Black Women Don’t Need to Cover?

By Umm Zakiyyah


"WHY isn’t the Qur’an and Sunnah sufficient for us?” Faith said, her hands trembling behind her head as she unfastened her niqaab. She tossed the face veil to a nearby table and collapsed into the softness of the couch, the cloth of her khimaar loosening itself from where it framed the brown of her face.

Grace smiled as she closed the door to her villa and joined her friend on the couch. Grace reached forward and poured coffee into a small glass cup and handed it to her friend. “Still in culture shock after five years?”

Faith groaned and rolled her eyes as she accepted the coffee, but she held the glass in her hand without drinking it. “You won’t believe what my Saudi friend just told me.”

Grace sighed, but her expression remained pleasant. “What now?”

“That the niqaab isn’t obligatory for black women.”

Grace huffed. “I’m not surprised. I was told I have to cover my face because I’m white.” She shook her head then added, “And my eyes because they’re blue.”

“Where do these people learn their religion?” Faith shook her head. “I thought I was coming to a country where I’d feel better as a Muslim, not worse.”

Grace laughed. “Didn’t we all?”

“I had to pull my children out of Qur’an school,” Faith said. “Can you believe that?”

Grace’s eyes widened. “Why?”

“Because the teacher’s constantly making anti-American remarks, and the students are always calling my children racist names.” Faith drew in a deep breath and exhaled. “My daughter won’t even look in the mirror anymore. She thinks she’s ugly.”

Grace sighed thoughtfully. “My children are facing the same thing.”

Faith’s eyes widened. “Are you serious? I thought white people had it easier here.”

“I meant the anti-American part,” Grace said. “I’ve been Muslim for fifteen years, and I’m still treated like I don’t know anything about Islam.”

Faith’s gaze grew distant, and she sipped her coffee in silence while Grace served herself a cup.

“You know what bothers me most about that ‘black women don’t have to cover’ remark?” Faith said, her tone thoughtful.

Grace took a sip of coffee. “What’s that?”

“Here, they believe covering the face is obligatory.”

Grace sighed and nodded. “That bothered me for a while too.  But you have to admit, they do have a point. Even some Muslim scholars say that.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Faith said. “I completely understand the Islamic reasons for the difference of opinion. And to be honest, I feel most comfortable in niqaab, even in America.”

“Then what’s bothering you?”

“Think about it, Grace,” Faith said, setting down her coffee cup and turning herself toward her friend. “They say that covering the face is hijab.”

“Yeah, of course,” Grace said. “That’s what they mean when they say wearing niqaab is obligatory.”

Faith laughed. “That’s exactly my point. Don’t you see how messed up this is?”

Grace creased her forehead and shook her head. “I’m not following you.”

“Think about it,” Faith said. “Allah tells the believing women to wear hijab.”


“And in Saudi Arabia, they say hijab means covering the face.”

Grace nodded. “Yeah.”

“But then they say a certain group of believing women can ignore what Allah says.”

Grace’s eyes widened in understanding. “Oh my God. I never thought about it like that.”

“And what reason do they give?” Faith asked rhetorically.

Grace shook her head knowingly, a smile forming on her face.

“That these women are so ugly,” Faith said, answering her own question, “that even Allah’s commands don’t apply to them.”

“Wow…” Grace said, shaking her head in disbelief.

Grace narrowed her eyes thoughtfully. “But maybe your friend doesn’t believe it’s obligatory.”

“But, Grace,” Faith said, humor in her tone, “even if she doesn’t, what right does she have to declare a group of Allah’s creation ugly, and then have Islamic opinions based on it?” She shook her head. “I swear, even when I was a disbeliever in America, I never heard something like that.”

Grace grunted laughter. “You know, that’s what gets me so upset when they tell me I have to cover my face because I’m white. It’s like these Arab men sit around and decide which women are a fitnah for them, and my life has to revolve around what they decide.” She laughed again. “And they have the nerve to say this is from Islam.”

Faith sighed. “You know what’s so sad?”

Grace looked at her friend.

“Nobody’s speaking out against this stuff,” Faith said.

“I think people are,” Grace said. “When I travel to America, Saudi Arabia’s all people talk about when they speak about women’s issues in the Middle East.”

“I mean here,” Faith said. “Who’s talking about it here?”

Grace nodded. “I see what you mean.”

“Okay,” Faith said, “to a certain extent, I can excuse Saudis for being silent because, honestly, I don’t think they know what racism is.”

Grace laughed. “Faith, come on. They know what racism is. My husband and I talk about this problem all the time.”

“But, Grace, your husband grew up in America. He’s Saudi by passport, not culture.”

Grace nodded. “Yeah, but a lot of Saudis are starting to realize there’s a big problem here with how they treat non-Saudis.”

“I don’t think so,” Faith said. “They don’t even pay people based on qualifications. It’s based on nationality.”

“That doesn’t mean they don’t know it’s wrong.”

“Well, I guess you have more faith in them than I do.”

“Saudis aren’t all the same, Faith,” Grace said. “My husband’s family is really upset about what’s happening here. But there’s not much they can do. They’re almost as powerless as we are.”

Faith sighed. “Maybe you’re right.”

The friends were silent for some time.

“But can’t they just leave Islam out of it?” Faith said, her tone reflective. “It’s really dangerous to mix racism and Islam.”

“I think the problem is mixing human opinion with Islam,” Grace said. “And unfortunately, Saudi Arabia’s not the only country that does this. It’s a problem all over the world.”

“But why?” Faith said, her eyes narrowed in frustration. “We can’t just make up rules from our minds.” She sighed and shook her head. “When is this going to stop?”

Grace smiled as she met her friend’s gaze. “When the Qur’an and Sunnah is sufficient for us.”

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost.  She is now writing juvenile fiction stories under the name Ruby Moore. To learn more about the author, visit or join her Facebook page.

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Black Women Don’t Need to Cover?


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