I know clear and well this is a precariously controversial angle to take this topic from. I anticipate much outrage to be directed at me henceforth, but I also hope the ones I speak for will find comfort and a supportive soul in me. If you have often dabbled with the idea of putting the hijab on or taking it off, or struggled with society’s preconceived notions of the ‘modest woman’, this is especially for you.
Firstly, a little background: I come from a fairly average family and have zealously covered everything save my face and hands since the age of eight. I was educated in a school whose graduates are looked up to as the ‘religious pioneers of the future’ (which I will prove wrong very soon). I even taught religious classes for a significant period of my life. Basically, I grew up in a rather sheltered environment, with principles that were never to be questioned, and a blind idolatry of a religion that is supposedly supreme over every other belief.
At the age of 19* I developed a healthy skepticism towards what I was taught, or rather, what I was programmed to think. My reflections concluded thus: my so-called ‘religion’ has made me nothing but a self-indulgent hypocrite.
One moment, though. If you happen to believe any of the following…..
- Angels are afraid of and/or dislike dogs and hence will not enter your house should you keep them as pets,
- All Muslim men should have beards because it helps you tell them apart from Jews and Christians, or
- Only Islam is the truth and that anyone who does not believe in, namely, Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), will go to Hell,
….. and, even now, have never questioned any single one of these ideas, I would not recommend that you continue reading. If your curiosity is suddenly piqued, then congratulations, your life is on the way to making sense. I will digress a little further to give a clearer picture of the way I see things, so that you will know where I am coming from when I eventually come to talking about the Hijab.
Firstly, to do any of the sacred text justice, you have to put it in context. To do otherwise, in my opinion, is an absolute violation of human intelligence and, not to mention, the text itself. Look at statement (a) – and let’s put it this way. Angels are majestic creatures of light, created to carry out specific, honourable roles, et cetera. But somehow this narration has given the idea that for some reason or another, angels do not go near dogs. Dogs. Seriously? What are they, retarded? They’re technically not even in the same realm for God’s Godly sake. Then it occurred to me that the dogs normally kept during the time were for hunting or sheep dogs. You know, really big ones whose natural habitat is the wonderful wild world beyond. So of course, keeping them in your house would be an act of oppression, no? Remember how sorry you felt when you saw your neighbour’s canary all alone in its cage? Try feeling that for a Great Dane locked up in a house. It’s exactly the same thing.
To prove my point, here’s a picture of a puppy. I personally think puppies are fluffballs of Divine Love.
So it wasn’t the dogs that the Angels were so wary of, it was the oppression. And that being the case, I’d assume this narration is applicable to all creatures, not just dogs. So, myth: busted.
And then there are some narrations which make you wonder if they are still applicable in your context, like (b). Coming from Singapore, I’d naturally wonder what’s so important about being different from the Jews, considering I’d be hard pressed to even find one around here, or the Christians, many of whom I’ve made good friends with. Why do we have to be so exclusive, anyway? Because we’re special? That’s real mature. Understandably, it would make perfect sense if that narration came from a time of war. Naturally, you’d want to attack the right bunch of people, and because there’s so many of them, and I don’t recall Arabs of that time having uniforms, there has to be some form of identification. So I suppose that’s another myth busted.
Lastly, the biggest culprit behind all that is pompous and unholy in my life thus far. Let’s look at (c) and pay special attention to the conveniently italic ‘namely’. Yes, because apparently there is only one way to express the inherent Divine Oneness of existence and that is through verbal expression, people. Of all realms, media and cultures, and the times and languages therein. There is only one exclusive (and limited) ticket to paradise. And God created everyone else to burn in Hell eternally. This thought, especially, has screwed with my mind for longer than I can remember. Now, what if I told you that God doesn’t live in a word? That the Divine is something so obvious yet so hidden at the same time?
You would go mad trying to understand that there was no duality in the first place. If there was no duality, why would God create heaven and hell? Why is there good and evil? Or is there? What am I doing here if God is the only reality? Am I really here? Is God in me?
Does your head hurt yet? The point I’m trying to drive here is, how are we subjecting people to the punishment of a God we don’t even know?
… well, the answers are attainable, actually. The answers are within. All you have to do is inquire. Drop the texts, the dictionaries, the fatwas. The years I spent swimming in them never amounted to much, and it probably won’t do you much good either, not yet.
*I know what you’re thinking. Only 19 but has teaching experience? Beats me. I think it’s ridiculous, too. So here’s some advice, if you have any kids attending conventional weekend classes to learn their religion, pull them out NOW. They were better off finding God by themselves before they got brainwashed.