The Essence of the Veil: The Veil as a Metaphor for Islamic Women -- By: Susie Hawkins

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 09:1 (Spring 2004)
Article: The Essence of the Veil: The Veil as a Metaphor for Islamic Women
Author: Susie Hawkins


The Essence of the Veil: The Veil as a Metaphor for Islamic Women1

Susie Hawkins

Bible Teacher and Conference Speaker, Dallas, Texas

Fatima is a fifty-three year old woman living in Damascus, Syria. Married, with six children, her day is busy with family responsibilities, grandchildren, household chores, and errands. But before she leaves the privacy of her home on any outing, she slips a baggy overcoat over her clothing, regardless of the temperature outside. Carefully covering her hair with a large scarf, she checks her reflection in the mirror, grabs her purse, and heads out the door.

Noor is a woman living in Tehran, Iran. Only twenty-eight years old, she already has four young children. She wishes she had the freedom that Fatima enjoys, however limited it may seem to others. Noor must veil herself in a chador, a large piece of fabric that covers her from head to toe, whenever she appears outside her home, which is rarely. Since the penalty in Iran for even a slight violation of Islamic dress is twelve months in prison and possible flogging, she avoids public places (as do most women).2 Confined within the walls of her home, her only outings are occasional trips to the market and to the local mosque, where she joins the other women who are sequestered in separate quarters from the men.

However restrictive Noor’s dress may be, it is preferable to that of her cousin Nadia, who married a strict Muslim from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when she was only seventeen. According to UAE law Nadia must wear an abaya, a full-length coat; the burqa, a face mask made of stiff fabric; and gloves that cover her arms to her elbows.

Then there is Leila, a twenty-five year old single woman living in her native city of San Diego, California. With a graduate degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Leila is the image of the successful, well-educated twenty-first-century woman, with a bright career ahead of her. Yet Leila, who was raised in a moderate Muslim home, has begun to cover her hair with a scarf and wear loose clothing in the traditional Muslim fashion when she appears in public. Having seriously reexamined her faith, she chooses to veil herself as a sign of her devotion to Islam.

Despite the vast diversity in their lives, all of these women “veil” themselves in obedience to the Qur’an and Islamic law. To some degree, most Muslim countries adhere to Islamic law, which requires women to cover their heads and often their entire bodies in public. Westerners may be surprised to learn that Muslims such as Leila, who live in secular countries w...

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