Modern conservatives: Proud Muslims wear their faith

The hijab is not a tool of oppression and a beard is not for terrorists. These modern Muslims show us why!

Ayesha Fazal March 14, 2011
The Islamic dress code, the head-scarf for women and the facial hair for men no longer signify rigidity or old school thinking.

They never did.

Take a walk in the park and you will sense an independence of spirit. Many of those whom I observed were free of worrying about what others would think. They are attuned to a Higher Being that helps them be independent in their choices, creative and constructive in their professions and full of joy and nurturance in their relationships.

In the park

In the children’s play area in the F-9 Park, one often sees women working out on the gym fixtures on one side of the play area, inside the safety of their Islamic garb. The large inflatable slides at Lake View Park, too, are frequented by women dressed similarly, giggling and having a good ol’ time while women like me stand around and gaze enviously!

In the swing next to where my little nephew was in a public park one day, was a little girl. Her father, donned in a big white turban, Sunnati beard and above-ankle shalwar, was pushing her on the swing while also minding her little brother roaming around. As the girl joyously screamed, asking him to make the swing go faster and higher, he tenderly coaxed her to make do with the present speed. Gentle, nurturing, yet not giving in to the whims of the child – the perfect modern man!

Stand up and be counted

Pseudo-modern myth:

The Muslim head-covering for women is a restrictive device.

Modern reality:

Meet Nameerah Hameed. At 21 she has already traveled to Portugal, Hungary, Singapore and the US with various youth groups, she thinks progressive thoughts under her proudly covered head. Growing up, her parents always urged her to participate in speech contests, art and sports activities.

Pseudo-modern myth:

Hijab is an arbitrarily imposed tool of oppression.

Modern reality:

Myra Mustafa chose it herself. Like Myra, many other educated men and women are choosing to adhere closely to the fundamentals of Islam in their dress and physical appearance, even though their parents have made different lifestyle choices. This is the outcome of a personal quest. It is more an assertion of the individual’s spirituality rather than a faceless annihilation of the self, as it is commonly understood to be. That is why many women turn to the hijab later in life too, as it is then that they find the courage to assert their will.

Islam for solace

Sacred texts of Holy Quran and Sunnah are being applied to change mindsets to build a stronger community, both physically and emotionally.

Muhammad Bilal, doing his M Phil in physiotherapy, cites sayings of the Holy Prophet (SAW) to win over reluctant patients.

“Illness is a test and getting treatment is an act of worship”, is the Hadith he usually starts with. Sporting a beard and a topi, shalwar hitched up above the ankle, this soft-spoken man offers more than physiotherapy – he also counsels his patients, motivating them to get better.

Naila Mir, student counselor and mental health expert at NUST, has been conducting self-growth workshops for youth, women and men. She enriches her work on stress, anger management and other behavior modifications with references from the Quran and Sunnah. This way she encourages a more personal and internalized understanding of Islam. On the other hand, she deepens the understanding of the principles of psychology and emotional intelligence by exploring how these overlap with the teachings of Islam. Bridging modern mental health practice with the traditional wisdom of the Quran, Naila reinforces the recommendations of each through the other.

In short, over the last decade, there has been a steady growth in people’s commitment to tending to their spiritual selves, across all socio-economic classes and genders in Pakistan. As this spiritual alignment is the result of their own personal will, it is absorbing deeply into the daily practices of these men and women, in their work, relationships and attitudes towards self.

These people are for real as is their power to shape kin, community and the larger cosmos.
Ayesha Fazal An Islamabad based education consultant and Fulbright Fellow from Harvard University. Fazal contributes to the Islamabad pages of The Express Tribune.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Utopia | 13 years ago | Reply For Aisha: Thanks for providing a wise outlook! the functionality of Islam in our daily lives is important to be referred to. The main confusion is due to people's hesitation in applying Islam to their daily lives.
Utopia | 13 years ago | Reply For all those who have contrary opinions for this article: There is nothing wrong wearing or displaying the symbols of religion, what has gone wrong is our perception about them. We need to work out with our mindsets, if we care. Our perceptions have gone wrong because of the fear of showing any association with religion. The fear of loosing a certain worldly status, the fear of being out cast by our peers, or simply the fear of not progressing in life. The need is to focus on the hollowness of these perceptions. Religion has strengthened the personalities of those who have cared to follow it. It does not mean that people without hijab or beard do not follow the religion, but following in its true essence is something very different. We should not restrict our minds to a single set of thoughts. If it is claimed that religious people are restricted than what about you? Have you tried to discover what Islam and Sunnah and Hadith actually teaches? If you have tried, good enough! If not, then please expand yourself and do it, otherwise there will only be arguments and debates and what not! As you think that religious people are not absolute, than ofcourse the secular ones are also not! Therefore, Check the other side too! Do not only see the exploitations done in the name of religion, see the religion itself!
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