A Ramadan Tale
by Dave Potter
Exclusively for the ‘Tales of the Veils’ website
It is a Sunday afternoon in the household of the Ardawi family. Soraya has just cooked a delicious lunch and everyone is relaxing. After helping with the washing-up, Jamila, comes to join her younger sister out in the garden where they are enjoying the sun.
“How are things going?”
“All good but I am worrying about the next few weeks.”
“Why is that?”
“You know why: it is Ramadan and I always struggle to keep the fast, particularly during these long summer days. We have fourteen hours of daylight to contend with this year and I struggle to fast for eight! Last year I only lasted a week into it and the year before that it was ten days!”
“But you are not so religious and I’m sure that Ali doesn’t mind.”
“That is true on both counts: Ali rarely bothers and I am no member of the haram police it is true, but like you, I have my faith and wish to keep it. Ali doesn’t mind, but Allah does.”
“That is true I suppose. I too struggle to keep the fast and although I managed two years ago, last year I only managed a fortnight. Of course we can make it up later and I have done that but even so, it’s not the same. Still, I am glad you raised the subject and I shall try to think of a solution.”
The next week it was the turn of the whole family to go to their parents’ house. Again after lunch the two sisters got chatting about the upcoming Ramadan fast.
“Sister, come with me, I think I have a solution to your problem!” said Jamila holding a carrier bag.
Intrigued Soraya followed her upstairs and into the guest bedroom. They shut the door and then Jamila said, “I have been thinking about your dilemma all week and praying about it and I think I may have found a solution. Ramadan is meant to be a time when we become more religious, right? So why not look to religious sisters for inspiration?”
She took out of the bag some black material and gave it to her sister. Soraya unfolded it and then gasped. It was a niqaab!
“What is this?” she asked astonished. “I am no Salafi you know!”
“I know,” replied Jamila, “and neither am I, but these are necessary. Put this on!”
She handed her a second item which was a black ball of rubber on a strap. It was a gag! She got a similar one and put it in her own mouth so that her pretty face was now distorted, the mouth held open by the black ball.
“What…” Soraya began to ask, but Jamila replied with a “Mmmphf!” and a gesture that meant do as she said, so Soraya put the elastic strap around her head and popped the ball into her mouth. It held it opened and with it in no intelligible speech could be heard. Then Jamila took the niqaab and tied it over her hijab, gesturing for her sister to do the same. Once fitted, there was no sign that the girls were gagged at all. Reaching under her veil, Jamila removed her gag and then spoke: “Pious sisters often gag to preserve their voice modesty just as they veil to preserve their physical modesty and I thought why not use them as inspiration? If we are gagged and then veiled, we shall be less tempted to eat and even drink water as we shall be unable to do either! These gags have elasticated cords and can easily be slipped out to speak should we need to, but I also have a pair of more secure ones that have to be unlocked before they can be removed. They should be worn at home where the temptation to eat and drink is greater, but these ones can be worn outside where we have to communicate.”
Jamila replaced her gag and Soraya removed hers. “I like the way that you are thinking as they certainly help lead us away from temptation and not only that, we are asked not to swear during Ramadan and this can assist with that as no sudden outbursts can be made when gagged and if we think before we speak we are less likely to swear, However, I am a little worried about what people will think? We are no Salafi extremists after all and I am not sure how my boss will react at work, let alone Ali and even mum and dad.”
She replaced her gag and Jamila removed hers. “Well, regarding your boss, then you should ask first and as for the others, why not try them now?!”
Soraya nodded, grinning into her gag and the veiled sisters both went downstairs.
A month later: Eid al-Fitr
Now five weeks have passed since we last met the Fazilana family and they are all gathering at their parents’ house again. The families troop in as normal except that the usually glamourous and fashionable Soraya and Jamila have been replaced by two black cones with only their eyes showing. Before starting the fast, they decided to buy more modest abayahs with closed facial openings making it more difficult to remove the gags and veils. From that information we can guess that their parents and husbands, though shocked, had agreed to the temporary veiling, as to had their bosses at work. And so, for an entire month, the Fazilana sisters have been silent and hidden. However, as soon as the feast is laid out before them, the black abayahs and niqaabs are removed to reveal two glamourously dressed and made-up beauties whose appearance is only marred by the black rubber balls forcing their mouths wide open. These are now removed and the two sisters flex their aching jaws for a few seconds before then embracing their family and settling down to the meal.
Afterwards, dad asks them how it has been. “Well,” says Soraya, “it was a challenge make no mistake about it. I felt anonymous and wanted to speak so often, plus my jaw really hurt with the gag, but I managed to keep the fast for the first time ever when it has fallen in the summer so I suppose it has been worth it.”
“I agree with all of that,” added Jamila, “and I too have kept the fast for the first time in years. Besides, being hidden from the gaze of men is not all bad; I got on with my work better and the boss was pleased. But I worry that it was too hard on you?”
“Hard on me??!” laughed her husband. “To have peace and quiet for a whole month was not hard, it was like being in Paradise!”
“I agree entirely,” added Ali. “This year, rather than wishing for Ramadan to end, I wanted it to stay forever!”
Soraya punched her husband jokingly in the ribs and the whole family laughed. But then, to everyone’s surprise, Jamila had something else to say: “I know this may come as a shock to you, but what Ali says is not so far from my own thoughts. A month ago I never believed I would even contemplate such things, but Ramadan is meant to bring us closer to Allah and this year it has certainly worked. I have talked about this with Hassan and also with my boss and both are in agreement: I have decided to veil and gag outdoors from now on all the year round and next Ramadan I may even try eye-veiling. Don’t worry, I have not become a bigoted Salafi type, I am still a total Sufi as our family has always been, but I do feel that this can help me get closer to union with Allah. My only question is, mum, Soraya, do you fancy joining me…?
Copyright © 2015, Dave Potter