Let’s leave aside the motivations of men for a second and let’s talk about sisters. Why do you think other Muslim women push the idea that we all have to be quiet, demure, soft-spoken, dull and practically afraid of men? If a woman is stylish (in terms of her dress), friendly, assertive , and outspoken why do some Muslim women rush to give her an “Islamic” makeover?
For one, I think the same brand of female cattiness and competition that I witness in the dunya is present in the masjid and in the Muslim community. I have noticed how sisters size one another up in the masjid, how they will cut another woman down (under the guise of giving nasiha or advice) out of what is clearly jealousy, and, let’s be honest, the fear that their husband might “notice” a sister who is attractive. Sometimes it’s as if our minds can’t process the idea that we are different, that we are diverse in terms of personality, style of dress, and ideas about femininity. We are not a uniform group. In fact, we constantly say as much when talking to non-Muslims! We want them to accept our diversity as Muslim women, yet when we are together, it seems like we rush to whip one another into conformity.
Secondly, I feel like sisters are trying to beat one another at the piety game and the strictest sister wins! I’ll never forget the day I was at the masjid and a group of women I was sitting with started discussing thong underwear and how non-Muslim women were foolish (read:whorish) for wearing those things. Though the women didn’t quite say they were haram, you got the idea that they were unacceptable. I could not keep my mouth shut any longer. I asked them how underwear could be considered unacceptable from an Islamic perspective. Isn’t that a personal choice? And why is it any of our business what someone is wearing underneath their clothing? Boy, they looked at me like I was harlot extraordinaire.
Lastly, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that SOME SISTERS are using Islam to mask their own personal issues with self-esteem and insecurity. I say this not to be arrogant or mean but to speak the truth. We need to put this on the table. There are sisters who do not feel good about themselves and rather then address their issues they become the most aggressive, outspoken advocates of “proper” Islamic dress and “proper” Islamic behavior. If they see a sister who is attractive and confident they feel threatened by her. Some of them worry that their husbands will see the sister and desire her. And, as the story goes with insecure women, rather than say “mashallah” or admire the sister’s beauty they take her presence as condemnation of their own existence. Claws come out and the haya police are on patrol. I leave you with an example:
I attended a masjid picnic. I had already received glares from some sisters because I had shown up wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a reddish flair skirt and gold sandals (feet out) instead of an abaya and closed-toed shoes. Another sister- let’s call her Dina for clarity’s sake- who is very beautiful, mashallah, came to the picnic wearing a long shirt and pants with a matching shayla wrap. There is something very fashion-model about Dina. It might be her build (she is slim), her height (she is tall) or her facial features (which are unique, soft and alluring). She carries herself with quiet confidence. I could feel some of the women becoming uneasy. If I received glares they were feeling very threatened by her. (Keep in mind the men were not far away from us). After hanging out for some time, one of the sisters abruptly asked Dina why she was wearing pants. Didn’t she know pants were haram? She also asked why “this” was hanging out. (Dina’s shayla had moved to the side and was showing a bit of her neck). I glance around and noticed the other women with smiles on their faces or nods of approval. Clearly, Dina was taken aback. She started to explain her view on pants while simultaneously shifting her hijab. I was pissed off because I could tell jealously, not concern was the sister’s motivation. I had seen her sizing Dina up while quickly giving herself a once over. I interjected and asked what was wrong with what Dina was wearing. Her shirt was practically to her knees. Furthermore, why was she calling Dina out in front of everyone?
Later, I walked up to Dina and another sister. Dina was on the verge of tears and the sister she was standing with was assuring her that the other sisters were concerned for her, that they want for their sisters what they want for themselves, and they really didn’t mean any harm. I have never heard such a load of b.s. before in my life. I told Dina plainly, the sister was rude to you. There is no justification for what she did. Dina thanked me for coming to aid.
I wish I could’ve told her the real truth: you are beautiful and confident. That is why she the sister chose to publicly shame you. Something about your demeanor, your air, dug deep down into the well of these sisters’ insecurities and they needed to make you feel small. (It didn’t help that their husbands were not far away either). It had nothing to do with her pants, hijab, haya or concern. It was nothing more than age old jealousy, for that I apologize sister.