The Invisible Woman

I have recently become the editor of an online Islamic magazine and one of the things I have asked for from the writers is a picture of themselves to accompany their articles, if they felt comfortable with that.

One of the sisters who writes for the magazine sent me a thoughtful email about this policy:

I was wondering if we should encourage this at all. A Muslim women should remain hidden as she’s precious. Since [the magazine] is not exclusively for sisters, it will also be read by brothers and I don’t want it be a source of fitna instead of education. I’m sure everyone on [your staff] as well as the readers are really nice people, but it’s the shaitan we cannot trust.

It took me several days to send a reply because I wanted to carefully consider my answer, which was in part:

I do understand your arguments and I’m not saying that they are without merit. I agree that women are precious and need to be protected to some extent, but I lay some responsibility at the feet of the brothers to withstand the temptations of Shaytan. I also think it is awfully difficult (although not impossible) for a woman to have a voice when she does not have a face. My personal opinion is that we hurt the cause of Islam more than we help it when we make women invisible, not to mention what it does to the individual woman who is being told that she cannot be seen.

What is your opinion about this issue? Should Muslim women practice modesty to the extent that they are not seen at all? And if so, then does that mean that they shouldn’t speak in public or appear in a video, even if they are teaching or advancing the cause of Islam? And how do women feel when they have no role models that they can see and identify with?

As a feminist, I reject the idea that women should be invisible when men are not required to be as well. I also can’t help but wonder if both sexes would profit from being invisible, at least publicly.  After all, it could be a form of self-aggrandizement to have your picture in a public venue. What do you think Mohammad would do if he was here today?

Let me know what you think!


2 Replies to “The Invisible Woman”

  1. Hmm…. I think hijab, although obligatory, has lots of space to play around with as well. I’m not sure if I’m wording this correctly- but I just mean that hijab might hold the same underlying meaning to all muslim girls- but the details of how to achieve this meaning vary from muslima to muslima. So as long as the woman in the photograph has covered the parts she must, the rest really depends on the woman herself and what hijab means to her.

    1. It’s true that the hijab doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. I, for instance, don’t believe that the only way a woman can practice modesty by wearing hijab. But I do like the fact that wearing it identifies me as a Muslim. And although the Qur’an influences me to some extent, I’m probably more influenced by my Muslim friends who wear hijab. They made it seem so natural and even attractive that I wanted to wear it, too. I won’t lie to you, there are times that I don’t like dressing hijab (especially in the summer!) but it’s not because I feel ashamed or conspicuous. I think it gives a Muslimah a fine opportunity to show others that you can wear hijab–and be Muslim!–and still be an ordinary person.

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