A Letter to the Culture that Raised Me


Growing up, you read me the Ugly Duckling. And for years I believed that was me. For so long you taught me I was nothing more than a bad copy of the standard (men).
I couldn’t run as fast or lift as much. I didn’t make the same money and I cried too often. I grew up in a man’s world where I didn’t belong.
And when I couldn’t be him, I wanted only to please him. I put on your make-up and wore your short skirts. I gave my life, my body, my dignity, for the cause of being pretty. I knew that no matter what I did, I was worthy only to the degree that I could please and be beautiful for my master. And so I spent my life on the cover of Cosmo and gave my body for you to sell.
I was a slave, but you taught me I was free. I was your object, but you swore it was success. You taught me that my purpose in life was to be on display, to attract, and be beautiful for men. You had me believe that my body was created to market your cars. And you raised me to think I was an ugly duckling. But you lied.
Islam tells me, I’m a swan. I’m different – it’s meant to be that way. And my body, my soul, was created for something more.
God says in the Qur’an, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (49:13)
So I am honored. But it is not by my relationship to men. My value as a woman is not measured by the size of my waist or the number of men who like me. My worth as a human being is measured on a higher scale: a scale of righteousness and piety. And my purpose in life – despite what the fashion magazines say – is something more sublime than just looking good for men.
And so God tells me to cover myself, to hide my beauty and to tell the world that I’m not here to please men with my body; I’m here to please God. God elevates the dignity of a woman’s body by commanding that it be respected and covered, shown only to the deserving – only to the man I marry.
So to those who wish to ‘liberate’ me, I have only one thing to say: “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I’m not here to be on display. And my body is not for public consumption. I will not be reduced to an object, or a pair of legs to sell shoes. I’m a soul, a mind, a servant of God. My worth is defined by the beauty of my soul, my heart, my moral character. So, I won’t worship your beauty standards, and I don’t submit to your fashion sense. My submission is to something higher.
With my veil I put my faith on display – rather than my beauty. My value as a human is defined by my relationship with God, not by my looks. I cover the irrelevant. And when you look at me, you don’t see a body. You view me only for what I am: a servant of my Creator.
You see, as a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent kind of bondage. I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King

swanGrowing up, you read me the Ugly Duckling. And for years I believed that was me. For so long you taught me I was nothing more than a bad copy of the standard (men).

I couldn’t run as fast or lift as much. I didn’t make the same money and I cried too often. I grew up in a man’s world where I didn’t belong.

And when I couldn’t be him, I wanted only to please him. I put on your make-up and wore your short skirts. I gave my life, my body, my dignity, for the cause of being pretty. I knew that no matter what I did, I was worthy only to the degree that I could please and be beautiful for my master. And so I spent my life on the cover of Cosmo and gave my body for you to sell.

I was a slave, but you taught me I was free. I was your object, but you swore it was success. You taught me that my purpose in life was to be on display, to attract, and be beautiful for men. You had me believe that my body was created to market your cars. And you raised me to think I was an ugly duckling. But you lied.

Islam tells me, I’m a swan. I’m different – it’s meant to be that way. And my body, my soul, was created for something more.
God says in the Qur’an, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (49:13)

So I am honored. But it is not by my relationship to men. My value as a woman is not measured by the size of my waist or the number of men who like me. My worth as a human being is measured on a higher scale: a scale of righteousness and piety. And my purpose in life – despite what the fashion magazines say – is something more sublime than just looking good for men.

And so God tells me to cover myself, to hide my beauty and to tell the world that I’m not here to please men with my body; I’m here to please God. God elevates the dignity of a woman’s body by commanding that it be respected and covered, shown only to the deserving – only to the man I marry.

So to those who wish to ‘liberate’ me, I have only one thing to say: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

I’m not here to be on display. And my body is not for public consumption. I will not be reduced to an object, or a pair of legs to sell shoes. I’m a soul, a mind, a servant of God. My worth is defined by the beauty of my soul, my heart, my moral character. So, I won’t worship your beauty standards, and I don’t submit to your fashion sense. My submission is to something higher.

With my veil I put my faith on display – rather than my beauty. My value as a human is defined by my relationship with God, not by my looks. I cover the irrelevant. And when you look at me, you don’t see a body. You view me only for what I am: a servant of my Creator.

You see, as a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent kind of bondage. I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.

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40 Comments

  1. habiba says:

    I love every bit of this article may Allah Reward you abudantly. i walk strong and upright telling the whole here i come and well liberated from your chains of exploitation, my self esteem is not determined by the world i am me and only me can talk for me. thanks for making me feel this way.

  2. tegally mushiirah says:

    this letter seems like a story yet full of meanings and truthfulness.it is definitely a message to women who love displaying their beauty for men’s sake. and they not wrong for men themselves condemn women like this- a sexual slave fit for consumption.to change that mindset men’s attitude towards women should change and they should be able to view women as human beings like them-with a soul and emotions and not with lustful eyes.the piece of scarf which we tie over our heads and our clothes not too tight and ornamented are the key ingredients towards piety and humility.as women we should cover our body as much as w can.unfortunately however, women in modern times are emulating the westerners and they are lured to evil things. Ya ALLAH please guide those women who still are blind and remember that the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) has said that he has seen more women in jahanam.as young or old muslimah we definitely don’t want to be among those women right?thank you for this article and JAZAKALLAH.

  3. mariyam khan says:

    wow.. just wow. that was so beautiful. i got goosebumps while reading it

  4. Ibrahim says:

    Masha’Allah…masha’Allah. May Allah bless ur efforts.

  5. Muhammad Ali Pasha says:

    Loved it…..

  6. Bushra says:

    MashaAllah!!! very very well put! love the last line….:D
    sharing with others InshaAllah

  7. umm Hamza says:

    Assaalaamu A’alaykum waRahamatullahi waBaraakatuh.

    I would like to say Jazaaki Allah Khyran sister. This is a great article for every Muslim Woman need to read, because it tell them the different between culture and religion.

  8. muslima94 says:

    amazing masha’Allah! jazaki Allahu khayran, i really needed this!

  9. Dania says:

    Masha’Allah sis! i love your articles. JazakiAllahu khairun for such an awesome piece!

  10. alabi wahab olaiya says:

    this is marvelous.may allaah reward the composer ,the writer and the tranamitter.

  11. Ahmed says:

    Yet another powerful piece Sr. Yasmin! I will second Sr. Dania’s comment – love all your work on the site Sis! It always rocks! This actually inspires me as a guy as well. Jazak’Allahu Khairan. :-)

  12. azimah says:

    Salam, wonderful! Put now, Muslim women are slaves to the hijab fashion–more so in Malaysia. You should see the obsession with buying the latest and trendiest hijab! Now, they are enslaved with that, wearing it to look flirty for men instead of understanding the true meaning of being liberated and free. It is frightening.
    I wonder if this is happening in other parts of the world too with Muslim women always being a slave to fashion instead of a slave to Allah?

  13. kistinaamer says:

    i hope insyaAllah you dont mind me putting this article on the board at the back of my class, Aslkum.

  14. Sid says:

    “With my veil I put my faith on display – rather than my beauty. My value as a human is defined by my relationship with God, not by my looks. I cover the irrelevant. And when you look at me, you don’t see a body. You view me only for what I am: a servant of my Creator.”

    I enjoyed that line very much; however, it does implore me to ask: why isn’t the same logic applied to men?

    • Yasmin says:

      It is. The dress code is just different.

    • nur says:

      although that line may be applied to women and men, it merely is more inclined towards women, since they usually posses their exterior appearance and beauty as their strength and power, as opposed to men who’re usually judged by their status and moral standards and not so much their outer looks.

  15. Noor says:

    “You see, as a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent kind of bondage. I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.”

    I absolutely love this line, on surface it seems like a simple taught, but it has a very powerful implications for us all. Thank you for sharing such a great article =)

  16. Sidra Zia says:

    What an amazingly beautiful read. the concept is very valid and true. The western media has had the effect of blinding our gender into a parade of fashion magazines that promote low self-esteem and a widely capitalistic view of desirability. Hijab is one of those few ways which reflect upon a woman’s true potential and help her liberate herself from the spirals of the so-called Western Liberalization.
    Allah Akbar!

  17. shireen says:

    i love this article soo much mashallah, i know how it feels, i khow how hard it is, its so tough :*( to change, esp. when know one around u cares about whether u want to be hijabi or not.
    i want to do hijab, i know i am capable of doing it, but its tough.
    thank you so much for this article
    may allah swt bless and reward u all

  18. Zahra says:

    Honestly, I don’t think this could be put in any better words. MashAllah you put the message out there so beautifully; every word is SO true. Amazingly written; amazing beyond words..!
    =)

  19. Zahra says:

    p.s: My FAV line -> “I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.”

  20. Kauser says:

    This made me tear up a little. So well written MashAllah, and so creative. Inspiring!

    May I share this article?

    JazakAllah for this elightenment

  21. razzwazz says:

    dont know what to say wow absolutely amazing mashallah that is so me and wish my grammar and writing skills was as good as this was well am getting ther one day lol inshallah
    and its ” i wont be reduced to an object or a pair of legs to sell gillette venus shave gel like J-LO lool
    show this to all those idiot guys everywhere lool.

  22. Anya says:

    So unbelievably beautiful Mashallah. not gonna lie, I teared up a little. “You see, as a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent kind of bondage. I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.” Amaaazingly said <3

  23. abd rahman says:

    info[at]suhaibwebb[dot]com.

  24. Safa says:

    MashaAllah, this is AMAZING! May Allah continue to bless you and your family, and may the almighty help you continue writing these wonderful articles!

  25. tanbir says:

    Sis.. Jazak Allah ….. for this wonderfully true and well written letter.

  26. marwan says:

    الله أكبر

  27. sanaa says:

    beautifully written masha’Allah. it’s disturbing how media and pop culture have convinced women that it is “progressive” and “liberating” to have ourselves on display. how do we not see the lack lof logic in that?

    that said, i don’t think the muslim woman is free either. islam frees us, yes. but muslims keep us enslaved in different ways. a muslim woman’s body is still subjected to criticism and judgement albeit in different ways. people judge us for how we wear hijabs or lack of hijabs. they make assumptions of our values and piety based on how we dress. we’re only truly free when we stop obsessing over other people and controlling their behavior and focus on purifying ourselves.

  28. D.A.E says:

    “You see, as a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent kind of bondage. I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.”

    It made me cry and I don’t know why.

    Jazakallah kulukhairun

  29. Ayan says:

    Mashallah sister! nice article!

  30. Brilliant this article definatelty helps me find my confidence when it is really lacking most of the time
    so you dont have to be beautiful or “perfect for boys
    but “My worth is defined by the beauty of my soul, my heart, my moral character. So, I won’t worship your beauty standards, and I don’t submit to your fashion sense. My submission is to something higher. tearful

  31. shiney says:

    amazing read…

  32. kada says:

    this letter is so amazingly written
    i love the beauty and stuff

  33. Diana says:

    this is still my favorite article I’ve ever read, and for the 3rd or 4th time, it still makes me cry and be so so so extremely thankful that we are so much honored, protected and given psychological and physical freedom with the hijab. It is one of the biggest blessings we have been blessed with. Alhamd Lellah alhamd Lellah Alhamd Lellah!

    Thank you so much for writing this amazing reminder!

  34. Leyla says:

    Mashallah! That’s an inspiring article for women all over the world. Thank you so so so much!

  35. Abdullah says:

    Mashallah! Jazakallah for writing such an amazing article. I wish many non muslim women read this article to really see what they are missing.
    “I don’t answer to the slaves of God on earth. I answer to their King.”

  36. malo says:

    i love this! masha`Allah la quwwata illa billah! i donot understand how ppl can debate to the contrary when statistics agree!

  37. t says:

    masha’Allah!

    thank you for such an amazing article.

  38. Um kaltoum says:

    I just loved it ! This is the answer <3 This is what we can tell people who say that hijab is against woman's rights and freedom!………I love Hijab <3

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