Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Covering Heads or Not

Covering heads right or wrong islamA few years ago, I visited South Korea. Beautiful place. One of the locals got to know that I was from Pakistan. She asked if I was Muslim. I replied in the affirmative. To my astonishment, the question that followed was: “Then why aren't you covering your head?”

I was caught off guard. I didn't have a coherent answer because that was the way more than half of the Pakistani women I knew dressed up, and they still unwaveringly called themselves Muslims.

Covering up for the anomaly, an Indonesian girl in my group shared that not all Muslim ladies in her country covered their heads either. That spoke somewhat for the 'non-obligatory' nature of the head-covering obligation for Muslim women around the world. Ironic!

It is not too surprising to find that non-Muslims expect a strong correlation between Muslim women and the head-covering ritual. Surely, head covering for women is an obligatory practice in several Muslim countries across the world. However, in Pakistan, the case is slightly different. Not all Muslim women in Pakistan cover their heads in public.

It is pretty amazing to find how people can justify their being a Muslim when they do not austerely exercise the head-covering obligation for women in Islam. It is astounding to realize that people do not even understand what being a Muslim calls for. Amusingly, many in Pakistan think that being a Muslim only entails that one should believe in one God and observe the five pillars of Islamic faith.

How can one claim to be Muslim when one does not fulfill the minimum basic criteria for being a Muslim? What is a religion worth if it cannot be followed in full spirit? Why do we unabashedly debase Islam every so often? Moreover, why do we associate a country's name with a religious name tag? Why drag Islam into the socio-political schema of things? What is so Islamic about Pakistan to title the country, 'Islamic Republic of Pakistan' anyway?

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