I wrote this a while back, around the time when I was in the process of converting to Islam. I thought this might serve as a nice segue into my upcoming story of my journey to begin covering my hair.
Well, I’ve been thinking (and reading) a lot about modesty these days, and I’m concerned with all the criticism that Muslim women receive over their desire to cover themselves. I decided to take a look at what other religions have to say about this subject, and with very little effort I found that the concept of Islamic modesty is nothing new. In fact, in Jewish tradition (from the Tanukh I think, but I’m looking for an exact citation), Abraham’s wife Sarai never left the home without completely covering herself – including her face! Jewish women are also supposed to cover their hair (you can see that today in more traditional Jewish communities) and wear modest clothing. With regard to Christianity, let’s remember that Jesus said he came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Fulfill doesn’t mean change, the last time I checked. Further, Paul himself even states that a woman should at least cover her hair in church in I Cor. 11:
“Every woman who prays or prophecies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head… The woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.”
So first of all, according to Paul, a woman with an uncovered head is dishonoring herself. Secondly, he commands that any woman who isn’t covering should have her hair cut off. Wow! That’s pretty extreme, and certainly not backed up by Old Testament law. Nor does Islam have any punishment for a woman who doesn’t cover, by the way. It’s simply her decision. Further, Paul states that a woman should have a sign of authority on her head. Meaning what? She’s inferior to what authority? God? No – to men. We can ascertain that because Paul didn’t tell men that they have any sign of authority over them; he singled out women. So, covering the hair in Christianity is done due to the authority of men, while covering the hair in Islam is due to the authority of God. That’s a pretty big difference.
Either way, modesty is not an Islamic fabrication, nor is it a symbol of oppression. Just ask any Muslim woman here in the West, and she’ll inform you that she happily chooses to cover herself. Further, a woman’s beauty is a valuable gift and treasure that shouldn’t be given away to the general public for free! I’ve heard it said many times by Muslim women that by being modest and covering their sexuality, they raise themselves to equal playing grounds and are therefore taken much more seriously as a person, and valued for their minds instead of their bodies. How liberating!
And by the way, just to be fair – Islam teaches modesty for both men and women. Men should dress modestly as well – it’s not a one-sided ideology, something that anti-modesty protesters conveniently overlook.
Additionally, people in general have been modest up until very recently. It wasn’t even until the 60s that people began showing more skin and abandoning modesty. Running around half-naked is an innovation that honestly hasn’t fixed the gender gap in terms of equality in salary or employment (to date are still receiving only 75% of the pay men receive for the same work, with the same level of education and experience), even in the ‘liberated’ United States. Women still get the short end of the stick, and are now viewed as cheap sexual objects, even degraded to the level of selling everything from cars to toothpaste. Look what ‘respect’ and ‘value’ exposing ourselves has bought us.
You can check out this youtube video for a nice visual montage of modesty throughout religions and throughout history.