Being no stranger to controversy, it’s time for me to open up another can of worms. I want to talk about “Muslimah Sexiness.” I would like to have a very frank and honest conversation about being and feeling sexy as a Muslimah. Can we? Should we? Do we?
Let me start by confessing something to you. I am flirtatious by nature. I’ve always been that way. After I became Muslim I was fed a thousand and one lectures about the “appropriate way” to conduct myself as a Muslim woman. I was told I needed to be shy, demure, quiet, and formal- almost afraid of “strange men.” All of these things were against my nature. The fact remains that I am not shy, demure, quiet or formal (in that way at least.) Since I am not those things I tried my best to fake it. I emulated the behavior of the women I saw at the masjid. Somehow it didn’t work though. Instead of coming across as shy or demure when interacting with the opposite sex, I often came across as rude, aloof, stuck up, cold or unnecessarily formal. I just didn’t know how to make my interaction natural. I started asking myself, why is this hard? What is it that you used to do before?
I come from two cultures where the women- for better or for worse- flaunt what they have. They are not shy or demure. They are stunning and bold. They engage in playful banter with members of the opposite sex, they roll their body in a seductive manner knowing full well that men are watching, they highlight their “assets” and make men swoon from their sex appeal. All of these things are against Islam. So, how do you make the switch when you come from an environment that is completely contrary to Islam? Many of us are lying to ourselves when we say we became Muslim and it simply “changed” over night.
I had a very honest conversation with two friends of mine. Both are converts- one from Latin America and another one from the Caribbean. They admitted to feeling, at times, “frumpy” and “old” in the headscarf and modest clothing. They felt ignored, unattractive and undesirable in the eyes of Muslim and non-Muslim men alike. They felt that Muslim men often placed them on a “purity pedestal” and non-Muslim men simply looked passed them. By the same token, both women felt ashamed of their feelings since their feelings run counter to everything we have been told about Muslim women and sexuality. During the course of our conversation we realized we were trying to reconcile two very different identities and lifestyles- our old one and our new one. We were left with a few questions: How do you go from being a sexy, hot, Jamerican/West Indian/Latina to being a pious, proper, Muslimah? Can the two exist in one body? Do you have to wait for marriage in order to feel sexy and irresistible? And what if your husband (for whatever reason) doesn’t provide you with that attention? Can you be hot and a Muslimah at the same time? Should you even want to? Better yet, what if you are sexy by nature? What if you can’t hide it?
Before a chorus of “astagfirullahs” assault this post, hear me out. Let’s try to be real for once. Most women enjoy feeling loved, attractive, sexy, and wanted. Most importantly, many of us like the attention we receive from the opposite sex. I can already envision the comments suggesting if the woman is single she should get married. (Again, what if her husband does not give her that attention?) Or better yet, I can envision some of you saying, “we should not care about these things because the Akirah/Quranic teaching/Islam/Sunnah is more important.” That still does not resolve the dilemma. The question remains: Can you be a Muslimah and hot/sexy? If so, how and in what context? Is the quiet, demure, shy, Muslimah persona a universal one? What is appropriate Muslimah behavior? (Please don’t just post Quran or Ahadith, help me understand your perspective).