My old “Eating in Niqab” post gets a lot of hits, and whenever I see that people have been reading it, I feel a little guilty. I wrote that back when niqab was still new to me, and it was probably the best I could do at the time. So maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.
In any case, eating in niqab is a lot easier than I thought. If you are googling this, you have probably just recently put the niqab on. May Allah swt accept from you and grant you steadfastness. Ameen
And if you’re just putting it on, then of course you are wondering how to eat in it. That might just be one of the main differences between wearing and not wearing niqab – the ability to eat in public with ease.
When I was new to niqab, I didn’t find myself in that many public-eating situations. If we visited family friends, I took myself inside a bedroom and ate in there. When I ate out with friends, we would not stay in the restaurant, instead we would either bring the food to our house or to an empty room — somewhere we could take our niqabs off and eat in peace.
Now, years later, I find myself in many more public-eating situations. I can no longer run to the MSA room whenever I want to eat. Well, I can, but then I would either have to be very late to my class afterward, or they would have to call security because Batman is running across the grass towards one of the buildings.
Beside that, I enjoy eating with other people and sometimes don’t feel like eating alone in a room.
Even before grad school, I was in many situations where it was much more convenient for me to eat in public, and I figured out pretty fast that like many things, Practice makes perfect.
So I’ll tell you what I mainly do nowadays. And I’ll make a list, because I know readers find that to be easier to follow, but it’s not in a specific order.
1. If you can avoid it, do that. If you cannot avoid it because it’s actually much more convenient in terms of time, etc. to eat in public (or if you are like me and enjoy eating on the grass every once in a while), then keep reading.
2. My Technique: I reach my left hand around the front of my niqab, latch onto the right of it, and pull it away from me, so that I can go towards my mouth with my right hand. This might have been a terrible description, but there’s no way I’m putting up a picture of that, so I’ll just make dua that you understand what I’m saying. :) Also, if you remember the hitting-the-chin trick (hitting your chin helps you find your mouth), I still do that. It works well with certain foods. Doesn’t work too well if you’re using a spoon. By the time you hit your chin with it, all of that food is in your lap.
3. Is anyone looking? This is where you find a balance between paranoia and not-caring. So if you feel like men will really see your face as you are eating, it might be a good idea to change tactics. If you feel like you’re probably safe, take it easy.
4. Sleeves and Napkin in Your Lap. The most important accessory to have are your sleeves. What makes eating in niqab difficult is that loose sleeves fall back exposing your arms during the process of eating. Wear long sleeves or those sleeves that are probably only sold in Islamic stores (the ones that don’t have the rest of the shirt attached). In addition, place an open napkin on your lap because if food is going to get on you, it’ll probably happen this way: you’re going to your mouth with food and some of it drops in your lap. If a lot of food is spilling into your lap, you might be doing something wrong, but the napkin should be useful for the little bit of food that might fall here or there.
5. Pick out your seat. Select your seat beforehand so that you can sit and pull at your niqab with ease. Now that I have a brother-in-law, I know I always have to watch where I sit so I can eat comfortably. The dining table in my house is familiar territory, but when we are visiting someone or we are at a restaurant, I just make sure I am sitting in a place that is comfortable for me. If I’m not, and it’s too late because everyone already sat down, then I ask someone to switch with me. Usually people figure out why and then move to accommodate you.
6. Not all foods. Listen, the fact of the matter is, you can’t drink hot noodle soup with niqab. Or maybe you can. But I can’t. Soups are one of the things I try to avoid if possible. It can still be done in certain settings, but it usually requires more than what I am willing to do. Last night, my bro-in-law was coming over for dinner at our place, and I knew soup was on the menu. I ate my soup before he arrived, and then joined them later for the main course of the meal. Problem solved. :)
7. Fork and spoon. When I want to eat rice, I use a fork and a spoon. I hold the fork in my left hand and spoon in my right. I use the fork to guide food onto the spoon. It’s easier this way. Before niqab, I could just use a spoon and sometimes enlist the help of my left pinky, but now this is messy.
Please remember me in your duas.
Love you all for the sake of Allah