Shadia: Your heart and actions matter, not your appearance

Unveiled: A Muslim Girl in O.C.

June 13, 2012|By Mona Shadia

A group of people once brought a drunk man to the Prophet Muhammad, thinking that because alcohol is forbidden he would react harshly.

Instead, the prophet questioned their judgmental behavior and criticism, telling them that he knew the man loved him and God.

I'm telling you this because a few weeks ago I had a conversation with a local imam on what determines faith.

I told him that I believe Islam teaches that faith is between one person and God, that a person's appearance to outsiders doesn't determine his or her level of devotion.


I told him that not covering my hair, for example, doesn't make me less Muslim.

His response was that I should reconsider my position on the hijab, that, basically, my credibility and social standing are likely to be elevated if I start covering my hair.

I'm pretty sure I was rolling my eyes.

Here we go again, I thought.

My Uncle Beautiful first got me to cover my hair when I was about 6 years old. He couldn't get my strong-willed mom, Shadia, to do it. And so my sister and I walked fully covered in public next to our mom, while her hair flowed freely.

I despised the hijab and fought hard against wearing it.

I lost that battle.

But I got to choose for myself when I came to America.

My mom now covers her hair — her choice.

My sister, Marwa, and I don't — our choice.

Things between me and Uncle Beautiful are now fine, though it wasn't easy to get here. I'm comfortable with my choice of not covering.

But over time, and honestly because I'm probably more sensitive to the hijab, I've grown frustrated with many in my community who have collectively created this perception that somehow you're better, more faithful and more pious if you cover your locks.

That, I believe, is what led my uncle to make sure I covered. He believed then (as he does now) that a Muslim woman is commanded by God to cover her hair and dress modestly, but he mainly worried about the perception people would have had of me.

This is why he fought with my mom over it — not out of cruelty, but out of love, strange as it might sound.

Imam Yassir Fazaga, religious leader of the Orange County Islamic Foundation in Mission Viejo, said there is a difference between religious mandates and the value a society places on public expressions of those mandates.

Covering is one of the few visual expressions for Islamic women, Fazaga said. The same goes for faithful Muslim men, who often have beards.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles