Artwork by Mariam Magsi, part of the exhibition Artwork & Storytelling: Speak Up!
This is Humna’s story.
Assalamualaikum! My name is Humna and I am a housewife. Purdah means to veil a woman’s body. I was born in an Islamic environment in a Muslim household and observing purdah is important to me. You see there are three things in the world we must look at when discussing the practice of purdah. May I?
Number 1. The house of God is Kaabah and it has a cloth over it.
Number 2. There are so many books but Quran is one book that is usually covered with a cloth.
…and Number 3. Woman! A woman’s body, a Muslim woman’s body should be covered so that when she leaves the house, she can run her errands comfortably.
I was 23 when I started wearing the niqab. I never used to veil in this way before. In fact, I wore all kinds of clothes. Even sleeveless. Then I began to observe Islamic rituals with discipline. I kept reading and researching. I discovered that women who show off their skin will not see any corner of heaven. I went for pilgrimage and made a pact with myself that I will start wearing the niqab.
Nobody in my family practices this form of purdah. This was my choice entirely.
You know the other day I was out shopping with my husband and we decided to stop at food street to grab a quick bite. An elderly man in western attire, sporting a cane walked up to my husband, pointed the cane at me and said, ‘If you want to keep her covered up like that, then keep her at home! Why have you brought her outdoors at all if you’re going to dress her this way?’
Can you believe that? The nerve! I glared at him, stepped in front of my husband and snapped back, ‘You want to talk about my purdah, you address me directly. You don’t need to ask my husband this question. If I had a problem wearing this veil outdoors then I would have stayed at home. I am perfectly happy!’
The man was so ashamed of himself and rightfully so.
Artwork: Mariam Magsi, Humna, part of the series Purdah, 2017. Installed as part of the exhibition Art & Storytelling: Speak Up! (Aug 27 – Dec 14, 2018). Learn more here.
This art installation highlights the diversity of personal stories to enrich the public discourse. Opinions expressed belong to the participants.