Home Humra Quraishi What I Wear is My Choice! — Humra Quraishi

What I Wear is My Choice! — Humra Quraishi

What I Wear is My Choice! — Humra Quraishi

Muslim students wearing hijab were denied entry into college. — Source: Twitter


Humra Quraishi

I  recall as a  child I used to see my  grandmother’s women friends visiting the family, covering their heads with the sari-pallu. In fact, even to this day don’t Sikh and Rajput and Jat and even Brahmin women cover their heads in the conventional and traditional settings! And they come across as so very graceful and dignified.

Why this all-out war on the burqa, hijab and the veil! After all, what is a hijab? Nothing but covering the head and the hair in a graceful traditional way, so that there’s less of exposure and more of  modesty and coverage. In fact, we were all in a ‘hijab’ of sorts the last two years – covering ourselves so very totally and thoroughly because of the Dengue mosquito scare and also of the Corona virus infection scare! So why should  this sudden hue and cry  come about as though covering the head or hair or the combination of the two is something unthinkable or baffling or medieval!

What I wear or don’t wear is my business. Maybe I want to cover every inch of my body with the burqa and hijab. And why shouldn’t I! It is my personal choice.

Why this sudden attack on the hijab and burqa! As a woman this is my basic right – What I decide to wear or not wear. Don’t tell me we have reached such dismal lows that the Right-Wing rulers and the mafia under their direct control will force their dos and don’ts on me! If I don’t follow their dictates I will be hounded from the educational institutions and  harassed and ridiculed on the streets and lanes and bylanes of my country, with the administration and the police machinery standing as mute spectators, if not as collaborators!

Today, with the anti-Muslim propaganda accelerating, communal moves by the Right-Wing forces are on the rise. Finding every possible excuse or an alibi to attack the ‘other’. Trying their utmost to dent the very identity of the minority community, trying to heap negativity on that identity.

True, Islam insists that a woman ought to be dressed modestly and decently, but that  doesn’t mean there’s some  barbaric dress code! My maternal grandmother, Amna Rahman, loved to wear saris, with well-designed blouses and all seemed fine. No, there were no snide comments thrown her way from within or outside the community.

I have always dressed in accordance with what I want to wear or not-wear. Though  I’m comfortable with saris  and blouses of all hues and shapes, but I must detail this incident:  One late night, whilst driving on the Delhi-Gurgaon highway, I faced a  somewhat un-nerving situation. What, with truckers  honking, passing lewd comments, trying to  overtake …when  I couldn’t take the strain, I  got this bright idea — that evening I’d  bought a dining table cover; pulling it out from the  packet, throwing it on myself, covering my arms and hair… I took refuge in that piece of cloth. And it did cover me up so very completely. That bandobast worked!  The remaining part of the long drive on the highway was hassle free!


Earlier, the very burqa was considered to be not just a sign of femininity but also that of grace. Remember, Bollywood films of the 50s and 60s where actresses with burqas on, drew the attention of not just the hero but also of us, the viewers.

When I had asked Khushwant Singh what drew him to his  first lady love,  Hyderabad  based Ghayoorunissa, he listed the burqa as  one of the attractions. To quote him, “I must  have been around 17 years and Ghayoorunissa was three years older than me. She was my sister’s friend … on  one of those occasions when she and I  and my sister had gone to see  cinema, she’d slipped her hand on mine and held my hand … and  that alone  meant a lot to me. I was drawn to her and that burqa she’d worn added to that entire  atmosphere, to that romance, to  her beauty.”


And to all those who seem obsessively desperate to paint Islam and its followers in those dark shades, I want to stress on the  fact that Islam is a much misunderstood religion in today’s world scenario where Islamophobia holds sway, rather is made to hold sway by the  Rightwing political lobbies and brigades at work, to cause anarchy cum-havoc-cum  disruption on all possible fronts.

Far from being portrayed as a barbaric religion, if only one were to go by the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the essence would hold out. Recently I re- read, ‘The Sayings of Muhammad’. Compiled by Sir Abdullah Suhrawardy, with the foreword written by Mahatma Gandhi, this book was published early last century. And each one of the Prophet’s sayings stress on compassion and human values.

Also, there’s also much focus on the dignity and respect that ought to be given to women.  To quote  Bertram Thomas, “He (Prophet  Muhammad ) never ceased to champion the cause of women against the  ill-treatment of his contemporaries. He condemned the practice of inheriting the widow with the rest of the of an estate as though she were a chattel. She must not be a despised creature to  be ashamed of and to be  ill-treated  anymore, but a person to love and cherish and respect: at her feet lay the gates of  paradise.”

Here are some of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings —

“Women are the twin -halves of men.”

“Whoever doeth good to girls, it will be a curtain to him from hell-fire.”

“Whoever hath a  daughter, and doth not bury her alive, or scold her, or prefer his male children to her, may God bring him into Paradise” (this refers to the then prevalent  practice of female infanticide which Prophet Muhammad abolished ).

“God enjoins you to treat women well, for they are your mothers, daughters and aunts.”

“The rights of women are sacred. See the women are maintained in the rights assigned by them.”

“Do not prevent your women from coming to the mosque.”


Humra Quraishi is a Delhi-based writer-columnist-journalist. She is also the author of several books including Kashmir: The Untold Story. The views expressed here are author’s personal.


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