A Note to My American Sisters
I met a woman who changed my perspective about myself and other women.
She was a Lebanese girl, born and raised a Muslim. I saw in her
something I had seen in few women Self-confidence. Here was this
short, stout sister in her mid twenties. She was not much to look at,
but when I spoke to her, I could feel her warmth, sincerity and
intelligence. She was a Ph.D. in psychology, a college professor and a
soon- to - be mother.
How did she affect me? Well. While we were speaking, she and I got to
the subject of choosing a good husband. She told me she had waited to
marry because she had been waiting for the perfect man, a good
practicing Muslim man. She said, “ I had a lot to offer a man. I was a
good practicing Muslimah, educated, intelligent, and a respectable
woman.” This was a real shock to me. I must say, I was brought up with
the American vanities. When a woman says she has a lot to offer, none
of those things are usually on the list. Normally, she should have
said, “I am tall and thin. I have a pretty face. I have a good
figure.”, or, maybe, “I have blond hair and blue eyes.” But for her to
list such unfeminine qualities as elements that would make her a good
catch as a wife, shocked me, especially since she so obviously lacked in
the departments I so vainly considered important. Later, however, I
thought about it. I realized that this attitude I had was a sad fact of
American life, and a sad commentary about me. We were raised to
idealize Barbie. Our role models were beautiful women. I did not know
very many names of women, who had academically, intellectually, or even
physically (sports) excelled, but I could name several dozen models,
singers and actresses.
I thought about myself. I had, at the time, graduated from my Master’s
degree. I was teaching English at a local college. I was working on my
Ph.D... I was, and always had been considered to be of above average
intelligence, but for as far back as I could remember, the only thing
about which people ever commented about me to my parents was my beauty.
Also, I could not imagine considering myself without considering my
My self image, like most American women, was tied to my beauty. If I
lost that, even though I had so much, I had nothing. A good friend of
mine once commented to me how sad she felt that it took her so long to
put on the hijab, and even when she put it on, she had to make it
pretty, by cinching the waist or wearing makeup. Another sister, a new
convert, told me just recently that she had tried putting the hijab on
one day. She said that when she got back in her car, she started crying
because she “...looked so ugly.” I knew exactly how they both felt.
I, myself, delayed my entry into Islam because, as I told many of my
friends, I was not going to be seen walking around in bed sheets.
What is wrong with us that we see ourselves based solely on the image
reflected in the mirror. Allah has given us so much more. Allah has
created us a mates for our husbands, daughters for our parents, mothers
for our children and sisters to one another, but we have allowed the
Western mentality to poison our perspectives. Don’t get me wrong.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be beautiful. This is perfectly
natural. The problem lies in making our self-image contingent upon this
fact. Look to the West. The best paid women are those who play to
men’s fantasies either as actresses, models or even exotic dancers.
The society is built around pleasuring men. All it takes is to watch
one hour of television to figure this out. Are all consumers men? No.
Then why are commercials ridden with beautiful, naked or practically
naked women and tons of sexual imagery? It is so because men will buy
for their woman to make her look this way and women will buy to please
some man who wants her to look this way. I am not placing all the blame
on women for falling for this ploy. I am also blaming men (among them
many of our Muslim men who help to perpetuate this poisoned myth).
It is a true shame that a woman should be so worried about her image
that she disobeys Allah because she does not have the confidence to be
less than beautiful. Hijab is an essential element of societal
protection. It keeps the woman from tempting the man, and it keeps her
from tempting herself. How? Because the attentions of a handsome man
who has been turned by a pretty face or body is flattering to the woman.
We enjoy the attention, and this can lead to much more than ‘friendly’
chatting or ‘innocent’ flirting. Additionally, the hijab makes society
judge the woman on a basis other than her beauty. This is also a
protection. It makes the woman develop other talents. It makes her
purity and modesty increase in value. It makes others respect her
because it shows that she respects herself.
We need to recognize the obvious. Too many times you hear a woman say,
“I dress this way to please myself.” Really? Well how many of you wear
sexy tight dresses, heels, and are fully made up when you are lounging
around your house? If it is only for you, not for the attention it gets
you from men, then why do you discard it when no man is present? Why do
you not try to beautify yourself for yourself when only you are present?
The reason is that it is not for you, in that way. It is for your self
confidence. We all need a boost now and then, so dressing sexily and
turning a few heads our way makes us feel good. Reminds us that we are
Therein lays the problem. Why do we need to have this type of
reinforcement to make us feel good? Why is it that we have to gain our
confidence from our looks? What is wrong with us? Look to men. You
can see the shortest, fattest, baldest, ugliest one of them walking with
a tall beautiful woman. Why? Because he has confidence in himself. He
knows he has an asset which appeals to others. He is rich, or
intelligent or even he is witty, or maybe he sings well (Julia Roberts’
last marriage pops into the mind).
We need to recognize our assets as women. The greatest asset we have is
not our beauty. It is our virtue. Think about it. Men love to be
seen with and to play with the sexy vamp, but he looks for a good girl
to settle down and raise a family. Men recognize what we have allowed
the West to make us forget. We truely have all the power. When the
women of Greece wanted men to stop going to war all the time, they made
a pact to withhold sexual favors from their men. The men got the
message, and the wars stopped.
The women of the world have always used their power to make men desire
what they could not have. They have preserved their dignity and men
have recognized this and repected this. Now, we no longer respect
ourselves. We make ourselves available for visual feasting and other
feasting as well. The American woman works harder than she ever did.
She is raising her children without a father. She is suffering
needlessly as are her children. Many times, she has to go to medical
science to get the man to even admit that the child is his. How low
have we fallen? We think we have freedom? We are more inprisoned than
we have ever been. We are prisoners to the whims of men. Men are
beating us, abandoning us, using us, and discarding us. Why? Because
there is always a more gullible woman around the corner. We are going
to all kinds of extremes to attract men. Recently, I was driving on a
Sunday. I saw these women going into a church, and I swear they looked
like they were dressed for a night club, not a church. On the flipside,
I see our Muslim sisters wearing ‘hijabs’ that show more than they
conceal. I see the young girls playing with the beautiful barbie dolls
and arguing over who looks more like Barbie. Ya Allah!!! When will we
We have to protect ourselves sisters. We have to show our superiority.
We are Muslims. That makes us the best of nations. We are the example
for the world, so why are we the ones doing the following? We are the
cream of the crop, so why are we wallowing in the mud? Sisters, I beg
you to examine America for what it is. America has from the highest
crime rates against women. They say that women are respected? honored?
free? Well, I read a few years ago in the newspaper about a man who
beat up his girlfriend and put her in the hospital. At the same time,
he tortured and killed her pet rabbit. This man was given 6 months and
a $6000.00 fine for the beating of the woman. For the rabbit, he was
given 6 years and a $60,000.00 fine. Respect, honor, freedom? It seems
to me, the respect, honor and freedom belongs to the rabbit, not to the
woman. Subhana Allah, the rabbit is often lunch? Our lunch gets more
rights than we do?
Until very recently, there were no laws in America protecting a woman
from stalking, and it was not illegal for a man to beat up his wife.
Still, in some states, if the scared woman does not press charges, they
will do nothing to him. Would you press charges if you knew he would be
out to beat you again soon? If you were to press the charges, chances
are the next beating may be fatal. And they have the nerve to talk
about Muslims. America—clean up your own backyard!
When we show that we respect ourselves, we will get the respect we
deserve, not until we have to set the limit. We have to show plainly
and clearly that we are women of dignity, that we are Muslim women. If
we do so, they will respond, even if the culture and practice is not
I was at work one day, when a man was introduced to me. He extended his
hand to me. I politely said, “Sorry, but my religion forbids me from
shaking hands with men.” His response to me was, “My mother told me
that one day I would go to shake hands with a lady, and she would
refuse. I have finally met a lady.”
Another time, I was in a market, and this sweet old American man came up
to me. He tugged on the back of my headpiece, and when I turned, he
said, “May God Bless you for this. It is so beautiful to see a woman
who respects herself.”
The point here is that we will be viewed as we present ourselves. Why
are some American men so appalled when they hear that a woman should
cover herself? It is because that means that they can not get that
boost to their self-image by parading around with a trophy woman. Why
are so many women against the idea of hijab? Because it means that they
lose the confidence they have because their beauty is the key to their
self-image. No beauty, no confidence. No beauty, no worth. Where
would Cindy Crawford or Sharon Stone be if they had to rely on something
other than their looks? Let’s not fall into the trap they have laid for
Having stated all this, let me get off my soapbox and get into the real
reasons for my writing this. Having grown up as a non-Muslim in the
West, I had more than a few concerns about the religion of Islam before
I converted. The hardest thing for me was giving up what I considered
to be my freedom to choose. But I finally realized that it was only by
submitting to the rules of Allah that I was able to recognize that this
freedom was little more than a charade — a drug used to lure the
unsuspecting into a waking sleep.
Let me elaborate a bit. Some people question why women have to cover or
why women can not marry non-Muslim men. First, it is a fact of life
that we are not in paradise. (like you didn’t know this already).
But the sad fact is that we expect everything to be perfect. We expect
men and women to act like angels and we get angry or frustrated because
they don’t. The first thing any Muslim has to realize is that there is
a Superior force (Allah) at work running the universe. We may not agree
with the decisions He makes or the plan He has created, but if we
recognize Him to be superior, we must know that His choices are based on
factors of which we are unaware, and His superiority makes His choice
right and ours wrong, by default.
I shall give you a poor example. I am not a medical doctor. However,
when I feel sick, I go to someone who is. He tells me — You have
cancer. He prescribes radiation treatment. He gives me a basic
explanation of what is going on, and how the radiation works to kill it,
but in the end, I have no choice but to trust that he knows more than I
do about this, and I let him do what needs to be done to get rid of the
cancer, or I can take my chances on my imperfect understanding - a move
that has killed many a cancer patient.
When it comes to Allah, I can not tell you why men were created to be
creatures that are stimulated sexually by visual stimuli. Nor can I
tell you why women are less prone to these phenomena. I also can not tell you why it is that women tend to follow men that they love, even in this liberated age (did you know the vast majority of crimes committed by women were somehow or other connected to pleasing the man they love). We may not like the reality of it — but we can not deny it exists and we can not hide our heads in the sand like an
ostrich and say that because it does exist, they (those who are either
unwilling or unable to control themselves) have to fix what’s wrong with
themselves or that it’s not our responsibility to protect every man from
himself. The sad reality is we have to protect ourselves because no one
is going to protect us.
The Muslim woman covers as a way to be known and as a protection — Allah
says this in (Surat Ahzab 33: verse 59). Now, how is covering ourselves
up going to protect us. It does so because it increase the respect we
are given by men. As a non-Muslim, I dealt with the issues of sexual
harassment and disrespect. When I put on hijab, nothing changed about
me but the fact that I was now covered. For some reason, men acted
different. They saw the no-trespass sign loud and clear. There was no
ambiguity. You see, when a woman wears typical Western clothes, the man
is unsure — is she available? Does she ‘play around’? Is she a
respectable woman? They don’t know. There is nothing to openly warn
him, but the hijab states loudly and clearly, “This is a respectable
woman who does not play games.” So, wearing the hijab actually helped me
to progress in my career as a college professor with no problems of this
type. I even presented a research paper at a national convention. My
hijab allowed them to see me for my intellectual merits because they
were denied access to my physical merits. As a non-Muslim, there were
many days I went home in tears from all the “cute” comments and lewd
At first it seemed unfair that I should have to go to this extreme to
protect myself, but I no longer see it this way, no more than I see it
as extreme to avoid walking down a dark alley in New York City at 2 am -
waving a thousand dollars in cash. I recognize that I bear a certain
amount of responsibility to be wise and to protect myself. If I do not
care about my safety, who will? I need to be conscientious and wise. I
can not assume that all men out there have perfect self-control. For
God’s sake, I do not have it, so why should I expect it from anyone
Another issue that has bothered many of us is that we can only marry a
Muslim man. As I said before, it is more natural for a woman to follow
a man than for a man to follow a woman. Like it or not, this is
reality. Allah could have made it different, but at some point we have
to realize that there must be a reason for this. It may be to keep
harmony in the family one needs to be more naturally submissive than the
other — one has to be stronger — in general this is the man — why? I
don’t know. One had to be — why not the man?
Even the most intellectual of feminist philosophers recognizes that men
and women think, act and even communicate differently. Once again —
this is reality. Now the question is how do we protect ourselves —
(Survival - that’s the ultimate aim - isn’t it? We want to survive this
world and even excel, if we can, so we can move on to bigger, better
things — namely Jennah.) One of the ways we do so is by not placing
our self in a situation that will cause us problems in the future. In
this case, Allah has done that for us. Allah wants to protect our
religion. So in His Infinite Wisdom, He has forbidden the woman to
allow her heart to overrule her head. She is to stay with Muslim men
(don't get me wrong there are plenty of bad Muslim men — but be smart —
we are supposed to choose the best — not the scum from our own). If we
do so, then these problems are at least minimized, if not eliminated.
This is a gift from Allah. He has given us from His wisdom, and
forbidden for us what will hurt us.
I have been around the Muslims for a while, 13 years, long enough to
have seen women married to non - Muslims — a few of them — and I have
yet to see one relationship that lasted, or even one where the man even
converted or accepted her religious practices (although I am sure they
is at least one out there - but the exception can never overrule the
rule.). In the long run, it is usually a disaster (in the beginning
they are all sugar and flowers — but the honeymoon ends with a drastic shock to these women). I wish I could say that one worked out, but I am
sad to say the only one that did not end in divorce was a neighbor I had
who on a weekly basis had police visits to defend her from his beatings.
As for the other side — I have seen the vast majority of Christian and
Jewish women married to Muslim men convert or at least accept the
religion with open minds and tolerance.
As I said We may not like reality cause it’s not what we want to do,
but it is life and we have to live it. I don't like having to lock my
doors from fear of criminals, but I don’t avoid doing it in protest.
That would be stupid and dangerous. I try to be wise and deal with what
exists not what I want to exist. The laws of Allah are laws to help us
deal with what exists.