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The Veil, A Critique

April 30, 2008

I get so many hits on my blog in search of “ilahije” and “ilahija” and quite a few of you have taken a liking to the Bosnian ilahije that I have on my blog.  I’ve been searching youtube a little more these past few days and have run accross quite a few that I’m hoping to translate and post here soon (one more comming up today).  Unfortunately, I ran accross one that just has my blood boiling and it will be the first post for today so that I can just vent it all out and then roll off a few more posts so that it’s not straight at the top of my blog – it doesn’t deserve to hold that position but it can’t go ignored either.

First, I want to make it clear that my issue is not with hijab.  I choose not to wear hijab.  I have researched the matter and my reasons for not wearing it are feminist, some may say political, but they are also religious.  I will only submit to Allah.  By the same token there are women out there that choose to wear hijab, their reasons are for submitting to the will of Allah and there are plenty of Muslim feminists out there that choose to wear hijab.  I not only respect, admire and love women who wear hijab for these reasons but I’ll stand up for them. 

That being said, this post is not about whether or not hijab is a requirement, so please do not take it there, I will not take the bait into debate about this on this thread.  This post is about the sheer ignorance of this rap ilahija and quite honestly I look at it as a piece of propoganda.

Watch and read:

That scarf which you wear
You must pride yourself with it
Like that my dear sister
You only bring good with it
And that good circles all around you
You are a savior not just for yourself but for others
Don’t you preoccupy yourself with those that give you strange looks.
Who don’t wish to truthfully submit themselves to God
When some sisters pass they act as though some darkness has overcome them
Don’t you fret that you have covered your head in that way, you that have received the mercy of your god
Everyone that thinks that western culture is the answer is devastatingly fooling themselves
Western life is nothing other than disrespecting oneself
Only Islam gives savior, gives the right solution
What kind of system is that where a woman equals a little bit of money?
Where a woman happily deceives her husband? 
Would someone like to try that kind of life where a woman is nothing but a disposable object. 
In the west’s system prostitution reigns, there are less marriages and morals, everything revolves around money. 
Today is a dangerous time. 
Every girl who wants safety, let her put a scarf on, that is her best protection.
Truthfully, a woman holds a special place in Islam. 
Don’t let doubt take over you in regards to that. 
Don’t fall trap to empty stories that women in Islam sit within four walls, truthfully women in Islam have worth. 
Those that say that, I swear on Allah, they lie because those are the ones that suffocate themselves with prostitution, drugs, and criminal activity; they are those that destroy everything of worth. 
That’s their jealousy which has to grow every day. 
That’s why they attack Islam’s honor. 
Sister wake your soul and advise others to cover their head. 
Don’t you see how others around you suffer and they will until they truthfully return themselves to god.

Okay, honestly, I do take issue that this rapper is claiming that women who do not cover their hair are not truthfully submitting themselves to Allah.  I take offense that any person would claim to know how Allah sees our intentions.

However, my biggest issue with this rap is that it is an Islam, as a religion, versus The West, as a society.  You can not compare the two.  Yes, Islam does treat women as equals and respects women but in reality we can not say the same of Muslim society.  By the same token, democracy, as a system, by today’s standards, respects and treats women as equals but we can not by default say the same of society.

Furthermore, statements that prostitution, drugs and criminal behaviour are elements exclusive of western society is a false statement (links above are search to related word and middle east).  But what’s worse than those statements is the claim that the veil/scarf are a weapon to protect women from such elements.

The ills of society can not be cured through a veil.  This is the reality:

Backstage, the manager sits in his leather chair, doing business. A Saudi client is quoted $500 for one of the girls. Eventually he beats it down to $300. Next door, in a dimly lit room, the next shift of girls arrives, taking off the black all-covering abayas they wear outside and putting on lipstick and mascara.


There are more than a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, many are women whose husbands or fathers have been killed. Banned from working legally, they have few options outside the sex trade. No one knows how many end up as prostitutes, but Hana Ibrahim, founder of the Iraqi women’s group Women’s Will, puts the figure at 50,000.

I met Fatima in a block of flats operating informally as a brothel in Saida Zainab, a run-down area with a large Iraqi population. Millions of Shias go there every year, because of the shrine of the prophet Mohamed’s granddaughter. “I came to Syria after my husband was killed, leaving me with two children,” Fatima tells me. “My aunt asked me to join her here, and my brothers pressured me to go.” She didn’t realise the work her aunt did, and she would be forced to take up, until she arrived.

Fatima is in her mid-20s, but campaigners say the number of Iraqi children working as prostitutes is high. Bassam al-Kadi of Syrian Women Observatory says: “Some have been sexually abused in Iraq, but others are being prostituted by fathers and uncles who bring them here under the pretext of protecting them. They are virgins, and they are brought here like an investment and exploited in a very ugly way.”

This, this, this and this are all problems that Muslim societies face.  Forced divorces, women not being able to drive, women not allowed to work, lashings or death sentences passed out for rape victims, honor killings – they are all ills and not of Islam but of Muslim societies.  These are the things that are happening to veiled women in societies where the veil is not “our freedom, our choice, our right” but where the veil is “the law”.  Shouldn’t we also as Muslim women have the right to freedom of choice?  The way I see it, and I sit here in the west, there is nothing more Islamic that exists on this planet than where I sit today.  I have the freedom to be a practicing Muslim and the freedom to choose and the right to wear that veil/scarf.  I have the ability to partake in my political system through voting, lobbying, and running for office if I so choose.  I am more protected as a woman through the justice system here than through any so-called “Islamic State”. 

I simply couldn’t let this one go.  It angers me to see such lyrics in Bosnian and I can’t fathom this having some sort of influence on anyone.

Oh, and by the way .. shouldn’t this guy be avoiding rapping?  Isn’t that a western influence?  I mean, me gosh, isn’t rap associated with so many un-Islamic things?  Isn’t his rapping basically endorsing all rap?

For those of you that think this is something typical in Bosnia – it’s not.  See my post titled The Halqas and a Whirling Dervish which covers a zikir event with Bosnia’s Sulejman Bugari whose apparences require use of microphones (often from the minaret) as the audience spills beyond the interior walls and into the streets.


On proper hijab (question posted by a husband on behalf of his absent wife)

Suleyman Bugari would make an excellent politician as he liked answering our questions with questions.  “How many people do you know that hang a tespih in their car but never use one?”  We all smiled and nodded.

“Never talk to a woman about covering herself.  Talk to her about the pillars of faith.  Let her find it for herself.  Let her do it because it came to her on its own.”

He went on to tell us about a sixth grader in Bosnia whose parents made her cover.  When asked why she covered by classmates that had been ridiculing her she replied “because my father makes me”.  It became a fiasco.  The story was all over the media and debates had ensued.

“It’s really not pretty when a woman can not explain why she covers her hair.  How do you feel when we see a woman who doesn’t know or unconvincingly says “it’s my identity” as opposed to a woman who with all of her heart knows and radiates her reasons through the words that flow from her heart?







13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2008 4:18 pm

    This post is about the sheer ignorance of this rap ilahija and quite honestly I look at it as a piece of propoganda.

    To be honest, that wasn’t rap at all. You are right, it’s propaganda. You can tell that the so-called rapper’s track was added on top of a different song that had already been completed. Also, his monotone delivery of the lyrics leads me to believe that he is not even a rapper, there was no rhythm or style, it was almost as if he was reading from a piece of paper. In real rap, and it does not have to be American, the artist is passionate about his or her subject matter. It doesn’t sound like this song, which is basically just a guy reading a script into a megaphone with music playing in the background… well, unless the producer thinks that might be a cool addition to the song, but that’s a different story. 😛

    As for the subject matter being way off base and out of touch with reality… let’s not forget about Snoop Dogg’s assertion that Barack Obama’s campaign takes money from the KKK 🙄

  2. May 1, 2008 6:28 pm

    Well, technically, i think this is actually rap in the true sense where youth rap off some lyrics – just cuz the guy has no style and sounds like he’s reading a script doesn’t mean he’s not STILL a wannabe.

    I just ran accross an article where he wrote a bit about himself. He is known as an ex-rapper (although i find nothing on him from before). He states in the article that he used to rap because he found nothing in Islam that music is forbidden, he used to keep his rap free of vulgarities and would concentrate on clean topics. Since those days he’s found through hadiths that music is haram – so he no longer raps. I think he needs to look into what exactly rap is.

    ROFL@Snoop Dogg. I’m not all that in touch with hiphop so.. basically if it’s on top 20 – i know it. I think I’ve got some 50 cent, Timbaland’s Shock Value and the few CDs I picked up at a HipHopistan event. I’ve been reading a little of Adisa Banjoko’s Lyrical Swords but I keep ending up with projects that I haven’t had the time to finish it but I do find it fascinating – all the debates, politics, the business machine. I’m also known to love songs and have no idea of what is being said – quite honestly – my kids end up changing the station and telling me “it’s not appropriate”.

  3. Nida permalink
    May 5, 2008 7:42 pm

    Izvini sestro,

    Dali ti ovdje stitis Islam ili ga omanjivas sa ovakvim argumentima? That to which you refer to “Islamic Countries” are illusional and there is no true “Islamic Country” which rules within the constitution of Shariah. They are failed democratic systems which the western colonists have installed into the Arab lands, failed because Islam and democracy are incompatible. Islam is a way of life in itself – democracy is only a virtual man made system of flaws… If you truly believe democracy has given women rights, than why do women still have less pay than men do in any higher degree profession? If democracy instilled such equality feminism would have never been born within the west… Islam already provided all the right for women so why do you defend a flawed system of illusional rights?

  4. May 5, 2008 8:04 pm

    Nida, did you completely overlook this:

    “However, my biggest issue with this rap is that it is an Islam, as a religion, versus The West, as a society. You can not compare the two. Yes, Islam does treat women as equals and respects women but in reality we can not say the same of Muslim society. By the same token, democracy, as a system, by today’s standards, respects and treats women as equals but we can not by default say the same of society.

    Furthermore, statements that prostitution, drugs and criminal behaviour are elements exclusive of western society is a false statement (links above are search to related word and middle east). But what’s worse than those statements is the claim that the veil/scarf are a weapon to protect women from such elements.””

    The point is that you can not compare a religion to a system. You can either compare the western culture to the middle eastern culture or you can compare the western justice systems to the so-called justice systems of countries with predominantly Islamic societies – some of which say that they are going according to shariah. I’m not choosing between Islam (which I allready have stated gives me rights – over and over in this blog) and the west. It would be a choice between where I live now and any one of the so-called Islamic states in the Middle East (which I do not see as Islamic). I have more rights here – I am safer here – If anything ever happened to me, I’d certainly have a better shot at justice here than over there. That’s the sad reality.

    Bas kako ga omanjivam? Kako te nije stid da me to pitas? Kad je ikad bilo u Islamu da se ne smije razmisljati? Da se ne smije koristiti logika? Kad mi prestanemo raspitivati se i samo dozvolimo sve sto cujemo kao istina – tada cemo biti u istu situaciju kao i oni u ovim Muslimanskim zemljama sto dajem kao primjer.

  5. fathmath permalink
    May 6, 2008 5:25 am

    hi..i dnt usually dig into blogs but urs is really intrestin…i actualy agree when u say dat a woman should veil herself, coz she wants 2 and not coz of the father…husbund…lover or whoeva. when u do it for sum1 else, most of da time u end up removing the veil, when that sum1 s no longer in ur life.i have a friend whos done a similar thing..she wore the veil coz her husbund told her to do so and the veil was gone as soon as they got a divorce.
    In my opinion removing the veil after wearing it is worse than not wearing it at all!
    by the way i do have 1 question….is it absolutely mandatory to wear the veil..

  6. May 6, 2008 3:49 pm

    fathmath – thanks for your comment. Without elaborating (as I have stated I’m not going to turn this into a debate about the hijab), some Muslims feel that it is mandatory and some feel that it is not mandatory.

  7. Nadia permalink
    May 18, 2008 9:58 pm

    I came upon your blog by chance, and then came across this very poignant post. I wholeheartedly agree with you. The last sentence on your post, beautifully captures the point made in the Qur’an over and over again: Faith should come from within, and not from some external source pushing us to embrace it:

    ““It’s really not pretty when a woman can not explain why she covers her hair. How do you feel when we see a woman who doesn’t know or unconvincingly says “it’s my identity” as opposed to a woman who with all of her heart knows and radiates her reasons through the words that flow from her heart?”

    I don’t want to wear the veil because I have to, but because I want to. The more we force our way for something, the more we shall see retaliation and rebellion against it – maybe not at first, maybe not so blatant, but it is there and it will come out.

    Thanks again for this post.

  8. May 19, 2008 8:36 pm

    Welcome Nadia – thank you for your kind comments.

    Very true words and it goes both ways – you can not force any of it on us – not to cover, not to uncover both will have consequences. I’m not sure when people will begin to understand.

  9. Sabina permalink
    September 6, 2008 1:30 pm

    Selam Samaha,
    imam nekoliko pitanja na koje bih voljela da mi odgovoriš, ako ne misliš da su neprimjerena.
    Ja još nisam odlučila hoću li nositi hidžab ili ne. Trenutno sam vise priklonjena ideji da hoću, ali i tvoji stavovi mi zvuče uvjerljivo i poštujem žene koje su nakon istraživanja i razmišljanja odlučile da misle da hidžab nije njihova vjerska dužnost. Ipak, nešto mi nije jasno. Ako inače ne nosite hidžab, nosite li ga kad klanjate? Ako ga ne nosite kad klanjate kod kuće, nosite li ga kad idete u džamiju? Ako ga nosite kad idete u džamiju, kako se tada osjećate?
    Ne znam jesam li se dobro izrazila u ovim pitanjima, ali mislim da se može naslutiti što me muči. Jer, ako stavljaš hidžab kad klanjaš, onda tu postoji neki osjećaj obaveze, bar pretpostavljam… Teško mi je zamisliti cijeli život stavljati maramu samo za namaz, a onda ju skidati! Hmmm
    Ako hoćeš odgovori na engleskom, meni se sad jednostavno nije dalo prevodit :).

  10. Pepe permalink
    September 27, 2008 6:26 am

    wise words(particularly the last part).

  11. david permalink
    October 11, 2008 8:14 pm

    I came across your blog from a link in another forum board.

    I read this article, well written and expressive with intellect. The rap that has your blood boiling I fully understand your view point.

    Regardless of religious beliefs, religion and society as a whole should treat a woman and a man with equality. A woman should be allowed to enjoy everything that a man can. It should be up to the woman and the woman only if she wishes to cover her hair and body. Each person should be able to interpret their beliefs how they deem fit and actions shouldn’t be taken against them because of their interpretation of their beliefs if what they believe is not causing harm to another


  1. More Ilahije (plural of ilahija) and Some News « Samaha
  2. Sabina’s Question « Samaha

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