Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Origin Of The Veil

The 1979 Islamic Revolution transformed the country of Iran from a constitutional monarchy under the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to an Islamic Republic under the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Most people believe that under the notion of a perfect model of splendid, humane, and divine life for all the people of the world, Khomeini introduced the Sharia, or Islamic law, literally meaning -the path to the water source; forcing women to cover most of their body, but mainly, the evil, seductive forces that lay within the strands of their hair, all of it, under the thick fabric of a chador.
The truth, however, is another story. The Ayatollah Khomeini, being a stingy man, who didn’t believe in giving into the material pleasures of worldly objects and experiences, was sick of paying for his wife’s monthly hair removal bill. For, like most Iranian women, Khadije Saghafi was hairy, and her husband believed that if she was covered at all times of the day (and sometimes at night, even in their bed) she wouldn’t care if her husband, or anyone else saw her hairy legs or her hairy arms, or the hair that extended from the side of her face down to her chin. With the new implementation of the veil, his wife’s body and most of her head covered, he would only have to worry about paying for her eyebrows and maybe the hair on her upper lip at most, to be removed by Haleh Khanoom who owned the salon down the street. And thus, “O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women, to cover themselves. Thus, they will be recognized and avoid being molested. God is the Forgiver, Merciful,” from the Koran, turned into seventy four lashes on your bare back for being a slut and not covering all of your hair and body, well except your hands and feet.  Let us not forget that Khomeini had the best interest of all his fellow comrades’ in mind when making this law.
             It is rumored though that Khadije, frustrated with the summer heat and the layers of thick fabric she was forced to wear by her husband and his regime, being an educated woman, and having read the Koran in its entirety at least two hundred times, and finding no text stating that a woman’s entire body and hair should be covered, was so angered by her husband’s new laws, and his underlying frugality when it came to her hair removal needs (for it wasn’t for him or for any other man that she did it, it was more for herself, to feel beautiful and clean and to respect and care for her body-which she saw as her own private temple, or mosque in this case) decided to walk naked through the crowded streets of Tehran.  It was a boiling summer afternoon, too hot even for tea, and she walked with the most beautiful arched eyebrows, the smoothest arms, legs and upper lip anyone had ever seen, and a well managed, thin strip of hair below, thanks to the always reliable Haleh Khanoom and the thin, white string she had used to turn Khadije’s young body into silk.
The religious clerics, and Khomeini himself thought she was a ghost, a smooth-skinned phantom sent by Allah himself, a sign that Yawm al-Qiyaamah or the Day of Resurrection was upon them. Tears formed in their eyes as they got on their knees and bowed to her, mumbling Allah O Akhbar under their breaths, suddenly feeling the heaviness of their sins, and praying for forgiveness. But the women- well, the women knew better than that. And as their husbands meditated on their useless, wasted lives, and watched the phantom move through the city, stopping even the loud shouting of men in the bazaars, the cracking of sunflower seeds between their teeth, the persistence of car upon car on the freeways, as even the birds came down from above to watch, the women lined up outside of Haleh Khanoom’s salon, and waited their turn.