A Letter to the Culture that Raised Me

Posted by on Feb 1, 2011 in Featured, Hijab & Niqab, Women | 1,935 comments

A Letter to the Culture that Raised Me
Growing up, you read me the Ugly Duckling. And for years I believed that was me. For so long you taught me I was nothing more than a bad copy of the standard (men).
I couldn’t run as fast or lift as much. I didn’t make the same money and I cried too often. I grew up in a man’s world where I didn’t belong.
And when I couldn’t be him, I wanted only to please him. I put on your make-up and wore your short skirts. I gave my life, my body, my dignity, for the cause of being pretty. I knew that no matter what I did, I was worthy only to the degree that I could please and be beautiful for my master. And so I spent my life on the cover of Cosmo and gave my body for you to sell.
I was a slave, but you taught me I was free. I was your object, but you swore it was success. You taught me that my purpose in life was to be on display, to attract, and be beautiful for men. You had me believe that my body was created to market your cars. And you raised me to think I was an ugly duckling. But you lied.
Islam tells me, I’m a swan. I’m different – it’s meant to be that way. And my body, my soul, was created for something more.
God says in the Qur’an, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (49:13)
So I am honored. But it is not by my relationship to men. My value as a woman is not measured by the size of my waist or the number of men who like me. My worth as a human being is measured on a higher scale: a scale of righteousness and piety. And my purpose in life – despite what the fashion magazines say – is something more sublime than just looking good for men.
And so God tells me to cover myself, to hide my beauty and to tell the world that I’m not here to please men with my body; I’m here to please God. God elevates the dignity of a woman’s body by commanding that it be respected and covered, shown only to the deserving – only to the man I marry.
So to those who wish to ‘liberate’ me, I have only one thing to say: “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I’m not here to be on display. And my body is not for public consumption. I will not be reduced to an object, or a pair of legs to sell shoes. I’m a soul, a mind, a servant of God. My worth is defined by the beauty of my soul, my heart, my moral character. So, I won’t worship your beauty standards, and I don’t submit to your fashion sense. My submission is to something higher.
With my veil I put my faith on display – rather than my beauty. My value as a human is defined by my relationship with God, not by my looks. I cover the irrelevant. And when you look at me, you don’t see a body. You view me only for what I am: a servant of my Creator.
You see, as a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent kind of bondage. I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King

Growing up, you read me the Ugly Duckling. And for years I believed that was me. For so long you taught me I was nothing more than a bad copy of the standard (men).

I couldn’t run as fast or lift as much. I didn’t make the same money and I cried too often. I grew up in a man’s world where I didn’t belong.

And when I couldn’t be him, I wanted only to please him. I put on your make-up and wore your short skirts. I gave my life, my body, my dignity, for the cause of being pretty. I knew that no matter what I did, I was worthy only to the degree that I could please and be beautiful for my master. And so I spent my life on the cover of Cosmo and gave my body for you to sell.

I was a slave, but you taught me I was free. I was your object, but you swore it was success. You taught me that my purpose in life was to be on display, to attract, and be beautiful for men. You had me believe that my body was created to market your cars. And you raised me to think I was an ugly duckling. But you lied.

Islam tells me, I’m a swan. I’m different – it’s meant to be that way. And my body, my soul, was created for something more.
God says in the Qur’an, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (49:13)

So I am honored. But it is not by my relationship to men. My value as a woman is not measured by the size of my waist or the number of men who like me. My worth as a human being is measured on a higher scale: a scale of righteousness and piety. And my purpose in life – despite what the fashion magazines say – is something more sublime than just looking good for men.

And so God tells me to cover myself, to hide my beauty and to tell the world that I’m not here to please men with my body; I’m here to please God. God elevates the dignity of a woman’s body by commanding that it be respected and covered, shown only to the deserving – only to the man I marry.

So to those who wish to ‘liberate’ me, I have only one thing to say: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

I’m not here to be on display. And my body is not for public consumption. I will not be reduced to an object, or a pair of legs to sell shoes. I’m a soul, a mind, a servant of God. My worth is defined by the beauty of my soul, my heart, my moral character. So, I won’t worship your beauty standards, and I don’t submit to your fashion sense. My submission is to something higher.

With my veil I put my faith on display – rather than my beauty. My value as a human is defined by my relationship with God, not by my looks. I cover the irrelevant. And when you look at me, you don’t see a body. You view me only for what I am: a servant of my Creator.

You see, as a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent kind of bondage. I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.

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63 Comments

  1. Pen is indeed a sword! SubhanaAllah

  2. Allahu akbar…god is great……………!

  3. subhanallah..a reminder for all sisters..

  4. I LOVE YASMINE MOGAHED! DOMTI 3EZZAN LI HATHA ALDEEN!

  5. i had tears in my eyes when i read it :) may Allah Ta’ala give much much more peace to your heart on the day of judgement than your piece of writing gave me.jazakillah my sister!

  6. Alhamdulillah…thanks dear sister

  7. My hijab and my jilbab are a Mercy from Allah. When I put them on I felt a whole new respect for myself that I never had before. I wear them as my badge of honor when I go out in public. I’m proud of the way I dress because it reminds people, for good or bad, that I am MUSLIM.

  8. Whether i like this or not is not relevant. It is what it is, one woman’s statement about the beuty of her God created soul. I am a western man, i grew up in the 60’s and was much influenced by them. As hippies we tried the opposite, women threw away bras and makeup, slacks and pajamas if need be. The question was what did nature intend us to be. It was a time of exploration, a time of disaster, and a time of personal discovery. There is not a woman, a child of the sixties, who did not dispise being a sex object.

    • thank you for being one of the rare ones. no one ever gets men like you, you’re so out of reach for some reason. its hard. but im glad you’re here at least. gives me some hope… maybe.

  9. I LOVE this. MashAllah you are an amazing writer!

  10. “Islam tell me, I’m a swan. I’m different- it’s meant to be that way. And my body, my soul was created for something more.”
    – I love the way you phrased this. It is one of my favorite quotes!! It explains beautifully of why I put on the hijab!
    Jazak Allah Khair

  11. What about your father and your husband? Not to mention the Imam, Marja’, Mufti, Qadi and all the other men who are put in positions of power over women?

    I’m all for the liberation of women and being recognised for more than your sex appeal to men but Islam does not liberate women from men, it merely enslaves them to different men. Just like all religion.

  12. beautiful writing.. Thanks.. Love u so much

  13. allah yerhamek sister, and guides our wives to the straight path

  14. subhanallah

  15. Covered or not, what REALLY matters is how sovereign you are over your own life. The beauty of life is the multiple choices it offers: We can dress as whores or as nuns, we can even dress as men if that´s what we like… If someone wants to see me as an object, that´s his/her problem. I have decided I´m not, no matter how naked I am and who´s looking.

    And let´s not deny (muslim or western) that we live in a male dominated society.

  16. I am blessed to have read this… Though we differ on the truth in Christ, you have very elegantly shared the truth about modesty in today’s world

  17. *finger snaps*

    I love you yasmin!

  18. I am proud I am a Muslim and I am proud that I obey my creator by wearing the hijab and I am dignified and respected for doing it Alhamdulillah…..

  19. Pen is the stronger and most effect sword. Jihad with pen is the most effect and superior type of jihad.

    This is how you explain the reasoning behind Islamic Teachings. This is how you fulfill your obligation to propagate.

    Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had never encouraged fighting with sword. he only fought when his enemies left him no choice to protect him and his follower either because they attacked them or refused to fulfill their obligations. Even when Muslims were fewer in numbers and enemies were powerful in terms of man power and weapons, he never attacked from their backs or try to win by killing innocent people.

    The people who blast bombs and believe they will go to haven for killing innocent people do not realize that religion is a mater between God and his creation (human beings). There is no compulsion in religion. To forgive and to be kind, is recommended in Quran a lot more than to fight for your religion or permission to take revenge.

  20. So to those who wish to ‘liberate’ me, I have only one thing to say: “Thanks, but no thanks.” Hah! Classic! 😀
    Amazing piece.. as always! Mashallah!

  21. Soo beautiful thank you for sharing it with us. Jazak Allah khayr.

  22. I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King…Masha Allah …

  23. MashAllah sister Yasmin! this is one of the best things ive ever have read….truly written from the heart. Bravo!

  24. i can like read this over and over again whenever i feel dismayed by people and honestly, by my own weak self in face of lack of support. And i get that strength and that motivation i need. jazakiLLAH khayr…and all praise belongs to Allah , Lord of all of us.

  25. Its easy for a woman brought up, educated and living in the west to fly the flag of choice where the state and federal laws protect her right to dress the way she pleases free of compulsion. The letter is beautifully written, a battle cry against machismo male dominated culture but how easily and conveniently it glosses over the thousands of women who using essentially the same floral oratory are kept locked in their houses, not allowed to step out, go to school, or work or marry whom they want to. There are plenty of places in the Muslim world where simply by posting this letter in the newspaper would make her “unsuitable” for marriage for she has been liberated, can think for herself and dares to have an opinion. Glad she was liberated IN the west (Go CheeseHeads!!!!) so she could have an opinion and vocalize it.

    • thats what they all say. its weird how men sit at the computer and LOOK for this stuff, just to tell us we should be glad to “have to freedom to say it” and by the way, read the wikipedia page for development of the gonads and human penis development before you EVER for a SECOND think you’re better than us. you were female before you were male. dont dare challenge women who know science (because i know good and damn well you dont believe in god, just the science, so i know you cant deny the science part). you’ll get your ass handed to you.

  26. That’s how we have evolved… men and women want to attract partners for pro-creation. Islam tells you to cover yourself in a cloak… hide your hair.. cuz if men see your hair they’ll go crazy with lust… haha…. and in the west women seem to have earned the right to wear whatever they feel comfortable in… so stop pretending like you’re on a higher plateau

    • i believe she only express her opinion, does not mean she feels that she is on a higher plateau than u. But, if u think she is on a higher plateau than u, that’s truly your right to think like that, Mr/Ms/Mrs Zoha_miskeen.Whatever your reason to say that to her, as a matter of fact, that word will only make her look more dignified than before 😀

    • we havent ‘earned’ the right to dress like whores. we have to look like we’re ready for sex at all times or we either dont get hired or dont even get a boyfriend. and forget marriage. they cant be PAID to get married nowadays. you’d think they would want someone to control and boss around, and marriage (they’ve always thought) would grant them that power. but hell, they dont even want THAT anymore. dont DARE talk about women like that without living 5 minutes in our shoes. you wouldnt last a second. and dont forget to read wikipedia’s page on development of the gonads, because you were a girl before you were a man. dont believe me? ask a doctor. there’s a reason why you have nipples. you were a girl. WE are the standard. YOU are the spin-off. dont ever forget it.

  27. Never in my shallow thoughts I would imagine to be where I am today, wearing a hijab and observing the modesty in my clothes. That strange calmness came naturally during my first step of donning the hijab and it felt so close to home, to my heart, as if I’ve been doing it whole of my life. And now, even amidst all challenges and difficulties that my environment gives, I have stop to care for them. I no longer care if someone is checking out whether what I’m wearing is of the latest trend in fashion. I no longer try to gain the attention of cute guys as I walked past by them.

    Yours words continues to inspire me to ignore the worldly matters and devote myself to Allah. Can’t wait to see you during the Being Me Conference sis! :)

    • love you sis, you’re doing great :)

  28. ….Masha Allah…beautifully written sister…May God rewards you well in this life and the next and be among the pious and righteous during Judgement Day. Amin Ya Rabbal Alamin.

  29. MashaAllah, sister yasmin,May Allah bless you and also guides all our sisters to adopt the same mode of thinling as you.

  30. Those who obey Allah , will always be under His protection.
    this article reminds me of myself, how I used to be, and how I am today.
    Allah guided me, and I thank Him for that… I care not what others think of me, I am here as a slave of Allah, and I will be answerable to Him on the Day of Judgement.
    so, just an advice :
    forget what others say about you, know that, Allah is always watching you :)

  31. Muslims women has opinion and has a face ..at the end we will all stand n front God and be accountable for our actions& Choices….we just has to Educate our selves….thank U sister Yasmeen very well written.

  32. :) awesome.

  33. i couldn’t stop the tears that flowed after reading this. i mourned for my innocence; a million times i was told i was beautiful and it never filled the void, only at the age of 21 when i turned the focus from the outward to the inward was i able to find all the pieces to the puzzle. Allhumduliallah! (praise God!) True Beauty – I’ve found it!

    May Allah (swt) continue to bless you and your family for generations to come, Sr. Yasmin. Im sure you’ve heard it so many times but anyway Your Truly Beautiful. My dua will always be with you for you help me in so many unbeknown ways!

  34. Subhan-Allah…..a very nicely written article….and indeed, very reflective of the current state of affairs..keep up d excellent work..May Allah be yr helper in evry step u take Insha-Allah..

  35. This message is wonderfully written and fully encompasses my feelings on the subject. Thank you for putting into eloquent words that I can share.

  36. Dear Ms. Mogahed,

    If -you- believe that Allah requires you to cover yourself, that’s solely between you and Allah. No one else has any right to interfere with that spiritual relationship. And I, personally, am both impressed and inspired by the strength of your Faith.

    But I feel inclined to ask… what percentage of women who wear burqas (or abayas or any other specific garments) believe, as strongly as you do, that Allah has stated this requirement? And what percentage of woman who wear burqas do so only because the Law or their Husbands or the Mutaween require them to?

    If you should feel free to proudly (and rightly!) display your Faith in such a public way… would you agree that others should have the same Right, even if their supposed Immodesty only reflects their belief that their God doesn’t give a flip about how someone dresses?

    Sincerely curious,
    –Wood

  37. So to those who wish to ‘liberate’ me, I have only one thing to say: “Thanks, but no thanks.”……………really thx

  38. Nicely written. Maahallah
    An eye opener for so called modern women!

    • * mashallah

    • exactly

  39. I was once approached by a Japanese man asking why I wore my hijab? In fact, it is so big.
    Most of them are trying to take things logic, they accept what they wanted to and rejected what they do not please.
    Thus, my answer to the Japanese man, ” Don’t you know that because of this big hijab, I can use as body cover when I’m cold. I can flap it for air when the air is humid”.
    It is important for Muslimah to know what is the Izzah that Allah SWT have place them.

  40. @Azeem Anwar: The Muslim woman wasn’t liberated in the West. The West colonised Muslim countries and imposed their systems which robbed women of the rights granted to them by the Prophet Muhammad sallalahu alaihi wa salam and Allah. Rights that the West gave their women centuries later. It’s the fault of the Muslims for forgetting this and for the Muslim world for failing to go back to the Blessed example with which we have been gifted.

    • THANK YOU. SOMEONE know what they’re talking about on here. thank you.

  41. Also, I have to add, I love this :) I’ve felt the same about being in a man’s world. I hope Allah can give us all the strength insha’Allah to be as strong!

  42. Love <3 I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.

  43. Brilliant!

  44. I super like the last 2 sentences :
    I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.

  45. girl i cried tears of relief. this is something we’ve been wanting to say for god knows how long. if only men knew why they had nipples (everything was female before anything was male). because of how i’ve been treated, im overflowing with hatred. i know it might hurt me, but i cant help it. im so damn mad sometimes i cant see straight. everywhere you go, its all about blonde hair and big fake tits and i just cant take it anymore. im by no means ugly, but i resent the fact that i have to look like im ready for sex at any given moment, 24-7. RESENT it. i try and try and try to convince myself to find a way to forgive, but god help, i cant do it. i swear i cant do it. mom says i have to let it go so i dont ruin my life, living in hatred, but i dont even know where to start. everything in life now is about how you look, nothing is about how devoted you are to god or how smart you are or if you’re even a good woman in general. its all about sex, what we’re willing to do to get it and how we friggin look. im so mad im burning right now. i just hate it. i hate them. and they refuse to be good people. they WANT to be assholes. that’s the worst part. they dont even want to do good things with us. they’d rather have trash than make it work with a good woman. to hell with them. never needed them in the past and sure as HELL dont need them now.

  46. I believe all of us Muslim women living in this country, century, world can relate to this pressure. I have a question Sr. Yasmin, What is the islamic definition for Jilbaab. I’m not sure I know the difference between hijaab and jilbaab. I’ve been told that Jilbaab is the long hijaab that starts from the head and flows all the way to our past the knees…??

  47. I agree with this for the most part. But this is my question. I don’t mean to offend anyone, I just want to pose a very reasonable question to everyone that sees this and the author and hopefully get insightful responses.

    Aside from a discussion of religious duty, if I want to examine function – how is wearing Hijab any more effective at maintaining personal dignity and humility than dressing modestly? I don’t wear Hijab, but I also don’t wear anything exposing or tight. I don’t wear colors/fabrics that are flashy or attracting (bright pink, red, lacey, etc). I don’t wear any makeup on most days, but if I’m in a upbeat mood I will wear tinted chapsticks and some mascara. Some of my own friends who wear hijab wear plenty of eye-catching makeup, or wear hip hugging jeans, etc. For me, hijab is a symbolic representation of modesty. Of devoiding our productive lives of sexually-based advantages or distractions. As women, we possess an incredibly powerful gift of beauty which the other half of society treasures and values. In fact it is so powerful that we must be careful and guard it and thus guard ourselves with modest dress. Men are slaves to women’s beauty. We posses the power (make sure you never forget this!). But we also have to act responsibly with this power, and it is my interpretation that modest dress allows us to be, to some extent, responsible with this power. How is hijab inherently more effective in accomplishing this goal than the modest and plain dress I defined above?
    Secondly- I think this article is written at least in part based off of a very strong assumption. That assumption is that women chose to dress nicely (notice I say dress nicely not dress provocatively because of course dressing provocatively may in large part be assumed to be done in order to attract male sexual attention) because they want to look beautiful for the male figure. That assumption in ITSELF(!) gives power over to men. I don’t give a damn if a non-mahram man does not notice my internal beauty, notices it, loves it, hates it, focuses on my outer beauty, loves it, hates it, ignores it. Nothing- I couldn’t care less! I am rewarded succeeding in school, learning, interacting with intelligent people, friends and family. The last thing that is on my mind as I am running around is what a stranger man thinks.
    What is wrong with fashion or styling ones hair as an expression of artistic appreciation for beauty? Why should beauty be a superficial concept? In fact it is one based in the most fascinating concepts in aesthetics and design. I enjoy seeing people creatively match various textures and colors and patterns together in the clothes they chose to wear. I don’t see anything wrong with putting curls in my own hair just because I like the way it looks, or putting a light brush of mascara or colored chopsticks on because I like how refreshed I look. Of course if these endeavors are taking up unreasonable amounts of thoughts and/or time that could be otherwise spent on more valuable and productive activities and character developments, then I wouldn’t promote them. Same goes for if this artistic form of expression was attracting sexually-based attention. But as long as I don’t walk into sexual territory which would attract unwanted and immoral attention, I don’t see anything wrong in making myself “beautiful” as I define it. Not as anyone else defines it, just in the way that makes me happy.

  48. I don’t think it’s appropriate to religiously view people as “slaves of God”. They are beautiful manifestations of God; they are God’s children. God can not be likened to a monarch commanding and presiding over “slaves”.

  49. great one, spell-bounding article Yasmin as always.
    Its true, the image of women is very misinterpreted in Islamic countries. Due to some Ahadiths, which state that Wife should be beaten if she crosses her limits, Women would be in abudance in hell than men. And Quranic verses show that women are deficient in intelligence and religion. why is that so?

  50. Both things are wrong, it is ones personal choice to dress up for oneself or dress up for entire world. In case you havent noticed majority of women are not 36-24-36 and majority of women dress up for women not for men!

  51. “I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.”
    wow.

  52. Simply love it!! and i love my hijab my dignity….<3 <3

  53. Beautiful :)

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