Alisha Takes the Veil
Chapter 5 – Veil Rules and Veil Spills
She arrives at work on the Monday and finds only a jalabiya and khimar waiting for her. But as she now knows where everything is kept, by the end of the morning she is wearing a deep red abaya over it.
“I thought I told mother not to overdress you anymore.” her employer remarks as he walks in.
“It was my own choice sir. I felt a little chilly and I’ve got used to wearing it over the last couple of weeks.”
“Yes. It like having your own private space in here. It’s only when I didn’t have an abaya to wear this morning that I noticed it missing.”
“Oh. I see. But I notice you’ve made some extra changes.”
Alisha’s eyes light up. Under the face covering of the abaya lie two layers of the delicate silk gauze, just visible above the line of the main veil.
“The silk is more comfortable sir.”
“Oh, I see. So why not leave the thick veil off then ?”
“Now that would be most immodest sir.” she giggles.
He rushes off to his office and sits down to calm his urges down. How can this girl who almost revolted him by displaying her underwear now be wearing such strict Islamic clothing yet exuding sexual overtones so strongly.
Rana drops into work the following week to see how Alisha is getting on.
“I see you are still wearing a face covering. My son told me to stop preparing one for you.”
“So I gather. I wouldn’t have believed it when you put it on me last time we met but I seem to be getting to quite like it so I found this one myself.”
“You are? I can never handle them myself.”
“Oh you should. It gives you a real sense of privacy. Even now you’re sitting there yet in here is my private space”
“I suppose so. But I don’t think you’ll catch me doing it.”
“Would you mind if I ask some questions about that?”
“Of course not.”
“Well I thought covering the face was a traditional Islamic thing but as you mention you don’t seem to do it.”
She laughs. “It’s an Islamic rule to cover the head. It’s more of an Arabian thing to cover the face all the time as well. Some of them regard the whole of a woman as awrah.”
“The area which must be covered. In front of non-mahrem men it is agreed everything save her face, hands and feet are awrah.”
“Men not closely related to her by birth or marriage.”
“But many argue that all of her, including even her voice, are awrah, and so prohibited from other men as these are in fact the sexiest things that will entice these men the most.”
“Wow. So that’s why some of those black things even cover the eyes ?”
“That’s right. I’m sure you’ve noticed how your own eyes attain new heights of attractiveness when they constitute the major part of you on display.”
“Ah. Yes.” she grins somewhat guiltily. “So how come you don’t hide yourself much?”
“Well I do pull my scarf across my face sometimes. Like this.” she demonstrates.
“Ah, I see. When would you do that then?”
“Well if I’m being served by a young man in a shop. Or meeting a man to discuss business for the first time. Or if I think some pervert is staring at me in an unacceptable sort of way. That sort of thing.”
“I see. And you don’t wear gloves?”
“Oh they’re not needed. I just put them out for you in case you wanted to wear them.”
Alisha grins at this. “I notice you wear bright colours and provide the same for me. Yet my previous image, which I accept appears to be wrong, was that everybody wore black. Though I notice we do seem to sell as many black ones as all other colours put together.”
“Ah. That depends on where you are or where you’re from. In Saudi, Iran and Iraq black totally dominates. But elsewhere they do appreciate a bit of colour. Indeed the most colourful are possibly the desert tribes of Arabia of course. They have some really beautiful veils.”
“Right. And patterns? Or must the material be plain?”
“Provided the pattern isn’t of a complete living thing it’s fine in most places. Even Afghanistan has really delicate embroidery. But again the desert tribes win hands-down. Now they have the only full veils I would want to be seen in. I’ll have to get you one of them for in here. You don’t mind beads and so on dangling in front of your eyes, do you?”
“Sounds interesting. I’ll give it a try. I’ve seen some veils in films made of gold coins. Is that for real or just a harem fantasy?”
“Oh they are for real alright. In real harems that is.”
“Ah. So you don’t know what they are like then?”
“Ask Soraya in Yemen when you speak to her on the phone next. If anybody has ever worn one, she will.”
“Thanks. So anybody can wear any full veil? You don’t have to come from that region?”
“Oh no. There are plenty of girls in Pakistan wearing full niqab as it’s called. And others no covering at all. And I expect elsewhere many would prefer to wear hijab or nothing at all but they get stopped from doing so.”
“That’s not so good then.”
“It’s just the way of those countries. On the other extreme some countries here in Europe are thinking of banning such attire yet their own girls can wander round almost naked.”
‘Whoops.’ Alisha blushes, assuming this is another remark about her interview attire.
“But is it acceptable for one to wear more veiling than is usual?”
“Of course. There’s no rule on wearing too much. I’ve seen some girls who I’m sure cannot see out of their veils at all.”
Alisha gasps, “Surely not.”
“I believe it is the case.”
“How do they move around?”
“Well, either they are led around by their father, brothers or husband.”
“Or they remain where they are left until their veil is removed.”
“Wow. They must be obedient to do that.”
“Indeed. A virtue I understand Muslim men find irresistible.”
“I see. But you …” she struggles to ask the obvious question.
“Oh I find it easier not to be irresistible. In fact I used to tell my husband exactly what to do. I can’t be into all that obedience lark. Far too much hassle. Simpler to tell them what to do and let them get on with it. Same applies to my son, his brother and their cousins.”
Alisha smiles. Rana is obviously the matriarch of her employer’s extended family. “So can I wear any type of garment on top of another type? And perhaps another one after that?”
“Of course. Girls in some countries are really into layering like that,” the elder woman laughs, “provided you don’t mind the heat that is.”
“And it’s alright to show you are wearing so much?”
“I can’t think of any rule which tells you not to.”
The conversation moves onto other things, then to a question Alisha has been wanting to ask for some time.
“So when will your son get married? I’ve read that the mother has to help find a bride for him.”
“Oh, that’s for strict families only. In fact it’s usually the girl’s parents who invite proposals from the parents of suitable men. But I think at his age its better left to him to find a prospective wife himself and make the proposal to her parents, don’t you?”
“Uh … perhaps. Do the parents decide then?”
“Oh no. They give advice to their offspring but Islam insists either of the prospective partners can say no.”
“I see. You son is good looking though, isn’t he, yet he doesn’t appear to have an interest in any girl at the moment?”
“You’re asking a lot of personal questions about your employer.”
“Whoops. Sorry. I shouldn’t do, should I? I’d better get back to work.”
“It’s alright. I didn’t say that was a bad thing.” Rana laughs, “And no, he doesn’t. The last girl he met was a very poor match.”
“Why was that?”
“Oh she was like me. I don’t think he wants another woman telling him what to do, do you?”
“No. I don’t think he would handle that well.” Alisha giggles, “He needs somebody to do as he says.”
“There’s not many of those around here. I used to hope he’d meet somebody suitable on one of his business trips abroad but that’s where she came from. They were intending to get married but I spoke to her and his brother to him and they agreed to call it off.”
“Oh. It got that far. I bet he wasn’t pleased. Or her in fact.”
“Her father was the most displeased. He’d paid for an air ticket for him and his daughter to come and see us.”
“Ah. Where was she from?”
“That’s alright then. They’re all loaded, aren’t they?”
“Not really. Wealth is spread about as equally there as it is anywhere else.”
“Oh. So how did they meet?”
“My son was doing business with her father.”
“I see. I assume they don’t anymore.”
“So what did he like in her?”
“Well she seemed to be nice and obedient which of course he liked.”
“But you said …”
“Yes. And her father had told her to hide such tendencies until after the wedding at all costs. It took me talking to her alone to discover her true self.”
“Why couldn’t he do that?”
“Our religion doesn’t allow him to meet her alone. He can meet her with a chaperone but dating isn’t permitted.”
“I see. Is being strong willed that usual in Muslim women?”
“More than you think. Just because we veil doesn’t make us all meek and mild.”
“So she veiled then?”
“Oh you couldn’t even see her, just a black shroud. Here’s a photo.” she pulls some out of the recesses of the large handbag she carries.
“So she regarded her whole self as awrah wasn’t it you said?”
“What about indoors ?”
“That was what she wore indoors, even just with me there. She seemed to veil all the time. I bet she even slept veiled.”
“Can you do that?”
“I don’t see why not?”
“Wouldn’t you suffocate?”
“Oh you’d wake up long before that.”
“You hope! And he liked that?”
“Well he seemed to. Though perhaps it was all the veils that hid her real self from him. Anyway since then he’s been far too choosy, I suppose because of what he thinks I will say or do.”
‘Even better!’ Alisha thinks to herself, ‘At least his mother appears to like me.’
“So does she have to be a Muslimah?”
“Hmm. It has been known for this not to be the case but it causes all sorts of problems. Best not I think.”
‘Shit!’ she thinks to herself, then asks “May I ask another rather awkward question?”
“Well is it true that Muslim men can have four wives or is that just a story? Do they really have that much sex drive to keep so many happy?”
“Well.” Rana is put on the back foot a bit. “In theory Islam allows you to take four wives but only provided you can support them all equally and properly.”
“Oh.” Alisha mouth opens wide though fortunately nowadays this isn’t obvious to those around her.
“But if I’d have found my husband flirting with other women I’d have castrated him on the spot so his in any case somewhat limited sex drive would have ended there and then ! And I trust whoever marries my son will do the same. There might have been a glut of young widows and unmarried girls in the old days because the men were always fighting wars but I think nowadays the numbers of each sex are fairly even.”
This time Alisha grins.
“The films make out your men are all great lovers.”
“I doubt if it was Muslim women making these films.”
“I suppose not.” Alisha laughs.
“And I’ve heard that said about the French as well, haven’t I?”
“Uh … probably, yes.”
“But I’ve also heard they’re often fat and smell of garlic. Does that sound like the sort of man who needs lots of sex drive?”
Alisha giggles once more at this.
“But your son mentioned that female bodies drive Muslim men to such levels of distraction they cannot control themselves.”
“Hmm. I think that’s just their excuse for poor manners. I’ve had my bottom felt even in the shalwar kameez.”
“Oh. You mean like …”
“Your previous employers? I’m afraid so. It’s rampant everywhere. But if you are wearing something like you are then the girl is deemed to most definitely not be tempting him on so she is in the right and they know they have to control themselves or else. There’s a similar attitude here where a girl attacked wearing a very short skirt is sometimes said to have attracted trouble whereas if she has a long skirt she didn’t.”
“That’s true. Though I’m sure one can make this attire tempting.”
“Of course you can. You can probably even do so in a black chador though I’ve never tried it. But at least you call the shots and can control the situation a bit.”
“Hmm. I’m not sure I could make one of them look sexy.”
“Come on then, let’s try you in one and see what you can do.”
And before Alisha knows it, she is being dressed in two examples of the black garment. The first one is just slightly more restrictive than her abaya so doesn’t seems too bad were it not for the unattractive black look. But when the second one totally covers her face she decides this definitely isn’t the garment for her.
“Uh, how do I make this tempting?” she asks from under the shroud.
“Try moving provocatively perhaps?”
Rana is at best now an outline figure in front of her but she shuffles forward towards her, unable to see much through the black haze that has fallen over the room.
And then for only the second time since she joined the company she trips over a box on the ground. She falls to the ground in a most inelegant, and even less tempting, manner.
“How can you walk in this? I never even saw it there.”
“I’m not sure. I’ve never worn one before either.”
“Great.” she mutters to herself under her covering as she picks herself up.
Whilst she is undressing Alisha for the second time, Rana is quite forthright in expressing her opinions, dispelling many of Alisha’s preconceptions on Islamic culture, improving both her understanding and opinion of it all the time.
“So are you still religious? My son told me about you had aspirations to become a nun once.”
“Ah.” she blushes, “Well I used to be religious when I was young. I’ll always remember my First Communion when I was a young girl. That was the first time I wore a real veil. Not like this of course, just a little one on the back of my head.”
“I’m sure you looked gorgeous.”
“Oh I doubt it.”
“Oh all young girls look gorgeous when dressed up properly for their place of worship. You should see my granddaughter Nasreen with all the other girls in their prayer outfits. They all look wonderful. It’s the boys, young and old, that ruin it.”
Alisha instinctively goes to place a hand over her mouth to stop Rana seeing her grin though of course it fails to quite get there. She remembers the prayer gown in the catalogue. A little girl would indeed look really cute in it.
Then she continues with her story.
“My grandmother used to tell me stories of how church used to be when she was young. Apparently all women had to cover their heads in those days whilst in church. They wore all sorts of lace or other veils. When I was young she showed me pictures of church when she was my age and I thought her church was such a beautiful place that I asked my mother when we went the next Sunday why couldn’t we go to the nice church rather than this horrible one.”
“I got a right spanking. The priest was standing at the door when I said it.”
“Oh dear. So why did they stop wearing veils?”
“Oh I think the Pope decided to modernise things. They thought all the old customs were putting people off coming as attendances at church were declining.”
“And were they?”
“Well possibly for the men. The rate at which male attendances were dropping fell, if you see what I mean.”
“I think so. And for the women?”
“I expect they plummeted. My grandmother only started going once a week. My mother only went regularly when I was young and I haven’t been for years.”
“Doesn’t sound like a good piece of marketing then.”
“No.” Alisha grins, “It wasn’t.”
“Mind you.” Rana replies, “Women don’t have to go to the mosque at all. It’s only the men who do. Perhaps your church was after something like that?”
“I think they’d have been a lot more successful with going for a female-only policy with everybody in nice long dresses and veils.”
“So ever since then I’ve associated veils with beauty.”
“Seems you’ve come to the right place then.”
“Seems I have.” she grins, “But promise me you won’t bring in any more of these shapeless black things for me to wear. They are not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination even before I’m lying in an equally shapeless pile on the floor.”
“Oh don’t worry about that. In Pakistan we love our colours. However will you let me show you how black can also be beautiful ?”
“Uh … okay then.”
They carry on talking until the person most often being discussed appears.
“Oh, hello mother.” he greets her in a somewhat downbeat voice.
“It’s alright. I’m just leaving.” she gives a mock gesture of being kicked out.