Talk about Purdah

Should a father talk to his daughter or son about purdah?

Muhammad Ali Mumtaz, Richmond Majlis

Obviously the question is more complicated otherwise it would not have been part of this series. As frequently is the case, a question starting with ‘should’ or ‘could’ pretends to be answerable with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. But as is evident, the real question is ‘why’ and ‘how’.

In my view, a father has to talk to his daughter and son about purdah, even if the ladies in his own family do not observe purdah. In fact, if later is the unfortunate scenario, he is the only hope for reviving the purdah in his family. When the father discusses purdah with his daughter he can share the male perspective of purdah, modesty, and chastity with her. In this ‘liberal’ society, all that seem liberal is man’s liberty to exploit women. This point should be well understood and illustrated. More than 20 percent of women in colleges and more than 50% in the military go through some form of sexual assault. Purdah is the Ahmadi women’s only hope. These statistics are available in the media and should be shared. If I told you that you are going on a road where there is a 50% chance of a car accident, wouldn’t you take every precaution? Of course one could stay home and not drive, but that does not achieve anything. But by taking appropriate precautions and then courage to drive, maximizes your chance of accomplishing your goals safely. Similarly, purdah demonstrates to the society the honor and prestige of an Ahmadi woman. She may be considered old fashioned and dumb looking. But she will definitely not look inviting.

Timing of such discussions is also important. Transition from middle to high school is a good time to start this discussion. Whereas this does need to become a bone of contention at every dinner, a reminder once or twice a semester or at entry to a new grade, is helpful. In the meantime, encouraging modesty in dress and behavior is equally essential. Purdah is of no use if the underlying behavior lacks modesty. Importance of good and pious company should also be a focus of these discussions. This again is an area where a male perspective is important. At the end of the day, remember you do not want to promote hypocrisy in your children. You do not want them to behave one way in front of you and differently when your back is turned. The purpose of promoting purdah should be very clear: modesty and chastity for Allah’s pleasure, and not to save parents from embarrassment at Jama’at functions. Our children are very smart and easily see through our intentions. Tarbiyyat requires faith and patience, and both require prayers. Asking our elders to help is sometimes also good, and in my case, my mother was successful where I failed.