Muslim matters has an interesting discussion going on here. Although the series brings out a lot of issues, one particular that interested me was the issue of ‘haya’. More specifically, haya in terms of clothing among girls especially the way Indo-Pakis view it.

Last Tuesday, during our study circle, some of the Pakistani mothers brought up an issue of raising their teenage daughters. Among their concerns was the dress code at home. Basically, the mothers want the daughters to be dressed modestly at home, i.e. no shorts or sleeveless and prefer if they keep themselves wrapped with a ‘dupatta’ (piece of cloth used to cover from shoulders down to the chest i.e. the places of ‘zeenah’). I wasn’t surprised because I myself come from a Pakistani background. However, I was surprised because the mothers were trying to find an ‘islamic’ excuse to enforce their daughters to do so in the name of ‘haya’ and modesty. They were concerned that if they let their daughters roam around the house in shorts (up to their knees or below) or sleeveless then they will lose from their modesty.

These girls, those mothers were talking about, are quite friendly with me. They had spoken to me before about this problem. They wanted me to convince their mothers to allow them to be ‘comfortable’ at home as long as they don’t cross their limits Islamically. I sort of found myself stuck in a ‘battle’ between mothers and daughters on this issue!

However, I must admit: I am on the daughters’ side on this issue. These girls, mashaAllah, properly cover themselves when they step out of their homes, some even cover MORE then their mothers. They are very modest and shy in public. Since, I believe that they are observing their ‘haya’ at the right place, I believe they should be allowed a bit more freedom at home. For instance, one of these girls was taking a Qur’an class with the Imam of our Masjid. Since she was going to sit in front of the Imam, she felt so shy that she borrowed my niqaab! If the same girl wants to wear shorts (up to her knees or below) or sleeveless at home, I honestly do not see any problem with that.  

I tried to convince their mothers that they must keep in minds that their daughters are not growing up back home where every girl covers herself with a ‘dupatta’ (although now-a-days the purpose is totally defeated). If these girls are covering themselves properly in public places, then they should be given the freedom at home at least. Secondly, haya is not bound and limited to a ‘dupatta’ alone because if this was the case then all the Arab ladies will be considered shameless!

Some mothers seemed convinced but some were still hesitant. Since, I am fairly close to these mothers too, I could give them my honest opinion on this. I truly hope they think about it because it is a quite serious matter for their daughters.

It is quite interesting though, that this is a general trend among many Indian/Pakistani families. The girls are brought up in a certain way and with a certain dress code at home. The mothers themselves are not comfortable with their daughters being dressed in a “different” way at home because of their own upbringing and the environment they had seen around them. However, now that they raise their daughters in Western lands, I honestly believe that they need to realize the difference of place and time.

It could raise a number of problems. Firstly, the daughters may rebel, especially if they feel that they already fight a battle outside their homes with their hijabs & jilbabs then why can’t they be “comfortable” at homes.

Secondly and more seriously, it may arouse marital problems later in their lives. If the mothers successfully instill this shyness, allow me to call it ‘extra’ shyness, and then the girls may not be able to dress/act in certain ways in front of their husbands leading to intimacy problems. I know of some of my Pakistani friends who couldn’t even wear a nighty just because they felt ‘too shy’!

One respected Arab sister, who is a marriage counselor in Houston, asked me once why Pakistani girls were so shy. She told me how majority of the time newly wed Pakistanis have intimacy issues just because girls are too shy and can’t comply with their husbands’ demands. I think my dear Pakistani mothers must keep in mind that the boys who will be marrying their daughters are not those boys anymore who would be content with their wives if they simply put some makeup and jewelry on. Unfortunately, not only time has changed but even the environment around our youth.