Behind the Veil: An Interview

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Ever wonder what goes through the mind of a woman in niqab? Why do some Muslim women willingly cover their faces? Find out in this deeply moving and inspiring interview with Sr. Noor Bhuiyan. Written by Heba Youssef, and reposted here with her permission.

interview

Imagine stepping outside every day – your body and face in complete concealment from the rest of the world, with only a slit exposing your eyes to see where you are going. A life devoted to the constant worship of God, through extremely modest dressing.

This is the life that twenty-six-year-old Noor B. lives every day. This is the life of a niqaabi (nɪˈkɑːbee), a woman who wears the niqaab or Islamic face veil.

It is lunch time and Noor is on break from the weekend intensive seminar she is taking entitled: Islamic Code of Ethics. The lounge is flooded with young women: some wearing head scarves and jeans, others robed with complete face veils. Greetings of Assalamu Alaykum (Peace be upon you) are exchanged as the women eat and eagerly discuss the new information they have acquired from the seminar.

Noor sits with her back facing the exit door. She does not want to take the chance of a man seeing her face when the door opens. She explains that it is generally okay to take off her veil in front of other Muslim women and close male relatives, but in this instance she was in a public area and did not want to take a risk.

Dressed in an all black niqaab and jilbaab (a looser outer garment that covers the entirety of a woman’s body) all I can see are the creases on the corner of her eyes indicating her nervous smile. She does not think she is worthy of being interviewed and apologizes for eating while I conduct the interview. She lifts the black veil, takes a bite of her egg roll and then lets the veil fall back in its place as she finishes chewing. She makes sure to tell me one of her biggest challenges is eating. “It’s so hard!” And with the same process of lifting her veil for each bite, one can only imagine how tedious it can be.

Eating is not her only problem though, as she tells me that finding places to purchase her niqaabs and jilbaabs are not easy, especially given her petite figure. “I got this one from Saudi Arabia, and I had to hem it like 6-inches! …And when I shop in the [Islamic] stores in Brooklyn, they are so expensive.” She tells me she likes the black ones because they draw less attention than a brightly colored outfit would.

Noor began wearing the niqaab six months ago when she went to Mecca for ‘Umrah, a pilgrimage that can be performed any time throughout the year. “Seeing all these women in niqaab, I was like, what am I doing?” So she took the next step – completely veiling her face and body. When she came back to her hometown of Brooklyn, NY she received mixed reactions.

It was no surprise to Noor’s mother who is already a niqaabi, but her friends were not as supportive. “I had friends who didn’t understand the super-change I was going through. It was mostly my non Muslim and non practicing Muslim friends who were surprised.” Although she has remained sociable with her friends, she admits these friendships are not the way they used to be.

She explains that the issue of niqaab as an obligation or an option has been the crux of the debate amongst Islamic scholars. “But if you study the Qur’an [Holy Book in Islam] and the Sunnah [the examples/teachings of the Prophet Muhammad], we find that Allah commands the wives of the Prophet to cover themselves.” She tells me the wives of the Prophet were considered the best and purest women of all time, and covering was considered an act of modesty and submission to God’s command. “If this act of veiling was made obligatory for the best women ever created, then it must be fard (obligatory) for us… What would lead me to believe I’m better than them?”

She then begins to recall the moments that led to her decision of veiling. “Another turning point in my life was a [marriage] proposal that I received. The guy wanted to marry a niqaabi woman and my initial reaction was: I am not the one you want.” But after reading up on the issues and reasoning behind the niqaab, something changed, “…and I found this was something that I wanted to do.” She explains it was something of an epiphany, and this feeling of increased faith is what prepared her for a life changing alteration.

We briefly shift into the topic of marriage and she tells me that young Muslims are always eager to marry. “It’s what prevents lusts from turning into immoral acts, like premarital sex… Anything that leads to desire, even too much looking [at the opposite sex] is considered unrighteous and un-Islamic.” This is why the marriage proposal from a man she did not know did not seem unusual or out of the ordinary. She tells me the criteria for Islamic marriages is that the aspiring spouse should be very religious. “He knew my dad, and asked for my hand in marriage…and that was it.”

Noor says she disagrees with people who say change is gradual, because for her, change happened almost instantaneously. “I went from wearing the hijaab (Islamic head scarf) with fitted jeans, to wearing the niqaab and big jilbaabs… [Before], I never even studied Islam when I was in hijaab.” And in this short transition period, she recalls the longing she felt to fulfill her duty as a Muslim woman. “Every time I saw a niqaabi I was jealous. I would stare at each and every one of them thinking, why can’t I please Allah (God) the way she pleases Allah?”

______________

This interview was conducted in the early months of 2008. In July of 2009, Sr. Noor Bhuiyan passed away. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon – to Allah we belong and to Him we return. May Allah have mercy on her soul, and grant her entrance into the highest level of paradise. May her deeds and her words, and her life and her death, be an example and inspiration for us all.

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  • Dania

    Absolutely beautiful masha’Allah… May Allah reward her and have mercy upon her soul- ameen! <3

  • Dania

    Absolutely beautiful masha’Allah… May Allah reward her and have mercy upon her soul- ameen! <3

  • Mahvish

    Subhan’Allah…Beautifully written with a beautiful message. May Allah SWT grant her and her family Jannatal Firdous and nothing less, Ameen.

    It is eye-watering to know that she has already passed away.

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon.

  • Mahvish

    Subhan’Allah…Beautifully written with a beautiful message. May Allah SWT grant her and her family Jannatal Firdous and nothing less, Ameen.

    It is eye-watering to know that she has already passed away.

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon.

  • Shuaib Mansoori

    SubhanAllah! What an inspirational story. May it be a continual Sadaqa for her for many generations to come who benefit from this story. She took a simple step, yet Allah magnified it such that people like us who don’t even know her are praying for her. Perhaps Allah wanted to raise her status in Jannah and bring her even closer to Himself, that’s why her transition was made so easy for her. May He grant her the company of the wives of the Prophet (Sal-Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) whose example she sincerely tried to emulate.

  • Shuaib Mansoori

    SubhanAllah! What an inspirational story. May it be a continual Sadaqa for her for many generations to come who benefit from this story. She took a simple step, yet Allah magnified it such that people like us who don’t even know her are praying for her. Perhaps Allah wanted to raise her status in Jannah and bring her even closer to Himself, that’s why her transition was made so easy for her. May He grant her the company of the wives of the Prophet (Sal-Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) whose example she sincerely tried to emulate.

  • Bint AbdelHamid

    Such an inspiring story, and so beautifully written, masha’Allah.

  • Bint AbdelHamid

    Such an inspiring story, and so beautifully written, masha’Allah.

  • Sana

    Ameen to all the adiyah! Just beautiful mashaAllah

  • Sana

    Ameen to all the adiyah! Just beautiful mashaAllah

  • Rex

    I knew this person very well. May peace be upon her. The thing about marriage is conflicting… getting a proposal from a man she does not know may not seem out of the ordinary but that has noting to do with Islam. Thats a cultural role of arranged marriage that south Asians practice.

  • Rex

    I knew this person very well. May peace be upon her. The thing about marriage is conflicting… getting a proposal from a man she does not know may not seem out of the ordinary but that has noting to do with Islam. Thats a cultural role of arranged marriage that south Asians practice.

  • http://www.thinking-life.com/ phalanges

    SubhanAllah she died at such a young age
    Allah yir7amha

  • http://www.thinking-life.com phalanges

    SubhanAllah she died at such a young age
    Allah yir7amha

  • Janis

    I like it. It is good. I used to wear the face veil years ago. I stopped wearing it. I went through many changes since then. It was even one time when I thought it would be okay to uncover because I was beginning to be influenced by the non-muslim way of dress. But I never did fully uncover myself(except for one time). I loved wearing my hijab. I still do.

    Although I’m older now, I still feel the need to be covered more and more. With my sole intentions of pleasing Allah. I love it when I see my muslim sisters covered. It makes me feel happy. They are beautiful too me.

    Maybe one day if Allah wills I will wear niqab again. Allah knows best.

  • Janis

    I like it. It is good. I used to wear the face veil years ago. I stopped wearing it. I went through many changes since then. It was even one time when I thought it would be okay to uncover because I was beginning to be influenced by the non-muslim way of dress. But I never did fully uncover myself(except for one time). I loved wearing my hijab. I still do.

    Although I’m older now, I still feel the need to be covered more and more. With my sole intentions of pleasing Allah. I love it when I see my muslim sisters covered. It makes me feel happy. They are beautiful too me.

    Maybe one day if Allah wills I will wear niqab again. Allah knows best.

  • Bint AbdelHamid

    Janis, we all go through stages where our iman goes up and down to different degrees; an important du’aa to remember is this du’aa mentioned in the Qur’an:

    رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ

    Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower. [3:8]

    May Allah protect our faith and yours. I ask Allah to facilitate His worship and obedience for you, and make it beloved to your heart. Ameen.

    Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  • Bint AbdelHamid

    Janis, we all go through stages where our iman goes up and down to different degrees; an important du’aa to remember is this du’aa mentioned in the Qur’an:

    رَبَّنَا لَا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ

    Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower. [3:8]

    May Allah protect our faith and yours. I ask Allah to facilitate His worship and obedience for you, and make it beloved to your heart. Ameen.

    Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  • sheema

    allahu akbar!..that was really touching and motivating!..my heart beat stopped for couple of seconds when i read about the sister’s passing away..MAY ALLAH GRANT HER JANNATUL FIRDAUSE..and may she be a source of inspiration for all the young n old muslimahs…ameen!

  • sheema

    allahu akbar!..that was really touching and motivating!..my heart beat stopped for couple of seconds when i read about the sister’s passing away..MAY ALLAH GRANT HER JANNATUL FIRDAUSE..and may she be a source of inspiration for all the young n old muslimahs…ameen!

  • naazneen

    Assalam alaikum wa ramatullah wa barakatuh

    this was a very touching story and when i read the part about her passing it really brought me to tears. she was very young and it only reminds us that this duniya is short so live life the best we can in deen and eman and strive for our best for Allah subhana wa ta’ala. but i would like to kno how she died if i may kno?

  • naazneen

    Assalam alaikum wa ramatullah wa barakatuh

    this was a very touching story and when i read the part about her passing it really brought me to tears. she was very young and it only reminds us that this duniya is short so live life the best we can in deen and eman and strive for our best for Allah subhana wa ta’ala. but i would like to kno how she died if i may kno?

  • Jinu

    I am feeling the same that Noor felt about the Niqabii girls,as well as i respect them a lot.
    May Allah grant her Jannah.

  • Jinu

    I am feeling the same that Noor felt about the Niqabii girls,as well as i respect them a lot.
    May Allah grant her Jannah.

  • http://siraate-mustaqeem.blogspot.com/ Zareen Ghazala

    Ameen, Summ’a Ameen

  • http://siraate-mustaqeem.blogspot.com/ Zareen Ghazala

    Ameen, Summ’a Ameen

  • Rahma

    Innallillahi wainna illaihi raji’un.From Allah we come anad unto Him we are returning.Allah is the most Greatest.I am greatly shocked that she passed away,that is how we keep posponing things thinking that there would always be time for change,forgetting that death is iminent.Ya Allah,forgive us our sins and instill Your love in our hearts and may Allah in His infinite Mercy grant her Aljannatu firdaus ,Amin.

  • Rahma

    Innallillahi wainna illaihi raji’un.From Allah we come anad unto Him we are returning.Allah is the most Greatest.I am greatly shocked that she passed away,that is how we keep posponing things thinking that there would always be time for change,forgetting that death is iminent.Ya Allah,forgive us our sins and instill Your love in our hearts and may Allah in His infinite Mercy grant her Aljannatu firdaus ,Amin.

  • Nafisa

    Inna lillahi Wa inna ilaihi raji’un. May sister Noor’s soul rest in peace and may Allah (SWT) reward her with Al-jannat al Firdaus, Ameen!!!!

  • Nafisa

    Inna lillahi Wa inna ilaihi raji’un. May sister Noor’s soul rest in peace and may Allah (SWT) reward her with Al-jannat al Firdaus, Ameen!!!!

  • http://www.easynamechange.ca/ change your name

    I'm not really familiar with Islamic marriage but I'm really inspired with the story you post..
    Thanks for sharing this story and I really learn a lot from your culture.

  • Pingback: Cleansing Tears

  • younus

    Hum not logical to me. There is a difference between dressing modestly and wearing hijab and jilbaabs I could never believe ISLAM is about making like that difficult for your self. And it is stupid to consider Allah will like someone more because of one quality or other. Only he know whom he likes and for what reason. Finaly wifes of profit have a special status and other restrictions that DONT apply to other women.
    yes I agree still quite a few muslim men want wife in hijab but not all things are changing. And if half the muslim population is constantly hiding from other half and not communicating how will we grow as a people. There are some facts no hijab or jilbaab will ever help solve like standard of living health care and education is damm low for muslims all over the world. By doing this you might contribute to urself ONLY MIGHT but it makes no difference to way we are struggling. Try to help one poor muslim make his/her life better may be allah like you more then all women who were hijab or jabab……….what ever

  • Fatima

    Mashallah.
    This is a beautiful story.The ending really makes you think.
    Inshallah, she's being rewarded for this and Inshallah, she's going to enter Jannah.

  • Ziad

    Masha-allah… May Allah protect our muslim sisters and give guidance to each one of them…

  • kakchik

    Salam Sis,

    If you don't mind I'd love to share this interview in my blog, KakChik's Wardrobe. This is so touching and as a niqabi, I too have gone through some of her experiences and I think my blog visitors might find this interview meaningful.

    Thank you.

  • ommal muqarraboon

    as-salam3laykum wa rahmatullah

    jazakiallahu khair for this, it was amazing. I wonder if I may get permission to repost this interview on my blog?

    you may email me at the email I leave here inshaAllah
    :)

  • http://www.igotitcovered.org/author/sarah/ Sarah

    Yes, you may repost as long as it is linked back to IGIC inshaAllah :)