Verily the praise and thanks is due to Allah. We offer to Him all praise and gratitude, and we seek His assistance and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil of our souls and the wickedness of our deeds. Whoever Allah guides there is none who can lead him astray and whosoever Allah misguides there are none who can bring him to the path. I bear witness that there is nothing truly worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His slave servant and Messenger. May Allah send his salaat and salaam upon His Prophet Muhammad, his family, companions, and all those who follow them in righteousness until the Day of Resurrection. Ameen
We thought it prudent to preface the translation of this brief work by our sister Nawaal Bint Abdullah (may Allah preserve her) with a few words about the background and context of the booklet. This is because the author is describing a common phenomenon in Muslim countries, especially in the Arabian Gulf region. It is an appeal that is full of emotion and concern and even a bit of outrage that may not be readily understood by not only non-Muslims but Muslims living in other parts of the world. Her outrage may seem strange to many in places where what she is complaining of and describes commonly occurs and largely goes unnoticed. Such behavior however, has far more of an impact where the Islamic environment or local culture is relatively more conservative than in most places.
The author’s evident dismay and distress at what would seem a relatively mild lack of adherence may indeed appear extreme to those outside her context. Indeed we realize that perhaps most Muslim women would find absolutely nothing wrong with what she describes and may even view some women whom she even points to who wear niqaab in their midst as quite conservative considering that most other women in their locale may not consider a face veil at all necessary as opposed to the majority view in Saudi Arabia from where the author wrote. Many commonly wear merely a scarf and slacks, dresses that do not reach the ankles, no abaayah (A lightweight overgarment worn by Muslim women that covers the dress underneath. It is commonly black in Gulf countries) or jibaab (see the Appendix: Requirements of Women’s Hijaab) some make-up, perfume, or maybe nothing close to Islamic hijaab and often interact with members of the opposite sex.
What should be considered is if the author is comparing the state of affairs to the actual requirements of Islamic Hijaab, and not merely local culture, and if those requirements are being adhered to or not by the majority. If they are not, what does that tell us about the state of the ummah and its women as a whole?
We must also mention that in a relatively conservative Islamic environment, men often become far more sensitive to the attractions of women and the sight of merely a woman’s hands or even feet, much less a pretty face, can be enough to cause a great trial upon them! The great Imaam, Muhammad Idrees Shaafi once remarked that he was in the marketplace when he happened to see a woman’s ankle and thought he would lose half of his knowledge! Imagine the impact on such people of the satellite dish, videos, magazines and other media where the beauty of women is highlighted and exploited!
Sister Nawaal fervently points to the dangers and the negative influence of western culture and moral values upon the habits and thought processes of many Muslim women. She asserts that such influence is neither passive nor haphazard and that it is a serious and substantial threat not just to Islamic values but to livelihood and values once held precious by mankind as a whole. Can it not be so when the evidence of reality is before our eyes! Could a clear-thinking believer see otherwise? Ours is a world where pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry. Sexual practices of all types are commonly and openly broadcast on television. Men and women speak openly on talk shows and other venues of the most graphic and lurid details of their sexual exploits, and women suffer more physical and sexual abuse than any other group. Even the president of the most revered nation on the earth has his most illicit sexual encounters graphically described for the world to read.
Those living in Islamic environments are in stark contrast to those (including Muslims) living in places where women are almost always uncovered and beautified and often practically naked in public places. The latter are usually far less sensitive and even rarely shocked at anything. Western civilization is built upon the appreciation of the naked form in art and in life. (Even ancient eastern cultures heavily emphasized sexuality such as the Indian Karma Sutra)
It is well known that in the west, today’s “modern and progressive” women are encouraged to be as unashamed of their bodies as possible and to never allow themselves to be restricted. Every day life is full of images and interaction between the sexes involving every type of woman. Sexual openness is considered healthy while anything limiting that is considered repressive and backward. How must such a woman like the author feel in light of this reality? Additionally, she is seeing these things in the Heartland of Islam where there is relatively easy access to many scholars whom one can listen to and speak with (women included) in person or by phone, through audio tapes, or even the radio and television. Not to mention the treasure trove of good Islamic books, the presence of institutions of learning and memorizing the Qur’aan and hadeeth for women. On top of all that she sees it among women whose native tongue is Arabic and whose heritage is Islam and should therefore have little excuse to be uninformed.
There is a hadeeth that goes: This world is like a prison to the believer but it is the paradise of the disbeliever. [Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Maajah, Ahmed & others] Our sister Nawaal, and many other men and women like her, face a seemingly unwinnable battle to stem the tide of western influence in Islamic areas. They are painted as fanatics and regressive while those who advocate relaxation of Islamic shari’ah are deemed reasonable and progressive, especially with regards to women, and their usual first target is observance of Islamic hijaab.
We ask Allah to reward the author and we are grateful to her for granting permission to translate and publish her work in English. We have attempted to do justice to her Arabic style though we have always found this almost unrealistic due to the vast difference between Arabic and English prose. In this regard my greatest thanks goes to Mr. Ahmed Ezzat whose revision of the translation was invaluable. We hope to have successfully overcome most of the difficulties of translating such a work like this and pray that we are successful in conveying the meaning of this heartfelt message from a member our most precious and respected Islamic sisterhood to her sisters in faith.
Abdul-Qaadir Abdul-Khaaliq Riyadh
Culled from the Book title: I Appeal To Your Sense Of Shame by Nawaal Bint Abdullah