So... 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 loosing 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
The ‘Awrahs of the
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
MNCASA.org 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 MNCASA.org.
MNCASA.org 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).
MNCASA.org 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 MNCASA.org.
How Muslim Women Should Be Dressed Based on Occassion
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.
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...
|I do, I did, and it's done because ALLAH wills it to be!|
‘Awarah photo - Retrieved from: http://islamic-dictionary.tumblr.com/post/5658467793/awrah-arabic-%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A9-is-a-term-used.
MNCASA.org Logo - Retrieved from: http://www.mncasa.org/what-is-sexual-violence/.
Saalih al-Munajjid, M. (Ed.). (2006). Lowering the gaze. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from https://islamqa.info/en/85622.
MNCASA. (n.d.). Causes, statistics & sex assault types | learn | MN coalition Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://www.mncasa.org/what-is-sexual-violence/.
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