quite revealing and positive. May Allah (swt) bless you and put barakah in your time.

  19. Leila

    April 17, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    “The local Imam’s wife …. gets a kick out of going horseback riding on the beach where people’s eyes bug out when they see a veiled Muslim women galloping across the sand.”

    This confirms my suspicions that women who choose to wear niqaab in societies where it is not required or the cultural norm, even when they recognize that it is not required by Islam, are at least unconsciously taking pleasure in shocking those around them. This sure seems like exhibitionism to me, and it’s no better than a young teenager dancing half naked on a table top in a bar, or getting tattoos & piercings all over her body as a sign of her non-conformism. It’s the same politics of ressentiment that’s involved in the niqaabi’s sartorial “rebellion” – except most Western niqaabi’s are more articulate in rationalizing their adolescent choices than Western teenagers are.

    Just like the half-naked teenager who uses her body to gain a sense of identity, this recent explosion of women who have recently started wearing the niqaab (even against the wishes of Muslim family members & communities) are revolting against the societies they live in. They transform their bodies into a billboard to express their disdain for the the norms of that society and to proudly advertise their refusal to “fit in.”

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is a reactionary response to an identity crisis and a social crisis that lead people to extreme forms of self-affirmation. So it’s really not surprising that such a large proportion of new, Western niqaabis are actually converts to Islam. But psychologically speaking, this trend seems profoundly unhealthy to me.

    I can’t count how many articles and interviews I’ve read in the past months where niqaabis self-righteously refute what other peoples’ perceptions of them are. But I wish these women would spend less energy reacting and justifying their choices to others and more energy reflecting to themselves about what exactly is driving those choices.

    • Sara

      April 17, 2011 at 10:18 AM

      I understood that line to mean that she gets a kick out of horseriding, not the stares of people.

    • The Shardul of Allah

      April 17, 2011 at 10:59 AM

      This sure seems like exhibitionism to me, and it’s no better than a young teenager dancing half naked on a table top in a bar, or getting tattoos & piercings all over her body as a sign of her non-conformism.

      Comparing niqaabis with ……………………….? I am speechless. I seek refuge in Allah.

      Now-a-days when we become little judgmental about Muslim women who prefer not to cover their hairs, we are reminded quickly that we do not know what goes in their heart. At the same time, I have also read thousands of pieces where Muslim women who sees veil as their personal choice justified how someone can still be a good Muslim without covering their heads.

      But when niqaabis wears niqaab, which is mandatory according to many renowned Muslim scholars (and I know that there is ikhtilaf about it and I respect it), someone openly questions their intention and compares them with half naked women.

      • Elizabeth

        April 18, 2011 at 7:55 AM

        It’s a sad reality that those who call others to become more open minded are many times the ones who are close minded and ignorant. As someone who wore niqaab full time in the past, I can say that the hardest aspect of wearing niqaab is the attitude of many Muslims. We are many times more oppressed by the same people who say it is oppression to wear it.

        • DrM

          April 19, 2011 at 5:31 PM


          This is very true. I remember an MSA event at my sister’s high school many years ago where I nearly came to blows with a Tunisian father who said women in burka looked like trash cans. I warned him unless that unless he retracted and apologized for this statement that I would physically straighten him up. He did so, but I still humiliated him by giving him a thorough dressing down.
          Whether one agrees with the niqab or not, don’t ever degrade Muslim women who observe it.

    • Inqiyaad

      April 17, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      The statement would confirm your suspicion only if you linked the ‘kick’ to the shock reaction and not horseback riding. I read it as the latter. The former as something she has no control over. More like how we have no control over your suspicions!

      Mona claims that niqabis are invisible. When evidence is presented to the contrary, Leila comes out to claim that it is exhibitionism. It is an interesting situation, it is called ‘diarrhea with constipation’. On further reflection, it may be just a symptom. The underlying disease being the conviction that ‘I am the reference point’. There is one word for this -megalomania.

      Sure, niqaab may be a reactionary response. But, it is in reaction to the ‘unhealthy’ objectification of women. By your logic, KKK and civil rights movement are the same. Because they were a reaction to something and an attempt at creating an identity.

      You can continue to equate half-naked, gyrating, and pimp-our-kind women to modest women who choose to continue to be true to their beliefs even when faced by unreasonable criticisms. Irrespective of your false analogies, the contrast is evident to people with decency and a decent IQ.

      And did I mention what some women mean when they say ‘may be niqaab is not required by Islaam’? They mean that, though this is their personal choice, there is another opinion that does not mandate niqaab. They do not force it on others, despite their own conviction that it is required by Islaam. What a contrast to megalomania.

      Muslims have to check their intentions in every deed they do. The niqaabis would be more than happy to be doing just that, if the likes of Mona and Leila would leave them alone.

    • Amad

      April 17, 2011 at 1:41 PM

      Leila, this:
      “This confirms my suspicions”

      confirms my suspicion that you read this letter with preconceived notions that colored your views to the point that one innocent sentence led you to make a conclusion proven wrong by the rest of the letter.

      Prejudice has a nasty way of getting in the way of understanding.

    • RevertNiqaabi

      April 17, 2011 at 1:53 PM

      @ Well written piece MaashaAllah, May Allah reward your efforts.

      @ Leila

      I must strongly disagree with the comment in regards to us obsevring the veil merely to get attention, I wear the Niqaab dispite the fact that I live in the west, my family are not muslims and wouldmuch rather i didn’t – my reasoning wasn’t to shock, to rebel or to stand out – Its because its something i feel is incumbent upon me as a young, muslim women. I completly respect the muslim women who choose to take the other opinion which also has scholarly support but this my choice of dress and how i feel most comfortable appearing in public. Of course I must admitt and accept that the niqaab at times causes people to look at me, but lets face facts as a young woman they would look anyway whether my face would covered or not! I would, as a muslim women, prefer that they look out of curiosity rather than out of lust or attraction.

      I find it insulting that you would compare women who dress modestly out of servitute to God, who preserve their chasitiy and honour themselves to Strippers. The comparison is completely unjustified and offensive, and with all honesty has no backing when we look to the reality – women of all ages and cultural backgrounds wear the niqaab – its not something limited to the young muslim women of the west.

      I hope you will reconsider your comments in light of the reality around us – are realize that they are completely unappropriate..

    • Miriam

      April 17, 2011 at 2:15 PM

      Peace and blessings Ms. Leila:

      Aside from you sewerage swipes at the self-esteem and mental health of Muslim women who truly are free to cover this way I do think your call to question ones intentions are fair and balanced. Hands down. I also think it’s fair to point out that self-righteousness can quickly become spiritual abuse-a lesser form of tyranny. What’s fair is fair. What I do NOT understand is why not reach out to other Muslims with: RESPECT, compassion, and scholarship versus debasing them? How are you any better than Islamaphobes, anti-Semites, or racists? I see the same dysfunctional dynamics occurring our WORLD WIDE religious community as in other oppressed groups.

      Respectfully, responses such as yours remind me why the Jewish community is so successful in the Western World. I also think its racist to assume that Muslims must conform to every norm of the society—including its pathologies-when ALL Muslims aren’t immigrants or the children of immigrants. There ARE many indigenous Muslims in North American countries. I have a serious problem with that. Islam is for HUMANITY. I also wish the media would demonstrate some professional ethics in their journalism and interview the diverse groups amongst us as well. I’m beyond fed up with that sabotage.

      I’m NEVER going to debase my religion or other Muslims unless they are engaged in abuse, violence, hatred, or crime.
      Contemporary Orthodox Judaism’s Response to Modernity by Barry Freundel

      Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations by Jonathan Sacks

    • Brother

      April 17, 2011 at 11:07 PM

      Actually, niqabis wear the niqab for religious reasons, just like I wear the beard for religious reasons, nothing more and nothing less.

      As for half-naked teenage girls, I assume they want to look like Britney Spears or some other role model. Maybe they are trying to get a boyfriend, I don’t know. Or are they trying to tease boys??? I was always wondering about that when I was younger, but now I don’t really care, the reasons may be numerous.

    • AnonyMouse

      April 18, 2011 at 4:47 AM


      My mum is the Imam’s wife who goes horsebackriding… and no, she doesn’t do it to be an exhbibitionist or to show her resentfulness of society. She does it ‘cuz she likes horsebackriding!

      niqaabis self-righteously refute what other peoples’ perceptions of them are. But I wish these women would spend less energy reacting and justifying their choices to others and more energy reflecting to themselves about what exactly is driving those choices.

      I find that statement to be extremely judgemental and inaccurate. First of all, the majority of us aren’t wearing niqaab as a rebellion against the West; to us, it’s out of obedience towards Allah. If the West takes it as rebellion, let them – we’re not doing it for them!

      Secondly, there is nothing wrong with refuting others’ perceptions of us. Muslims all over the West are trying to refute stereotypes that we’re “terrorists” – is that wrong? Of course not.

      Thirdly, we are not deliberately spending energy thinking about how to shock people outside. When I wear my purple lace fingerless gloves or rainbow socks, it’s not because I want people to go “OMG!”… it’s because I have a quirky sense of style that I like to express.

      AlHamdulillaah, I’ve always been very sure and confident about why I wear the niqaab, and it’s not for any of the reasons you implied.

    • Elizabeth

      April 18, 2011 at 8:02 AM

      “even when they recognize that it is not required in Islam” – Leila, I am 99.9 % certain that you have not done research on the topic of the face being ‘awrah within Islam. Please, just leave this topic alone. “Let whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or remain silent” (hadeeth Rasulullah salllallahu alayhi wa sallam)

      If you are allowed to react why can’t Muslim women who veil themselves react? We have to stand up and defend this. This is our deen and this is our honor. For you to compare women who veil themselves to such a ridiculous thing only shows your ignorance and your close mindedness Leila. It is people like you that oppress Muslim women and make Muslim women want to stay at home.

      Your assumptions of self-righteousness are wrong. If you don’t want assumptions made about you then don’t make them about others. Suspicion is haram.

      Alhamdulilah my identity is Islam and it SHOULD be our identity. That means that everything that is a part of Islam is what brings me dignity for it is from GOD – Our Creator.

      We need less of “me, me, me”. Too many of us feel that our opinions matter more than what Islam has to offer. Please, let us educate ourselves and speak with understanding. There is no better way than the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our beloved Messenger of God (peace be upon him).

    • Laura

      April 18, 2011 at 8:50 AM

      Well said, Leila, you’re exactly right!

      • Brother

        April 18, 2011 at 7:46 PM

        Actually, exactly wrong!

    • DrM

      April 19, 2011 at 5:15 PM

      Yet another ridiculous screed, constantly trying to inject her own false paradigms into the lives and motivations of practicing Muslim women. “Norms of society” my foot. A sick morally depraved society where every under vice under the sky is legit, prostitution, wardrobe “malfunctions” etc and sanctimonious hypocrites attack and demean niqabi sisters.
      What truly is unhealthy is how sick and obsessive westerners and their eager beaver worshipers are with Muslim women’s clothing. It borders on a bizarre fetish, anyone familiar with European colonial history knows how deeply this entrenched Orientalist mindset is. This whole fiasco has crystallized for me the need for Muslims to strongly oppose and condemn this racist western mental pathology.

      -Edited. Pls avoid personal attacks.

    • Me

      April 19, 2011 at 7:03 PM

      Wow Leila you seem very upset…

  20. bucketofdreams

    April 17, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Barakallahu Feek! Nicely written =)

  21. Olivia

    April 17, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    Masha’Allah, a very thoughtful and eloquent response.

  22. Jack Fertig

    April 17, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    A good article, but could be better. (Sorry, my schoolteacher coming out.) I would like to know more about the sisters’ motivations for wearing niqab. With all the strong assertions denying the common presumptions, OK, but please do tell us what it serves.

    In the West niqabis are certainly NOT invisible, but do stand out very conspicuously. Perhaps like the horseback rider who enjoys others’ reactions, that may even be reason for wearing it. People wear all kinds of attention-getting outfits whether or not that is their intention. People who really want to be invisible dress as others do and simply blend in.

    I do agree with sister Zainab that the political fetishization of the niqab is a distraction from the real issues of women’s oppression, but where it is enforced or banned that is also an oppressive restriction of a woman’s right to choose her own clothing.

    Having lived always in the West and only visited a bit in the Mid-East (and being a man) my experience with this is very different from our sister Mona’s. She has lived in Egypt and seen how social pressure has pushed more and more women under the veil. She has good reason to see it as a tool of oppression and restriction. In many cases it is. I do not deny anyone’s right to choose for herself what she wants to wear, but it is foolish, even dishonest to deny that in many cases the veil is a terrible restriction, and all too often an indulgence of smug piety. It is unfair to say that these apply to all niqabis, but just as wrong to deny that it happens way too often. I appreciate and agree with much of what Mona says, but disagree with her on the ban.

    There will be lots of disagreement about how and why women cover themselves just as different women have different reasons for doing so (or not). I think my only legitimate concern and the only reasonable concern of the law is that women are not being forced by others, but do indeed dress as they themselves choose.

    • Brother

      April 17, 2011 at 11:14 PM

      Well, I grew a beard as according to my religious beliefs. Yes, the beard attracts attention, especially at airports, but that is not the reason why I grew it. Actually, I don’t like attracting attention to myself, but I won’t compromise my religious beliefs in order to prevent it. My identity is what I have chosen it to be.

    • Inqiyaad

      April 18, 2011 at 2:52 PM

      Jack, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Siraaj has already pointed out the difference between the two kinds of attention one draws, either lustful or inquisitive. Also, sisters Hebah Ahmed and Aisha Ali have shared on another post here regarding the false notion that niqab is enforced in some places.

      What I am concerned is the ‘smug’ righteousness with which many in the west suggest that a law should be in place to free the Muslim women from perceived oppression. I am not denying that there might be some truth to this perception. However, if this is legitimate, as you suggest, then let me draw two images and let’s see which one is more compelling. But, before that let me share an incident.

      One of my acquaintances dressed up for halloween, as a ‘ho’. It appeared as if she was going to great lengths to keep it somewhere between a bikini and a ‘normal’ dress. Not to mention that her halloween dress was, at best, an inch shorter than her normal one.

      Now for the two images, the first is that of a bearded man forcing her wife, daughter or sister into wearing an all-covering, constricting dress. The other is that of a helpless victim of human trafficking lying down everyday in a constricted place for the dozens of ‘men’ she is forced into serving. Which of the two is more compelling and urgent in terms of a need to save and ‘liberate’? I don’t know about you but I would choose the latter.

      Because we know how a ‘ho’ looks like and hoping that you agree with me, it is disappointing that we do not see any laws to make sure that women who are dressed in short clothes do so by their own volition! Perhaps, men who advocate laws to dictate dress code for women cannot think straight when faced with the second image. Because their blood supply has been redirected to organs that have hardened as much as their hearts.

      This is a result of downplaying others culture over that of ‘western culture’. And we know how much of a culture it is that says that you can go to a prostitute but just you wear a condom.

      P.S: If someone wants to argue that prostitution is illegal in ‘most’ places then so is domestic violence and there are laws to counter it, as Elliott Spitzer rightly pointed out.

  23. The Shardul of Allah

    April 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    A very well written article. Jazakhallah sister.

    A couple of points. These are merely self-reflections; I apologize in advance if someone finds them to be offensive, critical or negative in anyway.

    01. I personally think that the spirit of submitting without questioning has been lost from the Muslims. This is sad, but this is the reality of our time. One of the traits of a successful Muslim is he or she submits without questioning. Allah said in Surah Baqarah:

    And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.” [2:285]

    Submitting without questioning is a serious issue. Iblees (may Allah’s curse be upon him) when commanded by Allah to prostrate before Adam, did not prostrate. His felt that fire was better than soil, and he presented his logic to Allah. Did Allah engage into debate with him? No. Allah simply said, “Get down. You have become a disbeliever.”

    Contrarily, look how Prophet Abraham submitted to Allah. Allah said, “Sacrifice your son for me.” If Allah had commanded us like this, we would have said, “Is this command sane? Does it make sense?” But the prophet of Allah did not think twice. He hastened to slaughter the apple of his eye. And how Allah blessed and honored him. Prophet Abraham has been given the title of UPRIGHT, and from his lineage was born our Messenger, the best of creation.

    But now a days, even when we learn that an opinion is saheeh, we question about its merits before actually following it. Like why did Allah allow brothers to receive more from their father’s share compared to sisters? Why women can’t divorce like men do? Why TV or Islamic bank is not halal? Why wearing hijaab can’t be my own choice? Why, why and why? We delve into logical and rational debate before we submit.

    02. If I really believe that I am doing something for Allah, I do not need to justify my action to anyone. If someone asks me why I pray, my instant answer would be, “Allah said so.” If he asks me about its benefits, I will only answer, if I find him/her to be sincere. Remember, as Noman Ali once said, ‘Questioning can be of two types. The first type is when someone sincerely asks to learn something about Islam. The second type of question is asked to question the merit of command given by Allah or His Messenger.”

    03. I personally believe that most of this debates about hijab, niqaab etc pop up because we have become more concerned about fitting us in the society defined by disbelievers than about pleasing Allah. For those who find Muslim wearing niqaabs, veil, or kufis as exhibitionist, should remember that the Messenger of Allah clearly instructed Muslims to differentiate them from people of other religion. He said,

    It was narrated that Ibn ‘Umar said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever imitates a people is one of them.’” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, al-Libaas, 3512. Al-Albaani said in Saheeh Abi Dawood, (it is) hasan saheeh. No. 3401).

    Now, if I give salam to my Muslim friend in front of a non-Muslim and he finds it awkward and not fitting to the non-Muslim society, does that mean that I should stop giving salam and start greeting Muslims with Good Morning?

    04. Is Mona Al Tahawy a scholar of Islam to talk about the niqaab? How many times commenters are reminded that we are not knowledgeable enough to talk about issues where there is ikhtilaf? How come people now see no problem Mona talking about it? Does people like Mona and Asra Nomani really deserve the attention they get?

    05. Surely, the time has come when we talk more but do very little. The barakah therefore has been lifted.

    • Amad

      April 17, 2011 at 1:29 PM

      As Muslims residing in the West, we have to be sensitive to what the larger society thinks and desires. And as much as possible, we can and should explain what we are able to. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is not about fitting in, that questions the intentions of people doing the explaining, but rather about being good neighbors.

      Secondly, we are not cattle. We hear and obey is preceded by knowing what you hear is truthful or not. Knowledge is a prerequisite to obeying, otherwise how do you know what to obey? Struggling to find out whether the niqab is fard or not is part of that jihad.

      Thirdly, when people tell you that you are disappearing because of niqab, the answer isn’t “Because Allah says so”, it might be part of your formulation, but you also need to refute the negative consequences and stereotypes being associated with what *you” (not them) believe is from Allah.

      We have to be careful of taking a verse or hadith and applying it to every situation because the hadith you quoted makes an assumption on the intentions and actions of those who are struggling to explain their deen in a hostile world.

      • Brother

        April 17, 2011 at 11:17 PM

        Nowadays, everyone has disappeared behind the internet.

  24. Sarah

    April 17, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    MashaAllah, beautiful response. JazakiAllahu khayrn sister! :)

  25. Jehan

    April 17, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Assalamu ‘Alaykoom

    My name is Jehan and I am 19 years old. I have been wearing Niqab for one year now. However I have wanted to wear it three years ago, but my parents wouldn’t let me. I follow the opinion that Niqab is Fard (Obligatory) Muslim men and women must respect my opinion that it is obligatory hence there is a difference in opinion (Mustahab or Fard). I believe that it’s haram for a women to reveal her face and hands. But that doesn’t mean that I will judge anyone that takes the other opinion. But I do post articles and videos about Niqab on my facebook page for da’wah. I will never take off my Niqab inshallah and I will fight for the right of any Muslim sister to cover and wear Niqab, even if that means the taking of my life.

    To those that claim that you must see the person to really know them etc. My answer to you is: I don’t cover infront of children, old men, all women and all my mahrams. So all of these people see me and know me perfectly fine. The only individuals that I am not “known” to is Non-mahram men whom I choose not to associate myself with anyways (only for necessity)

    There are many important issues that Niqabi haters need to address that concerns the whole Ummah. People just need to leave us alone and let us serve out creator in the way that we believe fits best.

    Very nice article and I ask Allah to guide Mona to the straight path and who knows maybe one day she will discover the truth and wear Niqab one day as well :) May Allah guide us all!

  26. Hebah Ahmed

    April 17, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    Asalam ALikum We rahmat Allahee we Barakatu,

    Jazak Allahu Khair many fold my dear sister! Excellent letter. I would love super powers as well! :)

    May Allah keep you strong and give you Jannat al-Firdous for your great work and outreach.

    I feel times are changing and Muslims are finally being given a voice. As horrible as Niqab bans, and Quran burnings, and mosque construction controversies are, Allah seems to be allowing these things to happen in order to open the doors for our Dawah Insha Allah. We should never loose hope and always know Allah alone is in control.

    May Allah keep our hearts and tongues on the truth and protect us from ever spreading falsehood. Ameen.

    • muslima1

      April 17, 2011 at 5:13 PM

      salam sister
      uare so right
      there is a saying that goes
      iza fadeelah intomesat otherah 7awlaha al jadal,
      if a virtue becomes burried , people start arguing about it
      subhan Allah

    • Elizabeth

      April 18, 2011 at 3:44 PM

      wa ‘alaykum as salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      What’s a picnic without ants right? :)

  27. Maria Yousuf

    April 17, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    I wish EVERY pair of ears could listen to this!!! I WISH!!!

  28. Shazma bint Harun

    April 17, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    JazakAllah khair sister for this very beneficial read! Alhamdulilah, it’s great to see so many sisters breaking the stereotypes of Muslims women. May Allah make you and your family on the path of the righteous and grant you Jannah. Ameen!

  29. Wisconsinite

    April 17, 2011 at 4:33 PM


    I currently live in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and have been for the last 7 months or so.

    From my understanding (and i may be incorrect), Niqaab is not required by the law. The ‘abaya is required as far as I know. But women here in public do not have issues with the police if they are not wearing niqaab. In fact, many women are hijabless here too and they don’t deal with anything from the police.

    There’s a social stigma without a doubt. Saudi men may look down upon those women or those women may be treated differently, but we’re talking about the law here. Saudi Arabia cannot be treated as 1 monolith in terms of it’s law and enforcement. I haven’t been to Riyadh, but from what I hear, the law is more strict when it comes to the ‘abaya there, but again, you can see women there without a niqaab functioning in society.

    Again, socially and culturally, the people may expect something of women, and the women/girls may be pressured in the schools, but the law is different than what the social standard is.



  30. Halimeh

    April 17, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Couldn’t have said it any better myself. I don’t wear Niqab and probably never will, but what “I” choose to wear/not to wear must not be imposed on anyone else just because I believe this or that to be true. Unfortunately the society we live in obsesses extensively over nothing but appearance and looks, hence all the attacks against those donning the niqab are expected to arise. Why don’t we just treat people as we’d like to be treated. Funny thing is Mona herself endorses the fact that Middle-Eastern countries were able to free themselves and were in no need of the West to impede… let’s narrow it down to the individualistic level, no government or person has the right to “free” a people in a foreign land BY FORCE, let alone trying to “free” someone from something they do by choice.

    May we all be guided to the truth and nothing but the truth.

  31. muslimah

    April 17, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    Assalamualaikum.I have been able to attend university in South Africa and have both muslim and non muslim close friends who have never had a problem recognizing me or any other social barrier, even though many of them did not initially see my face as we mainly met in class. The only people I have a social barrier with are the ones with pre-concieved negativity about all people who dress like me. Such people avoid eye contact, do not return greetings or throw derogatory words at me. All praise to Allah, I have only encountered a handful of those people in my extremely tolerant country. To veil yourself is to deny yourself the pleasure of turning a mans head and your own vanity for the pleasure of Allah. The same way that we deny ourselves the elatement of spirit that comes from listening to music so that we are not distracted from His remembrance. I do not understand how the gratification of dancing half-naked on a table to gain attention could be equated with covering up. The latter may attract curious stares, the way someone would look at a new species of animal discovered, but not adoring stares. Definitely not something anybody would enjoy. It is the lazy mind that puts a group of people into a box and expects them to fit perfectly.

  32. Leilani

    April 17, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    …It sounds like Mona was asked to speak on a topic that she did not fully understand. And that is maybe the fault of the interviewer that he did not get someone who really studies the topic. Mona took it for granted that the niqab would only be used by women practicing a certain kind of Islam. They must also believe that women shouldn’t be allowed to drive, have active roles in society, etc. And that this form of Islam is aggressive and will seek to dominate the other forms. Is she talking about Wahabbism? At any rate, it’s easy to forgive Mona her misconception. And it raises the question, can a symbol of Wahabbism or a specific religious sect, be co-opted by people not of that sect? I actually dealt with a similar issue while experimenting with hijab. I was told I had no right to wear it. I did not follow a scholar who dictated it (or any scholar at all for that matter). I didn’t wear it all the time, at times observed it incorrectly, etc. And I was told this was insulting because it was giving people a false perception of Islam. I just wore it when I felt like it. I was charged with “doing whatever you want” and it was not Islam.

    I do not count myself as Muslim (though for a few years I did). Just someone who likes to experiment :-) And I do still continue to observe hijab (pretty much every day unless I have a hat on). I’ve found I like it. But I guess what Mona is saying is that anyone who is wearing niqab, and not part of a particular sect, are outside the scope of the argument. Much like the argument that my hijab was invalid because it was outside the scope of any kind of organized religious ruling. And that is the only part of what Mona said that I think is good for Muslims and non-Muslims to ponder. Can a symbol like niqab, which is so closely identified with Saudi Wahabbism, be co-opted and have its meaning changed so that it is associated with Muslim women of all stripes? Same with hijab as a symbol. Is that an identification for a certain kind of woman, and anyone else who wears it is invalid and not part of the argument? Or can other people have the right to wear it, have it represent what they want about their relationship to Allah, and request to wear it as part of a work dress code, etc? Can these forms of dress have different meanings or are they the property of a certain group?

    Long comment of mine…but the debate sure got me thinking!

  33. Abu Yusuf

    April 17, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    Gosh I’d hate to mess with the likes of sister Zainab bint Younus. The tone of the letter reminds me of the TROID brothers from a decade a ago. I think gentleness and a handshake (no pun or irony intended) may win sister Mona over more than an obstreperous feline war of words. Sister Hebah Ahmed’s tone was superb and she represented the niqaabis very well on CNN. As was her graciousness in the posts thereafter towards sister Mona. Although I must say, we are engendering and inculcating a new breed of super-aggressive Muslim women in America who are a counter-balance to the homely ‘gharelu’ pious righteous Muslim women who are shy to even exit their homes and who serve to raise excellent children and duly recognize the man’s leadership role in a family unit. Those are the ones that believe that the best place for a woman is the innermost room of her home and that is where they feel most comfortable as per the teachings of our Rasool. I don’t think a lady wearing niqaab and going horseback riding on a beach is something to write home about nor be proud about unless it was fee sabeelillah. I think a high school graduate female Muslim woman who bears and rears children and looks after them, prays her Salaah, fasts her Ramadan, chooses home-making as her profession, and obeys her husband is far superior and valuable to the ummah than Maserati riding PhD Muslimahs. We have to find a middle ground for the sisters in America and create a dialogue to such effect.

    • zaridsilvah

      April 18, 2011 at 2:06 AM

      Assalamualaikum brother Abu Yousuf,

      I agree with you that this letter may be aggressive when compared to Sister Hebah’s response but I’m struggling to understand how you equate a sister’s education/the vehicle she drives/her profession with her being more superior or valuable to the ummah? How can you make such a blanket statement? If a muslim woman drives a Maserati does it mean she does not pray her salah? If a muslimah is a teacher does that automatically make her a bad mother?

      None of us must claim to be a judge of another person’s position in or value to society, because ultimately piety is the criteria that we will be judged on and only Allah ta’ala knows what is in our hearts.

    • AnonyMouse

      April 18, 2011 at 4:56 AM


      My mum is the horsebackriding Imam’s wife (minus the PhD), and she’s also an amazing mother who stays at home and raises her kids (my three brothers now that I’m out of the house)… of course she does a lot of volunteering work, etc. but her focus is on the home.

      And -surprise! – I’m a stay-at-home mother as well.

      Also, I completely object to the idea that a woman who doesn’t pursue her education and stays at home only, is superior to the Muslim woman who furthers her education and has a career. As long as both of them are practicing their Deen, have taqwa of Allah, and obey Him as much as they can, then only He knows which of them is superior to the other.

      • Abu Yusuf

        April 18, 2011 at 10:26 AM

        All else being equal between two women except that one frequents outdoors and one prefers the home, here are reasons why the indoor Muslimah is superior to the outdoor one:

        1) The indoor Muslimah’s salaah is better than that of the outdoor Muslimah’s who may be having to find an outdoor room, conference room at work, or a masjid to pray in: It was narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A woman’s prayer in her room is better than her prayer in her courtyard, and her prayer in her cabinet is better than her prayer in her room.”

        2) The indoor Muslimah is directly obeying this commandment: “And stay in your houses” [al-Ahzaab 33:33]

        3) The indoor Muslimah is paying heed to our Rasool: And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Their houses are better for them.”

        4) The indoor Muslimah is frustrating the satan: “The woman is ‘awrah and when she goes out the Shaytaan gets his hopes up.”

        5) The indoor Muslimah is abiding by these words of our Rasool going out only in situations of dire need and in a shy and restrained manner and feeling uncomfortable except in her house: “It is permissible for you (women) to go out for your needs.”

        There are many other reasons why all else being equal, the indoor Muslimah is superior to the outdoor Muslimah and why she deserves more respect and care by Muslim men, and why she deserves praise and love, and why she is to be held in the highest esteem by men. It is rare that we find Muslimaat proudly proclaiming that they are housewives/homemakers but we find many Muslimaat who boast of their pedigree and degrees and manly skills (spear fishing or horse riding or scuba diving, etc) and who hold their nose up due to their outdoor or career accomplishments. Certainly we need some Muslimaat who serve as teachers and doctors for parturition or other such necessary roles. However, the impetus should not be a wholesale exodus from the home in the name of serving these roles. It is high time that Muslimaat reclaim their legendary and eons-old tradition of ruling the home that is her castle.

        • ?

          April 18, 2011 at 3:35 PM

          what is this obsession with the ‘indoor Muslimah’?

          you cant insist women stay home all the time. its not like we go out for the sake of it..standing around with no purpose. we have lives – inside AND outside! you’re insulting people when you speak like that – women know what their role in society is & they dont need you to tell them.

          going out to get educated IS a necessity.

          I don’t understand why you dont believe they can do both?

          PS: Lots of women are proud housewives & say they are. ain’t nothing wrong with being a housewife

          • Abu Yusuf

            April 18, 2011 at 9:09 PM

            To the sisters (and brothers) who misinterpreted my message to mean Muslimaat should remain indoors exclusively, please re-read my post again wherein the permissibility of exiting the house for ‘necessity’ is mentioned. Furthermore, I clearly mention the need for Muslimaat doctors, teachers, etc. However, what is a necessity? Is education a necessity for a Muslimah? Let’s examine that a little further – many Muslimaat who pursue Bachelors-level education are doing so because that is the base level that many Muslim men and their families will consider today (for marriage) and so to remain ‘competitive’ they do so. How about the Muslimaat that pursue another 4 or 8 years or more for a doc or post-doc level of education? There are many examples where we find such sisters becoming petulant, cynical, aggressive, and hurt by the ‘system’. I am speaking of the systematic discrimination of such women by men who leave them behind to marry more ‘tame’ and younger specimens who will not challenge a man’s authority in the home. Highly educated Muslimaat, in general, tend to challenge a man’s right to be a leader in the family unit (more than their Bachelors or high school level counterparts) and having had to pursue almost of a decade of education, they are less malleable and prone to truculent and recalcitrant behaviour. Well, what about the Muslimaat in the USA who pursue Bachelors-level education? They do so by taking classes in a co-educational campus wherein lie many temptations. In college, I remember one MSA-Muslimah who wore hijaab confess that she had committed zina with her MSA-Muslim ‘boyfriend’ whom she met during MSA activities. The sad thing was the nonchalance exhibited in the confession (as if to say, oh by the way, and no big deal). Now what about the case where our brothers and sisters are not even involved with the MSA (e.g. PSA, or fraternities or sororities)? The fitna in that case is much higher! Now before everyone clamors at my throat with indignance, please realize these aren’t isolated cases – these are in fact MuslimMatters we encounter our young brethren having to deal with on a daily basis in the occident. So at what cost are our Muslimaat attending college in a co-educational environment? Is the necessity grave enough for us to have them navigate an exciting new world (that is college) in their late teens and early 20s when their minds are impressionable and the hormones still raging? I submit to you that it is not such a dire necessity. Online Open Universities or womens-only college are perhaps as close to a solution one can think of in these circumstances. Or migration to a Muslim country wherein such womens-only facilities abound.

            To summarise:
            1) Higher education beyond Bachelors degrees may lead to Muslimaat who are defiant, cynical, and missing out on marriage trains altogether.
            2) Even bachelors degree education for Muslimaat requires a heavy caveat – that of same-gender-only facilities.

          • Siraaj

            April 18, 2011 at 9:45 PM

            But Abu Yusuf, you realize that a “necessity” will vary from woman to woman? Many women will go “crazy”, so to speak, if you confine them to their homes all the time. There are many such cases where women are reporting depression because their husbands confine them to the home.

            About education, educated women are needed, not just for the professions mentioned as a necessity, but for stay-at-home mothers as well – what happens if her husband passes away or is injured to the point of incapacity? In the former case, you might say remarry, but think again – our backwards communities shun divorcees, widows, and others with strange situations.

            Furthermore, you’ve said that women should stay home, away from mixed education environments (or must), but I wonder where the logical consistency lies in your reasoning? As much anecdotal evidence as you can provide about women in objectionable intimate relationships, I can provide mountains of it from men as well. In addition, if women should stay away from mixed university environments, then men should do so even more as the temptation / fitnah of women for men is GREATER than the other way around – why doesn’t your logic then cause you to declare that men must also opt for online educations and drop out of mixed environment educational institutions – you know that’s the fatwa on islamqa, right?

            I appreciate the spirit under which you’ve made your statements, but I don’t think you understand or have experienced the practical reality of it, nor does it seem you are aware of how scholars have interpreted those verses for everyday living. The “necessity” which you’ve stated is not the same daroorah that we commonly understand during which something is forbidden unless there is strongly compelling reason to temporarily lift the injunction.


            PS – nothing strange with women challenging their husbands, welcome to marriage 101. the prophet’s wives used to all talk back to him, to the point that ‘umar questioned hafsa about it, and told her not to do it. To the point that when ‘Umar met with the Prophet (SAW), he commented on how the women of Makkah were obedient, whereas the women of Madinah were not and that the Makkan women were becoming like the Madinan women. In fact, I recall one athar during which a man came to see ‘Umar about his wife and her attitude towards him, and when he came to see ‘Umar, he found ‘Umar silently listening to his wife give him a bit of a tongue lashing, and then he walked away, and when ‘Umar caught up to the man, the man let him know, if you can take it, and you’re the ameer of the Muslims, I can take it.

            Go back and read the stories of a’isha, the most beloved of the Prophet’s (SAW)’s wives, and look at how he patiently dealt with her temper. That’s a man, and that’s our Mother, so don’t just look at statements in a vacuum, look at how the Prophet (SAW) and the Companions dealt with their wives.

            Manliness isn’t about exerting one’s God-given authority on someone else, it’s all about being someone worthy of having it so that when it is exerted (sparingly), it’s respected.

          • ?

            April 19, 2011 at 7:23 PM

            @Siraaj – you’ve said exactly what I wanted to say. Every time i thought of something to say, I read it in your reply.

            Barakallahu feek (both of you)

    • Wow

      April 18, 2011 at 10:24 AM


      High school graduate? Not that there’s anything wrong in wanting to leave your education at that..WHAT is wrong with a Muslimah who has a PhD?! You’re making it seem as though she is automatically neglecting her kids/family by pursuing it. You underestimate women when you think like that.

      Also, imagine if every Muslim woman left her education at a high school diploma. I’m sure you wouldn’t want a man to be your wife’s/daughter’s doctor. Pretty sure. I ask she not valuable to the Muslim ummah?

      Seeking knowledge is wajib upon us AND women (Islamic knowledge as well as other beneficial knowledge)

      Please reply..

      • Elizabeth

        April 18, 2011 at 3:49 PM

        Well, unfortunately many times it does happen. We can’t deny many Muslim women do put secular education first and many already have children. Not the point, though.

    • Aishah Kelly

      May 14, 2011 at 11:21 PM

      Al hamdulillah, I appreciate what you said, and agree that it is most noble of a women to stay home, but lets not forget that Aishah (radi Allahu anha) was a great scholar, and often accompanied her husband (salallahu alayhi wa salaam) on journeys, as did other wives (radi Allahu anhum). I chose my name because of my admiration for this beautiful Mother of the Believers, masha Allah. I do stay home, al hamdulillah, and I do get my education as well. If the opportunity to teach Muslim women should arise for me, I would take it. I go out in public with my husband to just enjoy a change of scenery, but I definitely prefer privacy to public places. I don’t like the idea of labeling women as superior to other women. Allah subhannah wa ta’ala said: (what is translated as)
      O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqun (the pious. See V.2:2)]. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.
      ( Al-Hujraat, 49: 13)
      Only Allah knows who is superior to whom. Jazaak Allahu khair.

  34. Brother

    April 17, 2011 at 11:25 PM

    I disagree with your opinion. Also, there is such a thing as secular extremism.

  35. aneesa

    April 18, 2011 at 12:53 AM

    Its Beautiful, Well said!
    Agree with everything you’ve mentioned.

  36. ibn Muhammad

    April 18, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    inshaAllah next time we can start the letter by saying salaam?


  37. Niqab

    April 18, 2011 at 2:49 AM

    Ironic how you mention the “modern world with modern notions of freedom..” but then you say that women have no freedom to wear what they want.

  38. Ify Okoye

    April 18, 2011 at 6:26 AM

    Thanks for the shout-out Zainab! Just one thing, I don’t and never have worn niqab, except for a test drive inside my house, but I seriously toyed with idea several years ago. Despite that fact, I do not support the burka/niqab ban.

  39. AbdulMujeeb

    April 18, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    I’m one of those Sheik Yaseer Qadhi classified as the silent majority, I’ve got this phobia for making comments even though i’m an avid reader of MM articles. Sis. Zainab bint Younus, U brought me outta my shell.
    I advise muslims not to hinder pple from Allah’s path, remembering the ayah in Suratul-Hud ‘…Beware! The Curse of Allah is on those wrongdoers .who hinder others from the path of Allah and seek to make it crooked, and who deny the hereafter’.(Q11:18-19)
    If some of us think the niqaab is not compulsory @ least we shud know there’s evidence 4 it in the Qur’an & Sunnah. Those sistas that are use the Niqaab are brave(after watching the movie MY NAME IS KHAN, U’ve got to agree with me) bcos most of the times it’s like a battle against all odds(even muslims oppose you ). having checked MM’S recent poll result on Hijab I’m glad that most sisters who wear the Hijab(in any form) did it on their own and are not forced to. I am aware that some people have used the niqaab for evil things like stealing, some even use it in prostitution (have had many sisters who don’t use the Hijab say this as a form of excuse) but that isn’t right. U can’t judge a book by its cover nor can U assume the rest of the sisters who do use the niqaab are all like that. But something that bothers me about the niqaab is that is BLACK a standard color to use with the niqaab and should it be used only after a sister gets married? May Allah assist us al and forgive us our shortcomings. Thanks so much to all those who make MM, MUSLIM MATTERS( U’ve made me cry, made me laugh,and most of all made me a better muslim) MM is where I meet my best friends and they don’t have to know me personally.

  40. DiscoMaulvi

    April 18, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Jazak’Allah Khairin Sister Zainab for a wonderful letter. I know numerous niqaabis in Pakistan who are very much “visible” and active in education, business, social work, and even politics.

    The subjugation of women to wear the burka/niqab may be present in some places but then again the reverse may be true also (those who wish to cover may not be allowed to cover). If this use of force exists (in either case) it is condemnable and wrong.

    May Allah help all those who are subject to force and guide us all in making the choices in life that are close to the Quraan and Sunnah.


  41. Fighter of Allah

    April 18, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Salamu’alaykum, this is beautifully and outrageously written down and posted sincerely to our Sister in Islam, Mona ElTahawy.

    Instead of infringing the people to accept one preposterous idea of banning the Niqab obtruded on the 2,000 Muslim women in France, with all respects, it would be better if the government could have just legislate a law which proscribes anyone, who wears lustful deplorable dress that conspicuously hikes the crime rate across the region, and detain them in a custody placed in the rehabilitation centre.

    An Article for My Niqaabi Sisters :

  42. Umm Abdullaah

    April 18, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    @ AbdulMajed
    From a silent majority to another, the niqabs dont HAVE to be black – not that anything is wrong with black – i think its just more popular because the better quality ones come from the gulf countries, where black is the norm.
    A lot of unmarried women wear the niqab, she only has to unveil her face in presence of her Mahram to the prospective suitor.

    @ Abu Yusuf,
    U have a point, and no doubt our homes are best for us, and speaking for myself i know my life would be INFINITELY easier if i were to stay at home – and THAT does not mean i cannot get a PhD, in these days of www. But as an African whose father – as late as the 1960s had to ‘accept’ christianity before he could attend school, i know that if i were to stay at home; then in a few years my daughters would face the same obstacles i did in medical school. And where would the doctors – and teachers- come from then?!

    Zainab, well-written. Time people like Mona move over and let us speak for ourselves!

  43. medinah

    April 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    beautiful piece.may Allah reward you n bless you for me.i dont wear niqab but i pray to pick it very soon.

  44. umm saffiya

    April 18, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    Salam alaykum…
    Well written article sister zainab. May Allah increase you in knowledge.
    To the brother that thinks all muslim women should be at home, even the rasul(saw) used to go
    Racing with his wife aisha(ra). So there is nothing wrong with a muslim woman
    Being outside her home as long as her activities are not haram(I’m sure the race
    Between rasul and aisha did not take place in their bedroom)
    We have to be careful how we interprete things, if all women stayed at home
    Who will be the female doctor,nurse,midwife, shop attendant attend to our
    Women? Or u would prefer a male do those duties?
    During the time of the rasul, women went to the battle field to give water and
    Tend to the wounded. So even though the home is best place for the woman, it
    Does not mean she should not go out or get educated.

  45. UMMAH

    April 18, 2011 at 10:06 PM

    To my knowledge alhamdulillah niqab is a kind of cloth which cover’s the face.
    We are born to worship Allah(s.w.t) alone and listening to his command’s is our duty.As Allah(s.w.t) says in the qu’ran:
    “I have only created jinns and men,that they may worship Me”(51:56)

    so in this case i think it is compulsory to all muslim women to wear burq’ah.
    It does not harm us nor does it divide us.Although “IT IS LIKE A SHIELD WHICH PROTECT’S US”.
    May Allah(s.w.) guide sister mona and all of us(MUSLIM MEN AND WOMEN) the straight path and give us JANNAT-UL-FIRDOUSE.”AMEEN”

  46. Me

    April 18, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    I think sisters that wear the niqaab are very strong but I also think the niqaab brings unwanted attention.. I don’t wear the niqaab and I wouldn’t advice anyone to start wearing it, unless they live in a Muslim country. I have a young daughter, if one day she wants to wear it when she grows up, I would do everything in my power to stop her from covering her face. I personally believe hijab and abaya are more than enough… and the niqaab is NOT wajib..

  47. Bayan

    April 19, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    Dear Sr. Zainab,
    Your article was amazing for so many reasons. I am a high school student living in Canada. I don’t wear the niqaab, but alhamdullilah wear the hijab LOUD and PROUD :) Of course, as everyone knows, wearing the hijab in a non-muslim society has its difficulties, but “no pain, no gain” of course. Your article really inspired me, because we are all taught to try to “fit in”, but whats wrong with standing out? Especially standing out with Islam as your Religion, and Allah as your lord. I think, just because a bunch of people don’t want to see someone covered, doesn’t mean a rule banning niqab should be enforced, as a lot of people mentioned, we are not wearing the headscarf or veil for Anyone, but for our lord, and ourselves. When i wear the scarf, it is not because i want to attract attention (although a bit of curiosity and wonder never hurt anyone), i am wearing it because, simply i don’t want my body to be like a mannequin on display. Also, because i want to set limits. Setting limits is never wrong, “know your limits, act within it”. Not only will the headscarf/veil help people act appropriately around you, it reminds YOU that you have an amazing religion to represent, it encourages YOU to follow your own limits. Anyways, i really want to thank you again for your time and effort in writing up this article, JAK, we always need reminders of how lucky we are to be muslims! :D

  48. Laura

    April 20, 2011 at 4:27 AM

    I wrote lots of comments Amad, why weren’t they published?

    • Amad

      April 20, 2011 at 4:32 AM

      Not sure why you are referring to me as there are over 10 people who do the editing… but in general, any comment that we deem offensive or not adding value, dismissive, personal, condescending, argumentative for the sake of argumentation, etc. (subjective determination) will not go through.

      This is a sanctuary for Muslims and for others who don’t share our faith to understand, not for drive-by haterade.

      You may not agree with editorial opinion on comments, but thats how things work on most sites.

      • Laura

        April 20, 2011 at 8:53 PM

        but I thought it was open to debate and sharing opinions!! I disagree strongly with hebah but I don’t think I was being offensive about it.

  49. Lamya

    April 20, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    As more and more veiled women take the streets in my native Yemen i felt it only proper to celebrate their bravery, so i had to respond to Mona El Tahawy and here is my response :

    • Hebah Ahmed

      April 23, 2011 at 11:31 AM

      MashaAllah dear sister this is an excellent intellectual analysis of Mona’s position. Very well mannered and on topic. I have learned much from your histrorical analysis and praise your writing skills. I ask Allah to bring more intellectual Muslim women such as your self to the forefront and allow a true representation of Islam and Muslim women. May Allah reward you immensely!

      • Lamya

        April 23, 2011 at 11:32 PM

        Jazaaki Allah Khayr Hebah for taking the time to read it, and for your kindness and sweetness. May Allah reward you immensely likewise to you. Ya Rab. Your sister in Islam from Yemen–Lamya

  50. Muslim

    April 20, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    according to me u r more confident & easy while in niqaab & yes u can easily b recognised by the people who knw u & if u r not in any case…u can simply say salam & ask…..its a practise of another ritual of islam….

  51. hellothere

    April 20, 2011 at 11:37 PM

    beautiful letter mashallah may Allah (SWT) grant you great ajr

  52. Aisha

    April 21, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    Jazakallahu Khair my Niqaabi Sister. Beautifully written. Especially the reminder from Hebah and yourself that Mona is our Muslim Sister and we should contain our manners and hold out a hand to her. I was so angry with her when I viewed this interview. Like you said, I do not wish harm on her or anyone for that matter – but it does upset me when Muslim women backbite another Muslim woman just because she wears Hijab or Niqaab. There is a Muslim woman where I work and I said my Salaams to her one day and she just stared at me and walked on. When I saw her again, I said my Salaams again and she said to me Why do you wear this Hijab to work? I was so hurt that I did the human thing and retracted with my wicked tongue by responding Why do you sell out your religion for a job? May Allah Azza Wajaal and May this Sister forgive me!

    Brother Carlos – my Brother – you don’t need to see the persons face to identify them. Also, as I am sure you are aware, you are to keep your piousness and only glance once at the face of any women – Muslim or Non-Muslim. And, I remind myself first of this too.

    Niqaabi Sisters – if any of you are interested, I would love to do some sort of study (I work in clinical research) on wearing Niqaab and the statistics of the cold/flu season. I would not be surprised if the number of Niqaabi Sisters do not catch some of the flu bugs because of the extra protection.

    Wa Salaam – Insha Allah you all have a totally awesome day.

  53. Pingback: Friday Links | April 22, 2011 » Muslimah Media Watch

  54. Project_Niqaab

    April 24, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    Asalamu alaikum,

    I am currently undertaking a project to try and change the image of Niqaabis in the West – the aim is to provide society with a more accurate image of the woman behind the veil, to show that she is educated, active in her community and certainly not invisable. It is hoped that we can show that Muslim Women in the west are not being forced to veil, rather its a free valid choice made by thinking sane women who have a lot to contribute to society.

    I ask all Niqaabi Sisters to Contribite – Please send a blank email to to find out how. Brothers please get your wives involved by passing on the link – and non niqaabis you can still help by fowarding the link to others.

    Jazakumullahu Khairan

  55. Coorled38

    April 24, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    Ramsey said in his letter to Sue that Mona has “the IQ of a Zero she is blessed with”
    and then refers to her as “and let me educate you about Cockroaches”….soooo you are highlighting this Muslim mans letter in which he makes at least two derogatory remarks about her and somehow that is a good thing? I dont recall ever hearing her speak of Muslims as having low IQ’s or being cockroaches and yet her opinion is maligned and attacked in just such a fashion.

    I dont know who Ramsey is but based only on his ability (or should I say inability) to speak about someone whose opinion he disagrees with with such derogatory remarks tells me a great deal about him. The fact that Sue posted his letter here even though he says “cockroaches should be stumped on” (killed for those who dont get that) is disturbing. Are we too assume THAT is not a physical threat either?

    -Editor’s note: Ramsey’s letter has been deleted. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    • Amad

      April 25, 2011 at 3:44 AM

      Are you suggesting we remove the letter because that may be a fair request.

  56. Riyaz

    April 25, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    Absolutely wonderful article sister.

  57. muntaqibba4Allaah

    April 26, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

    jazakiAllahu khayr dear Zainab for the article. SubhnaAllah, its very well written and to the point. I myself was thinking of sending a reply to this Mona and all anti-niqaab people. I for one believe that niqaab is waajib and part of the hijaab but I know the differences of opinion amongst our scholars on the issue. Some of them said it is mustahhab(highly recomended) while the majority of them said it is waajib. However, no Muslim(real muslims, who says and lives laa ilaha illa Allah) can say that niqaab is not from the deen whatsoever. This is a jaahil statement<3!!! Unfortunately, that Mona was either talking out of jahl or is inclined to following her desires. wala hawla wala quwata illa Billaah.

    I must say that I disagree with Carlo's comments on the niqaab:

    You have no identity. Facial recognition is essential for building human relationships. Furthermore, your veil sends a message to non-Muslims that you are off-limits; that you are probably not willing to form relationships with “strangers,” including your fellow countrymen and countrywomen. It is a way of saying I am one of “us” and you are one of “them.” ..You are and you should be free to dress as you want, but I think the niqaab is actually detrimental to you, your community and humanity as a whole.

    So I have been insivible and identityless all my 18 years living in America?!! I was born and raised in America and have lived here all my life. I started wearing the niqaab when i was 12/13! In all my experiences as a muntaqibba(niqaabi) I have never been called a “terrorist” or been told to go back to my country. I am not saying that this will never happened or hasnt happened to niqaabi sisters but i am sorry, if this country is the land of the FREE then i can dress and look however i want and no one can say anything to me. I dont wear the niqaab to cover from non-muslim men, i wear it to cover from ALL men who are not from my maharim(unlawful relative to marry, EX: father, brother, husband, dads brother, moms brother, grandfather,father inlaw…). WHY? Because my Lord has ordered me to do so and I will follow Allaah’s order even if it means that I will get in trouble for it. I worship the Creator, not the creation. If the creation declares war on me for my way of dress and living and tell me that niqaab is now banned, i will never abide by that law. I wish the best for my niqaabi sisters in France, Belguim, Tunisia, and in other places where the hijaab is being banned. May Allah keep you firm and make hijra easy for you.

    @brother AbdulMujeeb: whats wrong with wearing black niqaab? I think the black for the hijaab is the most simplest and pure. Nowadays, we see many sisters wearing too bright, glamorous colors for the hijaab and then justifying it by saying, “well, im still covered.” The sisters need to realize that the hijaab has shurud,conditions(one of them is to be of dark,not too light,/bright colors). The darker the hijaab the better.

    @brother Abu Yusuf: I agree with you 100%. well said. Our houses are better for us.However, in this kind of society where tons of muslim youth are being misguided by the kufr and fasad of this place, the educated(deenwise) muslims whether male or female need to get up and bring these youth back. I dont think it is beneficial for sisters to stay at home 24/7 when they play a great role in the dawah. The scholars said that the women is same as the man when it comes to the dawah. Shaykh ibn Baaz said in his book(FATAWA MUHIMMA LI-UMUMiIL UMMAH) that the woman plays a great role in the dawah, she has to have time for her sisters out there that need much help. The sister needs to educate herself(by seeking religious knowledge) from the local masajid if she cannot learn at home(through the internet,or her husband cant teach her). I will not lie. I stay at home, go to school, and the masjid. nothing else. Even when i have to run errands for the family, i take one of my little siblings to go in the store unless I have to go in myself. I hate to free mix and if my parents werent at my throat(about going to college) and gave me the choice. I would choose to stay at home and raise a family. I think its the parents and not just the youth.

  58. Bhai_Mian

    September 4, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Excellent write up. Shared with my mailing List

  59. Alina

    October 16, 2015 at 11:50 PM

    Its so incredibly disappointing to read some of the comments here, and at the same time incredibly refreshing, to read the comments of others, like brother Siraaj, who has so eloquently debated in the defense of his sisters in Islam.

    @Abu Yusuf

    1.Its an incredibly unsophisticated argument to make, to assume that women who partake in further education, do
    so to compete with their male siblings, its a statement that dictates an incredibly poor view of the reasoning of Muslim women and a very ignorant stance on the reality of the world…
    it would be more reasonable to argue ( particularly in the west) that women complete further education, in order to be able to secure themselves a better chance at employment, much like their male counterparts..
    in fact seeking education and employment for a woman at least in the west is something ‘expected’,
    considering that the vast majority of Muslim fathers/brothers/uncles etc do NOT/cannot provide financially for their daughters/ don’t even see it as their obligation, ( yes their is a time prior to matrimony) they have zilch choice in the matter.
    Its important to mention that most if not ALL Muslim countries/communities are not financially providing/or providing adequately for sisters, like they are Islamically obligated too where necessary, in the event of the death/ill health of the Wali, or in the instance of the non existence of a Wali, what would you like/expect a Muslim woman to do?
    i would like to add that, certainly in the west there is an epidemic in regards to marriage prospects for Muslim women, for a number of reasons unrelated to a women’s level of piety, more and more sisters are reaching their 30s and 40s and remain unmarried, marriage is not something, that every women is given by her lord, and good Muslim men do not grow on trees, what of these women…can they leave the cellar?

    2. Regular fresh air is a necessity for the psychological and physical health of ANY human being, it is too for animals, your comments insinuate that perhaps only the dying women or the dead, can be excused as having ‘dire’ necessity to leave their homes and be privy to what grass looks like, its very generous that you wouldn’t mind a few female doctors etc in society, but insulting that your generosity is only applicable to those women who leave the home to serve the community, and does not give a moments thought to the Muslim woman leaving her home to serve herself, or even ‘having’ the need to so.

    4. Muslim men are commanded to seek out pious spouses, there would be no such need to seek a ‘malleable’ spouse if this commandment is being adhered to, unless of course you are a tyrant or/and a misogynist…….

    I have much respect for my brothers in Islam, who do not feel intimidated by women of intellect, who in fact celebrate it, and who don’t believe that sisters who are kept ‘stupid’ make the best spouses or mothers.
    To those brothers who respect the fact that a ‘wife’ is an alternate human being, in her own right, who WILL hold at times differing opinions, to those brothers who believe that the best woman is one who remembers Allah wheresoever she goes and in all her endeavors, and not necessarily ‘Rapunzel’ or those sisters confined to the pantry or cellar, whose religious commitment could not possibly be accessed in comparison to those women who, believe its ‘ok’, to go to Asda/Walmart every Thursday and STILL don’t want to commit Zina…..

    To all those brothers, I salute you.

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