such a woman, such a stronghold
by Aqeela Naqvi
“…They feel that Hijab shall bring down the standard of their beauty. What a strange meaning of beauty! What is beauty? Where is its realm?…In your own environment, your own society, there are innumerable curtains, which have been drawn on the beauty of your being. Why don’t you see these curtains? Who are you?
In society, you adapt yourself according to the judgement of the society. Within your work environs, you accept the behavior, the type of dress, the conditions of concealment prevalent in your environment. Throughout your life, each place, every moment, each incident, every event throws a new curtain on your personality – the curtain of class, the curtain of shape, the curtain of status, the curtain of reputation, and the curtain of respectability. But who are you? What are you? The countless curtains lead you to the loss of your identity, your own being.
The Islamic Hijab…is by itself a source of drawing all these curtains aside, providing [woman] the possibility of uniting with the real beauty of her being…There is inside yourself a being which, in all-earnest and anxiety, expects that you will discover it, will be sincere to it, will come to its rescue…will hold it and it will hold you, so that you may return to your original source. But you have kept distance from it.
…The idea of physical beauty is so strong that woman is also governed by it, and she finds satisfaction with herself only when she finds herself beautiful and her beauty a subject of public judgement…The demand of society from a woman, the demand of a woman from herself, and the demand of a man from a woman all revolve around physical beauty. But the real beauty lies in the moment the society, man, and woman herself should demand from woman the beauty of the soul and the spirit and human qualities and talents.
…Islam does not demand beauty from a woman. It does not ask for an illusive appearance. In society, it does not demand physical, sensual, feminine features. No! No! Rather…Islam demands from you your existential value, and not sensual value. It is your faith, your practice which brings about and establishes a progressive society based on the belief in One God, and not the physical and sensual features which are the elements of a decadent…society…where a few men and women, young and old, are devouring one another, and, considering themselves to be beasts, wriggle with each other with the least human feelings and sentimental attachments, and from above, in the words of the Qur’an, a few “satiated and opulent” bloodthirsty people watch with pleasure – and by sucking their blood, the juice of their youth and life, give perpetuity to their power and pelf.
…You may have accepted it without being aware of the responsibility of wearing this vitalizing dress, without having endeavored to realize the aims and message of this dress, without ever having tried to refine and reform yourself in order to deserve this dress, this attire. In all such circumstances, your Hijab can never be Islam personified…It shall never be a revolutionary stronghold against tyranny, despotism, and decadent values and systems. It shall never bring a glad tiding of liberty for the people of your land, except when you should have learnt Islam as a deen (a system of life), a comprehensive ideology, recognized it as such, and linked it truly and boldly with all your existence, your being, your life, your traits of character, your aims and objects, as well as your ambitions.
… Rise and revolt…with the help of your hijab, the depth of which you have now fully realized, which has bestowed upon you the infinite capacity of being human, and which has liberated you from all the criteria of imperialism and exploitation.
…Let the people wish to find you like the magnificent and proud summits…the ebullient rivulets springing from within the hearts of lofty mountains.
…I am free. I am released…Throughout the millennia of decadent history you have used me as a domestic servant, a tool for the bed, and a source for enervating willpowers, stupefying the brains, and destroying supreme values and have turned me subservient to the whims of man…you have diverted my mind… [but] now, in the shelter of modesty and chastity I have abandoned the display in streets and markets and the mass media of communication, the…works of…poets and writers who, by picturing my eyes, eyebrows, and my body try to make good for their lack of aptitude… With my Hijab, with the heavy social responsibility of the commands to do what is good and forbid what is wrong…I enter the stage of society and conquer all its planes.
…The type of woman who you had yourself forged, had yourself trained, had yourself taught ideals – the way of talking, laughing, wishing, longing…you have now lost such a woman, such a stronghold…this stronghold shall never fall into your hands.”
—Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, ‘Beauty of Concealment and Concealment of Beauty’