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Week 10 Pt 2: Reform, Revival, and Muslim Women Defining Identity

I never used to question this thing on my head

Until I changed schools at age 13, wearing this thing on my head


My mother asked me if I really wanted to continue

Carrying on this practice or starting anew


I said ya, sure why not?

It’d feel sort of naked with an exposed top


I went to high school and everything was fine

Learning freely, no one asking anything or seeming to mind


All the buzzfeed videos and memes of strange things people ask hijabis

I couldn’t relate to, even though they made me cheese


Until that day in college, when she asked me across the table

Why exactly do you cover, while aren’t able?


And I listed all the cliché reasons: for modesty, for identity

To show people that they need really value me


For more than my looks

But it didn’t get much deeper than that: I felt like a textbook


I’m starting to see the argument of inequality

Why is it always on the women to sacrifice her “freedom” and sexuality


For men? I’m still trying to understand it but

I feel in my gut


That it won’t make sense to liberal folk

Or others that say they’re “woke”


Sometimes I feel attacked

Like the proof for covering my hair is not rooted in fact


So many interpretations to the verse in the Quran

What does God really want from a woman?


Why am I really donning this clothpiece?

When when this answer be revealed to me so I can live in peace?


I don’t think I’m comfortable yet with the thought

That at the end of the day, I have to decide that for myself



In this week, we discussed “Muslim Women and Defining Identity”, where we discussed the interpretations of veiling, the politics behind it and feminism. We learned that the origin of veiling came from aristocratic women in the eastern Mediterranean, when hair was associated with sexuality. There are several Quranic verses like (24:30-31) that tell men and women to lower their gaze and practice modesty and (33:59) that tell women to cover themselves so they can be identifiable as Muslims and saved from sexual assault. From a western perspective, it seems like women are oppressed in Islam, and that they must shrink themselves to avoid men’s arousal. There are many female scholars who have interpreted these verses in ways that empower women. For example, we discussed Amina Wadud Muhsin’s point from Qur’an and Women, where she says that veiling is a decision made by Muslim women and how they interpret the concept of modesty. The manifestations of veiling and modesty are specific to certain time periods and contexts.


This poem is inspired by my views on veiling. Taking this class was very interesting, considering that even though there were several other Muslims in the room, I was the only one covering. It made me feel a little self-concious, almost like when a black student is in a majority white classroom and feels like they have to represent for their race and defy negative racial stereotypes. When I was asked by a classmate, why I actually wear the scarf, like I said in the poem, I wore it because I was taught by my Islamic Studies teachers to wear it because it was a symbol of modesty and my identity as a Muslim woman. I never questioned why women had to wear a physical barrier between them and the world. I’ve come to the realization that I may never know the right answer. Just because there is an array of interpretations that may make the veil obsolete, I’m not willing to give it up so easily. But, this means that I have to find a reason that makes sense to me, and maybe I have to be comfortable with my choice.