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Belief and Practice

"Be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire" (Sura Al-Azzab Ayat 32)

Insh'Allah you will have read Sister Amina's wonderful article "Is The Female Voice Awrah?" before you come to read my humble words on the same subject. Sister Amina speaks with conviction and learning on this topic, and I do not intend to go over the ground that she has covered so well in regard to the religious reasons for believing that the female voice is awrah. Instead I would like to talk about the practicalities of this belief and how I, as a very ordinary Muslimah, practice the restraints necessary to obey the teachings of the Holy Quran and of Hadith as stated in Sister Amina's article.

Up until I was 18 years old, I never even considered this aspect of my behavior. I was a quite ordinary young woman, going to school and then college and, although from a very respectable Muslim home, I had not really considered the deeper implications of the words of the Qur'an as applied to the way I hid myself from the eyes of non mahram, or how I generally acted outside the shelter of my own home. I did not have boyfriends in the western sense, but I went through my days with my face exposed and speaking to whoever I felt it was necessary to talk to. Yet I wore hijaab and considered myself to be a 'good' muslimah.. Only when I became engaged to be married did I start to veil my face (the story of this transition can be found in the 'Helping The New proper hijaabi' Section in my article titled "Sister Sameera Story") and to study seriously what it REALLY meant to be a good Muslimah.

In the next few years my attitude changed radically and I became convinced through my studies that it WAS fard to veil fully, and that the female voice WAS awrah. I will not go into the religious reasons for these beliefs - they are covered fully elsewhere in this site. But I would like to talk about how I live with the 'rules' imposed by viewing my own voice as awrah.

First of all, what does my belief entail? I am firmly of the opinion (for the reasons stated in Sister Amina's article) that the female voice can be a cause of fitna, that it can be as revealing as a girl's exposed face, and be seductive and lead men away from purity of thought and into the realms of lust. As a wise man wrote recently to my husband on the subject: " It (the female voice) is obviously an awrah because ill behaved men can see through a woman just from her voice." Because of this dangerous aspect of my speech I take various precautions which are really quite simple and easy to carry out.

* I do NOT speak to non mahram men unless it is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to do so.
* If I am speaking to a fellow sisters and there are men nearby I either stop talking or speak softly enough for my voice not to be heard.
* I only speak to sisters or mahram men on the telephone, never to non-mahram
* If I am forced to speak to a non mahram, I keep my words as few and brief as possible, and speak in as neutral a tone and manner as possible.

To explain these points in more detail. To define 'absolutely vital', I would mean in situations where it is a matter of life or death to speak, to avoid an accident, or to speak to officials such a police officers in moments of crisis. I go to a female doctor but, if I had to seek the opinion of a male doctor on a serious matter that could not wait, I would speak to him.

However, when my husband was in hospital recently and had a male doctor, I got my brother to speak to him on my behalf. I believe that many sisters can find mahram who will speak on their behalf, but perhaps some of us are too lazy to bother about this. I know there have been times when I have been tempted to speak to a man on some matter that was seemed pressing at the time, and when I felt it would be a problem finding a mahram to speak on my behalf. But in all those cases to date, either further thought showed me that the matter was less pressing than I had originally believed, or I was able to find some member of my family to speak for me.

Keeping my voice low or not talking at all to other sisters when men are nearby is simple enough. Although not all the sisters I know view the female voice as being awrah, even the ones who do not share my opinion understand why I do not wish my voice to be heard, and they respect that decision, and feel there is nothing strange if I cease speaking when a man approaches us.

The phone might seem to be problematic but an answering machine costs little and is a very worthwhile investment for Muslimahs who spend much of their time at home. When my husband is not in the house, the answering machine left on with a normal message, asking the caller to leave their telephone number so he could get back to them. As there is a loudspeaker on the machine, I can hear the person as they answer my husband's message and, if it is a sister on the phone, I can pick up our phone then and talk to her freely. If a man's voice is on the phone line, I leave him to be dealt with by my husband when he comes home.

Matching this arrangement, our front door has a one way spy-hole, so I can see who is outside if anyone rings the door bell. Naturally, if my husband is out, I do not open the door to non mahram.

We also have little cards printed on which there is a message in Arabic, French and English which reads; "I regret that I do not speak to non-mahram (men). Please contact my husband who is available on ................. (telephone number)" I always carry some of these with me. In fact in six years of married life I can only remember three occasions when I had to hand out those cards. In truth, for me most 'emergencies', after some thought, turn out to be far less vital than I might have originally imagined.

Yes, there will be times when it is vital to speak to a man. Once I saw an old man about to step off the pavement in front of a car he had failed to notice. I shouted a warning to him, but that was all. Alhamdulillah he heard me and a tragedy was averted. But these occasions are far fewer than I had imagined when I first came to see that the female voice was awrah. When I travel I am accompanied by my husband or by a male relative. If I go shopping I go with a sister or with my husband. My husband normally accompanies me to the doctor or to the dentist.

In truth, for me anyway, not speaking when non-mahram can hear my voice has proved to be far less difficult than I had at first imagined. I do appreciate that I am blessed in having a husband and sisters, both family and in Islam, who I do things with outside my home, and I know many sisters are not as fortunate in this as I am. But I am firmly convinced that Muslimahs should do all they can to view their voices as awrah and to act accordingly. It may seem a real restriction, but I have never found it so. It may require thinking before you speak, but it is possible to hide one's voice from men just as simply as it is to hide one's bodily awrah.

Ramadan AH 1421