Oh, the ordeal it is.
After having passed the whole hot, humid day doing usual chores/work/routine, the night finally comes…….
"[He is] the One who causes the dawn to break; and He has made the night to be [a source of] stillness…" [Surah Al-Anam: 96]
The energy in the body is at its minimum level; the eyes are drooping, the bones ache; the stomach churns with hunger. The child is hopeful for warm milk and its bed. Now is the time that you take out your outfit, press it, and start getting ready for the ordeal that is to come…..
Get your child ready, with her bewildered expression questioning you as to why she is not being put into bed. Well, she has to pass through this ordeal for the rest of her life too, so might as well start training for it now…
Force yourself into a merry mood, squeeze your feet into the formal high-heels or whatever you can call those strappy things that look just as good as they are an uncomfortable torture to your feet, pack the baby bag, hoist the stroller into the car, paste a smile on your face and head off to the junction of merriment: the late-night Karachi wedding function.
Well, for me, half the ordeal is usually made easy. In high contrast to the reality of the situation, people pity me for my choice of dress code. "Uff, a burqah at a wedding?! At her age! In this hot weather?! Crazy……"
What they don’t realize is that that black "thing" which I hang over myself is – pun intended – a blessing in disguise! Aside from the spiritual and worldly benefits (such as obeying Allah’s command and keeping flirtatious, over-age, under-age, all-aged men far away from me, and their eyes off me), this overhanging robe also keeps me free from having to be a slave of (i) my own nafs, (ii) the society that places high demands on young women who attend weddings. Allahu Akbar for the burqah!
Okay, I’ll explain.
Very few people dress up to rise to the occasion. Usually there are other desires and motives involved. So, dressing up at a wedding usually makes people follow their basal desires. Which desires, you might wonder? The desire of the nafs that wants one to "outshine" others, "look better than the rest", "ensure all eyes are on me", "get people’s approval, praise and compliments about how amazing I look". That’s why so often when I meet someone who is very dressed up, I am given an expectant look of "tell me how good I look". So, I try to oblige (truthfully, of course).
Most conversations at weddings are very formal, forced and scarcely progress beyond the just-necessary. "How are you?" "Its good to see you." "What are you upto nowadays?" "You look so nice" <Yeah, right – you’ve probably said that to everyone you’ve seen uptill now, probably even the waiter>, "How is your house construction going?" "How is your father’s health?" etc.
Obviously, when the whole clan comes together after so many months, you can hardly talk to everyone to your hearts’ content. But, we were talking about why the attendee’s take such great pains to dress up for such an occasion: an occasion that ruins their next day at work, makes children suffer, and is so hard on the stomach and peace of mind.
So, firstly, the burqah saves me from slaving my nafs, the nafs that orders me to want to look better than others, to get compliments, and to show off my huge set of gold bangles, new diamond rings, ruby necklace, pure banarsi sari, or my latest designer shoes. Allah has wiped out the desire to show off my latest "I-have-more-than-you" acquisitions. I just attend the wedding to fulfill the due of my relatives on me (accepting the invitation to a banquet, joining relations), trying my best to avoid those aspects of the occasion that can bring Allah’s anger on me. Wa ma taufeeqi illaa billaah!
The second way the burqah makes things easy for me, is by preventing me from being a slave of society. Okay, you can groan and snort. But, its true.
Look, a person has his or her own identity, and the will to make his or her own choices in life. The shirts are going up for ladies nowadays, as are the shalwars. I don’t see why I should start wearing something just because others are wearing it, or just because designers want to see us wearing it. I will wear what I want to wear. Same goes for weddings. Allah has blessed me with nice clothes, alhamdulillah. But how much make-up I choose to wear in this heat, what fabric I choose to don in this weather, and what jewelry I choose to wear for the ocassion are choices that should be left upto me.
The burqah swoops in. I just need to wear a basic good outfit, and that’s it. ALHAMDULILLAH! Even if I attend a wedding that allows me to take off my burqah, I still wear what I want to, according to the circumstances. If some young women, who want to remain in "bride-mode" ("I am still a newly-married woman") even 2 years after their marriage, wear flowing lehenga’s and gharara’s, that’s their choice. I will make my own. Thank you.
I still have some more ordeals to endure this summer. However, Allah is a witness that whenever I attend these functions, I pray for the happiness and longevity of the couple tying the knot. May Allah bestow everyone with His mercy, even though they disobey Him in their wedding functions. May He pardon them, forgive them, and bless them. Ameen.