Unhijabed #1 : Being ‘Irreligious’

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…..

  1. Angels are afraid of and/or dislike dogs and hence will not enter your house should you keep them as pets,
  2. All Muslim men should have beards because it helps you tell them apart from Jews and Christians, or
  3.  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.

[Part #2: Giving Modesty a Name]


*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. 


14 thoughts on “Unhijabed #1 : Being ‘Irreligious’

  1. Excellent. Its quite shocking to see someone so articulate, open minded, philosophical, and yet so young come from the Muslim world, especially someone indoctrinated in an Islamic school and a girl (which means restrictions to travel and relationships, seclusion). They way you tie the dots, and express yourself is brilliant. Hope you use your mind and talent to open more minds, and give a voice to women. You should be on news channels. I suggest you take Journalism in University.

    1. Hello, Michael!

      Your name makes me wonder if you are an angel in disguise. Thank you for your valuable feedback. I am on my way to study social sciences in university (they don’t have journalism here).

      Peace, Love and Light to you.

  2. Assalamualaikum Zafirah.
    While I was reading your post a question struck me.
    Do you believe in Allah, the prophets, the angels, the books of guidance from Allah?
    You have issues, that’s clear, but are these issues with islam or Muslims and with different interpretations.
    Honestly, being from a secular environment I do not identify with certain views that you have.
    1. I do wonder why this unhappiness with dogs and angels. Then what? You want to keep dogs so much then why not study the Maliki mazhab and embrace it. Is there a real need to rationalise?
    2. As for men having beard to differentiate. I never knew of that. I always see it as believers desiring to follow the sunnah of rasulullah(saw) to seek the pleasure of Allah. Anyway staunch Jews have long beards. What’s the diff?
    3. Finally are any of us Muslims sure we will never go to hell? The christians seem to be because they believe Jesus(as) died for their sins. For us it’s all about ‘ubudiyyah. We obey Allah to the best we can, we do all acts of prescribed worship and we are humble to Allah and His creations. The more we’re blessed with knowledge, the more humble we become since we realise how little we know. We show our gratitude to Allah for being such a great rabb. We seek His mercy to admit us into paradise. We love Allah and rasulullah (saw)
    As for those who do not submit to Allah, we believe allah knows their states. Every single one of us have attested to Allah being God while in our soul state. Whether they go to heaven or hell is Allah’s jurisdiction. We ourselves do not know our fate. Who gives us the right to condemn others to hell.

    1. Waalaikum Salaam Dear Mariam,

      It’s nice to hear from you as I recall the last time we interacted was shortly before my graduation 4 years ago. I never took the opportunity to thank you for your service, and for that I apologize. Your excellent teaching was the reason I clinched the A1 in combined science for my O’s. 🙂

      Now, before I digress any further –

      I do believe in the Unity of Existence (Tawheed), the existence of Enlightened Masters (The Anbiyaa’ and the like) and the Laws of the Universe (as stated in revelation). Allah is beyond Benevolence and Love, and Supreme in Existence, and Muhammad (s.a.w) is a manifestation of His Eternal Love.I also believe in a lot of things. It is impossible to not submit to Allah at any moment of time because only His Divine Will Exists. To say that man’s will is separate from God’s will is shirk.

      Yes, I have long since established and accepted that I have issues, and it has been a beautiful journey unveiling and facing them. Thank you for pointing that out.

      1. I do not understand your question. Where is this unhappiness from? And what, pray tell, is wrong with rationalizing?
      2. Honestly, I didn’t make that one up. I was merely stating what many Muslims have been telling me.
      3. It is something preached by the Wahhabi ‘Aqidah that has implicitly penetrated the community. I’d recommend referring to Kitab at-Tauhid for proof.

      I’m not sure if you read the article correctly. I was clearly speaking against these statements, not supporting them.

      Thank you for graciously taking your time to read the article and surface your questions. I do look forward to continuing this correspondence.

      Peace, Love and Light.

  3. Salaam. When you first started having doubts, why didnt you address your issues to someone who is well-versed in the ilm of quran and hadith? Islam is not about rationality, that is the belief of the mu’tazilahs. Try and explain the serenity you feel when you hear the recital of the holy Quran. Try and explain how humbled and peaceful you are the moment you step into the holy city of Makkah and Madinah. Try and explain why Muslims have so much love for someone who they have never met (fellow muslims and the prophets).
    Regarding your issues. First, about the dog. I couldnt belief how someone with the potential of a being a genius couldn’t even answer those petty questions. The reason why it’s forbidden to keep dogs is because of the bacterial content if its salivary secretion. Islam is a religion that prioritise cleanliness, thus explain the law not to keep or pet dogs. Secondly, is your issue regarding beards. That’s true, the prophet pbuh enforced the law of keeping beards because jews used to shave their beards off and kept long moustaches. in this son is no longer valid. However, the prophet also mentioned whoever does whatever he did, will be granted rewards. No question about that. And lastly, your question about hellfire and punishments. Elaborate more on this specific doubt of yours. Do you mean to say that the Buddhist, Christians, etc, will ultimately enter the heaven together with us, when they don’t even believe in Allah? Or are you questioning the reason why everyone else will be thrown into the hell-fire?
    My advice to you, sincerely from a fellow muslim to another, solat istikharah banyak2. Mintak petunjuk, jangan kalah dengan hasutan dan bisikan syaitan. You are such a smart, smart lady. Let me remind you of something, setiap muslim, at one point of life, will have doubts. But it’s all about channelling that question to further understand the concept of islam. Just make sure you are sourcing the right information. Allahu mustaan. Allahumma musorrifal quluub, sorrif quluubana ‘ala tho’atik.

    1. W’salaam and thank you for your feedback.

      I have studied Tafseer and Hadith for several years, including Mustolah, ‘Ulum Qur’an, Tarikh at-Tashri’, Usul at-Tafsir. All of them were studied in Arabic, and I am quite familiar with its grammar and literature. I am not saying that these have proven ineffective, but I have come to the realization that the general consciousness of the people has rendered them incapable of accessing the reality of spirituality and Unity.

      This is merely a social critique and should not be confused with doctrine or religious principles.

      Love, Peace and Light.

  4. Salaam Zafirah,

    I appreciate the direction you are coming towards. You are obviously very well equipped with knowledge that unfortunately your Nafs begin to trigger you with misleading questions that have brought you here today. In a different light, your concerns, nevertheless, can raise a Muslim to higher levels of worship, IF, he/she falls back to the Quran and the Hadith. Henceforth, I would like to sincerely warn you, that you choosing to understand God’s chosen religion at this angle, via this passage, is like walking on a strand of hair, with your eyes closed. Dropping the textbooks and fatwas here would be a grave mistake.

    Do correct me if I am wrong, but I sense alot of misconceptions and mistranslations that you have, based on the way you portray your knowledge towards the Deen through your writings. And I would like to add, sadly, they are ignorant as well as blindly challenging the beauty of this faith. It seems to me too, that you are having problems with the teaching community, whoever they may be. There’s alot of things that you need to see for yourself, before coming to scary conclusions at a very young age of 20.

    You mentioned in your comment, “I have studied Tafseer and Hadith for several years, including Mustolah, ‘Ulum Qur’an, Tarikh at-Tashri’, Usul at-Tafsir. All of them were studied in Arabic, and I am quite familiar with its grammar and literature. I am not saying that these have proven ineffective, but I have come to the realization that the general consciousness of the people has rendered them incapable of accessing the reality of spirituality and Unity”. Now, you are undeniably right that the general consciousness of people are at much incapable to know God. However that gives you no reason to reject the Laws of God, specifically in this text the context of Hijab, dogs, Heaven and Hell. This is the Syariah. Accessing the reality of spirituality goes beyond the Syariah, but with it, not without it. So do not let your deep knowledge jumble your conscience. And they have not made you a hypocrite, never did.

    Let me trace back to point no. 3, “Only Islam is the truth and that anyone who does not believe in, namely, Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), will go to Hell”. Now Zafirah, why don’t you go back to Surah Taha Verse 14, which states “Verily! I am Allah! La ilaha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I), so worship Me, and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) for My Remembrance”.
    In addition, Surah Ali-Imran, “The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His will): nor did the people of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other, after knowledge had come to them. But if any deny the Signs of Allah, Allah is swift in calling to account.” I hope these verses of God have clearly render your point invalid, and may it really sink back to you Inshaa Allah, that ISLAM CLEARLY IS GOD’S CHOSEN RELIGION. We are special, we are chosen and we are EXCLUSIVE. Nothing immature about that.

    This point seems invalid to you? Why? Because your logical mind tells you so? Your logical mind is telling you that maybe God is not being fair to all other religion? He is Most Fair. And it is because of His Fairness that people who reject His verses be thrown to Hellfire. And it is also because of His Fairness that people who observe their duties as a servant reap the rewards of Heaven. You see, the religion cannot be based on logic alone. Logic does not equal to Iman. That is the essence of the word “Faith”. When you rationalise Faith with Logic, you head and your heart gets screwed. God himself Exists through our Faith and not by our senses of sight, smell, hear, touch and taste. You believe that you do not see. That is Faith, that is Iman.

    Lastly you mentioned, “…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..” Now, how can someone as intelligent as you resort to saying such (sadly) ignorant statements? The texts, dictionaries and fatwas are channels of knowledge. They are the knowledge that correct whatever that is wrong residing in us. The answers are within you, yes, i agree. But when you enquire what is within you without proper knowledge and guidance, then shaytan and your nafs will be your teacher. This new teacher will make wrong seem right to you.

    May Allah keep you and me, all of us, safe from all the lethal misconceptions. We are blessed to have been born in this Faith Zafirah. Don’t let ignorance and confusion delude you. I am here not to pin you down in error, neither to judge you nor to wrong you. I hope you take my words here in good light.

    Love of Allah, Peace of Allah, Light of Allah

    1. Wa’alaikum As-Salaam,

      I didn’t know you were at the Maqam whereby people’s states were made apparent to you. In which case, if you really were, you wouldn’t have such a shallow understanding of the verses you just quoted.

      In any case, thank you for the feedback, but I am not inclined to debate with a Wahhabi.

      Love, Peace and Light (i don’t think any part of them wouldn’t belong to the Almighty.)

  5. Honey, i really recommend you to ask yourself, seeing you quit poly and go to another institution… do you have a principle in life?

  6. Assalamualaikum,

    Praise be to Allah and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his Families and Companions.

    We ask Allah to help us and you to stay firm in obeying HIM and His Deen.

    Dear Zafirah,

    The Hadeeth: “Angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture” is an
    authentic ( sahih) hadeeth, narrated by Imam Al Bukhari. Given the hadeeth is aunthentic, then Muslim should submit himself even he does not know the wisdom behind it.

    Scholars ( rahimahumullah) may seek the wisdom behind it, BUT, it can’t be declared officially EXCEPT with EVIDENCE. Much appreciated if you could provide us with the SOLID evidence regarding this statement of yours “So it wasn’t the dogs that the Angels were so wary of, it was the oppression.” Opinions based on a careful study can be considered valid as long as they do not contradict any known authentic explanations. However, free interpretation based on philosophical, scientific is totally forbidden.

    Finally, a person is obliged to totally submit himself to the sacred texts and not contradict it by one’s own reasoning because our minds are not able to realize all the wisdoms behind the ahkaam.

    Lastly, in spite of the prohibiton in bringing dogs into our house, Islam is still a Deen full of mercies, and thus a man is rewarded for giving water to a dog. Hadeeth: “A man saw a dog eating wet dust out of thirst, so, the man took his shoe and kept on pouring water with it for the dog until he quenched the dog’s thirst. Allaah Thanked him and admitted him to Paradise.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim].

    Wallahu Aalam.

  7. Salaam

    Thank you Zaf for this article. It certainly makes a lot of sense to me. I look at dogs and wonder how such a loyal and loving creation of God can be so haram. I’ve heard a lot about it being because dogs are filthy and carry disease. No doubt they can have fleas, and worm/parasites but how about cats then? I believe the Prophet (pbuh) had a cat that he kept in the house. Cats can carry a deadly disease known as toxoplasmosis particularly harmful/fatal to pregnant mothers and unborn children. A pregnant woman must never do any gardening in a garden where a cat may have been nor clean out the kitty litter for a cat kept inside. How can cats, which can kill people be permitted yet dogs are not? Alarm bells should be ringing.

    I completely understand that in a day where there was no flea shampoo, tick collars, worming treatments and vaccinations, there is a health issue. And of course, today we still need to be aware of hygiene and animals but I struggle with the concept of dogs only being kept for guarding or hunting.

    Men growing beards? How about some SE Asian men who struggle growing beards? Does that make them less of a Muslim? And only God will decide who is going to heaven or not. I particularly despise this exclusivity as Osama Bin Laden would be given a place in heaven whereas my mother (who picks up old people walking on the side of the road and takes them where they need to go) won’t.

    Again thank you Zaf, it was truly a refreshing read.

    1. Wa As-Salaam,

      Thank you, Becc. The struggle is mutual. You sure know your stuff when it comes to animals. It was nice meeting you last week and I really hope to hear more from you.

      Love, Peace and Light.

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