Recently, I connected with Nabeel, a young man of a particular community through a mutual interest in comparative religion. This happened as a result of our meeting through a WhatsApp chat group. This young man is of Indian origin and extremely erudite. He is very well-versed not only in the Holy Qu'ran, the scripture followed by the various Muslim communities, but he has also read and studied the Holy Bible (King James Version). It isn't difficult to track down people once you know certain contact details about them and I soon discovered my invisible friend's Facebook account. I took a good long look at his photographs, both past and recent. It appears that through the maturity which comes with age, my distant friend, who resembled a Bollywood hero just a few short years ago, has now 'got religion' in a big way. His appearance fairly screams his religious affiliation in a way that it didn't just less than three years ago, when he took unto himself a wife, as the Bible would say. I found the wedding album on Facebook.
There's nothing as nice to look at as a handsome bridal couple, I always say. Well I looked and I looked. The groom was all present and correct, as they say. Absolutely perfect, not a thing wrong with him. But something was missing. Something integral. Can you guess what it is? There was no bride to be seen anywhere. No women either, in any of the wedding pictures. I was quite shocked, I can tell you.
So I got on FB Messenger and asked the gentleman about the missing bride. The answer I eventually received was a revelation. He told me that his wife considered that her beauty was for him alone and not for everyone to feast on. I replied that that was absolutely fine as long as it was her choice. I respect people's choices. But seriously, no criticism intended, what's a wedding without a beautiful bride? In India, well, usually in India. as well as Ireland, the bride is the centre of the whole party. There can't be a wedding without one.
But it got me thinking. An attitude like that comes from a mindset which is totally alien to the thinking where I grew up. Okay, I'm an old girl now, although I still scrub up well when the need arises. Like, on a good day, when I've had my sleep, my vitamins, the required amount of water and a little makeup to repair the damage, I can pass for being in my (late) thirties if the light is good. But even when I was young and a bit better than average looking (so I've been told), it wouldn't have occurred to me that my "beauty" was for "himself" alone. I met him when I was 23, so I guess you can say I managed to 'trap' him when I was the best-looking I've ever been. Yes, I even had blonde highlights back then, long gone because I'm unable to maintain them in India owing to the scarcity of blonde hair dye in my city. But I digress......
A few years ago, I switched on the television and found myself watching a religious discourse. They're on the television here around the clock and probably everywhere else too, owing to satellite. An earnest gentleman, with a wispy looking beard and a skull cap, was pontificating on the place of women in society. He was defending the fact that men in his community were allowed to have more than one wife. He explained that in a society where men are scarce, he would rather see his sister as the second wife of a devout man than as a single lady. Because according to him, no single lady can be virtuous, she is simply a 'public property', particularly in the western world. What an assumption! We don't wear veils and we speak freely with people whether they are male or female, so we western women are, if unmarried, 'public property'. If I'd had something heavy nearby, I'd have thrown it at the television screen. Such nonsense! That person should understand that women from western countries, whether or not they prefer to wait until marriage to enjoy intimate relations with someone (their choice), have standards and don't just go with anyone.
I have a close friend, Nasreen, who has helped me in so many ways. Nasreen, for me, is an ideal woman. She's beautiful, dignified and although she belongs to the community in which many women cover up, she never covers her face. But the truth is, Nas doesn't need a veil to cover herself. Women who have dignity and self-respect have a virtual veil in any case. Nobody can just move into their personal space and start treating them like public property.
Nabeel's wife may, because of the social customs in her community, feel that not showing her looks to the world is a special gift, a way of showing loyalty to her husband. But it's entirely different for most modern women, as the mindset is different. Limiting our interaction with the outside world means that we can't contribute to society as effectively as we'd like to do and from that, our husbands would gain absolutely nothing. We don't need to wear a veil to prove our loyalty to our marriages. But in societies where the ethos is different, it's another story. And it's sad that many people who live in cultures where veiling is the norm judge women from other cultures so negatively. Well, some do.
As Nabeel himself very reasonably says, everyone has their own thinking.
As for hiding our beauty? Personal choice of course, but we should not be too proud of our looks. Physical beauty is temporary in human life, inner beauty is forever. I love this verse from Proverbs 31:30 (NIV translation)
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Image courtesy of pixabay.com
Banner courtesy of canva.com
I have recently resumed blogging with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. I'm an old member of this friendly group and delighted to be back. The current blogging members of this group are: Ramana, Chuck and Pravin. Thanks to my dear brother Ramana for the topic/prompt 'Loyalty'. Sorry I'm late with the post this week, guys.