Cover your hair! Cover your face! Lower your gaze.

I ran into way too many members of Hai’a recently and had to write a post about their un-Islamic behavior. It seems to me as if it’s becoming worse lately. What really upsets me is how ruthlessly they harass women. I’ve taken a habit now of answering their hateful comments of covering by replying “Lower your gaze”. It seems to work because the muttawa get an empty look on their faces and eventually leave. Could it be because they actually feel a tiny bit of guilt somewhere in the deepest corners of their minds? Or perhaps they go into shock because a woman is challenging them? It does seem to create confusion. I guess they don’t have a “Lowering Gazes” or “Respecting Women’s Privacy” class in Muttawa School.

Check out my previous post on muttawa encounters here.

The Hai’a seem to have picked Hayat Mall as their new favorite place to terrorize people, sorry women that is.
The muttawas in question did not even have the police with them. I saw a few different groups of them grazing the mall. One was a gang of three very young muttawas, the tallest had the big boss cape on. I wonder if their beards were even real, they looked no more than 21 years old to me.

This gang actually had the nerve to start following my friends around the mall, waiting outside stores so they could shout at us again. My friends like most western women here don’t cover their hair. So we start hearing over and over “cover you hair”. The scarves were wrapped on but the muttawas still didn’t leave! They were waiting to get another go at us if the scarves happen to slip off. It’s as if they just want to check us out! This really irritates me because I know my friends feel anxious, cornered and even fearful because of their behavior. I wanted to stop it so I ended up having to remind the men to lower their gazes. Why are they staring at us in the first place? Have they forgotten this verse from the Quran:

“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts. That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do.”

Better that we women remind these poor brothers of their duty to lower their gazes since it seems they have totally forgotten it!I think women should stand up to this kind of madness and not let them treat us like cattle or pieces of meat!

On another occasion a pair of old baba muttawas attack us, a group of women doing some shopping and minding our own business. They shout “Cover your hair” while angrily pointing a finger at my friends one at a time singling them out and approaching us. He then turns to me and shouts “cover your face!” I was like what the fatwa? I’ve never heard that before, I thought they only said that to Saudi women. I pointed my finger back at him and said “why don’t you lower your gaze?” He just looked at me dumbfounded with an empty expression on his face. I thought perhaps he did not understand so I repeated myself in a louder voice please LOWER YOUR GAZE. He hesitated for a second, but then they left.

What does Hadith say about lowering gazes?

“I asked Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) about the sudden glance (that is cast) on the face (of a non-Mahram). He commanded me that I should turn away my eyes.” Hadith – Sahih Muslim 5372, Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah Note it says a glance at the FACE. And the solution here, is it for the woman to cover her face? No- for the man to lower his gaze. Now this could lead to a whole other conversation of the niqab and is it compulsory but my point is the responsibility here is placed on the man.

So why are the supposedly pious muttawa allowed to so blatantly stare at women and not lower their gazes?
That is just absurd. It’s also giving a really negative image of Islam to westerners here and when they return to their home countries this is one of the messages that spreads about the country and the religion. I hate it when my friends start saying bad things about Islam that are not true. It all stems directly from the actions of these men.
I try to explain that what some Muslims do is not necessarily what Islam teaches. I have a feeling my words are nothing in the face of the atrocious actions of the muttawa.

I encourage other women being harassed by muttawa to give them a stern reminder to lower their gazes.

 

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  • AnonymousNovember 16, 2010 - 6:11 am

    i don’t understand why are you guys trying to challenge the customs and traditions of saudi [don’t you guys have work in your homelands] and then write like you are above it all.i can see a girl who complains like that because she came here with her saudi husband at his request, but you guys initiated your move here. this country would not be what it is [different] if it bentover to every westerners complaint. i hope since you are now married to a saudi, that you will tell your friends to cover up in your country…sorry if that sounded kinda smarty. AllessaReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 16, 2010 - 9:22 am

    Hi Alessa

    I’m not sure how standing up to oppression of women is challenging traditions and culture of Saudi. Or do you mean that oppression is acceptable and part of this culture?
    I don’t care what country I’m in, if I see someone treated badly or harassed, it’s wrong and I will try and act.
    My point is it’s unislamic behavior and I feel sorry for my friends because this is the picture that they get about Islam. I try my best to tell the truth of the matter but how can they get a good picture of Islam with these kind of supposedly “representatives” of Islam harassing them??

    You think it’s only westerners who complain about muttawa, or what is it you mean here by bending over to westerners complaints? Don’t you read blogs written by Saudi women and how they too hate how they are treated by muttawa?

    I’m not going to tell my friends to cover, it’s their choice and right not to if they so wish.ReplyCancel

  • Tara Umm OmarNovember 16, 2010 - 3:35 pm

    Whenever I complained about someone staring at me, my father would tell me that I wouldn’t know they were staring at ME if I wasn’t staring at THEM! There is a hadith that holds the first look being allowed but any other look after that is not. These muttawa seem to forget that there is no compulsion in Islam. So you can’t force someone to cover their hair or face but you can advise them gently. I think women would be more receptive to that type of approach. Also respect that not all women follow their interpretation of hijab/niqab.ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 16, 2010 - 4:27 pm

    not sure what you mean by oppression. this might be a good enough example of comparing the westerner police [america] and the muttawa [saudi], last i read in a newspaper from the states was someone getting a beating for talking back to the police in philly. so i guess if you don’t obey the american police they arrest you or beat you with a stick. i think you were treated better by the muttawa [speaking your mind] than the guy who got the beating for speaking his mind. every land has its laws, some of us can handle them and some can’t. salaam. AllessaReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 17, 2010 - 8:39 am

    Allessa can you refer to the saudi law that states its a crime not to cover your hair/face?
    Also you refer to muttawa as customs and traditions of Saudi, can you elaborate?to my understanding muttawa has not been around for that long to be called a “tradition”. These type of religious police is quite a new phenomenon.
    comparing muttawa and american police?
    well they both have sticks thats true.thing is if the american policeman or woman uses his her stick then its a situation where they are forced to control violent behavior.if they use it for any other reason they will get consequences from it.muttawa can beat anyone anywhere without any consequences.
    so you get my point? american police operate according to law-muttawa operate according to their interpretation of islam, not law.ReplyCancel

  • Blue PearlNovember 17, 2010 - 9:40 am

    Dear Darling, عيدكم مبارك

    Lots of love:)ReplyCancel

  • Om Lujain©November 17, 2010 - 11:14 am

    Great post! I have always had the same questions!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 17, 2010 - 4:04 pm

    o.k. this is just going in a circle, so you win. i must say i enjoyed the article on birth defects. very good to read. by the way, why is your blog picture of a female covering her face…i love humor too. have fun living here. salaam, Allessa

    p.s i will keep readingReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 17, 2010 - 4:50 pm

    Hi Alessa!
    Regarding my picture, I rather keep my identity secret because of my work so hence the niqab :))
    I do enjoy living here and thanks for your comments!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 21, 2010 - 12:40 am

    I understand why are you upset about these attitudes toward women ..

    I am a saudi woman who wears the niqab but I don’t like these attitudes of some muttawa.

    I know that it is important to practice Nase7ah (advice) on some people’s behaviors but I don’t think that anybody is capable of doing the advice about Islamic practices .. especially, on a controversial issue such as covering the face.

    Also, the advice has its own methods which are being explained by prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) , shouting is not one of them !

    Being a member in this society, I apologize for their attitudes .. I hope you help in explaining this misunderstanding of Islam to your friends (:

    thanks a lot _

    ShathaReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 21, 2010 - 10:35 am

    Salaam Shatha!
    Thanks for you comment. I do try to explain to my friends but sometimes actions speak louder than words and it is difficult to be convincing..Inshallah things will get better someday.ReplyCancel

  • Islam-A solution for mankindOctober 27, 2011 - 9:33 am

    covering face is not a compulsion for a woman in Islam. Even if you are doing umrah tawaf you cant cover your face otherwise you have to do DUM — sacrifise an animal for that mistake. But anyhow saudia is far more secure and preferable to live than many other countries having so called freedom and basic human rights.ReplyCancel

  • bigstick1February 14, 2012 - 1:00 am

    Laylah:

    I thought you might like this article. I hope it best fits here but if not just erase it or stick it under a different section.

    Bigstick

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/20/opinion/ultra-orthodox-jews-and-the-modesty-fight.htmlReplyCancel

  • […] Ramadan, the busiest season of the year for the members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) aka Saudi religious police force. I like to refer to them more familiarly as the muttawa. DISCLAIMER: This entire post is written in a sarcastic tone, tongue in cheek. For those readers that suffer from over-sensitivity and lack sense of humour, I recommend you don’t read any further, because you might get offendedDuring Ramadan malls all over Riyadh will fill up with Saudis shopping until they drop (which would be around 3 am). What a better opportunity for the moral cops to get some serious moral enforcement done! If you don’t know what Saudi religious police are read more here and find out some of my previous encounters with them here and here. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Lower Your Gaze Mr. Muttawa! […]ReplyCancel

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