I've often empathised with women covered in black from head to toe with only eyes visible and therefore when I saw a book affording me a glimpse what it is like from behind the veil I bought it.
The name of the author Na'ima means comfort, happiness, benefit, tranquillity, peace. She takes her reader on her journey of embracing pure Islam (in contrast to cultural Muslimism). She surrendered what I felt young women should stand and strive for and choose to cover herself and make her body her own private space (p. 180) only to share with her husband. She opted to live according to the laws of Allah.
Her public attire became her covering, reminder of her commitment to Allah, her comforter, her shield against unwanted sexual advances, her liberator, and a symbol of her servitude (p. 226).
Contrary to misconceptions, a devoted Muslim woman has rights that are captured in a marriage contract. A women wishing to marry set conditions that her husband to be must agree to before marriage (p. 257).
Something I (obviously) found very encouraging is that "in the eyes of Allah, men and women are equal" (p. 261). However, although spiritually equal, men and women "fulfil different social functions in Islam and have different roles" (p. 262) — complementing each other:
In addition to the rights that every woman has under Islamic law, such as the right to her own property, wealth and legal identity, the rights of the wife include being treated well and having all her needs taken care of, being fed, clothed and housed as her husband feeds, clothes and houses himself. She has the right to a physical relationship and to have children. She is responsible for raising the children and running the household and, on the Day of Reckoning, she will be questioned by Allah about that. (p. 263)
I am of opinion that this entails conditional-equality. If two people are truly equal, they should be in the position to put all their expected roles on the table and decide through consensus as to who would do what. As circumstances changes, the allocation of functions, roles and duties may change by agreement.
Another aspect I find weird is the strict rules about separate gender interactions. The sisters gather and share, and so does the brothers. Because I am more domestically inclined, I have often find the talk of the brothers boring. Furthermore, Martie and I prefer to interact socially as a couple—not as individuals among our own gender—Martie often remarked that she find women-talk boring, because she is not domestically inclined.
What I do find refreshing about devoted Muslim is the study of Islam, the spiritual growth of persons (the knowledge of their deen). Having grown up in cultural Christianity, I many a time questioned the mere execution of rituals useless. I find aspects of the sisterhood very appealing and would treasure such camaraderie (but would not be accepted—it would not be halaal/lawful).
I sincerely value the insights gained from reading the book. Na'ima writes well and the naive idealism she portrays is refreshing.