can a baha'i woman wear a head scarf?

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emifinan
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can a baha'i woman wear a head scarf?

Postby emifinan » Wed Oct 07, 2009 9:13 am

Hello everyone.

Although I'm not a certified art teacher yet, I frequently browse job listings. I spotted an opening for a part-time art teacher that specified that Islamic dress code would be observed. (And women would be required to wear a head scarf)

I am not sure that as a Baha'i, I would even get hired at such a school. (I have been hired at a christian preschool before, and the application asked for your church affiliation. I was honest with them, but halfway through the year the teachers tricked me into going to a "free Joel Osteen concert." I had no clue he was a TV minister, and left after 10 minutes.)

But back to my question, my gut instinct tells me that if I got hired at such a school, it would be permissible to wear a head scarf so long as I was honest about being a Baha'i. But my heart keeps thinking of Tahirih, and how powerful it was when she liberated herself by taking her scarf off.

I did a quick Archive search but nothing popped up. If anyone can direct me to writings that would answer my question, I would much appreciate it!

Emily

brettz9
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Re: can a baha'i woman wear a head scarf?

Postby brettz9 » Wed Oct 07, 2009 12:07 pm

Hello Emily,

Interesting question...

The command of the Bab demonstrated by Tahirih established the principle, but the Bab's revolutionary mission, while breaking the ground so to speak, was intended to be fulfilled in Baha'u'llah less tumultuous and more gradual unfoldment of the teachings. Thus, Baha'u'llah advised women to continue to wear the veil in such countries where it would be scandalous not to and until such time as the practice would be abandoned (the book, Baha'u'llah and the New Era, making this claim is not authoritative text, but has been reviewed and recommended):

http://bahai-library.com/?file=guardian ... amiliarity (the note there is from http://www.bahai-library.com/books/new.era/bne.html#149 )

I wonder whether it is legal for them to even insist on such a condition. Or whether Islam really should compel this; 'Abdu'l-Baha stated that

"...if a Muhammadan married a Christian woman, the husband must not prevent her from going to church, nor oblige her to veil herself...This is an established fact and is not dependent on my affirmation. The edict of the second Caliph [Of Umar.] still exists in the custody of the orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, and of this there is no doubt. [Cf. Jurji Zaydan's Umayyads and Abbasids, trans. D. S. Margoliouth.]"

(Some Answered Questions, Chapter 7)


But, more significantly, I wonder whether we even should apply for such work...

For example, there is this:

"He is sorry to hear your little boy is not developing satisfactorily; very few children are really bad. They do, however, sometimes have complicated personalities and need very wise handling to enable them to grow into normal, moral, happy adults. If you feel convinced your son will really benefit from going to ...'s school you could send him there. But in general we should certainly always avoid sending Bahá'í children to orthodox religious schools, especially Catholic, as the children receive the imprint of religious beliefs we as believers know are out-dated and no longer for this age. He will especially pray for the solution of this problem."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, May 30, 1947, in Lights of Guidance, no. 507)


Admittedly the above already mentions only applying "in general", and it might be further nuanced by other quotations like this:

"A Catholic background is an excellent introduction to the Faith, and one that Mrs. ... should feel gratified for having had. Though doctrines of the church today are no longer needed--as the Father Himself has come, and thus fulfilled the mission of Christ the Son--yet the foundation they lay of spiritual discipline, and their emphasis on spiritual values and adherence to moral laws, is very important and very close to our own beliefs."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to two believers, August 17, 1941)


...but still note the rationale for the first quotation about the "imprint of religious beliefs we as believers know are out-dated and no longer for this age".

This is just my interpretation, so feel free to disregard it as applied to your situation. You could also consult with your Local Spiritual Assembly or, through them or independently, your National Spiritual Assembly.

best wishes,
Brett

emifinan
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Re: can a baha'i woman wear a head scarf?

Postby emifinan » Fri Oct 09, 2009 12:33 pm

Thank you so much Brett!

The school is located in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the largest proportion of Arab Americans for a city it's size, and is also home to the largest Mosque in America. I have no doubt that many schools there adhere to a Muslim dress code, whether legally or not. But I believe not following the dress code would only prove divisive.

With those quotes in mind, I have to believe it would be acceptable to work at that school and follow dress code. (If it were my only option for employment.) I wouldn't be sending my children there (although I don't have any hehe) and growing up in a Catholic/Baha'i household, I think I've been imprinted by Catechism class enough already :p (Although I was always the student who pointed out that Hell was not a physical place, and never understood why others didn't agree.)

Thanks again :)

Sen McGlinn
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Re: can a baha'i woman wear a head scarf?

Postby Sen McGlinn » Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:13 pm

emifinan wrote:Hello everyone.

... my gut instinct tells me that if I got hired at such a school, it would be permissible to wear a head scarf so long as I was honest about being a Baha'i.
Emily


My feeling too. There are a couple of passages in the compilation Amr wa Khalq that give an impression of Abdu'l-Baha's attitude. This compilation does not give sources, so it is not clear whether these are pilgrims' notes, or checked and authenticated notes of what Abdu'l-Baha said, so I treat them as pilgrim's notes until they are proved otherwise. In my translation (from http://reference.bahai.org/fa/t/c/AK3/ak3-344.html ) these say:

In a talk given by Abdu’l-Baha, he says

"In this dispensation, Hejab is wiser [(reading muhakkam) or stronger (reading muhkam)] than before. In Islam hejab became so strict that women could not walk in the streets and market place. [p341] They were like slaves bought for gold. Therefore, simply so that they can engage in some occupation and be educated, showing their hands and faces have been permitted in every era. In this era, however, there is no need for these matters. Maybe at some time the spiritual assembly may also allow it, for example the chaarqad (head and shoulders shawl) that women wear in Iran, which they put over their head and surrounds their face from all sides so that the hair cannot be seen by men outside the family. Not like European women who go outside with their head, shoulders, and half their arms showing. In this era, the hejab is as follows: no-one may enter a house in which there is only one woman, without the permission of the master of the house, unless someone from that woman’s family, such as a son or daughter or brother is present there. The purpose is that if one woman is in the house, no strange man should enter.”

In another talk he says:

“The veiling of women is a barrier to teaching and learning. The divines have exaggerated, in this respect, to the point that they would not allow even the voice of a woman to be heard, even though it is generally admitted that Aisha, the wife of Muhammad, was present when people put questions to him, and he/she gave answer, and during the circumambulation of the Ka’ba she raised the cry, without a cloth over her mouth or veil on her head. ... [more examples, showing that veiling in the first generations of Islam allowed hand and face to be seen]. But later they increased [the restrictions] to the point that they made women prisoners and prevented them teaching or learning, and they sank into deep abasement. This was why Eastern women were excluded from making any progress. But chastity is required, and limits and restraints are very necessary, but to a degree that does not prevent women from learning and teaching. For the Law of God is the basis for virtues, they should not be hindered from acquiring virtues. An educated woman is better than an ignorant woman, but then, while preserving chastity and virtue.”

Dame
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Re: can a baha'i woman wear a head scarf?

Postby Dame » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:16 pm

Practicality as well as the ordinances are addressed in the Bahai Writings I am familiar with.
I frequently work in a private garden by myself, where nudity would be practical from a modesty perspective. Other than helecoptor trespass of the garden there is no view of the space. While working there, I frequently wear what is roughly equivalent to a burka. The reason is sun and wind protection. The use of such an atire has no religeous significance whatsoever in this circumstance.

I have also found myself on occassion entirely conspicuous due to some inadvertant choise of attire for the setting and occassion. Such occassions have had me feeling self-concious and appologetic to the other people present. The reason is that I find conspicuously diferentiating myself from the group norm generates an atmosphere of passive protest against the stated agenda of the gathering.

I have not seen, in the scripture of any religion a prohibition against women wearing either a veil or a head covering. Even modern, western culture responds to a veil in public as a request for privacy (generally due to grief).

brettz9
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Re: can a baha'i woman wear a head scarf?

Postby brettz9 » Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:40 pm

Hi Emily and all,

I just came across this quotation as I was doing some other study and thought I would add it here since we touched on the topic (though it does not speak to the veil issue).

"He does not think there is any objection to your teaching in a mission school, as long as it is clearly understood that you are, yourself, a Bahá'í; and if you do not have to teach their brand of religion to the pupils. There are many people nowadays employed in mission work in different parts of the world who do not belong to the Church; and, wherever such a tolerant relationship is possible, there can certainly be no objection from our side.

"Naturally it would be better if you could get a job where you would be completely independent of such relationships...."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 1, 1954, in Lights of Guidance, no. 1397)


best wishes,
Brett


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