Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hair Do or Hair Don't?

Yesterday our family was invited for dinner to the home of a Lebanese family whose son is friends with our son Adam. They live in a residential compound where women can walk around the grounds without an abaya or having to cover their hair. I was very excited because I would get to meet the boy's mom (a new potential friend - yay!), plus another couple from South Africa. I had already met the South African lady through my blog and I was looking forward to seeing her again. I made a salad to take with us as our contribution for the meal, took a shower, and got dressed.

About an hour before we left the house, I told my husband that there was a possibility that both of the other women we would be visiting with that evening may not have their hair covered. If that was the case, I went on, I would prefer not to be the only woman there with my hair covered. Well, basically my hubby told me that if I wanted to uncover my hair there, that he would not be going with us. So I had two choices: (A) I could agree to keep my hair covered and have him be there with us; or (B) I could uncover my hair and make up some lame excuse for why he suddenly wasn't able to come with us.

The arguments for his position included that we are in Saudi Arabia, it is a Muslim country, and that Allah requires women to cover their hair. He feels now that a woman's beauty, including her hair, should be revealed only to her husband. He says that he is a Muslim man and his wife should cover and he should be respected by everyone else for feeling that way. I, as his wife, should obey and please my husband, and to a certain extent I agree, but what about MY feelings and my comfort?

My hubby does not regularly read my blog, but he has seen it. A photo of me showing my hair for the entire world to see is posted on my blog, and he has not asked me to remove it. What is the difference, then, if I uncover my hair in a private setting with two other non-Saudi couples present? And, if the other women at this dinner party weren't covered, why must I? I told my hubby that I like to feel good about myself and I honestly feel ugly wearing the hijab (head and neck covering). I feel plain and invisible and I don't like feeling that way. I find it uncomfortable and it makes me hot. It makes my neck itch. I know that there are many Muslim women out there who feel beautiful wearing the hijab, but I personally don't. I know that there are many Muslim women out there who feel empowered wearing the hijab and the abaya, but I feel the opposite way. I know also that there are many Western women married to Saudis who love to cover and may even veil, but I’m not one of them. Do I resent them or fault them for it? No! If it suits them and they like it, good for them. It's just not my thing.

There are many Muslim women around the world who do NOT cover their hair and do not wear a black abaya. So definitely, this is a cultural issue here. But the problem for me lies in the fact that ALL the reasons I’ve ever been given for WHY women have to dress like that here ARE religious! To me this boils down to man’s interpretations on imposing THEIR personal beliefs on women. I have asked my husband many times to show me any passages where Allah has instructed that women specifically must cover their hair and neck or dress up like a nun, and he has yet to show me anything. I believe that all religions here on earth are manmade and this is the root of my problems with religions. Since religions are made by man, as a woman I have a problem especially with those teachings in religions that seem to be directed only to women and are not applied equally to men. For example in Islam, how women should dress, how women should act (lowering our gaze, not letting other men hear our voices), and that men are allowed four wives, etc. I find these religious rules unfair to women. I am not putting anyone down for believing whole-heartedly in these values. I just don’t buy into it myself. Honestly I wouldn’t have a problem with it if these rules were applied equally to men.

All my life before we moved here I was fine without shielding my hair from men – over 50 years – and I don’t recall having any problems from men because of my hair. So I asked hubby why he didn't make an issue out of me not covering my hair for the 30 years we spent together in the states? His answer was that he was stupid then! If it’s because he didn’t want other men seeing my “beauty,” I could better understand that if I were still younger, cuter, and thinner. But the truth is, I just don’t FEEL as attractive as I once did – let’s face it – I’m pushing 60! Covering now at this point in my life when I didn’t when I WAS cute blows that "beauty theory" out the window as far as I’m concerned. It makes no sense to me.

You'll be glad if you click on the links below to check out some other really interesting posts about Islamic women’s dress that have cropped up recently by some of my favorite fellow bloggers. There are also some amazing photos, interesting history, and great comments too. Don't miss these must-see posts:

Aafke of Clouddragon entertains with a post called "Women, Dress, Undress and Religions."

American Bedu pens a provocative post titled "Saudi Arabia – I Dared to Go Out Without An Abaya."

And Achelois looks at history in her post called "Uniforming the Muslim Woman."

Also check out Saudi Woman's post about "Confiscated Abayas!"

Oh, and FYI, Adam and I went to the dinner party WITH my husband, and I wore the hijab the whole time. The other two women did not cover their hair. My husband and I set aside our differences and we all had a lovely time. The food was fantastic and our new friends were delightful. But deep down inside, I was not happy about having to wear the hijab!


  1. Interesting how he can be 2 different people in different parts of the world ...

    Sad little men need their imaginary friends to tell them they're right, moral and competent by default so they don't have to strain themselves thinking or something. Sad that he didn't even consider your discomfort.

    Did he try at least once to wear a scarf in S.A. weather ? I bet it didn't even cross his mind. As long as he'll never experience oppression for the way he was born, why would it ?

    ugggh this makes me very mad. Hope you have a nice day !

  2. Dear Susie, I really love the way you are in my eyes you are so charming and brave! I love to see you both covered and not covered. As in this pic you wore blue/black headscarf, so calm. And the pic with ur golden hair and the earrings, so charming. I'm a Muslimah, but not so 'full-covering'. Why should I wear it because 'they' say 'I have to'??? I do as I feel like it, if not, I don't, though I try to do follow more or less rule of Islamic dressing as I feel it is right for protecting me physically and mentally. Here in Indonesia, we are so flexible about the headscarf and Muslimah dresses as colors are allowed, jeans are allowed combined with long Tunic, and headscarf can be worn with styles. :-) Anyway, I adore your sacrifice for your husband, but please be the way you are as indeed you have beautiful light in your heart as seen through your eyes!!!

  3. Susie, I have to comment on this subject. First of all, I totally agree with your world religion views, but unfortunately religion is always going to be the driving force in all cultures of our world and since all those "good books" were written by men, women had to "obey" the rules, whereas men adjusted the rules as needed. Sadly we can't live in a world as John Lennon hoped for with his song "Imagine". I just don't know how you will be able to change yourself so much after growing up and living for so many years in a totally different culture.
    It would drive me totally crazy to cover my head, especially in the heat, besides that I hate anything touching my head, including hair products!
    Thinking of you and hoping you will find a happy medium to make your stay there more bearable. One good thing is that Adam is a boy, just think how hard it would have been if you had a 15/16 year old daughter right now, a daughter that also had grown up totally equal to men.

  4. Oh Susie! The difference in the two photos is amazing! I've always loved your face, your smile and your beautiful eyes, but when I scrolled down and saw the picture of you 'au natural' I literally gasped! You are so beautiful and yes, you have such beautiful hair!!! You sparkle, shine, eminate in that photo!!! And I don't believe for one minute that you are pushing 60!! No kidding, girl...the 'au natural' photo you look 40!

    That being said, I also think the photo of you with the pink hijab of you is beautiful as well. But is it not obvious from these photos
    how the Muslim religion subdues a woman?! It makes me want to say 'Hide not your light under a basket!', that is not my decision.

    Regardless, what can NOT be covered up is your beauty, Susie! Your sweet face, wonderful insight to life, your words....they will never be covered...and good thing. For the world needs Susie to shine! : )

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  6. So the other women there, they didn't sit separately? And removed their hijabs in front of your and eachother's husbands? Interesting. I don't see why he expects you to wear hijab if you don't believe in it nor in Islam. I'm glad you could set aside your differences though. I also like your tie dye!

  7. By the way, you look gorgeous in the turquoise abaya and hijab. You're face really glows!!!

  8. You obviously respect your husband immensely; I wonder why he isn't respecting your position; you're not Muslim; you don't believe the same as him; you grew up in American; he accepted you for you and now expects you to change. I respect your right to choose to please him in this way, but at the same time I don't think it's fair of him.

  9. How odd! It seems like your hubby is becoming more religious in Saudi Arabia. It's so nice of you do that to please him, but he should also relax sometimes to please you!

    PS I hope I look half that good at 60!!!

  10. This whole "your beauty is for your husband" is a cliche statement that men feel the need to say without thinking about it. You are beautiful with or without it, it is still you. But men just want to go with the flow and not stand out from the crowd, a wife without hijab is a reflection on him. But sometimes you do not want to be viewed as a "beauty" but just want to feel comfortable in your own skin; why the so much focus on sex and men who will view eyes, hair, voice etc sexual?

  11. I am rather horrified at the idea of hijab and an attempt to control the women. It is a real control because due to men's wishes women are now allowed to drive, work (in a normal way). It affects their lives in a real way. I do not like the hijab, I think it is uncomfortable and hot.
    And you are making sacrifices for your husband. Is he making any for you?


  12. Hi Susie, I love reading about your thoughts and feelings. Even though I come from a pretty free country and can wear what I want, my husband still questions my clothes sometimes and by the way I have grey hair am overweight and not that young.
    He also questions some of my other decisions which are not bad decisions just different to him. He on the other hand pretty much does what he wants says what he wants. Men are funny creatures aren't they, very different from women and I will never fully understand them, though I do know they complete the life of a family and are essential to make a family fully function.
    Just somedays you could give them away.
    Have a good week and best wishes to you and your family.

  13. I guess I'm odd.. I'm not Muslim, but I feel better about myself when I wear hijab. I don't very often, but when I do... My husband and I have talked about it and he's ok w/ me doing it (even if I wanted too full time) because some Christians do it too... but I still feel slightly awkward because they don't here. Or noone I know does.

    I'm sorry wearing it makes you uncomfortable... it's sad that he doesn't understand that. I mean, I agree that when it's the custom where you're at you go by it (sorry I just do) but since yall were in a place where it was acceptable for you to not cover... He could have at least discussed it more. I don't know. It's late here and I'm full of Lebanese food (we had it tonight too lol) and exhausted.

  14. Hi Susie -- it IS true actually, if you are not a Muslim you dont have to wear hijab as far as I know, even for your husband. You dont believe what he believes. And I wonder though what he really does believe, if he has no problem with you showing a photo on the net, yet amongst the SAUDIS he wants you to be covered. That is bordering on hypocrisy, no?

    Anyhow, that said, I personally dont love those tiny turtle hijabs, and that hair cover under it. It is nicer to wear something bigger and flowing (and nice material) so you wont be itchy or bothered nearly as much.

    And I am saddened by what some ppl continue to think of Islam, and that wearing the hijab is some means of control. Have you stopped to ask Muslim women who wear it? Even those not married? Or do you just insert your own ideals and opinions?

    By the way, one of the reasons you might hate it so much, is cuz it is forced. If ANYTHING was forced on ME I would react in a much less cordial way than you. In fact, Allah forbid, I might be divorced! So hats of to you!

    As for the ayahs from the Quran, you can check:

    Al-Ahzab 33:59
    An-Nur 24:31

    If you like I can copy and paste it for you or you can read it from here:

    And compare the translations. If course, it would be best if we understood it in Arabic ;) As u can see there is a lot of difference in the translations.

    And I really love this hadith/reminder:
    Hayaa (modesty and bashfulness) and Imam (belief) are fully associated together, if one is lifted the other follows suit." (Narrated by ‘Abd Allaah bin ‘Umar; related by Al-Haakim in his "Mustadrak")

    It is not necessarily about hijab, or at least not alone, but for those who want to argue about hijab, let us think about the nuns or any other woman in history who covered her hair. And yes, in Christianity it was obligated as well. In fact, it IS IN THE BIBLE! Anyhow, the point is, a woman who has faith and loves her faith and God more than this life will do whatever she can to protect that. And the hijab is the easiest beginning of protecting her modesty and shyness. In fact, before the last century most of the women around the world covered properly. In pictures of the Victorian era, women always covered their skin, no?

    Anyhow, just my thoughts. Im not a scholar or anything. In the past I have posted some stories about others tales of hijab. It might be enlightening to read those as well. IN case you are interested:

  15. Sounds like a combination of a dominance issue and his having to eat a lot of humble pie about his having lived in the United States for such a long time.

    He must be under some pressure from somewhere regarding "being a good muslim" and all that entails, let alone his having an American wife.

    You mentioned in an earlier post that he was afraid for you. Have you followed up on that and found out why? I wonder what is being said to him and why he feels it so important to toe the line so to speak. I wouldn't be afraid of the people you know, but mob (read religious) rule can be a scary thing depending on who is dishing out the rules.

    I love reading your blog! So captivating being able to look closely at another culture. Thank you, Susie.

  16. Susie,

    You are much braver than I would be. Good for you!!!
    I would never make it living like you do. I respect you so much!!!!!


  17. Hi Susie, I found your blog through the 2009 Weblog Bloggie Award. I live in Dubai and I can tell you lots of Muslim women (Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, etc) DO NOT cover their hair and the society is ok with that. I couldn't imagine you having to cover yourself up, especially in the summer months.

    Anyway, I love your blog and I am amazed by your flexibility in marrying someone of different cultural and ethnic background. I am married to someone not my own race too but our differences doesn't match even half of yours!

  18. You and your husband have been together so long. I know you deeply love him and Adam. Isn't this all a lot to accept in such a short period of time? Are you going to stay in SA indefinitely? I admire your courage.

  19. He sounds rather like the typical Arab...not too concerned with "rules" religious or otherwise while out of his country...but suddenly gets hyper religous while at home. Anyhow...Im wondering how he could possibly sit in the company of those two women whose "beauty" is only for their husband...shouldnt he have lowered his gaze...or refused to sit with them...seems only fair after his making those comments to you.

    At any someone said are not even Muslim so Im not sure why he feels you need to cover in front of people. Sounds exactly like my ex...forced me to follow so called "Islamic rules" long before I ever considered becoming a Muslim.

    Force does nothing but foster animosity and resentment. He might want to consider that.

    btw dont sell yourself short...that smile takes years off your life...dont stop smiling irks people when you smile while faced with some of these

  20. You're more accommodating than I am, Susie. I get adjusting to Saudi culture, but you weren't in the company of Saudi's-you were around women and men who share a similar attitude to your own and what used to be that of your husband. I would have reminded my husband of the woman he married and the conditions of our marriage prior to Saudi. Flexibility is a necessary for a happy marriage-that means two people have to be flexible. I think I would have gone alone.

  21. Assalam Alikum, I was looking for a place for Quran memorization in Jeddah and came across ur page. Can u help me out plz. Im a student at Louisiana State University and decided to go to Haij this year insha'Allah. Im gunna have to take that semester off, so I thought instead of wasting a semester, y dnt i just move there for the semester n come back to finish up n graduate. I knw it wont be enough time to finish all the Quran, but it will really help me finish a big part of it. I am a Palestinian originally, but born and raised here and in Jordan. I heard things were very different there, so that y i wanted to see what places u can give me advice on... I chose Jeddah thinking that ppl there come from diff places from the middle east and other countries. Ill appreciate it if u can email me some feedback. My email is Thank u, Assalam alikum

  22. I'm a Muslim woman, I cover and I believe Muslim women should. Muslim women that is, your not from what I'm gathering so this does not apply to you.

    I do think your husband is missing something big about hijab, it is to IDENTIFY Muslim women. Your not a Muslim woman and shouldn't be forced to identify as one. And really as a Muslim woman it is offensive that he would do so :)

    Perhaps as time goes on your husband will find balance back in his home. It is difficult for many of us at first, even the Muslim women, while men go through cultural changes. what they think are demands of their home country vs what they are in their heart.

    Some advice, you do need to stand up a bit more for yourself. Choose your challenges and choose them at the right time. Make him explain himself.. and perhaps next time leave him home :)

  23. Hey Susie, thanks for the interesting post!

    I don't understand why your husband expects you to wear a headscarf in Saudi Arabia.

    A) You're not a Muslim woman, so you don't have to!

    B) Saudi Arabia's laws do not require foreign/non-Muslim women to cover their hair/heads, only the `abaya is required.

    And some of the opinions here show how little is actually known about the hijaab (cover for the Muslim woman), even by fellow Muslims!

    I am a Muslim woman, and in the Gulf I do wear ALL BLAck, by my choice too! The only thing that can be seen is my eyes. However, in my homeland Canada, I leave everything uncovered but the face & hands. From my studies of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), it appears that to cover the face and/or hands is not obligatory, but covering the hair and wearing a loose garment is, according to verses from the Quran.

    So to those Muslims who say, "well, who says we have to cover our hair & bodies? Simple men?"

    No, your Lord says you have to, and He says in the Quran, "follow not your own whims & desires, but obey Allah & His Messenger."

    Anyways dear Susie, you can in fact find the verses in the Quran and from authentic ahadith (sayings & examples by Muhammad, sallalahu `alayhi wa salama). Umm Travis gave two excellent examples.

    I won't go further into the "is hijaab obligatory/what does it entail" argument because I don't like having big Islamic debates on other peoples' Blogs, especially on non-Muslims because it may appear confusing and some won't understand.

    But for now I hope this helps :-)

  24. BTW, the style of a headscarf you're wearing is called "al-Amira" and no offense, but I would never wear those!!

    They look a little "turtle-ish" and many of my friends don't really care for them either :/

    I either wear a shayla (sheer silk) with a design or pattern on one edge, or in Canada I wore pashminas or Turkish headscarves.

    OoOoOo I forgot one more thing:

    Allah gave the older women the choice to discard their hijaab, but He said it's better if they do not -- and this was to the Muslim women!! Islam is a religion of ease <3

    My mom is interested in Islam but she was worried that about wearing extra clothing -- she gets really over-heated easily... but I told her since she is in her late 50's that it's okay for her not to cover her hair.

  25. I wear full hijab because I want to not because my husband or anyone else tells me. It is Allah who demands it of me and I oblige lovingly.
    I agree with those who say that you are not obliged since you are not muslim and don't believe in the practice. Also once a woman reaches the menopause the dress code isn't the same either.

  26. Hi Susan!

    First, you do look equally nice in hijab. It doesn’t suit everyone. I look like a cow in it. But you look gorgeous with and without it.

    Second, thank you for linking to my post. I put in a lot of time in it. It is years of research.

    Third, what your husband said “He feels now that a woman's beauty, including her hair, should be revealed only to her husband’ is a basic Jewish concept. Tell him that. And I will even give you a link to it.

    See, in Islam there is no such thing as ownership and a woman to be seen only by her husband. If that were the case, Muhammed (pbuh) would have never seen his adopted son’s wife (although she was his cousin and he had seen her before) as a potential wife and married her.

    Islam teaches that a person belongs only to Allah. No woman should attach herself to her husband too much and a husband must not attach himself to the wife like that either. Yes, a woman can only have sex with her husband and so a man should restrict himself to his wife (only one!) as well.

    In Judaism, Torah never preached women to cover their heads. It was Dat Yehudi (law derived out of Jewish practice) to cover the head because Jewish men believed that their wives were only for them and only they could see their hair.

    You obviously love your husband too much. It’s a good thing. But it is unfair that to feel Muslim he should make ‘you’ look Muslim. Obviously he had his fun times back in the States when he was ‘stupid’. Unfortunately as men grow older they become more ridiculously religious. I say ‘ridiculously’ because what he is doing is cultural and not religious.

    A non-Muslim woman married to a Muslim man has the freedom to practice her religious duties and beliefs. There is no compulsion on her or on anyone for that matter. Certainly your husband knew that and he knew he does not have the right to make you look Muslim for him to be recognised as Muslim.

    I fail to understand why Muslim men have to act in this manner. They confuse culture with religion and become a pain in the process. Good for him that you love him so much to care for how he would feel. Wish he did the same but I will stop here because I am no one to pass judgment on your husband. Definitely he is a good person and a loving man for you to be with him for 30 years.

    Love you and your blog!


    PS: I too don’t understand the deep-rooted patriarchy in Abrahamic religions. A woman can’t even show her hair and the man can make her share his dick with three other wives and innumerable slave-women!

    Sorry for the looooooooong comment :(

  27. Hi Susie,
    I find this whole thing very frustrating. Wouldn't everyone's sense of modesty be suited by having the men go about blindfolded? Then everyone could be as cool and comfortable as they wish.
    You shouldn't like wearing the hijab- it does not suit you at all. Your hair is so beautiful and it softens your face. It took me a minute to realize the thing growing out of your head in the picture with the pink headgear was a plant behind you!
    Did your husband close his eyes when he was in the presence of the other women, or did he treat them courteously? Did he despise the other men for allowing their wives to disrespect them? That thing he was feeling in the States was not stupidity, it was freedom. His culture stifles him as well. He cannot possibly feel right about his role in stifling you too.
    My daughter's boyfriend said about a dress she was describing to him over the phone (that she was going to wear to his friend's wedding): "I just hope it shows off your assets!"
    Love, Margaret

  28. Go get 'um, Schmoozie!!
    I guess this is the part where as a good friend I would say you look beautiful in the lovely hijab. But I think it looks as though someone has stuffed you in a cloth sack and you are trying desparately to free yourself. HEY, it could be worse, it could be Afghanistan where all of you would be covered.

    I like seeing you the way YOU want to be seen and I am so happy Adam is a boy.

    Regarding your decision to make your husband happy: as I said to you and Adnan when you visited me last summer, I have no problem with the husband making all the decisions as long as he has everyone's best interest at heart. ?????

    You know how i feel about this, Schmooze, and I really think Adnan goes with the flow. When in Rome.... As for you, when you're little cultural study is done you should come home where they don't keep you wrapped in a cloth sack.


  29. Hey you why would you? You have the most beautiful hair ever. I used to dream of hair like yours. Golly, I think it's a shame, but when in Rome do as Romans do. I wouldn't mind covering mine up. I have hair that belongs on a dogs butt.

    Love to you

  30. One more thing, Susie. Did you tell your husband that you wanted to leave your hair uncovered or did you tell him you wanted to show skin?

    Why is it that whenever we talk about hijab, it is either a bikini or a niqaab? I don't think you look 'immodest' in the photo where you show your hair. You look just the same - lovely. The same eyes, nose, beautiful smile.

    I get very annoyed when people assume women who are covered from neck to ankle but have uncovered head and hands are not "modest". Sorry but that is so presumptuous.

    You have an Arab Muslim husband. You live in Saudi Arabia, for God's sake! You have more right than me (who doesn't live in Saudi Arabia and who doesn't have a dominating husband) to worry about how Islam and Muslims affect your life.

    You have the right to know that you are not immodest even when you don't cover your hair. You are modest because you smile modestly. You are modest because you love only your husband and have eyes only for him. You are modest because you are a loving mother who left everything and everyone behind to follow her son and husband to a strange land. You are modest because you question men and not God. You are modest because for a Muslim man who wants you to cover your head because it makes him feel Muslim, you call God Allah and offer salah. Where is the immodesty in all this? I only see a humble and loving woman full of modesty.

    End of rant!

  31. Susie: I think being forced to do anything (wear/not wear) is the problem. Leaving aside all the cultural stuff (niqab, abaya, colors etc), hijab is done for your belief in God, not cause you're in a Muslim country, or married to a Muslim man, beauty blah blah. It also not not-done cause of discomfort/beauty/vanity etc :-)

    At the end of the day it is supposed to be your decision, ALONE!

    Glad you made some new friends!

  32. Thank you so much for your very informative Blog. I found my way here from American Bedu's blog. Yes many of these issues are culturally centered and unfortunately they come from a mans point of view. I am a happily married (28 years) American that studies Middle Eastern culture and if the Quran were interpreted correctly and if mans (a man's) biases were left out of the equation, women would be much better off.

  33. How fortunate are you to be in a place where many would love to travel. The history those sands possess, being able to place your feet on the same ground that prophets and messengers have walked.

    Living in the same city where it's said to be the burial place of Eve ... to be in close proximity to all this, to be able to reach out and physically touch and then connect with the meaning of it, where the pages of time turn back so far, that time itself disappears and you stand betwixt it.

    It doesn't matter how humanity has placed a framework on the basic truths of Allah, whom Prophets and Messengers have come to convey. It doesn't matter how religion has often become a vehicle to mislead rather than lead to the right path ... it's up to the seeker to find it ... it's up to each one of us, individually.

    I can only say what I have found to be true, as it's opened to me, as I've rebelled against it, wrestled with my own angels and demons and at times, punched them in the eye ...

    This is my rebellion story:

    I can only say that it was when I realized, as strong as I am, how very weak I am ... and I released, and I released, and I released, again and again.

    Through the openness of your writing, your willingness to convey and portray your life on these pages ... there's something for you there. Allah wouldn't have placed you in that country if there wasn't something He wanted you to see.

    I don't want to offend, but your husband shared life with you in your country ... feeling the call I can imagine as he did (through your writings here) he felt the need to migrate back home. The family is a unit still, that is beautiful.

    On his side, he may have at times felt uncomfortable or compromised here (the US) ... do this for him, as he did for you. You know he loves you ... you all went all over the place trying to find a turkey! lol

    Clearly you're an empowered and beautiful woman, it takes great courage to leave your home country. I'm not sure I could do that. It takes courage to write as openly as you have, to open your beautiful family to us.

    I do know it's important to create a style reflecting your strength and beauty. In other words, "put the frame" around the face whose eyes are the mirror to the light within the soul.

    There's something for you there where you are ... and while sometimes you feel out of place, Allah doesn't do things haphazardly.

    May Allah bless you and your family ...

  34. "A woman can’t even show her hair and the man can make her share his dick with three other wives and innumerable slave-women!..."

    For goodness sake...give a girl some warning before making such scandolous I have to go change my tshirt...spilled my drink thanks to you... :)

  35. My sweet Susie. Valentine's day is coming. I know, nothing red is allowed or roses and such but it is clear to me you love your husband very very much, even when he is being obstinate. Could you share a post on why you actually go along with this? What made you fall in love in the first place? What still makes you love him? That would explain you covering your lovely hair. I will not say anything against the gentleman because I know you are no fool and would not have made this move if there wasn't so much more to the man.

  36. Hi Susie,
    I just came across your blog today. I'm very sorry that you haven't understood the real value of hijab. Here are the verses from the Holy Quran that mentions hijab as being obligatory on muslim women -
    “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear therof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.”
    (Quran 24:31).

    Please read this link about hijab -

    May Allah guide you to the straight path. Aameen.


  37. Susie, I do understand what Susan said here. Some really good thoughts. Allah really must have a grand design in bringing you to KSA. I pray that it proves to be one of the best decisions in your life and may it bring you closer to your husband.

    Coolred, :) Seriously, I believe like you that God is never unfair. Allah is most kind and most merciful and definitely He can't be unjust.

    We all seek His love. May He guide us to the love of those who love Him, and the deeds which may bring His love to us, ameen.

  38. Oh, Susie, I am so sad for you. The choice whether or not to wear the veil should be 100% up to the individual who has to wear it. It sounds like your husband is insecure and wants to control you. Unfortunately he is living in a country where that's normalised and he is unlikely to realise that he has a problem.

    You've chosen to live in a country where women have to cover up in public, but it should be your choice what you do in private.

    It's nice of you to submit to your husband's wishes for the sake of marital harmony, but only if it makes you feel good to do that or if your feelings are neutral. If it actually makes you unhappy then it's probably not helping the situation - it's only going to embolden him to think that he has a right to control you.

    Maybe it would have meant an unpleasant scene but I wonder if the right thing to do would be to have gone without him, not worn the scarf, and told your friends the truth about why he wasn't there.

  39. Excellent post that really personalizes the dress code issue in Saudi. I agree with Nzingha's comments, and in general with those who have pointed out your rights and obligations as a non-Muslim, non-Saudi woman of a certain age (though you don't look it), yet married to a Saudi, and wanting a positive marriage.

    Based on my understanding, from Saudis, blogs and research,
    in public, as well as the abaya, it might be easier to wear a headscarf or have one handy, since beautiful blonds (like yourself) in the company of Saudi men elicit suspicion and the attention of the muttawa.
    As for the rest of the time, I think this is something for you and your husband to (re-)negotiate since it is primarily a marital issue. Perhaps a compromise could be reached that gives you more freedom in the company of Westerners, or liberal others, and more hijab compliance in the presence of Saudi men or his family, where he and you are more likely to be judged harshly for your failure to wear a headscarf.

    I would be concerned at this stage in your lives and marriage, that as well as his reacculturation issues, there is not a more general midlife trend towards greater conservatism. Obviously I have no idea whether this is true for him or not, but it is a consideration,especially since you are both having to find new accomodations in your relationship given the move to Saudi. This is a longer term issue that needs to be addressed.

    I'm glad you all went together, and had a good time anyway. I would also second that, for the times when you do wear a headscarf, you experiment with the styles and fabrics that suit you best. There are alot of resources on the internet for international styles of Islamic headscarves, and just like hairstyles and hats there are probably some that flatter your face and body more than others--not in any haraam way of course :-) .

  40. Suzi, You're a brave girl because if my husband gave me an ultimatum I would have told him to stay home. Especially after 30 years of it not being a problem. It sounds like he's starting to conform to the old ways. Keep Fighting! Make him show you where it says that you have wear these outrageous outfits in the Muslim religion. It's a men's world as far as I'm concerned.

  41. Hello,
    I discovered your blog through Achelois. And I definitively will come back.
    As a (younger) woman married to a Muslim man, I faced very quickly the fact that he behaves differently in Morocco and out, and that things that are not a problem for him would be if others knew it.

    I think for me a keypoint was when he asked me to cover my hair when we where in his village, thing that I never did before we were married. I hated it, and his argument was "people will speak badly about the family, and that's bad for the family, being the object of gossip brings the bad eye".

    That was very difficult :) because even if I don't believe i bad eye, many people do here, and would feel uncomfortable.
    So I accepted to cover my hair, and sometime after, long time, when people get used to me, I don't cover regularly. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't there is no pattern, and I'm not noticed anymore.

    But I did not ask him to uncover, I just did it, and mentionned sometime after "oh I'm sorry I forgot to cover", and got as an answer "no problem"

    So from my experience, you have two options. One of them is to fight hard, from the begining, the other one is to accept and adjust things back after. Of course, Morocco is not Saudi, and it's easier :)

    The second thing is what my husband pointed me, and I think is very true. Very often people who lived abroad are more conservative when they come back home than the ones who stayed. Because when they were abroad, they still had in mind how was their country when they left, they did not evolve as their country do, and they just want to "feel well back" in a country which is not anymore what they remember.

    The third point is... as far as I remember, and I think you pointed that out, as a non muslim, you have religiously (mean in the Coran) no obligation to wear the veil. But what your husband points is that "you should be respected, as his wife". It's not a point of religion, it's a point of how people consider you, and him. (In a way, we are back to my own problem in the village, how people do see you).

    Nevertheless, you have a fair skin and blonde hair. This is specially attractive where you live, and even if "you" feel old, believe me you don't look that way, and I'm sure you would attract many Saudi.
    And some people in this country would actually disrespect you for not wearing the veil.

    Let's say it is a cultural interpretation of religion... :)
    I felt bad when I had to cover and I preferred staying at home where I could remove it. So I understand you perfectly.

    And I wish you the best in our adventure.

  42. Well, hum, I think you look like a nineteenth century Polish Peasant woman. Even though you are so very pretty.

    While it is true that the bible (corinthians) explicitly mentions the fact tha women have to be veiled, it also mentions women to be below men. And it was written by Paul, a bloke I have problems with, and it is not personally penned down by God, so I don't see why it should be adhered too. It is written by a misogynist bloke, and included into the bible by the christian sect he founded. The Roman Catholic sect who have so succcessfully destroyed any other more tolerant form of Christianity.

    So I see no reason why this abberation in Christianity should be counted as an argument for Muslim women to veil also. Especially as the Quran is the one Abrahamic religion which doesn't order women to veil. It merely mentions that you have to cover your chest (breasts) down to your knees. Anything else is in the theories and imagination of MALE scholars, who like to see women being impeded and subdued.

    Besides on many, many old photographs from Arabia, you can see that the women wore loose dresses, and a peice of cloth aroud their heads, but their faces free, and their long tresses hanging loose. On photo's from the 1950's you see Arab women in Saudi Arabia without abaya's and without nigab and hijab, So all this covering some want us to believe is ancient and has always been so, is actually a new fashion only a few decades old.

    Woehoehoeee! Achelois! Excellent comment, even if a bit shocking! }:)

    And I have noticed a few times, those saudi men can look wickedly haraaaaam inn those comfortable light thin thobes with the light shining through!

    Oh and Achelois' second rant is sublime! Modesty is inside you, not how much materials you wrap your body in! It's in your mind and in your heart, and in your intention!!! And your husband has nothing to complain about!

  43. Hi Susie!
    thanks for writting this post. I'm so fed up of reading blogs of women non muslim by birth and adoring this absurd and opressive pieces of cloth!!
    I cannot add much more to your reasoning becasuse you have left me without arguments but I just wonder how longer are you going to bear the stupid arguments your husband is managing nowadays.
    the best luck and I'm sorry but you are stunning without the cloth..but mainly because you look much more confortable!

  44. I would have left him at home!! If he had lived in Saudi for all these years perhaps it would be different. However, he has been with you in mixed company for 30 years in the US with no problem at all. Pure hypocrasy and no consideration for you! It seems to me that he just wants to exert his power over you.

  45. Yes, modesty is within but as far as society is concerned, modesty is also without.

    Whilst we may feel the epitomy of modest traipsing innocently, skippingly buck-naked through the daisies, we all know full well ... if someone sees you, they're going to think you've plum lost your mind. And some days, they'd be right!

    There are norms and perceptions of dress/attire "appropriate" for certain occasions and places. We know this is true. We all know we "forget" from time to time.

    Mmmmmm, y'all just keep baiting the argument. ;) Bein' silly hand on the hip, neck snappin' "who does he think he is making you wear that oppressive thing!" lol

    People have that man trimmed, basted, and on the spit with their hand on the rotisserie wheel throwing another log on the fire ... mesquite!

    Islam is not Catholicism, you don't have to suffer, nobody's going to leave you by the well ... Allah wants ease for you ... if it itches, get different material. If it makes you feel unattractive ... get a different style, color, material, if it bunches, slips - Allah knows at times when I wear it, my scarf is at times totally out of control! Anybody have a pin?!

    People been drinking deep on the haterade. (wicked grin)

  46. What and interesting and informative topic. There is nothing like peer pressure to set a standard. I would not be strong enough to go against the accepted norm of the community!

  47. Hi Susie, I know all about being subtly bullied into this. i wore the hijab for years very happily, my own choice and conviction. I did not put it on for my husband and he didn't ask me to wear it. But then, some time ago, I really decided that I didn't believe that it was obligatory and considered taking it off. My husband does not have the kind of mind that can understand the reasoning for it not being obligatory. I can't explain to him about language and semantics and culture and historical criticism. As far as he is concerned, the mention of the khimar in the Qu'ran and the interpretations of scholars cannot be questioned and to question them is disbelief. So his response was, by all means take it off, but be aware that we would no longer appear out together in public. Basically it became about his pride. He was happy to have a covered wife after being married to a woman who did not cover, and he wanted to keep it that way and I assume, not lose face in front of his community. when I said that it was just a non-direct form of bullying, he disagreed, saying that he was just outlining his boundaries about how he felt comfortable. When I asked him about how he felt about my own comfort and boundaries, he said that he wasn't forcing me to do anything. I tested it a bit, wearing the scarf tied at the back of my neck, leaving the neck open. I still wasn't entirely sure that I wanted to take it off anyway, and didn't want to take it off as just a reaction to him. His response was to totally ignore me and walk home from where I had gone to meet him at the park.

    Knowing myself, and how my understanding of life, religion and everything is frequently changing and transforming, I decided to leave it for a bit, and not make an issue of it. I know his mentality and despite it frustrating me, I love him and respect him for many other aspects of his person.

    Anyway, I was just thinking, about what you said about nearing sixty, and a potential comeback for you, if your husband pushes the hijab is obligatory thing. According to Islamic Law, once a woman has reached menopause, it is no longer considered obligatory for her to cover her hair, it is just seen as "better", so even according to orthodox interpretations if you are past a child-bearing age, it's considered a time of maturity during which the rulings regarding external covering no longer apply. Food for thought!

  48. Dear Susie, your hair is fabulous, perfectly matched with your beautiful face.

    Your hair is your own. Nobody can put any weird rules on it.

  49. I have no concept of wearing certain fabrics to keep the man in my life happy or his co-horts. You are beautiful and it is sad you have to hide behind the robes.

    I also cannot help but wonder if the men of this country are not shooting themselves in the foot with such rules by religion.

    If I were allowed to wear such garb covering near all my body I would eat, and eat and eat and not care how I looked ;) I would be the very big woman in the black garb covering darn near all my body. My hair damaged and uncut for years, my face free of worry about wrinkles or management.

    Maybe I am living in the wrong country because HIDING sounds pretty good about now as a depressed, overweight and unhappy person.

  50. Susie,

    to be absolutely honest, you look decades younger without the head covering. I totally understand the need not to immediately freak out, to humor your husband while you buy time to think about how to calmly address this and figure out what it really means. As a person in a cross-cultural marriage, I am quite familiar with the need to keeep the peace.
    That being said, it is really, really unfair for your husband to pull that crap on you with non-Saudis. You are more than doing your share to be respectful of Saudi culture and your family over there, he should recognize your need to hold on to this piece of your freedom.
    Perhaps he feels like your taking off the covering with other non-Saudis, while in Saudi Arabia with a Saudi husband, makes it seem like you and he look down on his own culture. He doesn't want those foreigners to think he is apologetic about that part of his own should assure him that every culture has parts that we don't agree with, even if we love the culture as a whole. Do I love the Britney Spears part of our culture? No, but people won't think I am rejecting my Americanness just cause I don't embrace that part.
    Patience is very important, but your emotional health is more important. There are some parts of you worth hanging onto, and not just compromising away.
    Good luck to you both. I think that eventually you will come out a stronger couple for having negotiated this territory! if your husband truly loves you, and I think he does, he will be able to make peace with you eventually.

  51. Susie,

    to be absolutely honest, you look decades younger without the head covering. I totally understand the need not to immediately freak out, to humor your husband while you buy time to think about how to calmly address this and figure out what it really means. As a person in a cross-cultural marriage, I am quite familiar with the need to keeep the peace.
    That being said, it is really, really unfair for your husband to pull that crap on you with non-Saudis. You are more than doing your share to be respectful of Saudi culture and your family over there, he should recognize your need to hold on to this piece of your freedom.
    Perhaps he feels like your taking off the covering with other non-Saudis, while in Saudi Arabia with a Saudi husband, makes it seem like you and he look down on his own culture. He doesn't want those foreigners to think he is apologetic about that part of his own should assure him that every culture has parts that we don't agree with, even if we love the culture as a whole. Do I love the Britney Spears part of our culture? No, but people won't think I am rejecting my Americanness just cause I don't embrace that part.
    Patience is very important, but your emotional health is more important. There are some parts of you worth hanging onto, and not just compromising away.
    Good luck to you both. I think that eventually you will come out a stronger couple for having negotiated this territory! if your husband truly loves you, and I think he does, he will be able to make peace with you eventually.

  52. Susie,You are beautiful no matter what you're wearing.Sounds like it's all about some type of mis-placed pride for your dh,that and thinking like everybody else because he's home now.
    If it was me I'd be running for the airport around now.......

  53. Hey Susie, I'm going to send Adnan a quarter, so he can get a "clue".
    You are beautiful in the inside,and that's what matters more. Or does that society and religion not honor that. Do husbands not honor their wives as they expect their wives to honor them. Are marriages not a partnership, to live in love, respect, giving 50/50 for each other?! Ridiculous!
    You are an American and from the west. You shouldn't have to follow every man-made rule to the letter!!! Your sister-in-law who loves you for you! Annie

  54. Wow, what a tough decision. I know what it's like to have to choose between pleasing myself and pleasing my husband, but I can't imagine what it would be like if his position was so strongly backed by religion and culture. I admire you and thanks for sharing your perspective!

  55. What an interesting topic this is/was. i have to say i would be inclined to not wear the hijab. Is your wearing it definitely tied to living in Saudi and perhaps being around his family? Could it have something to do with issues connected to that? I read through all the comments and it is interesting that the hijab does not apply to non-muslim women? In re-reading your post what sticks out most is his comment that: as his wife, should obey and please my husband...should cover and he should be respected by everyone else for feeling that way...
    that makes me think he is bowing to outside pressure perhaps? that maybe if you do not "honor" his wishes you're not respectful in some way or perceived as such by male family members?
    Tough issue but, if society does not dictate that non-muslim women wear the hijib I surely would not be wearing it.
    Just my thoughts.
    Take care.

  56. Hello Susie,

    I have read of numerous accounts of Saudi men "changing" once they move back to the KSA from the states. I think this blog, and several others should be a must read for ANY non-muslim woman who is even considering marrying a Muslim man; let along getting the ol "oh yea...btw...after 30 (or even after 1 year) years in the states we're moving to the KSA". Seriously.

    And, I don't remember who posted it...but I would have told my husband to keep his ass home then. But...that's just me. My husband isn't Muslim, and neither am I; however, I do understand cultural differences and the affect they can have on a marriage. In my personal opinion, it appears to be about controlling you versus doing what is right according to Islamic faith.

    I wish you the best of luck.

  57. Suzie, you are beautiful with your hair uncovered. Thank you for sharing that picture with us.

    I don't know what I would have done if I were actually in your situation but I really think I would have told Adam to stay home.

    I was wondering how long it would after you moved to Saudi Arabia before Adam became a 'typical Saudi man.'

    If I remember correctly, you did convert to the Muslim faith before you left the States, didn't you?

    Did you and Adam ever have any of these discussions before you moved from the States to Saudi Arabia? As in, what did he expect of you after you got to Saudi?

    I know how hot it is in Saudi and how uncomfortable it is wearing the abaya. I lived in Saudi 3 different times. I had to wear the abaya when I went out of my Western compound. I did not have to cover my hair or my face but I always carried a scarf with me to cover my hair in case the religious police decided to get ugly with me.

  58. This was such a well written and honest post. I have read some of the comments and don't have much to add. I mostly wanted to say that I am glad you are able to honestly write about this topic on your blog and I hope that your husband will be able to see and understand your point of view.

  59. Susie-Achelois' post doesn't want to let me make this comment LOL :-) --or else it is going to come up 5 times in a row, so I thought I'd put it here.

    I would feel remiss if I didn't clarify that I'm am not commenting on the quality of Susie's marriage nor on her husband's intent, but just on the realistic adjustments that partners in good marriages make over time.

    In my case, sometimes my hubby's behaviour, is a way of protecting the relationship from giving ammunition to others in the culture or the family against one or both of us. And he certainly needs "reprogramming" even after 1or 2 weeks in the culture, where everyone else reverts to old familiar patterns, and I go along with "nonsense" like my making the bed in the morning. LOL :-)

  60. Hi Susie, I have loved your blog from the very beginning, but have to admit that that I felt very unsure about your decision to come to KSA. I admired your initial enthusiasm and optimism and hoped that it would continue. I applauded the sacrifices you and your son were making for your husband. I imagined such a love as you must have for him. Now all I feel is sadness. Its a slippery slope, my girl, a slippery slope indeed. Take care.

  61. @Chiara, Ok, ok, stop moaning... I picked you out of spam :D

  62. I have to agree in that I DO see double standards for women. Here and overseas. I have seen Muslim women covered up from head to toe while the husband wears the latest jeans (and this instance he was wearing those baggy jeans around the waist) ???? and have seen men wearing shorts etc..while the woman is all covered up and I was with an Arab for 8 years. He was a sweet man but back home in Oman he was very mindful of his behavior and trying to behave like a good Arab/Muslim. He told me living in oman is like living under a microscope. I guess one can equate that feeling to a small town here in the USA.

    It's sad you have to cover even in a compound when other women are not covering and you don't even believe in the religion. I can understand to a degree covering out in public say at a souk or going to a store because the predominance of the women there do but in a compound??? Sigh.......good luck!

  63. actually covering your hair is a religious requirement for Muslim Women and NOT something cultural, however the different ways women cover can be considered cultural. Just because some women don't cover their heads, doesn't mean its cultural, the majority of women who don't cover aren't religious and usually don't observe the other tenets of the faith. Anyways I don't know if your Muslim or not, but saying the hijab is just something forced my men is Wrong

    anyways here's a good explanation

  64. You made some very good points and you need to keep on your husband about wearing a hijab. Have your husband's views changed a lot since moving to SA? SA is too much of a man's world! Love and marriage is a compromise with give and take on both sides no matter were you live. SA is a very modern country but their beliefs are still in the dark ages.

  65. think of it as clothes.There are more important things out there.Your mind is so alive and active.You are wonderfull in all you wear.I am more worried about the iching and heat!

  66. O.K. now that I'm over the shock of it all and my why aren't you running to the airport? comment, I have to think -when in Rome kwim?
    I can only imagine how crazy it must be walking between two worlds.

  67. I'd have gone to the dinner with only my son or alone and then, the minute I got home, I would have made airline reservations if that is what it would take to make him understand that you have a right to your own beliefs. You put up with enough crap just living there (for his comfort)and then he's going to go and change all the rules after 30 years? Oh HELL no!

  68. Suroor--thank you for rescuing me from spam! My computer Jinn is behaving very, very badly. She has never spammed me before (that I know of), just played with blog sites and eaten my posts only to vomit them up multiple times later. These antics are new. We are not amused! :-)

    Susie--obviously you have been managing your marriage well all these years without any of us, BUT, (you knew there was a but) the only thing worse than wearing an abaya would be tossing a marriage over one. One friend used to wait until holidays outside her husband's home country to deal with delicate issues, and marital rebalancing.

  69. PS If you have an update on the dress code I'd be interested.

  70. I'm curious what Adam had to say about the whole thing?

  71. susie be careful please dear..

    according to quran, what you have done can be categorized as khulwa.

    khulwa punishment is stoning to death.

    keep yourself save dear.

  72. What utter crap! Where does khulwa come in?
    Khulwa is being alone in an enclosed private space with an unrelated man.

    And where does stoning come in? there are no punishments for khulwa, except what the sick misogynist ''judges'' make up in their sick twisted woman-hating brains!

  73. dear aafke, too bad too many the sick misogynist ''judges'' make up in their sick twisted woman-hating brains! around there.

    guess from where do they get their sick twisted woman-hating brains!?

  74. Susie,

    How can you stand being in such a sexist environment? Don't you feel your soul shriveling up a little each day? Also, what about Adam? Do you really want him picking up that part of the values system? I feel the walls closing in on me just thinking about it!!! Good luck to you! If only you could go around like that nice 6 year old.

  75. "majority of women who don't cover aren't religious and usually don't observe the other tenets of the faith".

    Whoa! Putting words in Allah's mouth, are we? Judging before He does? That is the MOST presumptuous BS I have ever read. And it is not surprising that the one acting like God is anonymous.

    This person needs a history lesson, and a lesson in basic "tenets of the faith" namely YOU are not the judge.

  76. There are too many anonymousses on this thread.

    hijab is not a religious requirement. Some scholars would like it to be so and don't mind putting in a bit of bidah to further their aims, but the quran does not mention headcoverings and abayas. It merely states women should cover their breasts and their private parts down to your knees, anything else is interpretation and personal preference.

    besides, even if would be religion (and it isn't) then there is still NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION.
    Not if you are a real muslim. And anybody who knows anything about Islam, knows that these things are nobodies business, it is stricktly between the persoon and God.

  77. Gosh! You must be a really nice person to give in to your husband. I know I wouldn't!

  78. Aafke, I think the distinction came when considering Qur'anic revealation and the hadith concerning Asma the daughter of Abu Bakr, who when wearing a thin dress, not a thobe, the Prophet said to her, the only thing that should be seen after the beginning of menses, was "this and this" and he pointed to "his face and hands".

    Some take the pointing to his face to include the remainder of the head and subsequently the hair, others do not.

    However, it's further clarified - as I understand - in the Qur'anic verse(s), during his marriage to Zainab bint Jahsh, and with societal norms of dress from the preceding revealed faiths, Islam being the completion and confirmation thereof.

    I could well be mistaken, but this is how I understand it.

  79. Susan--while it is a complex topic, my understanding is that the hadith about Asma is a weak one, and that generally the Quran only specifies modesty/covering regarding the bosom and the body. Certain ayat apply only to the Prophet's wives, whom some women now wish to imitate, and reflect the Prophet's desire/need to maintain a separation between his private and public life. More conservative interpretations derive from Islam's spread to more conservative cultures like Persia and South Asia, and to the more recent influence of conservative interpretive schools like Salafism. At least that is my understanding of the academic scholarship on this topic. :-)

    Aafke--were you referring to a surplus of Anonymice on this thread? :-)

  80. It is a complex topic, refractive and convoluted. And it's unfortunate that it's received some of the comments it has. Although, that's to be expected.

  81. there are too many anonimousses on this thread, it's too difficult to make clear to which ''anonymous'' one is referring. ;)
    I think after one ''anonymous'' has posted, all other anonymousses should use either a make-believe name, or give themselves numbers, aka Anonymous-1, Anonymous-2, Anonimous-3, etc.

  82. A good suggestion.

  83. interesting post, you look a lot younger without the hijab, just my humble opinion......

    Gill in Canada

  84. Dear Susie,

    Saudia Arabia is an extremely conservative Muslim country. They refuse to interpret the Quran in accordance with "reason" and "logic". They practice the religion as if they still live in the 7th century.

    In my country, Turkey, which is not an "islamic republic" but -fortunately- a "secular republic", 90% of the population is Muslim but only 60% of Muslim women cover their hair. Islamic teologists in my country who are professors at the university say that covering hair is not an absolute obligation for Muslim women and that a Muslim woman who does not cover her hair and who even wears a bikini on the beach is not out of religion. Turkish society is conservative too but not like Arabic countries. However, the "islamism" attacked also our country and many Turkish citizens are worried about the future of our country because we do not want to become like Saudia Arabia or Iran.

    I was in Egypt two weeks ago. Many Muslim women in that country do not cover their hair either. Many of them wear things like "tchador" but many of them wear blue jeans and shirts.

    I hope you and your husband will solve this problem by discussing about it.

    Best regards,


  85. Pushing 60? No way....You are beautiful. Your eyes are gorgeous.

    In your photos with the hijab on, you remind me of a friend who is a nun in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Her eyes are bright and beautiful and dance with love and joy. She lives a cloistered life, and her clothing is a part of that. But her beauty won't be contained.

    You are a better woman than I; I would have left him home.

    Plenty of food for thought here. Thanks.

  86. Of all your various posts Susie, this one concerned me for I can see and feel the transformation of your husband....a common phenomenon that happens with many Saudi men when they return to the Kingdom and family fold. Please...remember who YOU are and do not LOSE yourself. You may think and convince yourself that you are succumbing to his wishes to maintain the peace and have the family look respectable but trust me ... it will bother you over time. You will likely either become more submissive (because once started the Saudi man will demand more) or feel so resentful like you need to burst out of a gilded cage.

    I do not mean offense with this message but am simply concerned by the earlier posts where I have seen a beautiful feisty independent American woman WHOM YOUR HUSBAND FELL IN LOVE WITH transforming into a different person. Will that make you and your husband become closer or not... but only you can answer that.

    I do want all the best for you!

    American Bedu

  87. Does this piece of cloth have so much power that it can evaporate the personality of the person wearing it?

    Sometimes ... sometimes not.

    Sometimes, our men themselves may be in crisis, they move to reclaim what they feel they've lost, wish to reconnect with as life and years increase. Questions come, pressure comes, expectations come, it spills over on the one closest to them - their wife.

    Because of being within a belief that heaven itself is at the feet of the mother, to whom obeisance is given three times, before it is given to the father, whose body and at times, hair is covered, creating for some in symbolism, the veil between the worlds ... between God - Allah - and humanity, there can be an enormous amount of pressure and expectation on the woman, the wife, the daughter, the sister.

    Does she become almost the thunder, perfect mind in humanity's grasping the vessel whom Allah has created and given to man as a trust?

    Is woman adored as the Madonna, reviled as the whore ... beloved as the consummate partner of her husband?

    Sometimes, our men are in crisis ... and we don't see it, because we ourselves are in crisis, while trying to help them through theirs ... you can see it in their eyes, their face.

    And we grapple at odds to know how to handle, help, understand, and be there for them, be there for us, for ourselves.

    Can we submit and lose ourselves? Yes.

    Can we submit and find ourselves? Yes.

    Can we lose each other, because we don't see there is a crisis of our partner? Yes.

    Can we say "I'm going to go learn some things, learn who I am ... I want, would like, you to hold on for me, for us." Yes. (or, No)

    Is a scarf, a piece of cloth so powerful that it can oppress us? Or is it just a piece of cloth?

    Any man (or woman for that matter) will begin to demand more once even a nominal victory is effected. It's human nature, primal. ;)

    Especially men ... it's their thing.

    Can personal empowerment come through ownership of a concession - Yes.

    I think on some level, we can all relate to "don't lose yourself" Absolutely. But sometimes too, we need to know who we are.

    Sometimes, we're late bloomers. ;)

    For the very reason you feel you may lose yourself in his culture, again, he may have felt the same in yours ... and there's the bridge.

    Aalia also had some good advice at the beginning of this thread, switch the style, the material, wear 100% cotton ... it's just clothes ... but own your style.

    You don't lose yourself, you're still there ...

    There's a woman I know, and I don't always agree with what she says or her approach to things, but something she said helped me "flip" my own psychology and perspective of a thing ...

    We were looking at this fabulous dress ... it was was beautiful and Islamic. This thing was gorgeous! We were both like "wow" ... I asked now where would I wear that? She said "honey, you wear that home with your man." I'm like "What? Are you kidding"

    Then I started to think about it. Yeah, I want a place my man wants to come home to. To many times we want to impress strangers and leave our spouses (husband and/or wife) with the crumbs off the table.

    We do it here alllll the time! USA ... we dress to impress people who are "Who?" And we forget who our heartsong is.

    Yeah, I had to give her that. She was right ... and I def see her logic in the reasoning.

    Through the revelation of the verse(s) concerning the veil/covering/mantles/hijab - weak hadith or not ... I can see certain reasoning behind it. I can see the Song of Songs within it.

    It was bound to happen. It's if we walk across that bridge to embrace each other and help each other through that further strengthens the bonds of marriage.

    But what do I know ... I'm single still waiting! ;)

  88. Susie,
    After so many comments on this post you probably don't want to hear another one, but here goes...
    As a Christian woman God asks me to submit to my husband [1Peter 3:1, Eph 5:22] so I would have done the same as you. Willingly.
    The flip side of that is that God asks our husbands to love us [Eph 5:25, 5:28], honor us and cherish us. Do you feel your husband was loving you by asking you to wear the covering? If the answer is yes, then do it willingly and cheerfully. If not then don't do it at all.
    When I was married I did things I did not feel were appropriate or fun or comfortable because my husband asked me to. Until he started disrespecting me and doing things unlovingly.
    I agree with Coolred38 who asked if your husband lowered his eyes or refused to sit with the women who did not have their hair covered? In my opinion, that would have be a sign of love on his part.
    Religion is doctrine thought up be men and women and forced on all of us. Loving God and honoring Him should be our focus.
    BTW- I followed your trail from Skywatch Friday. Great Skywatch pics. Looking forward to reading about your adventures in Suadi Arabia. You are a very brave woman!

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  91. Interesting further comments (not to mention deletions).

    2 questions to oneself are sometimes helpful in these types of situations where one has a lingering sense of disease:
    1) In retrospect would you have handled the situation differently?

    2) For the future what would you do differently?

    eg. Consult with the hostess about the dress code prior to attending, and prior to the discussion with your husband? Go with your family but remove the hijab when you saw the others' attire? Go with your son and excuse your husband? Establish your own dress code, inform your husband, and stick to it?

    The answers might be a starting place for further discussion with your husband (maybe while on holiday from Saudi :-) since maybe you would think more clearly--and assertively "outside the sandbox" too)

    While I would never advocate putting a child in the middle, your son might have an interesting perspective on all this.

    All the best

  92. PS that should have been "a lingering sense of dis-ease or unease or malaise but not disease" :-)

    Do let us know if you have further thoughts on the topic or comments that you are willing to share. :-)

  93. Hi Susie,

    Your blog gives a wonderful insight into Saudi life from a Westerner's perspective. I recently visited Saudi Arabia and, although I found the culture fascinating, would find adaptation to living there very difficult.

    My perspective sees both your POV and your husband's. It's not surprising to me that your husband should feel more free to express his Muslim and cultural heritage at home in Saudi than in the US. From what I saw in SA, hijab is the basic minimum dress. Most women I met wore niqab as well. As I recall, you freely decided to move to SA and did say your shahada, so you are a Muslim. I am therefore not surprised by your husband's expectations regarding dress code in the context of SA. My real question is: did you understand the implications of moving to Saudi Arabia?

    Stay well

  94. Lioness, nobody understands that until they have to live it. And I think as Susie has been married for 30 years she and has never before experienced this extreme behaviour from her husband, and he is, or should be, aware of her discomfort wearing the suffocating hijab, I can relate to her writing this post.

    You can be mega-muslim, that still doesn't mean you are required by Islam to wear hijab, only the more conservative scholars insist it is required. It doesn't say so in the Quran.

    And when Susie is meeting a solely western company, I think it's really weird and unreasonable of her husband to insist she should wear hijab.

    I would have left him at home!!!!

  95. after fifteen years of wearing the hijab i have taken it off and i have never felt better in myself, my confidence has returned, hijab to me is suppression a suppression of a womans personality, her spirit everything, i am a born muslim and have had to endure serious pressure from everyone to put it on but i couldnt take it any longer it really was making seriously mentally ill, it used to take me half an hour to get ready with trying different hijabs and sometimes i wouldnt go out because it got me down so much, but i am luckier than you, my husband doesnt care if i keep it on or off, and i know so many women who wear it because of pressure, i am sick of muslim women who wear it acting superior no one can judge only allah and being good and doing the best you can is far more important than a piece of cloth, and like my husband its nowhere in the quran, its a tradition that is used and abused against women and young girls, sorry for the long post but i read your blog regularly and you seem such an amazing woman, btw i am in the uk,

  96. Thank you for another wonderful every day story from your life in the KSA. I appreciate so much reading your blog to get your point of view on the way of life in Jeddah. You did well by expressing your feelings through your blog. I support you and I think that this is a prime example of how life in the KSA differs from that anywhere else in the world.

  97. I like your strength, which shows even in obedience.

  98. What obedience? Susie wasn't obedient, she was wise, she has given in to a ridiculous childish tantrum to preserve peace. She has magnanimously acceded an unreasonable dictation.

    That is not ''obeying''
    That is being way above an infantile unreasonable directive by an unsure scared individual.

  99. Fascinating post and comments. You could put together a book about this one topic. I sometimes see women out jogging in my desert with those head and neck coverings. I don't see how those garments can be comfortable or safe in the summer heat.

  100. I just found your blog, I love it ! you are a faithful wife. Jesus loves you!

  101. I just found your blog, I love it ! you are a faithful wife. Jesus loves you!

  102. Susie, I read this post a while ago, and meant to comment earlier. My Muslim family is a mixture of conservative and non-conservative as far as dress is concerned. The only time they asked me to cover my hair at all was during the week I was there to bury my husband...and really it was just a black thin scarf rather than full hijab. You are not Muslim, therefore you are not required to cover your hair. I understand wearing abaya and maybe a thin scarf for your hair because it is the law there in Saudia. Also, I know, for me, I always consider the area and people I will be with when choosing my outfit. Even here in the states, I have a family I visit where I would not wear certain things out of respect. And, I always believe the old adage, "when in Rome..." but, it is strange that your husband requires you to wear full hijab when you are not Muslim. I wonder if you could meet in the middle and just wear a pretty scarf loosely over your hair instead of what you are wearing now?
    By the way, I think you look lovely either way, and I commend you for respecting your husband's wishes. Not many American women appreciate or understand that, and as a Christian, even with a muslim husband, I always tried to "obey" my husband, and I think God does command us to do that.
    Anyway, just wanted to throw in my two cents!

  103. Susie, I have just recently found your blog and I hope to continue following. You have an interesting story to tell an I admire you for writing your feelings. I am sure you love your husband and want to show him respect, but did you know this wouldbe asked of you when you entered into the marriage? I myself would just feel too confined having to dress that way. Women have been expressing there individuality by the way they dress and wear their hair for centurys and from reading the others' comments this isn't something really required of someone who isn't a Muslum. Or did I miss something. I think if you feel the way you do, you should convince your husband to give you some slack, espesially when you are around others who feel it isn't necessary to cover everything.

  104. @Ajnabiya Why do you say that God commands Christian women to 'obey' their husbands? Hundreds of years ago the bride's marriage vows were to 'love, honour and obey' but that never came from the bible and it's well out of date. I'm getting married in a church in six weeks time. My husband and I will take identical vows to 'love, honour and cherish' one another. And that's the way it should be. I strongly believe that men and women are equal - equal does not mean the same, it means of equal value and worth and each with the right of self-determination. I don't give that up with marriage, I enter into a committed and loving partnership.

  105. Susie, I think it's fine to give a little of yourself to make another person happy. However, I think it's extremely important not to go to far and subjugate your personality to another. If wearing the veil in these circumstances doesn't bother you then it's a nice gesture for marital harmony. If you are doing it despite great misgivings and it is making you unhappy, then it's likely to lead to future marital discord rather than harmony, so it would be quite counter-productive. Be strong and keep true to yourself - then and only then are you in a position to give to another person.

  106. It seems like the thing to do when living in a country that has customs. I would not like to live there as my girls )wife and four daughters( would not like to cover their hair.

  107. be Lincoln, read the post, Susie was visiting wester friend, none of them wore hijab. so there was no real valid reason why Susie should have been made to wear hijab, indoors, with western friends.

  108. @Aafke: Abe is new to this forum, and means no insult. :)

  109. @Caitlin...please do not think I mean be a doormat for a husband. I mean that the husband is considered the spiritual head of the household. Just as Christ is head of the church, the husband is head of the family...
    I know that "obey" word is difficult and easily taken out of context. There are so many verses and I don't want to bore the non-Christians with Bible verses, but I will say read Ephesians 5:25-31 to start. I don't mean what you think I mean. Of course it is a partnership...and I agree men and women are equal partners in the one should give up rights in a marriage. However, as I think you said in a later post, there are times when one gives in to the other for various and personal reasons. In my post I was commending Susie for what she did for her husband because she chose is not my place to question her reasons for giving in to him.

    I was married for 17 years to a Lebanese man and many times I gave in to him on things for my own personal reasons, just as he did for me. He passed away, and if God brings me another husband, I will do the same.

    Marriage is a give and take relationship, but, as for me, I will still take my cues from the Bible. Anyone else is free to do as they please. No offense to you or anyone else here! :)

  110. Hi Susie *hugs* I wanted to tell you that it's a pleasure reading your blog; I expect to be in Jeddah within the coming year and it's wonderfully educational to read of your experiences and perceptions. You're quite a woman!

    I'm a muslim woman, so hijab for me has a very personal's a step in obedience to Allah, not unlike taking communion for a christian would be.

    For you, I can sense the turmoil that the changes that have come about in your life have wrought for you. Now that he's in Saudi (your husband) he's bound by a different set of rules. He should be pretty much the same, in an out of the kingdom...but I kinda doubt he was. And that's not uncommon...nor is it uncommon that as men (and women) age that he may become more religious, and expect that you follow his lead..even though you're not a muslim.

    If I could make a suggestion, for your own comfort...there are *much* cooler styles to wear in the gulf (I lived there before as well). The cotton "Amirah" hijabs you're wearing in these photos are, in my experience, HOT and restrictive, just in their styling. Might I suggest that you go with a silk shayla, something soft and easily found in Jeddah? If you wear a band (I find that our hair as westerners is a different texture, and we need a fabric headband or something like that to stop the shaylas from "slipping") I think you'll find it to be cooler, as well as it won't slip much if you anchor it. I typically use one hijab pin under my chin, and another jeweled (since when can't we be pretty when we wear hijab, within moderation?!)pin to anchor my shayla on the side. I'd be glad to give you some other ideas if you like - maybe it'll help, it might make it easier on you insha Allah.

    You know your husband well after many years of marriage, and you're doing your best with what you've got right now - hang in there, and American Bedu is right - don't 'lose' yourself. Arab women are pretty feisty, it's not like Saudi women don't use their own brains lol and just because you want to please your husband doesn't mean you have to lose yourself in the process. If you want to be more comfortable next time, maybe wink at him, tell him you can't WAIT to relax and enjoy dinner amongst friends, and sassily offer to go on your own - in his irritation he may act annoyed, but most saudi men won't want their wives going out alone - often. Retain your independance girl...submission doesn't mean losing all of it. That feistiness you posess is something ANY man loves - your husband included. Don't lose that, and don't be afraid to have it out with him on occasion lol - the stimulation might be pretty good for him, and also his respect for you, for you holding your ground from time to time, it's important for you too!
    If your husband wants to place islamic values on you (and it's understandable that he would, being that you're now in a muslim country, HIS country.. did you convert...even on paper, before going to Saudia?)...feel free to place them on him too. And he who is the best muslim is best to his wives :))) Hang in there - good for you for blogging about what you're experiencing, and I look forward to getting to know you better!

  111. I like your comment anonymous!

  112. It really surprises me that with so many explanations from Saudis and from Muslims around the world, other commenters can continue to post comments about how the hijab oppresses women. If you're forced to wear it could, but many Muslim women wear hijab because they want to. I was born and raised in Canada, and I don't wear hijab, but that doesn't mean I'm not just as offended when you say these things as a Muslim woman who does wear hijab. Please be more respectful of other cultures and religions (talking to the offensive commenters, not at all to you susie :)

    btw- just started reading the blog today and I really enjoy it!

  113. Hi

    Religious issues, cultural differences etc aside, I have to say that you look gorgeous with the hijab!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  114. I have been thinking about this post of yours all week. I think I read on your blog that you are not Muslim, is that correct?

    If you are not Muslim, why would your husband insist that you cover your hair when around other woman that don't?

    By the way I feel the same way you do re: covering. The only time I do, is when I'm going to the Mosque.

  115. Hey Susie Girl your such a pretty woman. Well, there you are in Saudi Arabia so now your husband wants you to wear hijab. I guess it being his hometown has a lot to do with this. You are a reflection on him. I notice he is wearing his beard-his religious obligation. I'm sure you have a good husband otherwise you would not have moved half way accross the world with him. I say...when in Rome...why not try some different hijab styles? Even the Bible says that the woman who uncoverth her hair shames her own head. Muslim women are not the only women who wear some type of head covering. I honestly think if this is ALL you husband is asking you to do then try your best to do it. Afterall, it seems he compromised in the West where I'm sure he would have loved you to cover but did not insist. People are so selfish these days & think covering up is going to kill them or something. It seems like you have a decent husband why not go that extra mile for a good man. :)

  116. Susie: Your willingness to negotiate the world around you, within the constructs imposed by your husband and your current living situation is done with grace and poise. I grew up in a neighborhood in Edmonton Alberta Canada with a heavy muslim population, and many of my girlfriends encountered a clash between their personal western ideals and their family's desire for them to be perfect traditional muslim women. This often was a topic of conversation as my father was a minister and had always taught me that knowledge was the best defense to prevent falling into religious rhetoric instead of true adherence to personal faith. When we reviewed all the Koran, even reviewing peoples comments now, through google and many other search engines, the Koran implores women to be modest. Anything above and beyond that is choice and in your case, imposition/"compromise" with your husband. Stay strong, stand up for yourself, because even if he is the head of your household,you are entitled to your opinion, you are not invisible, and you deserve to have some say over this part of your life. Oh, and the passive aggressive offer of coming if you wear the scarf and skipping out if you don't is a blatant control tactic, and not playing fair. Don't give up, and don't fold in.

  117. You are so beautifull with your hair uncovered; you simply seem more comfortable with it..

    You should have the freedom to dress how you like and do what you want; and nobody should tell you otherwise..

    Personally I couldn't last in a Muslim country more than a couple of days, so I admire you very much.

    Greetings from a spanish girl.

  118. Abbaya is probably the worst man invention in history .I always tease my Saudi wife and 15 years daughter about this Abbaya thing .Abbaya attracts heat and dirt . Abbaya needs frequent washing and ironing and a housemaid just dedicated for this kind of job."Throw this Abbaya away".I was always teasing wife and daughter like that .They usually stare back at me when I say something like that , thinking I ought to be mad or not so serious,but deep inside I am mad about the Abbaya thing. A Saudi Engineer

  119. Hello soso,

    Actually, Your look beautiful in Hijab, but I wonder if you are not Muslim why you wear Hijab?

    As A muslim women wearing Hijab to obey ALLAH not man, I would tell you that you don't must to!

    I think that you real problem is from you husband not Islam.

    Islam has an answer for your question that your hubby doesn't knew!!

    this is an evidence from Quran

    ALLAH says: “And tell the believing women to lower their eyes, and guard their modesty, and that they display not their ornaments except what appears of them. And that they draw their scarves (khumurihinna) over their bosoms…” (An-Nur: 31)

    Also, Islam deal with men and women equally, "Allah, the Creator of humans, knows our nature better than ourselves, and thus He has prescribed appropriate rules of behavior and appearance to be observed when men and women interact with one another. These rules of interaction also include a prescription for modest dressing, which applies to men as well as women. Almighty Allah says, "Say to the believing men to lower their gazes and guard their chastity…” (An-Nur: 30) He also says: “And tell the believing women to lower their eyes, and guard their modesty, and that they display not their ornaments except what appears of them.” (An-Nur: 31)" as posted in>

    Dear Susie,
    If you are Muslim, you must read about Islam and ask appropriate people who knew the reality of Islam,
    I recommend you to read by yourself and think deeply about it.
    Your husband like many people might not have enough information about Islam or has mixture between religion and culture!

    Take care


  120. Okay, I read this blog post. I am thinking that you are not Muslim, what religion were you born into? I am a converted Muslim sister (I'm 26), I do not cover my head, expect when I am going to the mosque. I like your blog!

  121. Okay, I read this blog post. I am thinking that you are not Muslim, what religion were you born into? I am a converted Muslim sister (I'm 26), I do not cover my head, expect when I am going to the mosque. I like your blog!

  122. Nice blog! I felt like I'm having a cup of tea with an old friend while reading it :) You remind me of my mother& her friends back home..I've been living in Jeddah for almost four years now...I come from a mixed marriage (European mom-Arab/Muslim dad)..and my mom always used to say that dad was so open and westernized when they were newly married but that changed after years of marriage and getting older..she said that as one gets older one goes back to his roots which is so hang in there and don't let these little things get to you...enjoy your time together!

  123. I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful ….