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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Day in the Life of ejnosillA: To See or Not to See... To Cover or Not to Cover… Those are My Questions?!?

"As-Salaam-Alaikum," "Peace be unto you"

As a Muslim woman, I am commanded by ALLAH to lower my gaze and to cover up to avoid sinful temptations. Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid, general supervisor of the reputable Islam Q & A website, he described lowering ones gaze or ghadd al-basr (in Arabic), as being the point when one restrains their gaze and does not allow their gaze to wander or dwell upon anything. (You can scroll down to access more information and view a picture of Shaykh Muhammad Saalikh al-Munajjid).

As usual, I have found myself caught between a “rock and a hard” place. See within American culture, it is ingrained in us as youths that you are required to make eye contact or it is perceived as you are being rude, disrespectful or lying. Whereas in Islamic culture, lowering your gaze is a commandment from ALLAH and is a significant part of Islamic laws.

Now... do you see my conflict? As a Black American Muslim woman, I often find Black American culture in conflict with the Islamic laws that I am to follow. I was not raised in a culture to lower my gaze or one that says women have to be covered from head to toe and lists occasions when to be covered and who I can gaze at. 

I often time feel myself being constricted and sometimes feel I am losing my Black Female American identity. I sometimes find myself wondering if I made the right decision... is this really what Islam is about... am I going to Hell because I sometimes am feeling this way or I can't remember to lower my gaze or I am not ready to dress a certain way... hecks... I have only been Muslim for 6 1/2 months... oh merciful ALLAH... how will I make it through these tests so I can receive your promised reward of ETERNAL BLISS in PARADISE? 

Well, through my research with ALLAH's guidance, I was allowed to find... by ALLAH's will and grace... some comforting answerings that eased my anxieties and was able to speak to two beautiful Black American Muslim Sistahs during this research process. I discovered that the "lowering of ones' gaze” amongst us Muslim women, has three significant concepts.

The 3 Significant Concepts of Lowering One's Gaze

Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid stated the one concept is that we are not to look within others’ houses and go wandering about looking behind closed doors without permission. He clarified that “a man’s house conceals his body just as his garments conceal him. Allah has mentioned lowering the gaze and guarding one’s private parts after the verse about asking for permission to enter, because the house covers a person just as the clothes on his body do.”

The second significant concept discussed is that we are not to lust after others’ wealth and material possessions or belongings. Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid quoted an ayat or verse out of the English version of the Quran as proof: “Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Look not with your eyes ambitiously at what We have bestowed on certain classes of them (the disbelievers), nor grieve over them. And lower your wings for the believers (be courteous to the fellow believers)” [al-Hijr 15:88].

Lastly, we are to lower our gaze when it comes to the ‘awrahs or body parts that must be covered up for the same sex and uncovered body parts of the opposite sex.

The ‘Awrahs of the Opposite Sex

Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid, explained that gazing at the ‘awrahs or body parts of the opposite sex is considered a serious sin within the Islamic faith because it leads one to give into forbidden desires. That is why Allah has commanded men and women to lower their gazes and refrain from looking at the site of desires.

It is considered haram or forbidden to lustfully gaze upon a non-mahram man or a man who you can marry and someone a woman should cover themselves in front of. 

On the other hand, if they are mahram to a man, they cannot marry him. Such as her brother, father, grandfather, uncle or cousin, etc.

As I stated earlier, in American culture, we are taught to make eye contact when speaking to each other or it can be interpreted as shifty or disrespectful behavior if you negate making eye contact with the other person you are engaging with. However, lowering one's gazes is interrelated to proper dress for Muslim women. 

The Covering Up of a Woman's ‘Awarahs

American culture teaches women to embrace their bodies and be comfortable in our own skin. The sentiments are if you “got it… flaunt it” and less is more. However, Islamic culture teaches women to cover up to avoid unwanted and lustful gazes or sexual temptations. It is a form of modesty for Muslim women in Islamic culture, just like wearing long skirts and being button up is a sign of modesty for Christian women.

We follow the belief of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that a woman’s beauty should be covered up to avoid sexual abuse. website stated that “as a coalition, we recognize that there are multiple causes, some related to individual pathology of offenders, and most related to a culture that in some ways supports, condones or ignores sexually violent messages and/or behavior.” reported that nationally, "Nearly 1 in 5 women - or nearly 22 million - have been raped in their lifetimes." Other statics showed that "approximately 80% of female victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25 almost half experienced the first rape before age 18 (30% between 11-17 years old and 12% at or before the age of 10)' reported went on to report that "about 35% of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults compared to 14% of women without an early rape history."

They continued to explain that 81% of women experienced psychological trauma that mirrored the symptoms and injuries of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). continued to report that all women regardless of race are subjected to sexual violence while "some are more vulnerable than others: 33.5% of multiracial women have been raped, as have 27% of American Indian and Alaska Native women, compared to 15% of Hispanic, 22% of Black, and 19% of White women."

"In data from 2005-2010, most rape or sexual assault victims (78%) knew the offender. The vast majority (nearly 98%) of perpetrators are male," explained website acknowledged that American culture is overly sexualized and referred to it as being a “rape culture” that media sources continually perpetuate oppressive, generalized and marginalized depictions of women and female youths that encourages the assumption that all women and children are sexually accessible and willing.

How Muslim Women Should Be Dressed Based on Occassion

Due the sexual exploitation of women and female youths, our “awrah is a more complicated issue and it changes according to the situation,” emphasized the Islamic Dictionary website. The website listed examples of when and how a women should be dressed on various occasions:

·         In ritual prayer: a woman should cover her entire body excluding her face and her hands from the wrist to the base of the fingers. She should also cover part of her forehead and the area under the chin.
·         In privacy: It is recommended that a person cover his or her sexual organs even when alone in private. There are exceptions such as when taking a shower or going to the bathroom.
·         Among other women: The awrah of a woman amongst other women is the same as the awrah of men (from her navel to her knees). Awrah in front of non-Muslim women is a point of debate. Some scholars say that women should cover all but the hands and face, while according to the most preferred opinion, a Muslim woman can reveal in front of a non-Muslim woman as much as she would in front of other Muslim women.
·         In front of a mahram: a woman can show her face, head, neck, hands, forearms, feet and calves while covering the rest.
·         In front of male children: If the child understands what the awrah is, then it is not considered permissible for a woman to uncover her awrah in front of him.
·         In front of non-mahram men:  The entire body of the woman, except her face and hands, is part of her awrah, so those are the parts of her body that must be covered during prayer and in public settings.

ejnosillA's Final Thoughts

Being a Muslim for about 6 ½ months, but an American Black female for over 44 years, the concept of lowering one's gaze and covering up is hard for me to practice because I was born into American culture and not an Islamic one. 

As I try to grow spiritually closer to ALLAH, it is a daily struggle for me to conform to Islamic laws and traditions. I regularly feel that I am in a constant battle to find my identity within these two cultures. I often feel that I must choose and if I choose wrong my soul will be lost forever, but how can I turn my back on what I have always known... what makes me who I am as a person... a Black woman... and more importantly... am I really ready to go to the Hell fire for it?

Although, I do understand the severity and the reasons why Muslim women are strongly encouraged to cover their beauty, I currently have not transitioned into wearing the traditional apparel that is associated with Muslim women.  I do realize that if I would have been born in an Islamic country that me not being covered properly can be severely consequential for me.

While I struggle to keep up with the rules of my Islamic faith, I have found that I am slowly coming to terms with what is required of me as a Muslim woman. I have sought out the advice from other Black American women who have been a part of the Islamic faith for over 25 to 30 years.  

Their advice to me was that as I continue to make more of a conscious effort to pray my obligatory prayers every day and on time, read more of my Quran and become more acquainted with it and get closer to ALLAH; ALLAH will somehow make it more comfortable with the thought of truly embracing and wearing the attire that is associated with the Muslim woman.

Until than, I should continue to live my life and stop trying to force myself into being something or doing something that I am clearly not comfortable and ready to do. The doubtful feelings I was having... that I mentioned earlier... they explained to me that it was normal because I am being consumed with a lot of information all at once... and this is a new experience for me. 

They both suggested that I slow down and pay more attention to perfecting my prayers and reading the Quran... and allow ALLAH to guide me as HE sees fit. I should stop comparing my spiritual process with others because ALLAH works with all on an individual basis. My closeness with HIM is solely based on me and I should take my time because we can't rush ALLAH! 

Our closeness to HIM is based on his time and not ours. Also, they told me to stop letting others within other cultures dictate how I am supposed to be dressed because our dress is based on interpretation... although, we do have perimeters we are to stick within.

Meaning, Black American women have their own style of dress. We add our own flava or flare to our ensembles. They stated with evidence from the Quran that it was commanded that women cover their beauty or "veil" it and that didn't mean that I have to wear a hijab or an abaya... it just means I have to cover up. A simple scarf that covers my neck, hair and ears will suffice and to cover up my body... all I have to do is wear a long loose shirt with long sleeves or a mini dress... that covers my butt with long sleeves... throw on some leggings and keep it pushing! 

These women taught me that I don't have to turn my back on my American Black culture for Islam... all I have to do is use that creative spirit and mind that I was born with and merge the two cultures while staying within the boundaries of ALLAH's commandments. There is no need to feel as if I have to choose, just have to creatively compromise. 

So as long as I stay within the boundaries of Islamic dress for women, I am still following Islamic laws while being true to myself as a Black American woman... if only if the world would understand that it really is that simple for all of us to get along... but that is another post for another time...

May ALLAH continue to work with me as HE sees fit and Bless ALL!!!

I do, I did, and it's done because ALLAH wills it to be!

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Picture References:

‘Awarah photo - Retrieved from: Logo - Retrieved from:

Photo of Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid - Retreived from:


Islamic Terminology. (2011). Islamic-dictionary. Retrieved March 22, 2017, from
Saalih al-Munajjid, M. (Ed.). (2006). Lowering the gaze. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from

MNCASA. (n.d.). Causes, statistics & sex assault types | learn | MN coalition  Retrieved March 13, 2017, from

Click for Bio of Shaykh Muhammad Saalih ao-Munajjid

1 comment :

  1. Very well written! Your final conclusions and advice from more "seasoned" Muslim women is sound. Listening to Allah through your prayers and reading will help you find peace and his path for you. Following those uncomfortable feelings seems to be the opposite of what inner peace would dictate. Perhaps those feelings will eventually show you that your purpose cannot be served in the most traditional Islamic garb; presuming Allah sees you for who you are and where you are. Your effect on the world may be greater dressed in the modest clothing of American's earlier decades. Thus incorporating your American nature with your obedient will to follow Allah's laws. I look forward to seeing how your life's journey plays out, leading you to paradise. Much love, Tammy


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