Good morning everyone ^_^
A couple of days ago, I have received an e-mail from a lady who had some questions related to UAE’s culture and people. This was her e-mail:
Assalam alaikum sis!
How are you? Inshallah everything is fine with you!
I have few questions, maybe you know the answer...
Is it true that local women in wealthy high class Emirati families have something like a "personal assistant"- a personal maid- ?. A personal maid that helps madam do dress and even wash her in the bathroom? One of my friends says in their family they have this kind of maids whom their families get good money for this, instead their daughters work as "personal assistants" in some wealthy families but can never get married- no time for that, "career".
Another question is about weddings. All weddings in the UAE are segregated, which means that women celebrate separately in a big wedding hall, thus a bride can wear an open dress and have all the make up, same for the women-guests- they can wear open dresses, no need for hijab (1). Yet again I heard that in some very wealthy UAE families- a social wedding party is mixed- men and women are present, while the bride wears an open dress and make up in front of strange men. But in life she has to wear an “abaya” (2) and “sheila” (3), sometimes even “niqab” (4). Then this is a contradiction. Is it true? do such weddings take place? Or I simply misunderstood?
I'll be grateful if you could answer please.
Indeed, I replied and explained everything to her. I am posting my replying e-mail here in my blog so that everyone can read the answers and understand the whole idea.
Here is my reply and the answers:
Wa Alaikom Assalam sis,
A1- Emirati families tend to be big families in very large homes or villas (Grandparents, Daughters, Sons, Grand children, etc). And usually every big house with an extended family has 2-4 house maids (depends on the size of the house and the number of people in it), a driver and a cook.
Some wealthy Emirati families have nannies for their kids, specialized to help mums with their babies and children (other than house keepers).
I have heard that some very wealthy Emirati Families have a "Personal Assistant" for some “women” members of the family, but I DON’T THINK that they wash their Madams in the bathroom because it is forbidden in our religion and culture that a woman sees the “Awra” (5) of another woman. It is unacceptable Not in Islam, nor in my Culture.
In addition to that, the "Personal Assistant" might not get married not because of her career, but because she chose not to. No one, no matter who he or she is, can force a house maid or a personal assistant to do something without her agreement. So, If she wants to get married and start a family, she is totally free to do that.
A2- Regarding weddings, they are all separated in the UAE (Women celebrate alone and Men celebrate alone in two separate Halls or Luxurious tents).
Personally I have never heard of a mixed Emirati Wedding because it is close to impossible, but again, families differ in the UAE. But mixed weddings of Emirati families in the UAE are VERY VERY RARE (like 0.1%).
In addition to that, If the bride, her groom and both their families are ok with having a mixed wedding and showing parts of their bodies in front of strange men, then they shouldn’t have a problem not wearing the “Abaya” or “Sheila” in their daily lives. Again, no one is forcing anyone to do anything.
As I said before, people are not the same, they are like the hand fingers. And in the UAE there are very strict families, mild families and very free or open minded families, but all of this is related to CULTURE not RELIGION and there is a difference between both of them. For example: Some ladies in the UAE do not cover their hair completely, they just wear the “Sheila or have it on their heads as a scarf”. Some other ladies cover themselves from head to toe, and some wear the “Niqab” or the “burga” (6) but might show their fringe or front hair. But, again, this is because there is a big difference between Religion and Culture.
The UAE is a free country but the majority of us ,Emirati citizens, maintain respect of our culture, religion and traditions and we are proud of our customs, religion and country.
Hope my answers made it much easier for you to understand. Please do not hesitate to ask.
*** Some Vocabulary:
It is the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general.
is long over garment essentially a robe-like dress, worn by some women in parts of the Islamic world. It is considered an Arabic cultural dress integrated into the hijab, or Islamic dress, for many countries of the Arabian peninsula such as Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates, where it is the national dress.
A traditional abaya is black and may be either a large square of fabric draped from the shoulders or head or a long caftan. The abaya covers the whole body except the face, feet, and hands. It can be worn with the niqāb, which is a face veil covering all but the eyes. Some women choose to wear long black gloves, so their hands are covered as well.
it is a veil that covers the hair.
It is a face veil covering all but the eyes.
5: Awra: It is a term used within Islam which denotes the intimate parts of the body, for both men and women, which must be covered with clothing. Exposing the Awra is unlawful in Islam and is regarded as sin. The exact definition of Awrah varies between different schools of Islamic thought.
Men’s Awra: The awra of a man refers to the part of the body between the navel and the knees which should be covered when in public and also during the ritual prayer.
Neither men nor women should uncover their genitals at any time except when in privacy. Men and women should at all times wear garments that are loose and the material is not transparent as to see the skin colour and shape of the other (male or female).
Women’s Awra: Women's Awra changes according to the situation:
• In ritual prayer: In ritual prayer, a woman should cover her entire body excluding her face and her hands from the wrist to the base of the fingers. She should also cover part of her forehead and the area under the chin.
A woman should cover her hair and body while performing the ritual prayer- whether she is praying in presence of her husband or she is praying alone in her chamber, as the basis for covering in prayer is different that the basis for covering in front of people.
• In front of her husband: There is no restriction in Islam on what body parts a woman may show to her husband in private. The husband and wife can see any part of each other’s body especially during sexual intercourse.
• In privacy: It is recommended that a person covers his or her sexual organs even when alone in private. There are exceptions such as when taking a shower or going to the bathroom.
• Among other women: The Awrah of a woman amongst other women is the same as the Awrah of men (from her navel to her knees). Awrah in front of non-Muslim women is a point of debate. Some scholars say that women should cover all but the hands and face, while according to the most preferred opinion, a Muslim woman can reveal in front of a non-Muslim woman as much as she would in front of other Muslim woman.
• In front of a mahram: (close male relative that she can not marry, such as, Father, Brother, Uncle, etc.), a woman can show her face, head, neck, hands, forearms, feet and calves and she must cover everything else.
• In front of her male children: If the child understands what the Awrah is, then it is not considered permissible for a woman to uncover her Awrah in front of him.
• Awrah in front of unrelated men (either Muslim or non-Muslim) is also a matter of dispute.
Most Muslims hold that entire body of the woman, except her face and hands, is part of her awrah, that is the parts of her body that must be covered during prayer and in public settings.
Salafi Muslims (a Sunni Islamic movement that takes the pious ancestors, the Salaf of the patristic period of early Islam, as exemplary models) believe that a woman's awrah in front of unrelated men is her entire body including her face and hands.
It is a traditional face veil that is worn by married women.