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Behind The Veil: In Praise Of Separate But Equal

Behind The Veil

In Praise Of The Practice Of Separate But Equal

By Aesha Lorenz Al-Saeed In Saudi Arabia

Winds of change along with winds of war are being hinted in many places. However, this doesn't mean one should put one's head in the sand like the ostrich, and just let whatever happens go on around while we blindly await the aftermath.

Now is the time for Muslims to really stand up for what we believe in - for what really matters more than anything else is pleasing God in Islam.

Some misguided individuals seem to think that if we just start opening up Saudi Arabia & gradually start doing & imitating the non-Muslim countries (or the west) that everything will be perfect. As we well know, the West is certainly not perfect either, far from it. We had been making our own way along the good path of Islam, neither swerving too far right, nor too far left.

Separate but equal status is something that shouldn't be thrown out. That would be like throwing away the baby with the bath-water, as the saying says.

Separate but equal status should really stay as the Islamic standard. Many of us "once upon a time"; foreigners came here because we were looking for a better life, not, God forbid, the money or the oil. We wanted and craved to be near the holy historical cities and to raise our offspring in a good Islamic & safe environment.

When I speak with foreigners married to foreigners, they usually always tell me that one of the most important factors for them agreeing to come and work here in the first place and to stay on here is the personal safety factor for their children and the traditional charm of the Islamic and Arab culture.

Crime rates in countries like Saudi Arabia which practice Islamic laws is well known to be lower than the west. This is not to say that crime is non-existent; but it is a lot less prevalent here where punishment is stricter.

Partially due to this and partially due to Islamic values, not just a few people but many have told me that after working here for about a year they felt much safer and actually very sorry when their work contract was finished. If they had sampled and immersed themselves into the heart of the culture instead of sticking with their foreign friends and continuing mixed company (male and female) gatherings, then they were usually quite sorry to be leaving.

One of these friends of mine, who is American married to an American, who have taken the name of Ansari because of their devotion to Islam, came here to make hijra to an Islamic country and leave the unreligious practices taking place in the West. Here these foreigners, (who would make great citizens here) have worked in the Kingdom for many years. In the school system and as an architectural design engineer while raising five children, a big family by western standards, to me is fabulous. They have embraced the Kingdom's Islamic standards and are content here.

Another friend who is anonymous told me that foreigners found that Muslims have stronger ethics and values and value the family more than they do in her home country.

Most Western countries now encourage people to be "independent"; themselves to the extent that thinking of themselves is more important than what is good for the group - or society. In America for example, now criminals have gained so much rights that often the victims themselves feel as if they are the ones on trial!

The family unit is also not empowered in the western countries as much as in the Islamic countries. In Saudi Arabia, for example, there are family hours and family sections to encourage the family as a group, instead of having them mingle with the unmarried ones. Thus, the unmarried often has as their goal to attain the status as a family group and enjoying his time with wife and children.

In Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, all members of families hate divorce because of the Hadith related by rasool Allah, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) that said that divorce is the most hated of the permitted things by Allah. The un-Islamic countries don't realize this, so many, many children's families break up at a young age and divorce in the West has become a normal thing instead of the exception, which it should be.


Some people are mentioning rumors that there soon will be mixed (men and women together) hours also in recreational places, and there is talk of movie theatres being brought back again.

Islamically it is required to have separate but equal facilities, even for cinemas. Would it be feasible to have women on the balconies, for example, with women guards of our choosing, or would it not? It could lead to teasing, and making jokes and might be better to have totally separate viewing times.? Only the leaders of the Kingdom and the chosen ones with them could decide if the benefits would outweigh the drawbacks.

However, a bigger problem is that do we really want to help the Hollywood film industry? We all know who really controls Hollywood, most producers and film companies are owned by Jews. Why not buy wholesome family oriented Islamic films instead, produced nearby in other Islamic countries? This way we would be spared of the many western movies and soap operas that most people have on their satellite dishes anyway, and are getting disgusted and fed up of the indecency and decadence of some of them.

Prophet Muhammad never allowed free mixing of females and males. He knew what it could lead to. Isn't it enough that mixed people are chatting on the Internet without seeing each other, do we have to allow sitting together also in a non-approved of way?

This would be very wrong to allow free mixing of males and females, and can only lead to mistakes, regrets, and hopefully not too many sins.

There is nothing wrong with maintaining our respectability and keeping separate hours for women and children versus men and boys thirteen years of age or older. (The age of puberty is when separation must exist, although it's sometimes practiced earlier on a lighter scale, so the youth may get used to it.)

Muhajaba (covering) women were really surprised recently that no one remembered us by giving us our own privacy hours in a new sports and shopping facility that recently was completed in Jeddah. Instead it was opened just like any other shopping mall without giving consideration to the sisters in Islam, the other half of the population that might like to enjoy the facilities in privacy with their children.

Jeddah's bowling rink, on the other hand, proudly maintain their women and children's hours on Thursday morning so we can enjoy sport time with our friends and children in privacy and relaxation.

To know those places are considering our needs and desires as God-fearing women and girls in the sprit of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood is wonderful indeed. It is comforting and compliments us in that the brothers consider our position in wanting to stay modestly dressed, but yet to enjoy life in sport and recreation as men and brothers do.

This way of looking at the subject enhances our understanding of one another and shows how much respect we indeed have for the opposite sex. It also shows our striving to merge Islamic with worldly but hilal (permissable) society and values.

Women and men in Saudi Arabia if they are raised correctly without too much admiration, nor yet too much disgust of the Western lifestyle can learn to fit Islam into the world scenario without corrupting Islam itself, God willing.

Women and Muslim sisters like myself, many of us feel we will never need a "women's Liberation"; as long as the SEPERATE BUT EQUAL status is maintained. Prophet Muhammad often talked about giving Muslim sisters (women and girls) excellent treatment. Prophet Muhammad thankfully, already liberated us during the time when Europe was in the Dark Ages!

Women were given at that time - in the seventh century AD in the Arabian peninsular of what is now Saudi Arabia - the right to inherit, hold property in their name, conduct their own business, and go where they needed to go. The Islamic woman could even request divorce by khula, something unheard of in the Western world at that time.

Islam also brought to the world cleanliness and ablution, as Turkish baths and washing for prayer became well known. Indian Muslims even brought the world the "shampoo"; word, which became well known from "champi"; a bath massage on the head.

A thousand years ago in non-Muslim countries, while Muslims were using dehan al-oud (frankincense) and atar warood (rose) perfumes and incense, to perfume themselves after bathing before attending the prayer, most of the rest of the world was still wearing the same clothing and bathing about once a month, if that often.

In the non-Muslim countries, if the woman happened to have any property from her father, such as if she had no brother to inherit it, it automatically went to the husband's name upon marriage. She even had to give up her own father's family name and use her husband's name instead.

Now, blind imitation of things unIslamic is trying to be in the vogue. This, Allah willing, will not lead to the scale falling in the opposite direction from Islam. With the opposite direction women would begin feeling as though they were a piece of property as it was in the old days, while being encouraged to uncover for the pleasure of the gazing man.

At this point, I would like to say that personally, most of my friends and myself only cover our faces if we have makeup on. But I don't wish to be a hypocrite, so many of us also cover our hair in the West. If there is a decoration on the face a woman should cover it. By a decoration is meant makeup or jewelry. The scholars Hanbali and Shafi, as opposed to Maliki and Hanafi themselves who interpret this Quranic verse also differed on the meaning. But one point in crystal clear: that girls and woman's hair and body should definitely be covered.

Also we don't prefer the "abaya" (black cloak wrap) that may fly open in the wind. The abalto or closed cloak is our choice of preferred outer wear in many fashionable styles and designs. We don't need bright colors to attract attention; we know that we are stars in our fathers and brothers eyes because we are trying to please Allah and Dear Prophet Muhammad, first before any living human.

Women, girls, our Muslim sisters, we need you to unite in all cities. Who of you around me are interested in always preserving the Islamic character of Saudi Arabia? Speak out by reminding everyone that we want women's separate but equal hours in public places to continue not as by force, but by our own choice and option so we can relax and "be ourselves"; in privacy.

Muslim sisters, this is the time to let the world know that we aren't oppressed and miserable like much of the rest of the world imagines us to be. Send letters to newspapers, put up posters for women's Islamic rights, but above all remember that Allah will question us about what we do today, so women and sisters do your part to strengthen your Islam to each other and in the cities.

Business owners, brothers and sisters, don't forget us Muslim sisters, we your loyal customers of half of society. We love our Thursday mornings when we can enjoy taking our children out with us and enjoy time with them, while seeing our friends also.

Muslim brothers, demonstrate to the world that you CAN enjoy your time together with other brothers and your sons in wholesome activities. These activities are without the disgusting skirt chasing, which goes on in so many parts of the world, (to the delight of Satan who loves to break up families.)

In countries that were founded for the sake of Islam, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and many other Arab and Muslim countries, and also those like Malaysia which have a strong Muslim conscience within their leadership, we put our prayers and hopes towards Allah and then towards you.

Out of you will come future generations of young (God willing good Muslim children) who will look back and judge what their parents have done (or undone) for them. And of course the Almighty will judge us above all.

*** ENDS ***

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