Attempting to leave the mosque after a celebration during the summer is a battle that requires wading through a colorful, glittering crowd of people standing just outside the mosque doors. The fascinating thing is that it's the same crowd that was clad in unembellished coats and Abayas during the colder seasons. It seems as though the summer heat outside is just too much to bear, so the layers of Hijab – physical and otherwise – are shed during this sweltering season.
As we wait for our cars to pull up to the mosque entrance, the heat takes its toll on our memory. Even though non-Muslim visitors make sure they observe Hijab out of respect of the mosque's sanctity, we Muslims forget to do so when standing outside the mosque. Even though there are separate entrances for men and women, we forget that the point of the layout is to help maintain proper Hijab. Even though Allah ordained modesty as a preservation of purity for the best of His creations, we forget to respect ourselves and follow His commands of Hijab.
As it turns out, stepping outside the mosque doors doesn't mean we are free to abandon Hijab just because we have left the sacred building. It's when we are outside that Hijab must be observed, because inside the mosque it isn't even an issue if everything is segregated. After the program, Shaitan takes the opportunity to weave his way among the believing men and women. So it's when we hang out outside the entrances that both genders of all ages begin to stray: an interested look, a bright smile flashed, a sleeve rolled up to expose a flexing arm, a slight wave of the hand which accidentally causes the headcover to slip back that reveals beautifully styled hair and jewellery – and the exchange goes on.
Why disrespect ourselves when Allah has planned everything for the best? He has instructed us to do Hijab for a reason, and it works when fully practiced. For both men and women, there are only a few special Mahrams in the world who have the privilege of appreciating us for everything that we are. Let us not degrade ourselves by parading around for the world to gawk at or flirting shamelessly with the opposite gender, thus reducing our once pure status to that of something common and used.
To the Sisters Under the Sun
Only a few minutes pass by between stepping out of the mosque doors and into the car – so what's the point in covering up anyway? It's not as if anyone will catch sight of a person in gem-coated neon clothes which are conveniently short enough to reveal sparkling bangle-laden arms, right? On the contrary, it's those few moments of committing outright Haram that result in serious damage to the soul.
In the few minutes that we spend waiting for our rides, are we really at risk of melting into a puddle of goo? It is definitely not that hot! If anything, abandoning Hijab by baring skin gives more exposure to heat since that provides additional surface area for the sun to burn. Beautiful hairstyles will get ruined under the headcovering? Not exactly, because the material will keep the hairstyle fresh and protected from the elements of wind, sun, and rain. As it is, the fact that Allah would not tell us to do anything harmful should be reason enough to ignore the heat.
Covering up is a must, but – and here's the shocking part – it turns out that simply wrapping a piece of cloth around our heads, whether it is draped and pinned properly or whether it loosely covers about two whole inches of hair, is not sufficient. It especially is not proper Hijab if the clothes have slits or short sleeves, are tightly-fitted, semi-transparent, covered in sequins or jewels, or are attractively bright. Such clothing must be covered up when in view of non-Mahrams.
Clothing even extends to the feet, which also need to be covered. Whether they have artistically applied nail polish on them, or whether they have toe rings on some of them, we need to cover our feet. Even when going out with plain unadorned feet, the two choices are to either wear closed shoes or to wear socks with any open-toed sandals.
That leaves our hands and face free! But let's not get too excited – if we've got henna on our hands, then it's not exactly proper Hijab to be wildly gesturing with our hands as we talk so that the brothers can see the beautiful designs from a mile away.
Some sisters love to hear the sound of bracelets and anklets that chime with every movement, especially when the brothers are nearby. In case it hasn't sunk in, it is definitely not Hijab to let the tinkling sound reach the ears of non-Mahrams. That rule also goes for heels which strike the ground with excessively loud noise. Slight noise is acceptable if it is not made with impure intentions; however, if it's loud or attractive enough to turn heads, then find another pair of shoes to wear when in the presence of men. So yes, that does mean the five-inch, bright red, pavement-gouging heels are not allowed.
The easiest garment to wear that covers all the way down to the feet is the robe-like Abaya. It is such a convenient garment that no one can resist – even those who like to don heavily designed clothing love abayas! We show up in our beautiful black abayas with the biggest, brightest, and blindingly flashy designs and are happy to be obeying Allah's command of Hijab. Of course, here is something for us to ponder over: how exactly are we planning on getting from the mosque to the car without causing an airplane overhead to get distracted by the light-reflecting designs? Oh yeah, and we might distract the brothers too.
It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to wear an abaya that magnetically pulls eyes towards us! If it's so fancy, the smart thing to do would be to wear a simple abaya or cloak on top while in public.
So it's just our clothing that we need to perfect though, right? It's not as if massive groups of loudly giggling sisters are formed at every other step, constantly glancing over each other's shoulders to gaze at the brothers. Also, it's seriously not the fault of the waiting sisters if it's difficult to find any other direction to face besides the brothers' entrance – the sun is bearing down on the covered up crowd so we have to face the other way, even after sunset!
We must learn to truly understand and appreciate the status that the Almighty has granted us. By letting everyone catch glimpses of our physical beauty, we diminish our own status.
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) once asked Lady Fatima (peace be upon her), "What is the thing which is a blessing for woman?" She said, "She must not see a man (non-Mahram), and a man must not see her." (Discourses of the 14 Infallibles)
If we cannot completely conceal ourselves from the view of non-Mahrams and vice versa, we need to ensure that whatever is visible must be in line with the rulings of Hijab. We cannot pick and choose what aspects of Hijab we want to follow. Neither is it correct to wear an abaya but show our feet, nor is it correct to cover up with a cloak but let our shining bangles show.
We must realize that being Muslim doesn't make us invincible to Shaitan's attacks, and being near a mosque doesn't provide a force field against his lures. A blind man once visited the house of Prophet Muhammad. Lady Fatima made sure that she observed full Hijab, even though the blind man would not know if she neglected to physically do Hijab by covering herself. She – an infallible known as Al-Tahira, the Pure One – observed Hijab even when it was not necessary to! But she did so out of her love and consciousness of Allah, and that is the mindset which we must strive to reach.
Look out next week for Part II: To the Brothers Feeling the Heat.