There are a handful of posts on the topic of removing the niqab and a person’s strong feelings about the decision to do so. Some are more publicized than others, i.e. they come up high on the Google search.
This, however, is not one of those posts.
Alhamdulillah, I have not removed my niqab, and if a day ever came when I did, I would probably not post something with this title. I am sharing my thoughts on these articles and postings that I have seen for years. Although my thoughts towards niqab may change and develop over time, going through periods of fluctuating strength and even the doubts that I believe everyone experiences, my thoughts towards people who post “Why I Took Off My Niqab” articles remained consistent.
It is selfish.
Your decision to remove it was personal, but when you try to publicly justify it, it is no longer a personal decision, it is a public one.
I know that there is a shame associated with removing, or wanting to remove, the niqab. It becomes a part of your identity, and unfortunately it even becomes a status symbol. That does not reflect the wearer’s intentions, that is just what happens. So when someone removes the niqab, she feels like she needs to explain herself. (I have thoughts behind thoughts on many parts of this topic, but I am not sharing them in the interest of time.)
Most articles of this nature, however, are imposing. Despite my feelings towards niqab, even when I was not ready to wear it, or maybe even when I thought it was too much, these posts always felt imposing to me. They had an angry and resentful undertone. The blame was externalized, so that the wearer managed to put the burden of her decision on someone other than herself (even if in a subtle way). And the decision was finalized, as if the niqab is a one-way street, and she never expects to change her mind or develop different thoughts as she goes through life. We are human beings, and we grow and change over time. Just because you feel so strongly about your decision to remove it, that does not mean that you should try to impose that decision on others. By justifying yourself, that is exactly what you’re doing. Many of these posts do have the characteristics of a type of writing I call “persuasive” writing, though it is not very persuasive if you come to it without bias. One of them had an air of, “This is why I did it, and I am sharing it with you so that I can save you from making the same mistake I did.”
The niqab may not have worked out for you at this particular time, and you don’t know what is to come in the future. Something made you want to put it on in the first place, so at least have respect for that. And know that someone is going to come across your post, a sister who desperately wants to wear the niqab but something is stopping her, so she hasn’t been able to start yet. Having seen sisters in this position, and having been in this position myself at one point, I can tell you that this sister’s heart is overflowing with grief because of how much she wants it. And she has enough reasons on her own for why she feels like she can’t. She doesn’t need your article to give her another reason.
Because that is, in essence, all you’ve done. In your efforts to do whatever it was that you were trying to do (you can say that I haven’t even understood your true intentions, still) you discouraged someone else from an act of worship.
I have only ever come across one article of this nature by a sister, who I felt took a different approach. Although I did not fully agree with the article, I recognized and appreciated her balance in where she placed the onus of the decision. It was a mixture of external and internal reasons, and she was willing to admit to those internal reasons, which can be a difficult thing to do. Furthermore, she was even braver in saying that she still wholeheartedly believes that niqab is wajib. That took guts, because the theory of cognitive dissonance would assume that she would say, “Well, I don’t follow that it’s wajib anyway, so…” (It is important to note here that I am not asserting one opinion over the other, as that is not my place nor do I have the qualification to do that; I am only giving props where it’s due.) Finally, she showed that niqab is a journey when she said that she plans to put it back on. I considered posting her writing here, but I would have to seek her permission first, and I do not feel comfortable possibly revealing her identity.
These are my thoughts, and I am interested in hearing yours.