17  Hidden Benefits of Niqab

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My story is neither every Muslim woman’s story nor do I consider myself  a benchmark against which to measure Muslim women. I am, however, someone who wears the face veil (niqab). And I wear it unflinchingly and unapologetically. There are many women who share my experience, who feel neither oppressed nor limited by the veil and consider it an integral part of their identity.

Most of us choose to wear niqab because we believe it is encouraged by our faith. Let me be clear: most of us do not consider it obligatory, and we certainly don’t denounce women who do not veil their faces as less pious or less modest. It is simply how we manage our own relationship with Allah.

As vociferously as the media shout that Muslim women who don the niqab do so out of fear of the men in their families and communities, I have seen the opposite. In my world, most women who have taken niqab adopted the custom while they were single, and many of them removed this contentious piece of clothing after marriage at their husbands’ request.

If anything, I would argue most Muslim men dislike for their wives, sisters and daughters to wear niqab. When a man asserts, “Women shouldn’t be allowed to cover their faces in public!” I hear this: “As a man, I have the right to tell you how to dress.” And to that I say, “It’s too bad you can’t see my ‘I don’t care about your opinion’ face.”

So no—we do not need to be saved or liberated, not by Muslim men and certainly not by the West. Suggesting that we do without knowing our story is an affront to our freedom to dress how we choose. It is precisely because of the assumptions made by everyone about the niqab and the women who don it, that I’d like to share just some of the reasons why I like wearing the niqab.

 

17  Hidden Benefits of Niqab:

  1. Because I conceal my face, people, particularly the opposite sex, only know me through my words, my behavior, talents, and my personality. They cannot use my body, hair or face to measure me. To put it another way, I have the privilege of living my life inside my words, not within my physical form.
  2. People might initially stare because they consider me an oddity, but they quickly move on and, as an introvert, I enjoy the invisibility of being visibly Muslim.
  3. I’ve noted that many people choose their words with particular care and seem especially conscientious when interacting to me. Maybe they find it disconcerting to carry a normal conversation with a person who  has no face! Maybe they feel insecure saying or doing anything inappropriate around a woman wearing a face veil (I sincerely hope it is not because they assume we are especially devout, because a single article of clothing doesn’t confer piety on a person). Or maybe they fear that a woman wearing a niqab will pull out the haram stick, lecturing them on everything that is forbidden! Regardless, if I walk into a group cracking a dirty joke, they sheepishly change the subject.
  4. Now I don’t encourage this of course, but eating in class is a major plus. When you’re famished and the professor’s lecture is never-ending, slip in some food from beneath your niqab and enjoy. Oh, and popcorn or spinach stuck in my teeth? Not an embarrassing problem. It can happily nest there until I go home and brush my teeth.
  5. OMG! Breakouts? No foundation or concealer needed. I look fierce nonetheless. Fiercely black.
  6. The niqab allows me the advantage of hiding my emotions. You can never tell if I’m anxious, afraid or confused–unless you got some mad eye reading skills! Interestingly, children seem able to figure out my invisible expressions through my eyes alone. A little smile behind the screen evokes grins from them, which, in turn, makes my smile even wider.
  7. Niqab is a terrific smell blocker and let’s agree that there are plenty of noxious odors a person might want to escape.
  8. Niqab also blocks germs, smoke and dust.
  9. We expect women to look a certain way: slender build, silky hair, large doe eyes, full lips and the list goes on. As if all women can be measured by this myopic definition of beauty! As someone who wears the niqab, I feel liberated from all the superficial expectations foisted upon my gender.
  10. I can eat freely. Though newbies might find it challenging to eat while wearing niqab, once you get the hang of it, trust me, you will relish your meal much more than everyone else. While others are trying to eat in a well-manner, sophisticated way, I gulp, slurp and munch to my heart’s content. So much so that I sometimes have to audibly whisper to myself, “Get it together, girl.”
  11. I can sleep in public with my mouth wide open, and rest assured that my little nap won’t go viral on YouTube.
  12. I can easily avoid someone I don’t want to see. Run into a high school bully at the local park? Spot your boss at the mall? Walk right on by.
  13. I can recite prayers and perform kind acts all while remaining anonymous, and this anonymity both preserves my humility and keeps me from doing good to impress others.
  14. Other women feel secure in my presence because my niqab makes clear that I’m not interested in attracting their man’s attention or interest.
  15. These days every dermatologist and skin care advertisement is promoting the benefits of wearing sunscreen. Well, my niqab acts as a natural additional barrier to the sun’s damaging UV rays, so fingers crossed that I’ll have fewer wrinkles, blemishes and sun spots down the road!
  16. My niqab automatically makes me an ambassador for Islam. This role can feel heavy at times, but it does keep me in check. I know that I have chosen to dress in a way that immediately identifies me as a Muslim, and with that decision comes a responsibility to set the best example of a Muslim woman that I possibly can in my everyday interactions.
  17. The best part is, I don’t carry apologies or excuses in my pocket. Sorry, I didn’t wear makeup. Sorry I didn’t blow-dry my hair. Most of all, sorry you can’t see my face. Sorry. Not sorry.

Samina Farooq is the Co-founder of AYEINA (www.ayeina.com) and Co-creator of the #AlhamdulillahForSeries – A gratitude journal for Muslims. She has a degree in engineering and currently devotes her time to her family and studying the Qur’an and the Arabic language

 

Illustration Credit: AYEINA

40 Comments

  • Such a great article ..i am also wearing niqab Alhamdulillah now i release how beneficial it is …

  • Ayeina says:

    JazakAllah khair for your kind words.

  • IloveAllah says:

    Wear your face and teach others to respect what Allah gave you no matter how it is. Be honest, be true, be real! Don’t hide the expressions that makes you who you are. Your words are not more important than your smile. Be an embassador of Allah with your words, with your honesty, transparency of attitudes and kindness. Wear simple clothes but the ones that express who you are, not what others want you to be. Allah made you, the way you are and He is proud of his creation. Who would niqab a flower or a tree? Why men just don’t bother about wearing niqabs? Should we all hide ourselves to make Allah happy? Allah couldn’t care less for what you wear… that’s what unconditional perfect love is all about. Would clothes influence the love of a father? Than it would be not love…

  • zayeneesha says:

    By choosing to fall into the ‘minority’ category (those who wear face veil), we are teaching people to respect their own and other’s right of free will.

    I’m neither a flower nor a lollipop
    I’m not a pearl and certainly not a tree
    I’m simply a human being with choices
    And none can’t liberate the free ❤

    Alhamdulillah

    JazakAllah khair for reaching out 🙂

  • nour says:

    hi there. thanks for your sharing. actually i actually am planning to wear one. after reading your article, i think wearing a niqab is not really a big thing and hard to do. it just some determination. in sha Allah, i will wear it.

    • zayeneesha says:

      Jazakillah khair Nour for such warm comment 🙂 like all other decisions in life, you may take time to settle into this one as well. May Allah help you through it ❤

  • Nadia Azhar says:

    Allahuakbar…you really inspired me…pls pray for me to wear a niqab too..♥♥

  • zayeneesha says:

    Jazakillah khair for your kind words nadia 🙂 may Allah help you through this process…if your heart is set to ithe, your mind will follow in shaa Allah ❤

  • Susette says:

    I am stunned by the benefits you cite for the niqab. Most are selfish or deceitful – hiding emotions, covering breakouts, eating in class, slurping food, sleeping with your mouth open, avoiding others, blocking smells, germs, sun, hiding a bad hair day. The niqab-clad woman in western societies is a frightening sight, especially to young children who consider it a Halloween costume and often ask about the person (because is it a man or a woman?) dressed in this scary costume in June. You have reduced yourself to an “it”. You have no identity. You don’t freely associate as is customary in the West. Your holier-than-thou attitude conveyed via the niqab is despicable. You are depriving your body of Vitamin D – so enjoy your wrinkle free old age, you will suffer from extreme calcium deficiency. Yes, you are an ambassador of Islam, but one that perpetuates centuries-old Islamic beliefs that women are to be silenced and hidden for they are defective to men, and disgraceful to humanity. Take your niqab and wear it “freely” in an Islamic sharia law country. We don’t want this spectacle roaming around in our free societies.

    • Nic says:

      That was kinda rude and unnecessary. If you don’t like it, don’t read it, close the tab, move along and go back to doing something else…works for most people

      • Susette says:

        Perhaps it was unnecessary to restate what she cites as “benefits” of niqab. But rude to voice an opinion with which you don’t agree? I think not! When you see a masked white man with a white cone-shaped hat, do you immediately think it is a reprehensible symbol of racism? Well, to me and many others in Western societies, a niqab, burka, hijab is a reprehensible symbol of misogyny, hatred for non-muslims, and a “religious” political ideology that is destructive to humanity. Eight out of the top ten violators of human rights are Muslim-majority countries, most with laws that force women to veil. Compare that with the top 10 countries with the best human rights records: NONE, ZERO are Muslim-majority countries…all are Western democracies. Think about that…

        • Laura says:

          Is a nun’s habit a repressive symbol?

          Where do you get off writing to this woman with such disrespect and distain?

          As a non-Muslim westerner, I’d like to make clear that we don’t all feel this way! (I hope everyone knows that already)

          I’ve been uncomfortable with niqab (definitely not with hijab!) and this article made me understand it more. Thank you!

          • I can’t say why this sister personally chooses niqab but it is probably for the same reason I do. I wear niqab because I know it is what Allah wants for me. The same with women who wear hijab. We are both pleasing Allah but he has set out different paths for us. For many niqabis it strengthens our connection with Allah and that is all that matters. Get to know us we are pretty nice people.

          • Susette says:

            Laura, a woman makes a choice to become a nun, and she accepts that the habit is part of that vow. A moslem female is born into islam and has no choice in staying or leaving that religion. She has to accept every command that comes from the islamic patriarchy, or risk death, dishonor, disownment if she fails to. In moslem-majority countries, veiling is forced once they reach puberty. Nowadays, most nuns don’t wear habits and casted them aside rather quickly when told by the Catholic patriarchy that they could free themselves of the oppressive coverings. However, one would not accuse 20th/21st century nuns of immodesty or being less close to God because they shed their habits.

          • Again you are showing how ignorant you are. I am a muslim revert, meaning I was not born into a muslim family but became muslim. Secondly, muslims (not moeslims) believe in free will. We can choose to follow the commands of Allah. By the way there are plenty of muslim women who choose not to veil themselves. I follow the commands of God not any patriarchal society. I also, have met many nuns who wear the habbit. When ignorant people who live in a bubble free of diversity speak it really shows. If I were you I would be embarrassed by the amount of ignorance you have just speweed.

    • Women have many different reasons for wearing niqab. Her benefits is that the more she conceals the more freedom she has to be herself.

      • Carol Ynwyn says:

        Actually, the more freedom she has NOT to develop and be honestly assessed by others. She admits she’s an INTROVERT. This is fine but perhaps she needs to challenge herself and not take the lazy way out – both in grooming/hygiene and in social honesty. It shows respect for those around you to meet them on equal ground and not be lurking behind some camouflage.

        • Being an introvert does not mean she hides and chooses not to participate in society.I am an introvert who has just started wearing niqab and I still participate in society. Everyone chooses how they present themselves to the world including you. If you get to choose how you present yourself to the world why does she not have the same privilege? Please don’t come here talking about being on equal footing when you would choose to restrict how others dress. Also, muslims are some of the most hygienic people on the planet from being obligated to perform wudu/ghusl and practising hygiene before and after meals. Wearing niqab does not indicate laziness in anyway especially when you consider the flack we get from others.Lastly, someone’s face is not indicative of honesty. Someone can lie to your face without ever showing any sign of it.

  • Kareema Abdul-Khabir says:

    Trumpettes strike back…because they have nothing good to say about what Trump is doing!

    Way to punch down, how about doing something useful in your community?

  • Mara Sand says:

    Oddities. After all, any and every habit can be justified. No big deal.
    Nice to be able to enjoy the free world. Isn’t it ?

    • AYEINA says:

      Grateful for a world full of free choices 🙂

      • Susette says:

        “Grateful for a world of free choices”??? Tell that to your sisters in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria, and most moslem-majority countries. They have NO/FEW choices. And not just in the wearing the infantile-looking hijab, or oppressive niqab/burka, but in who they marry, if they can get an education, leave the house alone, drive, keep their children after a divorce, whether to have sex or not, if they can change their religion. The list goes on.,..how can you help those sisters be “grateful for a world of free choices”???

        • You clearly have no idea of what you are talking about. There are many women in those countries that work and go to college. There are also plenty of women in those countries who fight for their rights when they are violated. But you don’t know about that because you have eaten the story the mainstream media is feeding everybody. Niqabi women are intelligent, capable, and free to make their own choices. Not only does Islam give us these rights but we make sure to fight for them ourselves. Don’t speak on topics you are ignorant of. I can almost guarantee you know 0.00 muslim women from these countries.

          • Susette says:

            You are mistaken. I am not ignorant of this subject at all. We live in a global society that enables us to see each other’s stories. I don’t watch much mainstream media. I read a lot (scholarly, historical, the koran and otherwise), I watch documentaries produced (sometimes in secret) in these very countries. Stories about FGM (no choice), honor killings (no choice), acid attacks (no choice), child brides forced into marriage (no choice), young girls killed/injured for getting an education (no choice). In fact, Malala Yousafzai is one of my heroes. She is speaking out against the very patriarchy you so pitifully try to defend, saying the commands come from God. Well, it was a MAN who received those “commands”, ergo patriarchy.
            Obviously, many moslem women are intelligent and capable, but many are restricted to what degree they can express their capabilities. Again, Niqabi women in the West are free to make thier own choices. Countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and taken retrograde steps in women’s rights. Saudi Arabia, a “kingdom” of dubious provenance, has always oppressed women. At one point, they considered having the women cover one eye because the eye make-up was too tantalizing. As a niqabi, would you do that? It sounds like patriarchy to me, not a command from God. And how do you know spefically that “Clearly Allah wants us to conceal our beauty or else he would not have made hijab obligatory.” Eve roamed around the Garden of Eden NAKED…clearly God did not command that she conceal her beauty. So why hasn’t God “commanded” this of all women throughout the ages?
            You have been contradicting yourself in your posts. “We can choose to follow the commands of Allah. By the way there are plenty of muslim women who choose not to veil themselves. I follow the commands of God not any patriarchal society.” So are they commands or choices??? Instead of calling me “ignorant” why don’t you specifically address/refute any of the statements I have put forth.

          • The women I know from these countries refute the blanket statements you have made here. Decades these women have been speaking about their experiences but any positive ones you and people like you have chosen to ignore or downgrade. There are plenty of universities women attend in these countries. Muslim women are actually some of the most educated women in the west and within our own countries. Please tell these engineers and doctors they are repressed and they will laugh to your face. From an historical perspective muslim women have been the most liberated. Two muslim women started the first university and we have a long history in science and math fields. When Islam came women became allowed to work, control their own money, seek an education, obtain a divorce, choose when and who they marry, and have rights over their children (yes even after divorce). That sound patriarchal to you? To me Allah sounds pretty great for giving us these rights women in the west like the both of us have just started to recieve within the last 100 years.

            It’s silly and sexist of you to believe that since Allah’s prophets were male that their message is patriarchal and untrue. Allah also spoke to many women Maryam mother of Isa being one of them. You are indeed very ignorant. You are most ignorant of which commands come from society and which come from Allah and his religion Islam. There is a big difference. The opinion of women only revealing one eye comes from certain scholars and women can choose to follow those scholars if they believe their education makes them credible (an example of free will). I choose to follow the niqab described in the quran and sunnah. If women believe they should cover more I see no issue in it.

            I know allah wants women to conceal our beauty because he has revealed it in all of his divine texts. Islam is a complete way of life an he has given us tools to lead a happy and healthy life. Through hijab and niqab I experienced a freedom few western women enjoy. In the U.S I was sexually harassed, sexually assaulted four times, and society as a whole based my worth on if they deemed me beautiful enough. That seems patriarcal to me. The fact that a preteen girl who has developed early cannot walk down the street without being hit on by men. If you think that western society is not sexist, misogynistic, and patriarchal, then you are ignoring a long history that kickstarted feminism. You are also ignoring a society that still makes it necessary.

            Once I started veiling myself I received a level of respect I had never had before. No longer was my body for public consumption. Men saw that I set up a boundary and showed me respect as a person. Perhaps this is why Allah in his Infinite knowledge made the veil obligatory. If you think it is repressive speak to women from the muslim countries you listed and muslim countries outside of the middle east (I don’t know why you have only chosen to focus on the middle east) and an overwhelming majority will tell you of the choices they have. If you don’t believe me o to fb and join a niqab sisters group. There are women from all over the world and they will tell you that they have chosen niqab.

        • I think it’s comical how you believe catholic women choose to be catholic but muslim women don’t choose to be muslim. You make it sound bad to be born into a muslim family and equate it to not having choices but don’t do the same for other religions. That is a personal bias of your own. Just because someone is born into a religious family does not mean they are not allowed to choose their own. I was born into a christian family but choose Islam because I know it to be true. Muslims (male and female) can choose if they will follow the commands of Allah (also known as free will). There are undoubtedly women who are forced to veil themselves and are oppressed but to say that all or most women in the middle east (because you only named muslim countries in the middle east) have this experience is ridiculous. You take away the voices and experiences of the women who are not oppressed. Before you vilify an entire religion I would suggest you learn about that religion. Because oppression, killing women for being raped, forcing a certain veil, or denying women the right to work or go to school are all forbidden in Islam.

          • Susette says:

            Clearly, islam and the niqab are providing you with a connection to your God, and good for you that you live in a country that permits niqab attire as a choice and not compulsory. Your assertion that “allah wants women to conceal our beauty because he has revealed it in all of his divine texts” is not based in fact. What other religion has made the female veil compulsory? Why would any God wants women to conceal their beauty? His creation, including women, is to be appreciated in its splendor, and gives the heart great delight. Does God niqab a flower, or a peacock, or the mountains, or the stars and sun? He has not created beauty only for man to shroud it. That is a patriarchal construct.

            For some religions, the veil represents the limited understanding of our relationship with God. It was Jesus that specifically said “do not worry…what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” His message is to let our light fully shine. So, some would believe that you are dimming your light by donning the niqab.

            I am not a religious person. I do not beleive in any sky God that is punishing towards his creation, either in this life and beyond. I was raised Catholic, but don’t embrace Jesus as a savior. I see him as a Master Teacher, whose message is Love. That cannot be said about Mohammed’s sword verses. The quran verses about love are more toward who God loves and who God does not love. God IS love. God loves us no matter what choices we make. He gave us free will, and loves us even if we make a choice that is not from our highest and best self.

            Islam is so very prescriptive…how to clean your body, defecate, when and with whom to have sex, what to eat, etc. etc. I personally don’t think that God cares about any of that. To me, eastern philosophies are much more in line with what I beleive our Creator is…that we all have a spark of Divinity and our obligations are to love one another. If we could all live by the Golden Rule, the world would be a happier place. Through the ages, religion, while a comfort for many individuals, has been, and continues to be, a destructive force for humankind.

            We are on very different paths. Your beliefs are quite different from mine. I cannot be convinced that islamic ideology is, or ever has been, an ideal for humankind in any way, shape or form. That reality is reflected in the our world’s current events and the poor human rights status of moslem-majority countries around the world. God gave us inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness is severely restricted by islamic idelogy in many places around the world.

          • Even though some texts have been altered to fit the changing times, both the Torah and the Gospel have a written dress code for women that is modest not not far from hijab. There is a reason that in any representation of Maryam mother of Isa (Jesus) you see her in hijab the only difference is that her veil is not drawn over her chest. Even in the bible women are forbidden from praying without their hair covered and there has been a small revival among christian women to cover their hair and some are putting on hijab. But don’t take my word for it research these texts yourself and you will find the same information I did. Christianity (and all it’s subsections) and Judaism has a required dress code. Just because modern jews and christians have chosen to forgo this (like they have many other parts of their religion) does not mean it doesn’t exist. Just research it.
            Allah wants women to conceal our beauty so that we can be apart of society without fear of molestation. Women who veil will tell you that being able to move in public spaces free of the male gaze or cat calling is indeed freeing. Women are not peacocks or flowers. We are people. When was the last time you heard of a man flirting with or cat calling a peacock or flower? No man has shrouded me (there you go again insisting that my veil is forced on me by man). I and other women who veil ourselves do so because Allah has given us instructions to do so.
            You personally believe that niqab diminishes who I am as a person. You have chosen to believe this despite what I and other niqabis say. That is your choice. The bible has been altered many times (you can research this too) and some of the sayings of Isa has been altered. No prophet of Allah (including Isa) would tell Allah’s creation to basically do whatever they want. Drinking what you want causes drunk driving accidents and alcoholism, eating pork can negatively affect your health which is why Judaism and Christianity forbids it as well , and dressing immodestly leads to women feeling unsafe in spaces they have equal right to be in and men and women being diminished to sexual objects in our society.
            Allah wrote “I am as my slave perceives me”. You perceive Allah to be a tyrant because there are consequences for our actions. Everyone one of our actions has a reaction, weather that be good or bad. There is nothing that Allah has forbidden that is something good for all of society. It is selfish of humans to expect to do whatever they want and still get paradise and face no repercussions for their actions. Humans are short sighted and many times think that their behavior only affects them when in reality our choices affect the rest of the world. Since becoming muslim I have become more selfless because I choose to examine all of the consequences of my actions, not only for myself but for others as well.
            I love how you have bought into the lies of Prophet Muhammad who never killed anyone unless they attacked him or innocents, who lived with and traded with people of other religions, who fed the poor, and taught men to respect women as humans and not objects. This shows me you have filled yourself with propaganda and have no bases for any of your arguments. Do you suppose that because Prophet Muhammad fought against those who transgressed that he was a mad man? Well you must feel that way about a lot of Prophets. If I were you I would be weary of following the Isa depicted in the bible. Isa was indeed loving but in the bible Matthew 10:34 he says “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Does that not contradict all that you said about Isa? If Isa was against the sword why would he bring it instead of a message of peace? Seems a little confusing.
            Islam is a complete way of life that gives us tools to lead a happy and healthy life in this world and reach Paradise in the next. It teaches us how to remain healthy and lead a peaceful existence. I won’t entertain your suggestion that Islam brings about oppression. In fact most of the people in the world that oppress others know nothing about Islam.
            You say the teachings of Isa encourage you to be loving but I don’t think they do. You have shown nothing but disdain and disgust for myself and other muslims. You have fooled yourself into believing that muslim women are oppressed (you remain silent of the rights we were granted before non muslim women). You have personally decided to take away the voices of every muslim women because you see violations of women in a few countries that are against Islam. By telling me how to dress and telling me that my personality has diminished because of my veil you are no different than men who force women to veil. Two sides to the same coin. You have your own bias and you are welcome to them but just know that you aren’t any different. Im pretty sure if it was up to you no woman would be allowed to veil herself as made clear by the venom you spewed towards this sister. Take a note from Isa and learn to be a little more loving.

  • I love Your Articles I am also the one who is also Typing and Working on a Blogs and was tying for hijab, burqa, naqab & pardah, It’s very nice

  • Nic says:

    I have absolutely no idea how I stumbled upon this…good read, though.
    I like the bit where you absolutely don’t apologise for any of it, I really can’t understand why your personal life choices are the business of anyone else anyway.

    Anyway…those things listed all sound good to me..if I could get away with wearing something similar without appearing, as a white male, to be doing it primarily to cause offence, insult, mock blah blah etc I totally would…I’ll just stick to my own masks, just a shame they still use my own face :p

    ..and yes, children are exceptionally good at picking up on emotions and what not, rather remarkable, equally so that we lose that ability. Can’t help but think the world might be a little nicer a place if people retained a child’s level of empathy.

  • Glad I found this article, don’t worry about the haters they may think you are not free but really it is they who wish to enslave you. The best way to do that is by taking your choice away, namely the choice to wear what you choose. Society expects women, even hijabis to be eye candy. We can choose to be who we want and how we look and if niqab helps to achieve that then so be it.

  • Mara Sand says:

    People’s face it’s their identity.

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