Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Sharing Group Discussion: The Niqab in a Western Context

 بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following question was posed by Sister Nico Le in The Sharing Group, on the 02nd May 2014.  She said, “I have been doing some research on different issues in Islam, partly due to the fact that have to be able to answer the questions from non-Muslims.  I was doing research on the niqab.  And to be honest, I am confused.   I know the scholars do not agree on the issue.  However, when looking at the evidence they present, it seems like the ‘for’ side has many and good arguments and the ‘against’ side has no arguments at all.  So what are your thoughts on this topic: Islamic Research Foundation: Wearing Niqab for a Women is Obligatory in Islam?”

Brother Ismaeel de Silva: Wa Alaykum as-Salaam, traditionally there are two views on the niqab: compulsory and recommended.  I am not sure what you mean by the ‘con’ side.  Do you mean those who claim it is disliked or even forbidden, or those who say it is just a cultural issue?

Sister Nico Le: That the ‘pro’ side says niqab is fardh, and the ‘con’ side says it is not fardh.

Brother Ismaeel de Silva: There is the mursal hadits of ‘Aishah (r.a.) in which the Prophet (s.a.w.) said to ‘Aishah (r.a.) that it was inappropriate for her to appear before a non-mahram without covering herself completely with the exception of the face and hands.  People like the above speaker would claim that a mursal hadits is dha’if, but in fact, the Hanafi fuqaha’ prefer the mursal hadits over the mutaswswil hadits because it shows the narrator narrated the hadits before the emergence of the fitnah which required all the narrators to be identified.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Firstly, the niqab is not mentioned in the Qur’an at all.

Secondly, if the niqab was so crucial to modesty, why is it that in the state of ihram, women are not allowed to cover their face, and the niqab is not a prerequisite for the performance of swalah.

Thirdly, we must consider the reasons, the circumstances and the context.  We have to recognise it for what it is, a sunnah.  Some of the Shafi’i madzhab even consider this wajib, or a sunnah mu’akkadah.  My personal opinion is that unless one lives in a society where there is a need to cover the nose and mouth due to sand storms and dust, I fail to see any justification for it being fardh.  It is a cultural affection, no more.  There is a far stronger case for the hijab, if people want to examine that and even there, there are differing opinions amongst some of our scholars.

Sister Veronika Cejpkova: Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, I would totally enjoy your arguments and talks on the TV shows.  You straight forward, clear and manage to put a comic side to it.

Sister Nico Le: Brother Ismaeel de Silva, thank you.  I know the hadits but it seems to be the only proof and it is not even swahih.  I do not want to dismiss anything or be rude in any way.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, I agree to the first point.  On the second, is there not a hadits from ‘Aishah (r.a.) that when in a state of ihram, she would lower her khimar over her face whenever a non-mahram man could possibly see her?  I have never been to a sandstorm so I have no clue what helps there.  I only know that I always covered my face when skiing.

Brother Ismaeel de Silva: Whether a hadits is swahih according to the conditions of the muhadditsin, is not the pre-condition for its acceptance in point of acceptance by the fuqaha’.  The mursal hadits is considered more swahih by some of the fuqaha’ than the mutaswswil swahih hadits preferred by the muhadditsin, and when it comes to fiqh, we follow the fuqaha’, and not the muhadditsin.  There are numerous other proofs which are based on textual indications.  The problem, however, is if we are not familiar with the methodology of the fuqaha’ and we take a position of trying to understand rulings without uswul, methodology, then we will end up following our nafs rather than the shari’ah.

With regards to second part above, we know that niqab was made fardh for the Mothers of the Believers; whether that can be generalised to all Muslim women is disputable.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: That is true.  I neglected to mention that.  Thank you, brother.

Brother David Rosser Owen: Then there is the matter of the maqaswid ash-shari’ah when living in societies that are displaying increasing animosity to Islam and Muslims and where women wearing niqab generate a hostility that all suffer, some of it violently.  In such circumstances, its wear would be possibly an inappropriate self-indulgence if not inviting harm to the community.

Brother Jerry Mikell:


O Consorts of the Prophet!  Ye are not like any of the (other) women: if ye do fear (Allah), be not too complaisant of speech, lest one in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire: but speak ye a speech (that is) just.  And stay quietly in your houses, and make not a dazzling display, like that of the former Times of Ignorance; and establish regular prayer, and give regular charity; and obey Allah and His Messenger.  And Allah only Wishes to Remove all abomination from you, ye members of the Family, and to make you pure and spotless. (Surah al-Ahzab:33)

This is the ayat that indicates the special code of conduct for the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) wives which, ostensibly, he may have added to according to the hadits.  The generalisation made by certain fuqaha’ to other women, is not based on the Qur’an.  I do not know the textual basis for these generalisations, but clearly they are not from the Qur’an.

Brother David Rosser Owen: And the obvious corollary would be: “O other women, you are not as the wives of the Prophet.”

Sister Nico Le: We are also advised to use the wives of the Prophet (s.a.w.) as role models.  I do not want to argue this way or another.  I just find the arguments of the ‘pro’ niqab side to be more.  And in the end, it is so extremely easy to go to Hell and so incredibly hard, almost impossible, to go to Heaven that we cannot afford one single mistake or misunderstanding.  I do not want the niqab to be an obligation because I cannot wear it.  However, if it is an obligation and I followed the wrong opinion, this can very well be my ticket to hell.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Actually, sister, it is very easy to go to Heaven and it takes a lot of effort to go to Hell.  We do not worship a petty god.  And we do not take Him as an accountant.  Were that so, all of Creation would be found wanting.  Rather, we fear His Jalal and we hope for His Jamal.  Allah (s.w.t.) is less likely to condemn you to the Fire for not covering your face than He is if you were to oppress any of His Creation.  Our amanah with regards our fellows is to be kind, to show love and to have patience with them so that Allah (s.w.t.) will Exhibit those Qualities with us.  And our amanah with regards our Creator is to serve Him and be aware of Him in all circumstances.  The rest will come naturally.

Sister Nico Le: Well, I cannot really find this in the texts.  I am not a scholar or anything.  However, when I read the Qur’an, it leaves me in a state of despair.  The same is true, to a lesser extent, when I listen to Islamic lectures.  There are two angels with every human being, who write everything down; that sounds like accounting to me.  It is a bit like school.  The teacher writes down every time you did not do your homework properly, talked during class, were inattentive, did not write with proper handwriting, and in the end of the school year, your parents get the list with date, time, what you did wrong and they have to sign it.  It sounds a bit like the Day of Judgement.

The same way with du’a.  You can only do it during certain times like the last third of the night, while travelling, and so forth; this sounds like office hours: like the Swiss Air Force saying, “Thank you for hijacking a plane in our airspace.  Unfortunately, there is no air force plane available at the moment to force you to land.  Please do your terrorist activities from Monday to Friday from 1000h to 1200h, and 1330h to 1530h.  Thank you very much.  And another thing, the way du’a has to be done is a bit like trying to communicate with an administration.  It is all very formal.  There are things you have to say and things you must not say.  And never forget to say ‘thank you,’ and ‘excuse me, I am sorry,’ hundreds of times.  There is only one exception you actually get a response from the administration.

I do not want to sound cynical but I am.  I am trying to figure out what to do.  I am Muslim since almost 3 years now and I have never been further away from God than I am now.  As I see it, there are only two solutions.  One, go in with everything: get married, leave university, wear niqab, pray every night, and maybe have a small chance to get to Heaven eventually.  I know I will be a terrible wife and mother.  The other option is to accept that God, if He Exists, either hates me or is simply not the author of the Qur’an, thus leaving Islam.  I have a nice life knowing that if Islam was right, I get Hell, at least I would have really earned it.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: If those lectures focus on excessive legalism, then perhaps it would be better not to attend them.  To discover a closeness to God, I suggest you spend some time reading the sirah and try to connect with the Messenger (s.a.w.).  That is a start.

Brother James Harris: For me, reading and listening to the Qur'an is soothing and reassuring.  The overarching message is God’s Mercy and Love towards humanity, which is conveyed throughout.  But we must be aware of the key themes to get this idea, rather than getting lost in all the minute details, which are often foreign and strange sounding.  How we feel when we read the Qur’an and think about it depends on how we have been taught to understand the Message conveyed.

Another matter concerns the issue of translation.  I do not normally like to hear Arabic speakers say that one should read the Qur’an in Arabic to understand it properly.  Not all of us can invest the time and effort into learning the language.  But I think it is pertinent here to say that I have heard it said by a number of Arabs, and I agree with them, that English translations of the Qur’an come across as sounding much ‘harsher’ than the text does in Arabic to those who understand it.  I am not sure what it is, if it is because of the language of the Old Testament that is often used in the translations, which for people of Christian backgrounds is somewhat harsh.  But I think there is truth in this.

A good book for understanding the key ideas in the Qur’an is “Major Themes of the Qur’an”, by Shaykh Fazlur Rahman.  You may find this useful if you have not read it already.

Sister Nico Le: I guess it is also partially due to the harshness of the language itself.  Just as an example, listening to the expression “I love you,” in Italian and Dutch, the Dutch version will sound way harsher.  It is just because the language sounds harsher in general.

However, with the Qur’an, there are many mentions of entire nations being destroyed or very vivid descriptions of Hellfire.  Whereas the descriptions of Paradise seem to only speak to men.  You need a lot of faith to even believe Paradise will be nice.  And I wonder whether I was simply made by default, for Hell, maybe as a bad example on earth on how not to be Muslim, and as a small help to some ‘good’ Muslims.

Brother James Harris, thanks for the book suggestion.  I will try to find it online and read it when I find the time.

Brother James Harris: The Arabic language is a beautiful language with an astounding tradition of poetry and literature.  The idea of the language being harsh is perhaps something we are just conditioned to.  Many English speakers often consider German to be a harsh-sounding language.  I think you are a German speaker, and so would understand that this sounds silly if you know the language.

Regarding the stories of ancient peoples and civilisations, these are all stories carried over from the Abrahamic tradition and are used to illustrate the key points of the Revelation: monotheism, God’s Mercy, human accountability, and various other themes.  Be careful to see the wood for the trees.  Despairing of God’s Mercy is in the most basic Islamic teaching is considered to be one of the major diseases of the heart that we must avoid or remedy.  This is one of the first things we learn when studying ‘aqidah.  If we start to despair of God’s Mercy, then we need to take a step back and think carefully about why we may be getting those ideas from.  Perhaps somebody is pushing certain ideas without fully understanding the Qur’an, which as we have discussed in this group many times, is a common problem amongst Muslim preachers these days.

Sister Nico Le: I am sorry.  I must have expressed myself badly.  I wanted to say English maybe just simply sound harsher than the Qur’anic Arabic.  I did not want to imply that Arabic sounds harsh.  By the way, German does sound harsh even to a native speaker.  We are used to it, but it does not sound nice; especially since we have languages like French, Italian and English around us.

It is not all that easy, not to despair.  Granted, I am by no means an expert, or even remotely knowledgeable about the Qur’an.  It is just what I see on the surface, and it does not look very reassuring.  The same goes for the ahadits.  I mean, of course, there are verses and ahadits that talk about Allah’s (s.w.t.) Mercy and Forgiveness.  However, there are many others too.  And if I honestly examine them myself, I do not have any quality of a believer whatsoever.  I would make a great Shaythan; if being a Muslim woman were a job, I would not apply for it because I do not have the necessary skills and the Boss looks rather scary.

Brother James Harris: I think German is a lovely language.

Always remember these words in the Qur’an, sister.  These sum up the matter:


On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear … (Surah al-Baqarah:286)

Sister Nico Le: Well, one can argue over language taste.  However, the ayah is a good example of what I mean.  At first sight, it looks really lovely.  On closer examination, it does not.  Let us assume someone gets into a situation he cannot handle anymore and there is no apparent help anywhere.  So what can he do?  He cannot go to Allah (s.w.t.) since he said that no soul gets burden beyond what it can bare.  So he has to somehow deal with it and know that if he fails Allah (s.w.t.) will be displeased because it will be entirely his fault since Allah (s.w.t.) did not overburden him.  It is as though someone gives you a heavy bag and tells you lift it, it's not too heavy for you.  And you try to lift it but are unable to do so.  Now, the person who gave you the bag does not lie, so you have to be able to lift it, ergo you are lifting it the wrong way.  Now let us assume that person tells you, “If you do not carry this bag over there, I will punish you severely.”  No what do you do?  Try to sort of drag it on the ground; that is what I am doing.  Just leave it, and say I cannot try to find another way to lift it, no matter how painful or strange it seems.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Perhaps, sister, you should look at religion like cake.  Take little bites.  And if someone gives you a big plate, still take small bites.  If you stuff yourself, you will feel sick and might end up hating that cake.  People make that mistake.  This cake is huge and the different parts of it taste different, so many flavours, colours, toppings.  Take something that is to your taste and leave the rest to others according to their inclinations.  Do not force your portion on others and never allow another to force their portion on you.  That is the meaning of the verse Dr. James Harris mentioned.

Brother Marquis Dawkins: Masha’Allah, a great discussion!  Brother Terence Nunis made a nice summary by saying it is easy to get to Heaven and hard to go to Hell.  That may sound contrary to Qur’an and what prophets before said.  Jesus (a.s.) is oft remembered saying narrow is the road to Heaven and wide is the gate to Hell, but it actually is not.  Why?  Because if you truly love God and seek Him, you are already on your way.  The prophets were all Sent in times when all the world was focused on the dunya alone.  This may be why the language was ‘harsh’.  Because they were speaking to people who never heard of these concepts of a Loving God and salvation, or that heard of them wrong.  After Rasulullah (s.a.w.), the information was complete, which is why he is the Seal of Prophets.  Nothing more needed to be said.

This is why the road to Hell is also said to be easy.  Because one must focus on the dunya, the worries of life and ignore God and His messengers all together.  Easy, right?  But it is actually hard to, with all the information about Him. You have to make a conscious effort to avoid hearing of Him or not wanting to know Him.  And that is why Shaythan sends distractions of this life.  But, once you set your mind and heart to loving God and wanting to please Him, all the rest falls into place and the distractions of life and Shaythan no longer matter.

Brother Hudson Decoraters: This is the issue.  I hear this from the Deobandi scholars as well, but they are taking fatawa from traditional sources, from centuries ago, in a different place.  So, yes, the scholars then said if there is fitnah, then cover, but that ruling still has its cultural foundation in their time.  You cannot then use that as a basis.  It is just lazy scholarship, and it is based more on cultural misunderstanding and just plain prejudice than actual scholarship.  This is a sneaky way to try to get the non-Salafists to come down to the level of the Salafists.

Brother Jerry Mikell: This is the great problem with Islamic teaching. There are few teachers who have an overarching knowledge so that the student is given a holistic understanding about how to approach his or her spiritual practice.  Most ‘ulama do not have this ability.  They have textual knowledge, but not the knowledge of transformation through the Islamic practice.  There must be an ability to impart a background to a convert or to anyone for that matter that puts Creation and our individual lives into a context of Mercy but does not denude the Good News and the Warning.  Once a Muslim imbibes this fully, he or she is filled with reassurance and meaning.  Without this, most converts leave the faith.  It is unfortunate, but this is what happens.  The others who remain without this overarching view become extremists or eventually work through what feels like a strait jacket of Islamic law to see that the law is the most advanced spiritual practice available to humanity to actually achieve real happiness and tranquility.

Sister Nico Le: First of all, I am sorry if my comments were very negative, or if I offended anyone.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, that is a nice example, but right now, Islam looks more like a really bitter grapefruit and not like a cake.  With every bite, it gets worse and it does not seem to get less only more.  And like with any bad tasting food, I try to eat it fast, so that it is down and I can focus on the good stuff.

Brother Marquis Dawkins: Modern Christianity, which I was taught, does not have a concept of Hell anymore.  Or rather, if a theologian still believes in Hell, he sees it as either empty or only for really bad people.  The notion of Hell is considered medieval, at best.  Recently, I was talking to a Jesuit priest at my university, and he clearly said, if Hell exists, must be totally or almost empty.

Brother Hudson Decoraters: Interesting thought.  So why cannot we say anymore that in a time of fitnah, women should cover totally?  What exactly did change from that time that made covering the face no longer necessary?  Humans are still humans, men still find women attractive.

Brother Jerry Mikell: I agree most converts go in one of two directions, either leave or become very strict.  And as I see it, there is not really much else you can do.  Either give up or do everything.  Everything else seems not enough.  If you do not, you sort of have partially a ruined life thanks to Islam and you most likely will never get Heaven because you were not strict enough.  So you can either just accept that Allah (s.w.t.) Won and you are useless as a Muslim and leave and enjoy at least this life.  Or you can say I do it all for akhirah; I take the full suffering thanks to Islam and hope that at least this can appease the wrath of Allah.

Brother Hudson Decoraters: As I understand, it is like this: if you uncover your face in Afghanistan’s tribal areas, as a woman you will be in fitnah, men will leer at you and get all excited cause their socially accepted level of modesty is a full covering.  You might get the religious police throwing large rocks at you as well.  Anything less makes you a whore basically.  So the hukm applies. But in the UK, the socially accepted level of modesty is to not show cleavage and to wear long skirts.  The face, for us, plays a large part in communication and men do not get all hot and bothered due to seeing hair.  Hair is just hair to us.

Now English people see the niqab as alien and quite scary.  My grandma told me that she finds it very scary, and it is seen, generally, as not conducive to communicating in the UK.  It says, “Don’t talk to me.”  Some, who wear the niqab, would say, “al-Hamdulillah,” but this is again just their cultural upbringing talking, not Islam and God Almighty, it really gets on my nerves when people mix up their own views and God’s Divine Will.  Also, due to the circumstances today, the niqab can actually create fitnah based on all of the above and the atmosphere of mistrust between us and them so to speak.  So if its aim is to keep fitnah away but it is actually bringing it to you, it is not serving its purpose.  As it is a minority opinion based on this, I think the niqab should be avoided today in the UK.

This is where the Hanafis in this country have let us down.  Deoband has scholars that have oodles of classical training and no idea of the daily lives and cultural norms of the society because they are brought up in isolated ghettos going to different schools and the young ‘mawlanas’ that are brought up the ranks to speak in mosque back these fatawa from back home, that women should wear niqab because of the fitnah in this dirty country.  Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.) would be very disappointed, I think

Sister Nico Le, please look at this: The German Language Compared to Other Languages.

With regards to Sister Nico Le’s excellent discourse on Allah (s.w.t.) not testing you if you cannot handle it, I deal with small charities.  I am constantly inspired by people who lose their loved ones, small children to cancer and so forth, yet are still sane and not only that, but have set up charities collecting so much money to help others in their situation.  For example, Harrison’s fund.  They are a larger one but its run by the family of a small child who died.

Brother James Harris: Sister Nico Le, what do you mean when you say you have to do ‘everything’?  The obligations are clear, not great in number, and are not difficult.  The large number of voluntary practices are not requirements.  Also, Islam is not about showing off your religion.  Riya’, or showing off, is a sin in fact.  Muslims are not required to make their lives miserable by overburdening themselves, nor are they required to advertise their religion to everyone.

Brother Abdur Rahman: I find that being a parent has helped me with the kind of existential angst you are talking about, Sister  Nico Le, with the feeling of never being good enough, of feeling that the dice are loaded against us.  As a parent, I know just how far I would go for them.  I also know how little they have to do to earn my love; indeed, they already have it.  And my forgiveness for any mistakes they might make.  If I, as a faulty human being, can feel this way then the Sustainer and Cherisher of the Universes must be able to do much more.  Remember also, that God Created an entire universe in which we might exist, in which we might encounter His Love.  This free to download e-book might help: Love in the Holy Qur’anAnd another, by the same author: What Is Islam & Why?

Sister Mrs-Munjlee Cawley: Apologies for joining the discussion so late.  There were a few points, having read through all the comments, I wanted to add to so Sister Nico and others could contemplate:  With regards du’a, there is little restriction on where, when, how and what to du’a.  As far as I know, you should avoid it when using the toilet, you should never ask for something haram, you should believe in receiving what you have asked for but leave the timing and/or manner of receipt to God; He has Promised to answer all calls, but He Grants us what benefits us most, in ways that benefit us most, in timing that benefits us most - we just do not always recognise this.  You can make du’a in any language, or no language, almost anywhere, in any state, ask for anything you like, even a pair of shoes or good weather.  Understand that du’a can be formal or informal, collective or individual, public or personal, at prayer time or any other time.

Burdens we can bear.  Sister Nico, one’s burdens cannot equate to another’s.  What befalls one person can be easy upon another and vice versa.  Indeed God does not burden us with more than we can bear but sometimes shows us just how much we can bear by Giving us our limit.  Other times, we get less burden than our limit but we do not know our limits so we think it too much, only to get more.  And instead of acknowledging that our first assumption was wrong, we go on to focus on this new apparent limit, instead of understanding that we may be wrong again and should not want to see how much we can bear; rather thank Allah (s.w.t.) for not burdening us further.  When sincere, this often results in the burdens easing.  Also, I find it helpful to thank Him for Granting me the honour of carrying this burden or that one, in place of someone less able.  This helps me keep perspective.  I am not significant, but grateful for all the hidden Mercies He Bestows.  Even those that are disguised as other than Mercy.

Finally, I have often been reminded that if we hold all our sins, even if they filled the sea, up against God’s Mercy, His Mercy will always be Greater.  Hope thus helps.

Brother Abdur Rahman: Also, though the Prophet (s.a.w.) taught us many beautiful ud’iyyah, and told us about many efficacious times for du’a, this is not a restriction.  Each time we think of God, it is a prayer, a communion.

Sister Mrs-Munjlee Cawley: We should also remember that God is All Merciful and Oft Forgiving; He will always Forgive when we ask Him to, but we should not let this knowledge make us complacent.

Brother Abdur Rahman: Part of a longer hadits records the Prophet (s.a.w.) saying, “Indeed, all actions are judged by intentions.”  If memory serves correctly, it is the first hadits in Imam an-Nawawi’s (r.a.) Ahadits Arba’in.  Despair is a real problem.  In fact, many derive the name Iblis from a root meaning “to despair.”  This is instructive, I feel.  It is Shaythan’s trick to make us despair of Divine Mercy, to see it all as hopeless, as an inevitable path to Hell, but that is not how it is.  Allah (s.w.t.) is always Greater than our expectations.

Sister Nico Le: Thank you all for your comments.  I think I should not write anymore because everything I wrote so far is already very close to blasphemy and I do not want to commit that sin too.

Brother James Harris: Say whatever you like here, Sister Nico Le.  These are issues facing many of us, so they should be put on the table for discussion.  All of us benefit from it.

Brother Jerry Mikell: Sister Nico Le, it sounds to me like you have been unduly influenced by Salafi psychology which is not anywhere near the mainstream of Islam.  You have not gone anywhere near blasphemy.  That you say this confirms what I said.  It is clear that you have a fearful, punishing view of Islam when the intention of the Revelation is not that at all.  It is simply about informing us about the nature of Reality and the best way to approach life so that we may attain happiness in this realm and happiness in the next.  Islam is not punitive.  Islam is about Mercy.  If you do not imbibe this fully, you will continue to be distracted by your misunderstandings.  The dress of women is about modesty, and it is the same for men.  Be careful of falling into the trap of ‘‘ulama’ thinking which will take you far away from the beauty of this Diyn.  Use the shari’ah as it is a best process for spiritual happiness, but do not get caught up in excessive legalism or you will be miserable and unhappy, or you will eventually reject Islam entirely as others I have seen have done before you.  Be merciful to yourself.  You are Allah’s (s.w.t.) Creation:


… He has Chosen you and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion … (Surah al-Hajj:78)

Sister Nico Le:  No, I think I already wrote too much.  I am by no means knowledgeable and I do not think it is okay to openly disagree with people of knowledge such as some of you here.  It is just all very upsetting.  I tried very hard to learn Islam from good sources but in the end there is always this level of fear that I might got the wrong interpretation.  I would love to travel and see the world.  Obviously, I cannot do this very much due to time and money limits.  Now, in Islam, there is an opinion among scholars that a woman cannot travel without a mahram; I do not have a mahram.  However, I still decided to travel alone with friends but it was not the same as before Islam.  I am constantly worried.  What if my travelling is really haram, what if this one deed will be the deed to much to land me in Hell?  You have to understand, I have never, in my life broke, any law or did anything if I was not sure if it was allowed or not.  And all of a sudden, I have to do stuff which are in a grey area because otherwise, this religion would drive me crazy.

Another thing is, when I look at the ideal of a Muslim woman and at myself, I noticed that they do not match.  The way I imagined my future is not what Islam wants from me.  So now, I have to live with a ‘dream’ of my future which looks more like a nightmare to me.  It is not only that this sort of life looks extremely undesirable to me; most likely, I will also be a total failure at it.  I am constantly worried about this, to the point where I cannot sleep anymore.  I really try to love God and do everything to please Him and act according to my role. But I cannot.  I fail every step of the way and the more I look ahead, the less pleasant it looks.  And it makes me really angry at Allah (s.w.t.).  Why could He not have just Made me fit in?  And I ask myself whether He simply hates me or Created me for Hell.

It is said we should be like the birds, who fly out in the morning trusting in Allah (s.w.t.), that He will Provide for them.  However, there are birds everyday starving or dying of human garbage they ate.  So why is it that Allah (s.w.t.) does not care for them?  He Gives food to some birds and others, He Allows to painfully starve to death.  Could not the same be true for humans?  That some He loves and Protects, and that others, for whatever reason, He hates and allows to suffer.  Granted, this world needs suffering, otherwise it would be Paradise.  But as with the birds, it is rather asymmetrically distributed.

Brother David Rosser Owen: What one does out of ignorance, sister, is not condemnable.

Brother James Harris: For many of us, as converts, we are pushed in many different directions when we embrace Islam.  In particular, people from different ethnic communities give us ideas about what we should or should not be doing according to what they think a ‘good’ Muslim should do, but in many cases, do not do themselves.  For those communities that are particularly restrictive and tough on women, this can be pretty unbearable for a female convert.  You should not let other people put their expectations on you.  You are a European convert with a different background to other Muslim communities, and have a different story to them.  That cannot change.  You are who you are.

As for following Islam, the requirements are clear and simple.  If you have trouble doing all your prayers, then just take it one step at a time.  However, in a previous post it seems you have been presented with a very complicated list of dos and do nots you feel you cannot live up to.  It should not be like that.  Just be who you are.  The most important thing is you have your faith, and then you work on the obligatory acts, which is pretty much the five prayers.  If anybody is suggesting it is any more complicated than that and you feel it is out of control, then you should stay away from people who are putting demands on you.  Many Islamic groups control their members by getting them to ‘jump’ when they say ‘jump’.  So make friends with individuals rather than follow a group, would be my advice.  And finally, stay away from Wahhabis or you will lose your will to go on.  I know because I have seen many people leave Islam after taking lessons from them.  And stay away from Tabligh al-Jama’at too.  Just make friends with nice people, and nurture your understanding of God and what it means to believe, above all else.  Practical issues and rules are of little importance in comparison with your understanding and intentions.

Brother Colin Turner: Excellent advice, Brother James Harris.  If more people had your approach, the experience of converts would be very different.  And of course, the issues that converts face is one of the main reasons behind Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis’ formation of the group.

Sister Nico Le: Well, yes, the prayers.  I do pray all five prayers on time but that is about it.  If I pray maghrib, ‘isha’ or fajr alone, I always recite silently because my Arabic pronunciation is so bad, and I have no khushu’ in my prayer.  As a matter of fact, I gave up trying to get closer to God on swalah; I just do what I can of the obligation.  Actually, after most prayers, I feel awful, like I am a terrible Muslim.  I pray the same way I do my tax report.

I do not know that many people, including Muslims.  At university, outside of the MSA, I know exactly one person.  I am like most Swiss, too shy to just talk to people and most people, especially the Swiss, would never ever talk to a woman in a headscarf.  At best, I am tolerated.  As for Muslims outside of the university, I do not really know many at all.  Most of them are housewives who stay at home and thus never learned to speak German.  The few Muslims I know at the university are nice people, of course with a diverse, sometimes culturally biased view of Islam.  However, they all pretty much agree that the place of a woman is the kitchen and not the university.  As for other converts, they are rather rare here and most have a strict view of Islam.  One of my friend was yelled at by a convert for driving a car.

Brother Jerry Mikell: You have a very difficult environment.  I can tell you that if you do remain Muslim despite your situation you will have great spiritual benefit.  What you are engaged in is called ‘jihad’, which means ‘striving against the odds’.  This is a huge part of the spiritual path.  Do not feel bad about your efforts.  Rome was not built in a day.  Stick with it and ask Allah (s.w.t.) to Guide you.  This is most important.  Ask Allah (s.w.t.) to Guide you from your heart in your own language.  And keep doing this until the Answer comes.  It will.  I guarantee you that.  This is a money back guarantee as we say in the U.S.  I am a convert, as is my wife.  We have been Muslim for over 35 years.  She, even longer than I.  Du’a, that is, calling on Allah (s.w.t.) is a guaranteed way of getting what you need if your call is based on sincerity.  You will succeed, and your determined efforts to this point are a gift from Him to you.

Sister Shima Umm Ramy: Sister Nico Le. I hope you will feel better for sharing your 'grievances' here.  al-Hamdulillah for this group.  Try just sticking to this group for seeking Islamic knowledge sister.  It is a tough world out there for sincere souls like yourself.

Brother James Harris: Excellent advice, Brother Jerry.  I would also like to add, Sister Nico Le, that some of the most valuable advice given to me years ago was to keep reading and never stop.  The more you read on different topics related to Islam, the more confidence and strength you gain.  Very quickly, things do not seem so overwhelming anymore.

Sister Nico Le: Sister Shima Umm Ramy, insha’Allah, I will.  Thank you all for your advice and kind words.  I really do not know what I will be doing, but hopefully, I will take the right decisions.

Sister Mrs-Munjlee Cawley: May Allah (s.w.t.) Grant you patience for your perseverance, strength through your dilemmas, contentment with His Decrees for you and understanding of the faith in the best ways to bring you closer to Him.  May you be Embraced by His Love and Enveloped by His Mercy within the folds of Islam.  Amin.

Brother Ismaeel de Silva: In the Hanafi school, it is permissible to read everything except the recitation of the Qur’an, which must be in Arabic, in other languages.

Brother James Harris: We live in an age where access to Islamic education is scarce in many places, and in comparison with what was available previously over much of Islamic history, very little is left.  For this reason any attempt in good faith to do one’s prayers, even if it is one’s own language, is a step in the right direction, in my opinion.  What is the alternative?  What is important is establishing a connection and progressing from there.

Brother Ismaeel de Silva: Also, I think it is important for us to remember a few things.  The hadits qudsi says that Allah (s.w.t.) Says, “My Mercy proceeds My Wrath.”  We also know that our Beloved Prophet (s.a.w.) is always praying for our welfare, the angels that accompany us are praying for our welfare, whenever Muslims pray for the ummah, they are praying for our welfare.  It is a principle of our Diyn to think positively about Allah (s.w.t.), His Messenger (s.a.w.), the companions, his family, about the ‘ulama, the awliya’ullah and the Muslims in general.

Always think that Allah, Exalted and Glorious will Forgive us, will have Mercy on us, will Help us and that is how He will be with us.  In another hadits qudsi, Allah (s.w.t.) Tells us, “I am as my worshipper thinks of Me.”  If you listen to speakers who inspire you to only have negative thoughts, then you need to change who you are listening to.  Try listening for example to the speeches of Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqubi, or Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa.

I think part of the problem for many of us, growing up in the West is consciously or unconsciously, we have been brought up to think very negatively and see things through a negative lens.  It is very difficult to be positive, it takes a lot of work.  It is something I struggle with myself.  Let me share with you some of the things I find that help: Exercise regularly; drink lots of water; have a good routine; keep a journal, since this is very important because it helps you to be more objective about yourself by getting everything out and on to paper, and you will realise you are doing far better than you think; read a lot of swalawat ‘ala an-Nabi in the day and night, and also make lots of dzikr all the time; make sure you spend some time socialising with people in real life although I know it may be difficult to make and find friends but it is very important; and read the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.) to get to know his Mercy.  When I first read the Qur’an, I found it very scary, then the man who would become my shaykh advised me to read Shaykh Martin Ling’s (q.s.), Muhammad, his life according to the earliest sources, and it put everything in its positive, merciful and joyous context.  Treat yourself as you would treat others - with mercy; remember you cannot love for others what you love for yourself if you do not love yourself.  Remember Allah (s.w.t.) Knows you better than you know yourself; He knows your struggles, He has Guided you to Islam, He is Giving you the ability to pray; He is not going to Judge you according to some arbitrary standard, since He is the Most Just of those who do Justice and the Most Merciful of those who show Mercy.  Be mindful that none of us will enter Paradise because of our deeds but only through the Mercy of Allah (s.w.t.) as is mentioned in swahih ahadits in Swahih al-Bukhari and elsewhere; and make full and thorough du’a every day, and get everything off your chest to Allah (s.w.t.); make Him your best friend.

Brother Abdur Rahman: Even in the dark times, remember that you are being taught something wonderful, by the Source of All.  Even when we stray, and no one is perfect, there can be a powerful lesson in it - that success comes from God Alone.

Brother James Harris: Good advice.  Thank you for this, Brother Ismaeel de Silva.

Brother Ismaeel de Silva: Barakallahu Fikum.  These are things my shaykh has taught me and retaught me and reminded me of again and again; just passing them on.  This is a short book written by one of my friends based on our shaykh’s teachings, it is written in an accessible way for everyone to read and understand.  I think it would really benefit you if you read it, Sister Nico, in terms of thinking more positively, insha’Allah.  If you do not have a Kindle, you can download software to read it on your pc or iPad: Signature of a Muslim.

Sister Nico Le: Thank you very much, Brother Ismaeel de Silva for your advice

Brother Ismaeel de Silva: Allah (s.w.t.) Bless you.  I pray it will be useful and beneficial for you, Amin.

Brother Nuzul Turun: Brother Terence, your first point that the niqab is not mentioned in the Qur’an, what are you trying to imply?  I really believe Muslims should get the proper methodology, especially when discussing khilafiyyah issues.  All the raka’at of our prayers were not mentioned in the Qur’an.  How can that be a hujjah?

The second and third are still debatable.  The issue is not as clear cut as you presented it.  Most scholars agree that if a lady is wearing a niqab and she is praying in the presence of a non-mahram, then it is allowed for her to pray with the niqab.  This is from Imam an-Nawawi’s (r.a.) Majmu’Ihram is an exclusive situation and can it be used as an analogy, qiyas.  As I have mentioned, both arguments are strong and rationality alone will not give you a good understanding of the crux of this issue.  Some people even argue that the fact that the Prophet (s.a.w.) prohibited the niqab during ihram indicates the outside of ihram, it is needed.  Which is a strong point also.

Thus, I really recommend our brother who is asking this question to read Imam al-Ghazali’s (r.a.) as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah bayni Ahl al-Fiqh wa Ahl al-Ahadits and Shaykh Salman Awdah’s Hiwar Hadi’ ma al-Ghazali.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother Nuzul Turun, there is no implication.  I am stating very explicitly my view that the niqab is not wajib.  Depending on the madzhab, it may be sunnah or even a sunnah mu’akkadah.  There are scholars who do believe it to be fardh, mainly of the Shafi’i madzhab.  I do not agree.  Fiqh must also be cognisant of the zaman and the ‘urf.  As it is, in certain situations, wearing the niqab may be a fitnah and create hardship.  Why should we make it difficult and make something that is not wajib to be wajib then?

Brother Ismaeel de Silva: One final tip for positive thinking and an important one, is to practice muraqabah, which means giving one’s full attention to the present moment, not worrying about the future, not grieving over the past, but fully engaging with the present and being aware that Allah (s.w.t.) is watching you.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Masha’Allah, Ustadz Ismaeel de Silva, you give excellent naswihah.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Reward you.

Brother Nuzul Turun: Thanks, brother, for your prompt response.  If by the first, you are trying to prove that niqab is not wajib, then it should not be the way.  Yet, as you have mentioned that it has no implication.  I strongly believe that would just reiterate the Quranists’ stand.  Do all rulings of fiqh have to be “cognisant of the zaman and the ‘urf”?  Lastly, if you believe it is a sunnah mu’akkadah, at least, you cannot force people to accept what you believe as this is a khilafiyyat issue.  Thus, the argument that it can be a fitnah and we can leave it; the hijab itself has been a fitnah in many places, post 9-11 America.  Then, are you saying during that time hijab is not wajib?

I suggest, since this is a sharing group, having that positive discussion as mentioned by Brother Ismaeel is important.  On the other hand, while discussing Islamic issues, let us start by throwing the dala’il and discussing it before giving a personal, rational opinion.  By that, insha’Allah, the product will be fruitful.

Brother Ismaeel de Silva: Wa ‘iyyakum, Terence Swahib.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother Nuzul Turun, the focus of this thread is for the benefit of a sister in need of support.  There have been threads where we have already discussed these and other topics in detail, including the dala’il.  If you are interested, please start a thread on the fiqh of the niqab.

You would note that I tailor my responses in fiqh according to the person, their situation and their background.  Simply stating the ahkam of the various a’immah is not helpful at all.  It does not address the root issue.  In this case, the sister is a convert in the middle of Europe.  There are already challenges.  Where is the hikmah, in this case, to state that the niqab is wajib for her when it is not?  Our religion did not come in a vacuum.  We give people according to their situation.

Also, telling someone who has just converted and struggling with faith, with no proper support network, to read a book of fiqh is counter-productive; and on a minor issue of dress at that, when it is the ‘aqidah that needs strengthening.  Da’wah and convert development is an art.  It is not a matter of throwing dala’il as if they are going out of fashion.

Brother Nuzul Turun: Masha’Allah, Shukran, Brother Terence.  See, I do not think we are even discussing this on the same page. You posted something, I asked question regarding it, and in the next post you diverted it to another issue, a classic scarecrow fallacy.  I am just saying that not every response can be tailored according to the situation.  It is okay if you strongly believe that niqab is not wajib.  Until now, I am not convinced that it wajib either.  Yet the act of forcing idea into one throat with arguments which are more rational rather than fiqhi; you can judge the condition better, insha’Allah.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I cannot fathom what you are driving at since I said quite clearly that it is my personal opinion and I have explained the circumstances since you were obviously not paying attention to the thread and what transpired.  And now you are bringing in scarecrows?  It is known as the straw man fallacy, by the way.

Brother Nuzul Turun: Thanks.  See, again you managed to do it as if there only one opinion.  Some call it the straw man fallacy.  It is also known as the Aunt Sally.  What I was referring to is the origin of both, which I traced back to the scarecrow theory.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Guide us all.

Brother James Harris: Brother Nuzul Turun, how appropriate is it to give advice in this way to someone who is struggling with keeping the basic five daily prayers?  Is it helpful to discuss details of dala’il on the wearing of the niqab to non-specialists in fiqh who converted to Islam relatively recently?  How does this help our sister who has asked for advice on the situation she has described in the thread?

Brother Nuzul Turun: Brother James Harris, please do not get me wrong.  I have no intention to force anyone to discuss the dala’il.  You are free to choose whatever you feel is appropriate to you based on your own readings and hujjat.  My discussion was purely on the three points given by our respected Brother Terence, especially the first point where he said the niqab is not mentioned in the Qur’an.  At best, one who wishes to give advice, should at least read up the discussions of our scholars, to get a better comprehension of the issue.  Do you not think so?

Sister Nico Le: I am sorry for the debate.  I posted the niqab question and then sort of let the discussion go astray.  Brother Nuzul Turun, I think you did not read everything and just posted what you thought on the topic of the niqab.  Thank you for that.  In the end, we should all be free to say what we think even when it does not fit into the discussion.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: There is nothing to apologise for, Sister Nico Le.  This is primarily a convert forum and we should all be free to share our thoughts.  Certainly your comments gave much food for thought and it takes courage to say what you did.  I hope we have done our best to give you the support you need.

Brother Hyder Gee: Here is the Muslim Legal Network paper on the niqab: MLN Paper on the BurqaThere is no basis for this in in Islam.  It is a Saudi cultural practice, hence the wide spread take up with the creeping reach of Wahhabi and Salafi funded scholarship and indoctrination through petro-dollars.  Most Saudis I know, dislike it.  It is forced on them, and they know it is cultural, unlike Muslims in the West who think bizarrely, that it is a religious obligation.  It is not.  That is why the niqab is banned at al-Haram, Madina and Bayt al-Muqaddis.  Its genesis was protection against sexual violence in the desert environment, and of course from the climate: desert storms and such like.  How this has become a religious obligation is beyond me.

Brother Nuzul Turun: Dear Brother Hyder Gee, ittaqillah fi al-ifta’.  The niqab issue was mandated by scholars long before the presumed birth of ‘Wahabbism’.   Also, it is not banned at the Haram, Madina or al-Quds.  Again, to advise a sister that is facing difficulties due to niqab, then it is okay for her to not don it.  But the idea of associating it with Wahabbism suddenly, fear Allah (s.w.t.), my brothers and sisters in Islam.  May He Guide us all.

Brother Hyder Gee: That is plain wrong.  Did your grandmother wear a niqab?  Was she less of a Muslim than you?  Do not perpetuate nonsense, please.  I have no time for people who try to justify the niqab, even as far as to say it is wajib.  It is not.  It is about modesty: not only attire, but more importantly character.  If your religion and faith is what you wear, than think again.

Brother David Rosser Owen: We live in the here and now.  It is the duty of scholars to advise the communities how to live there.  Today, the niqab is, rightly or wrongly, identified with Wahhabi heretics.  Those who self-indulgently insist on its wear for communities living in the UK, USA, and Australia, for example, are putting other Muslims at risk, and thus compromising the safety of the community.

Brother Hyder Gee: Do not be an apologist for Wahhabi ideology and hegemony.  It is nonsense culture purporting to be religion.  They have caused much fitnah in the community, and intolerance in humanity.  They are spreading their poison every day.  This is the former, and greatly admired, Mufti of Singapore on his wedding day, from his autobiography.


And this is from the pious Malay Kampung in the region, at the turn of the century.  There were very pious women, who taught generations about Islam.


Brother Nuzul Turun: When did I say someone who wears niqab is a better Muslim than a non-niqabi?  Why is that we are always diverted from the points that we discuss?  The only nonsense that was perpetuated is that niqab is a Saudi cultural practice.  It existed even before Saudi did.  Again, my sentiments are not against tailoring our advices to the condition of the questioner.  My issue is when we lack the real knowledge of our scholars and are giving advices purely on rational views.  Once more, I have only been discussing about the ruling of niqab.  Not that I believe every muslimah living in the West should don the niqab, but is it not a right for a muslimah, living anywhere in this world to wear niqab?  I am aware of a few niqabis living in the West and they are happy with it.  Why suddenly attach someone to Wahhabism just because she is wearing a niqab?  Is that what you call Islam?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother Nuzul Turun, it is a tad presumptuous to assume that the people of this group lack knowledge.  It would surprise you to know that there are about two dozen asatidzah here at the very least, many of them converts.  However, that does not mean that everybody here adheres to a particular view.  For me personally, if the banned the niqab all over the world, I would say it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Brother Nuzul Turun: Masha’Allah, then are you saying the Shafi’i madzhab, which promotes niqab, is not Islamic?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, when did I even say that any of you possess lesser knowledge than I?  I was giving evidences from the saying of scholars rather than being solely dependent on rationality.  There is no doubt that your asatidzah are of high knowledge and comprehension.  It is best if we stick to what we discuss rather than personal attacks.  I have said my piece with peace.  Those who possess sound minds can judge by themselves, insha’Allah.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Nobody attacked anybody personally.  You seem the jumpy sort.  And there was no hint of anyone suggesting that the Shafi’i madzhab is unIslamic.  Is the madzhab built only on a single fatwa?  The contention from me, is that it is past its time, and inclement in certain circumstances.  We are not in 7th century Arabia.

Brother Jak Kilby: The male niqab is suitable for desert travelling; The Male Niqab for the Desert.

Brother Nuzul Turun: How can you, my brother in Islam, say, “For me personally, if the banned the niqab all over the world, it is not necessarily a bad thing”?  Also, to take from your point, what is wrong when a state promotes the niqab?

Brother Hyder Gee: What is right with a state that promotes the niqab?  Which state specifically?  Brother Nuzul, you should let the sisters speak out.  They have a voice, and it is not a male voice.  It is always the men who get carried on about this debate.  Res ipsa locquiter.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Did new wahy come down, and the niqab suddenly become part of the ‘aqidah?  Was it added to the shahadah and we are not made aware?  Does my saying that the niqab is inconsequential put me beyond the pale of Islam?  This is an issue of fiqh.  We are allowed to disagree and have opinions of it within reason.  I did not come to Islam to worship the shari’ah.  The shari’ah is a wasilah to Allah (s.w.t.); it is not God.

Brother Nuzul Turun: Again, when did I say it is part of ‘aqidah?  We are having a hard time focusing on the main discussion.  I just cannot reconcile these two sentences of yours: Stating that the niqab is not wajib; and if they banned the niqab, you would say it is a good thing.  Thanks in advance.

Brother AbdRohim Sinwan: Sister Nico Le, may we know what is the perception and reaction of the lay Swiss person on muslimat wearing the hijab, the niqab, otherwise?  Is it indifference, hostility, or acceptance?  I have no idea what the situation on the ground is like in Switzerland, really.

Brother Jerry Mikell: I would just like to add one thing for Sister Nico Le, but before I do, I believe this issue has been exhausted.  I thank all of those who have contributed very useful remarks to remind us that Islam is not a religion of penance for women or men, but high spiritual science intended to make us all better at being human and to bring us closer to our Source.

Brother Nuzul Turun, I sense that you are sincere about your Diyn, and you have made your points.  There really is nothing left to say.  You are in a group of Muslims who wish to create an Islam for themselves and for coming generations which is applicable to the time and places we live in, not stuck in a past relic of fiqh, but also not discarding the knowledge of our predecessors who were also just fallibly human and part and parcel of their own respective cultures and times.

Now as to the one thing for Nico: Islam is a spiritual transaction that adheres to certain fundamental principles which must be learned and practiced with faith over and over.  You will sort out what is right for yourself.  You are obviously intelligent, sensitive, curious and inclined to what is correct.

Brother Ismaeel has brought up an important issue and that is balanced and intelligent living.  As Muslims who cherish knowledge, we should use, not only our Islamic practices but also the best living principles that have come to light in modern times including diet, exercise and other things which are relevant to living a healthy and relatively disease-free life.  This is important for spiritual growth as well as happiness which what Islam calls to.

Brother David Rosser Owen: Some years ago, giving a swuhbat on the verse that Allah (s.w.t.) Desires for us ease, Shaykh Nazhim (q.s.) commented that this is the summation of our Diyn and if your practice of the Diyn is hard and burdensome for you, then you are doing something wrong.  Your capacity will increase with time; it is better to start with something easy that you can maintain doing and build up from there in easy increments.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother Nuzul Turun, what is there that contradicts?  The niqab is not wajib.  If it were to be banned, it does not impact the religion.  It is not even an article of ’aqidah.  You cannot understand because, and you are not listening or thinking.

Sister Nico Le: Brother AbdRohim Sinwan, to answer your question, the Swiss are, in general, rather shy and extremely cautious to be polite.  The sort of debate that happened here would hardly ever be possible amongst the Swiss.  It is important to know this in order to understand people’s reactions.  Furthermore, there is a huge difference between the ‘large’ multicultural cities and the conservative countryside.  Most Swiss regard Islam and the hijab as something foreign and thus bad.  Xenophobia and racism is widespread but not often publicly expressed.  As for the cities, the hijab gets tolerated; people do not like it but they would not want to ban it.  In the countryside, the hijab is a rare sight.  Consequently, people are afraid of it and would happily ban it.

Recently there was a vote whether the hijab should be banned in a particular school and the ban was accepted with an overwhelming majority.  Similar referendums are now proposed in other small towns.  Recently, there was a verdict by the federal court not allowing a school to just ban the hijab. However the judges very clearly stated that banning it in schools is not a big infringement of someone’s freedom of religion.  We have many ‘Muslims’ on TV who are far from Islam, who drink alcohol, do not pray and such like, and who claim that the hijab is an outdated concept.  Therefore, basically the entire nation is of the opinion that the hijab is not obligatory and that it is just a sign of not being willing to integrate.  People have been denied citizenship because they wore the hijab.  Everybody who wears a headscarf, be it with tight or loose, is called a Salafi.

The niqab is virtually unknown; a few tourists and that is it.  There are very few converts who wear it.  Muslim organisations estimate that there are around 50 to 100 niqabis in the country.  If a women goes out in niqab, she will most likely get insulted.  As a final note, the majority of the Muslims here are from Albania, and are absolutely not practicing.  They drink alcohol, they have relations outside of marriage, they do not pray, and they do not fast.

Brother Tone: Wow.  Thanks for the question and reflective insight, Sister Nico.  I am yet to get my first turban, insha’Allah, but can only wonder at the reactions that a hijab, niqab, or turban might generate in some places.  Keeping you in my prayers.

Sister Samra Hussain: God Knows, how long I was stuck in the world of issues regarding women’s dress.  I watched so many videos with scholars answering question after question related to Islam and women.  And then somehow, I was able to transcend the fear and paranoia that came.

Sister Shima Umm Ramy: Sister Nico, I have shared the emotions you are going through with regards to hijab.  I have worn the hijab, and lived in communities where it is not so foreign and where it is foreign, pre and post 9/11 era, and now, I am not a hijabi.

Sister Nico Le: Thank you all for your kind words.  Maybe I should add that I live in the biggest city and study at university.  There is no place in the entire country where wearing the hijab is easier.  The niqab is another issue.

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