Alisha Earns Her Veil
© “Michelle” 2005
Chapter 17 – Little Girls Should Be Veiled and Not Heard
After visiting the mosque on Friday, Rana drops Karima back off at work but still has Zinah and Alisha in her car later on when she collects Nasreen from school.
“So how was school today ?” her great-grandmother asks.
“Oh, boring as usual great-grandmamma.”
“That is hardly the attitude my young girl !” Zinah reprimands her as harshly as she has done her mother, “You should pay attention to everything you learn at school. When I was young girls were not even allowed to go to school.”
“Cool. More time for fun then.”
“Hardly my dear. We had to work with our mothers doing the cleaning and cooking. Certainly no time for fooling around.”
“So you had better begin working hard at school next week.”
“I can’t great-grandmamma.”
“Why not ?”
“It’s half term. I’m on holiday all week.”
“Oh even better then,” Zinah laughs, “I’ll have you doing something really useful all week then.”
“But what ? Little girls should be seen and not heard.”
“But my friend Kylie comes and stays here in the day.”
“I’m afraid that is true.” Rana joins the conversation, “Karima and her mother both work so I look after the two little horrors.”
“Well perhaps we should both look after them then.” Zinah laughs, “Then perhaps we can change their description.”
‘Ah. I think I’d better talk to Kylie’s mother.’ Rana thinks to herself.
She phones Kylie’s mother that evening and explains that Nasreen will be expected to obey her great-grandmother for the week.
“She’s rather, how shall I say this, traditional.”
“You mean strict ?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Does she make Nasreen wear a veil and so on ?”
“Oh … uh … she might actually. She wouldn’t do that to Kylie of course.”
“No … let her.” comes a surprising response, “My daughter is always asking about that sort of thing as she and Nasreen are best friends. Perhaps a week of doing it properly will teach them both something.”
“You mean like never get involved with an old Pakistani woman ?” Rana laughs.
“Something like that.” Kylie’s mother laughs back, “But don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll get by just fine.”
“Well if it’s alright with you ?”
“Of course. And if you’re able, perhaps you can loan her all of the right clothing. Nasreen tells her it’s fun to wear so she’s always asking what it’s like and we obviously haven’t a clue.”
“Well if you don’t mind ?”
“Why should I mind ?” comes a giggly reply, “I’m not the one wearing it.”
“I suppose there is that. But won’t Kylie mind ?”
“Well at least it will stop her asking us questions we can’t possibly answer all the time then, won’t it ?”
“I suppose it will. I’ll collect her on Monday morning as usual then.”
“Uh, I hope you don’t mind me asking this but would it be possible for you to put her up some nights ? We’re having a new bathroom fitted so things are a bit basic here right now.”
“Of course. How long did you have in mind ?”
“How long can you have her ?”
“All week if you want. Nasreen will love having her to stay.”
“You’ll regret saying that but if you’re okay with it I’ll tell Kylie she’s going to experience a whole week of Asian living.”
“Well if that doesn’t put her off !”
“Well at the end of the day what is there apart from dress, food and discipline.”
“Well perhaps I’ve misunderstood but I get the impression that your mother is somewhat stricter than Karima or I ?”
“You could say that.”
“Well then. It shouldn’t do Kylie any harm. She can be a right madam sometimes.”
“So can Nasreen. It comes with the age.”
“Tell me about it ! But with your mother telling them what to do and both of them having to behave in front of each other it might do them both a world of good.”
“Well if you’re sure …”
“I’ll phone each night. I can always come and collect Kylie if you can’t handle her.”
“Oh I’m sure we can handle her. It’s whether she can handle Zinah that worries me.”
“Oh they’ll be fine I’m sure.”
“Okay. By the way if your bathroom is out of action Kylie is welcome to come earlier.”
“Are you sure ?”
“I’ll be right over.” Kylie’s mother laughs.
And an hour later, Rana greets a rather surprised looking Kylie at the door of Hussain’s house.
“Mum told me I’m staying with you all week.”
“But I’ve got to dress and eat like Nasreen does.”
“Well we won’t force it on you but your mother thought you might at least give it a try.”
“That’s alright. Nasreen always say it’s fun.”
“That’s good. Nasreen !” Rana calls out.
Said person comes crashing down the stairs as usual.
“Kylie ! What are you doing here ?”
“I’m staying with you all week.”
“I thought I had to wear a veil but you aren’t.”
“Not indoors silly. Well not unless great-grandmother is around. She likes all girls and women to be veiled all the time.” Nasreen comments then looks at Rana, “Or at least all young women. Grandmothers don’t count.”
Rana smiles but says nothing.
“So where is your great-grandmother ?”
“Next door. We’re safe for now.”
They head up to Nasreen’s bedroom and are soon chatting long into the night.
Rana wakes them the next morning. This time Nasreen does cover her head as she knows she will be expected to visit Zinah this morning.
“What shall I wear ?”
“Choose anything of mine that you like.”
“Why don’t you wear a veil at school ?”
“My mother won’t let me.”
“Oh. But she makes you wear one at home ?”
“No. My great-grandmother makes me wear one. She makes my mother wear one as well. We’ll be going next door to see her shortly.”
Shrieks of laughter indicate they are having fun choosing their outfits for the day but eventually they appear, both wearing prayer gowns with their mouth and noses covered.
“Oh my.” Rana grins, “Don’t you both look cute.”
“Thank you grandmother.”
“Is Kylie okay with the robe ? You’re not going to the mosque or anything.”
“I like the pink and it’s a nice pattern.” Kylie explains, “Though it’s odd having your arms sort of trapped inside.”
“Tell me about it.” Rana laughs, “But why are you both wearing face veils ?”
“I wanted to show Kylie what it’s like.”
“Hmm. She hasn’t even got used to the hijab yet and you’re putting her into niqab !”
“I showed her my burqa. She wants to try that later.”
“Oh dear.” Rana puts on a mock sigh.
“But we haven’t put that on now as there’s only one of those.”
“I see. Aren’t those Alisha’s face veils anyway ?”
“I haven’t got any of my own so I borrowed a few the other day. I would have asked her for them but she is always looking after great-grandmamma.”
“It’s alright. I’m sure she won’t mind. Are you okay with this Kylie ?”
“It’s okay.” the girl’s eyes shine, “It tickles my nose though.”
“That’s right. That’s to remind you you’re wearing it. If your nose isn’t either pressed flat, tickled or irritated in some other manner you’ve forgotten to put it back up after you pulled it down to drink or something.”
“So what do we have to do ?” Nasreen asks.
“Well you’ve got to do what your great-grandmother wants. Kylie can read or something while you do.”
“It’s alright, Mrs Khan. My mother explained and said I would get a nice surprise at the end of the week if I did whatever Nasreen has to.”
“Oh boy will you get a surprise when you see what Nasreen has to do.” Rana mutters to herself, then resumes her normal voice, “Oh … okay then. Put a selection of these samosas on a couple of plates and you can serve them to Zinah.”
They walk the short distance across to Rana and Javed’s house and into the front room where Zinah is sitting with Alisha kneeling beside her.
“Oh don’t you both look lovely. Who is this Nasreen ?”
“She is my friend Kylie.”
“I am glad to meet you Kylie. Are you a good girl ?”
“Yes miss. I think so.” the young girl gives the briefest of curtsies.
“Oh I think I stopped being a miss a long, long time ago.” Zinah laughs, “May I have a samosa ?”
With a girl standing each side offering her their plates, Zinah takes one from each and sits back to eat.
“Stay there please. These are very nice and I may want some more.”
Rana spends the rest of the morning and early afternoon talking with Zinah. With both of them only taking a samosa occasionally, holding the plates still for long periods of time becomes very tiring for young arms. Alisha has long since resigned herself to a day of doing nothing other than occasionally being used as a footstall but Rana is quite surprised at how long it takes before the much younger girls eventually become fidgety.
“I want to take a nap.” Zinah suddenly tells them, “Could you two please go and warm my bed. It is quite chilly normally.”
“Oh. Shall I turn the radiator up ?” Rana asks.
“No need. I am sure these two young things will have it warm in no time.”
Nasreen and Kylie look at each other with confused looks on their faces.
“Put the plates down and come with me.” Rana tells them.
She leads them to Zinah’s room via the bathroom, reminding them that as they are veiled climbing the stairs is a quiet activity. She pulls back the duvet and indicates for both of them to get under still fully dressed and veiled. They do so and she tucks them in tightly.
“Now remember you’re here to warm the bed, not to talk.” Rana instructs them, “If I hear any voices I’ll search out your baby dummies.”
She returns to the lounge.
“Well it’s two o’clock now. What time were you thinking of having your nap ?”
“Oh about nine tonight.” Zinah smiles, “The bed should be nice and warm by then, especially with all that fidgeting they were doing.”
“Ah.” Rana grins back, then laughs “That will keep them busy, won’t it !?”
Of course within the hour, whispers are heard from the bedroom but a quick trip next door to find the previously mentioned dummies solves this problem once and for all. Kylie’s mother phones during the evening and is quite amused to hear of her daughter’s current situation.
“Now why didn’t I think of that ?”
“My pleasure.” Rana laughs, “Just let us know if you ever need to borrow Nasreen to help warm up your own bed.”
“I might just take you up on that.”
Of course by the time Zinah is ready for bed, it is well past bedtime for the young girls so after some supper with Karima followed by a quick wash and change, both assume they will be sent to bed. However Rana has other ideas which become apparent when they reach Nasreen’s bedroom.
“Do you pray Kylie ?”
“Uh … a bit at school.”
“Well Nasreen has to a lot more here I’m afraid. She will be doing her Islamic prayers on the floor that side of the bed so perhaps you’d like to pass the time doing your own ones on this side.”
“Oh.” Kylie seems rather shocked at this.
“Or you can just get into bed and try to get to sleep while Nasreen is bobbing up and down on the floor and muttering to herself.”
Kylie grins at this.
“I’ll say my prayers.”
“Good girl. I’ll come and tell you both when Nasreen has done enough.”
It is almost two hours later and not long before midnight that Rana appears. Amazingly Nasreen has taken a leaf out of Alisha’s book and appears to have been praying all this time. Kylie had looked on in fascination when Nasreen did the obligatory prayers, chanting in Arabic and indeed bobbing up and down like a yo-yo. Later she had mostly listened in when Nasreen deliberately made her personal prayers in English but to her credit she has remained knelt by the bed all the time with her hands held together.
“Right girls, that should have you nice and tired again. Into bed.”
Rana tucks them both into Nasreen’s rather smaller bed.
“Now no talking tonight or these will be going back in all night.” she points to the dummies now sitting on the table to the side of the bed.
Two heads nod and she leaves and puts the lights out.
Only once the house seems totally quiet do the two rather shell-shocked girls risk conversation.
“Is it normally like this ?” Kylie asks.
“Not for me. But it is for Alisha. I once put her to bed for a whole night and day ?”
“So we might be in here for that long ?”
“Wow. And do you normally have to pray for so long ?”
“Not usually but Alisha is older so she has to. I expect I will when I’m older but grandmother is trying to treat us like we’re a bit more grown-up because you’re here.
“But we’d better be quiet now or we’ll end up being treated like babies again with those stuffed in our mouths.”
“Oh. What would happen if we removed them ?”
“On your bottom. Hard.”
“Doesn’t your mother or father ever spank you ?”
“Uh … not with a slipper. What’s it like ?”
“Painful. You won’t be so naughty after having that done.”
“Oh. We’d better be quiet then.”
Listening just outside the door, Rana grins to herself as the pair inside convince themselves to be quiet without her intervention.
‘I really must discuss using the slipper with Kylie’s mother.’ she thinks, then laughs “Just in case Zinah decides it’s needed of course.”
The next day they ask Zinah about what might happen to them if they lived in Pakistan.
“Well I’ve got lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren about your age. They go to a school where the girls have to behave impeccably or else.”
“What do they do great-grandmamma ?”
“Oh, they get treated like the flock of young lambs they are, herded from class to class in strict lines. Any girl getting out of formation gets quite a whacking.”
“With a cane.”
“Doesn’t that … uh … hurt ?” Kylie gulps.
“Oh yes. Keeps them all on their toes though … well except when they’re on their knees.”
“On their knees ?” the young visitor asks again.
“For prayer. Every lesson begins and ends with prayer.”
“That’s am awful lot of prayer.”
“Oh yes. They insist on four hours a day.”
“Four hours !”
“When at school. Each girl is expected to do the same at home.”
“So Muslim girls have to pray for eight hours ?”
“What about the boys ?”
“Well they have to behave as well but they have more to learn at school and at the mosque each evening so there’s a bit less time for prayer.”
“Oh. But do all the girls really pray this much ?”
“Well they’re supposed to. Though some schools suspect some girls don’t do enough at home so they have special classes some weekends where everybody has to come in to do a whole eight hours there and then. It’s very convenient for the parents as it keeps their daughters out from under their feet all day of course.”
“Uh … so some do more than eight hours ?”
“Oh I do hope so. A young girl only needs about eight hours sleep and I don’t think she needs to spend half of her waking hours on things like helping her mother clean and cook, learning her schoolwork and so on, do you ?”
“Uh …” Kylie is still shocked from several sentences ago, “Don’t they mind this ?”
“Since when was a little girl capable of choosing how best to use her time ?”
“Oh.” somebody who is well used to having such a choice begins to be glad she lives precisely where she does.
“So what do they learn then ?” Nasreen wisely asks before somebody asks just how much prayer she usually does each day.
“Well mostly how to pray I suppose.” Zinah laughs, “But reading, writing and arithmetic of course. English as a foreign language, geography and so on. The same as you mostly.”
“Do they all wear these headscarves ?”
“Oh yes. All the girls in a school look absolutely identical. With their hands over their face for prayer it is supposed to be impossible to tell who is who.”
“Oh. So these girls don’t actually get caned then ? It doesn’t sound like they have time to be naughty.”
“Of course they get caned. A good teacher doesn’t need to wait until somebody’s actually been naughty to cane the whole class, does she ? There’s nothing like a good caning and very sore bottoms to keep a class of little girls well behaved, is there ?”
“I … uh … don’t know … I expect so.” Kylie stutters and gulps some more.
“Well we could always arrange for you to try if you want.”
“I don’t think we’d better.” Rana decides to intervene before things go any further, “I’m sure Kylie and Nasreen will be perfectly behaved until the end of your visit without having sore bottoms to remind them to do so.”
“Well if you think so.” Zinah relents.
Of course having done such a good job warming Zinah’s bed, she requests they go and do so again soon after. And once back in Nasreen’s bedroom late that evening, Rana decides she had better up the prayer time some more in case Zinah asks.
This repeats on each of the following days, Zinah sometimes sending to her bed as soon as she gets up and Rana even once leaving them praying until dawn. By the time her mother collects her on Saturday morning, Kylie works out that of the roughly one hundred and eighty hours she has spent there, sixty hours were spent in a prayer gown on her knees in prayer, forty hours in her nightdress sleeping with Nasreen, another sixty hours were spent in niqab warming up Zinah’s bed, twelve hours were spent attending to Zinah’s needs in other ways whilst also wearing niqab, and a total of only eight hours were spent talking, eating, washing and changing. She just hopes nobody asks her if she has had an exciting holiday.
But of course her mother has been well briefed on her activities and as soon as they arrive home poor Kylie is sent straight to bed.
“We don’t want you tired for school on Monday, do we ?”
“Oh mum !”
“Now, now my girl. Rana told me how to use this.” she reaches for her slipper.
“Yes mum.” the girl heads for her bedroom where apart from occasional trips to the new bathroom she remains until Monday morning.
Nasreen meanwhile is also in her room but is on the floor, not in her bed. Rana is claiming that her prayers during her friend’s visit were somewhat reduced and she now has a huge backlog to catch up on. She most likely will be tired on Monday morning !
Monday and Tuesday evening see Nasreen back on bed warming duty alone but on Wednesday she is allowed to take the day off school as they all go to say goodbye to Zinah at the airport. Javed’s presence means Alisha has to be completely covered, a task easily achieved with Rana’s latest creation, impressing Zinah once more that her grandson has indeed found the perfect wife. Next to her an identically clad Karima indicates her other grandson has already done likewise.
For those inside Rana’s creations, the outlook is a little less impressive. Layer upon layer of loose robes have been draped over their shoulders until all hint of their body outlines are long lost. However even burqas still show an outline of the head, an apparent defect Rana decides she will attempt to solve. The two women’s heads are covered with a thickly padded khimar, blanking out most sound and removing any sense of comfort. Atop the khimar sits a flat hat off of which what can best be described as layered curtains isolate Alisha and Karima from seeing or being seen.
“Most impressive.” Zinah nods approvingly, “I trust they will wear these regularly.”
“They had better.” Rana laughs, “It’s taken our tame student designer a month to make Alisha’s and then I had to get him to rush off a copy for Karima in just over a week.”
“Well it’s been well worth it. Can they hear me ?”
“Probably not. There’s a MP3 player which repeats all the rules a good Muslimah must live by playing in both ears.”
“What is an MP3 player ?”
“It’s a sort of electronic tape recorder with no cassette. It’s a good way of keeping them occupied rather than having them standing around making idle chit-chat.”
“I see. Most thoughtful of you. So which rules does it remind them of ?”
“Oh most are on there. It plays them randomly. But obeying one’s husband without hesitation, thought or question comes up regularly as it has been recorded several times.”
“Most sensible.” Zinah replies whilst Javed and Hussain look around somewhat embarrassed in case somebody should think it is their idea to inflict this on their fiancée and wife respectively.
Rana continues “As does being properly veiled like this of course. And obeying the call to prayer. Offering your body to your husband no matter what your own state of mind is. Lots more like that.”
“I approve. Does Nasreen have one ?”
“Not yet. Do you think she should ?”
“Of course. So do this pair even know where they are ?”
“Oh I expect so. Their sore feet will be telling them. These outfits aren’t light.”
“Excellent.” Zinah tries lifting the outer layer of the curtains but finds another layer within still hiding the occupant thoroughly.
“Goodbye Alisha !” she speaks loudly enough to get a nod in return from the gagged occupant within.
“Goodbye Karima !” she repeats the process, “I look forward to meeting you again on my return.”
She then turns to the others.
“Now I must get off. Goodbye Rana. Goodbye Javed, you have chosen well. Goodbye Hussain, you are also blessed with a fine wife.”
“And a hot one.” Javed whispers in Rana’s ear.
“What about me, great-grandmamma !?”
“Oh we always leave the best until last, don’t we ?” Zinah addresses the girl who is despite Rana’s protests wearing another one of her prayer gowns, these having now more or less become her standard attire whilst not at school.
“Now don’t go getting that dirty my little one or you won’t be allowed in the mosque to pray.”
“Let me hear one now then.”
Parveen makes a quick prayer for her great-grandmother to have a safe trip home.
Zinah is visibly touched by this as is Rana, but after a few moments has something to say as usual.
“Where are your gloves my dear child ?”
“I don’t have any great-grandmamma.”
“Oh my, that won’t do.” she smiles, then turns to her own daughter-in-law and barks “Rana, please ensure she does in future. How can you allow such a wonderful child to go around in public half-naked !”
“Of course mother.” Rana bows her head.
Zinah turns back to Nasreen.
“There then, this won’t be a problem again. And I want you to promise me you will still wear the veil once I’m gone. I realise you can’t wear it in school until you are older but I think it isn’t too much to ask you try to put on at least a headscarf once you come home to make up for it.”
“I promise great-grandmamma.”
“And if there are men visitors then you must cover your face and hands as well.”
“Is this okay ?” this time Nasreen has fashioned a face veil from a second robe so it doesn’t cover her as well as Alisha’s proper ones do.
“It’s fine until you’re older. You don’t need to cover for uncle Javed but you must for Alisha’s father and anybody else who comes to the house.”
“Of course. So when must I wear my burqa to cover me properly ?”
“I think we’ll discuss that when you’re older. I’d just keep that for fun for now.”
“But my mother doesn’t like me wearing it. I need you to tell me when I must.”
“Do you like wearing it ?”
“Sometimes. It makes me feel grown up.”
“I think others might disagree with you.” Zinah looks across at Karima who is of course totally unaware of what is being discussed. “I suggest your father decide this. I’ll ask him when you have to make sure he remembers to let you sometimes.”
Hussain smiles and nods.
Zinah then drops a huge kiss on the mouth of the youngster before heading through to the airport departures lounge.
“Well my face veil worked well again.” Nasreen grins once she has gone, “My mouth doesn’t taste of all of her creams either.”
“Hmm.” Rana smiles.
“Can I just pop to the toilet before we leave ?”
“Oh no my child. A Muslimah cannot be seen going into a toilet next to the gentlemen’s toilet in case a good Muslim man should exit at the same time. It would embarrass both of you far too much.”
“Why isn’t there a ladies’ toilet away from the gentlemen’s one then ?”
“Why indeed ?” Rana grins.
“But I’m not a proper Muslimah yet. I’m not old enough.”
“You seem to be dressed like one.”
“Yeah … but …”
“Do you hear Alisha asking to go ?”
“Only when I’ve kept her in bed all night and the following morning.” the young girl laughs.
“Well then. Surely you can manage a few hours.”
“But she didn’t have a drink with great-grandmamma.”
“But you didn’t have to either.”
“No … but …”
“But what my child ?”
“Uh … okay … I’ll try and hold on.” the young girl accepts defeat in this argument.