The Patient Mummy
When it came to who was looking the best in their afterlife, the Ancient Egyptians were the first on the list. As a matter of fact, the Ancient Egyptians worked their whole lives towards the afterlife – because it is until then that their souls would be at peace. In order to look their best in the afterlife, they came up with a way to preserve their dead – and that was to mummify them. In Islam, this way of practice was not allowed. So, Allah (SWT) wanted the Muslims to look their best in the afterlife, and that was by preserving them through the hijab. In an eerie, mystifying way, the Ancient Egyptians and the Modern Muslims have a common denominator – the three “P’s”; purification, preservation, and patience.
To begin, the Ancient Egyptians believed adamantly in the afterlife. They believed that their purpose in life was to work towards that life. In order to attain that, they had to undergo three phases. The first phase of mummification was meant to purify the body. They would take the body into a tent called “ibu”, which means “place of purification”. Firstly, they would wash the body with good-smelling palm wine, then rinse it with water from the Nile. Secondly, they would remove all the internal organs except the heart, since it was seen as the center of intelligence and feeling, which the body will need in the afterlife. Thirdly, after forty days the dried up organs and any cloth that was used during this process, would have been stuffed inside the carcass. The body would again be washed with water from the Nile, then covered up with oil to help the skin stay elastic. Again, all the dehydrated organs were wrapped up in cloths, and the body would be stuffed with dry materials. Such as; sawdust, leaves and linen so that the body looked lifelike. Finally, the body is covered again with good-smelling oils until the purified body is ready to wrapped up in linen.
Similarly, the Modern Muslim believes unwaveringly in the afterlife. Unlike the Ancient Egyptians, the Muslims believe that the purpose of this life is to please Allah (SWT), which will help achieve the true reward in the afterlife. In order to attain that reward, Muslims must also undergo three phases. The first phase is purification of the body. Al-Imam Muslim once said that “purification is half the faith”. Also, it is mentioned in the Holy Quran “And they ask you about menstruation…and when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves” [Holy Quran 2:222]. Once a Muslim woman hits puberty, the first thing she must do is purify herself through ghusool. The first step of the process is that she must make the intention to perform purification. Then she rinses her private area, both her hands (3x), mouth (3x), nostrils (3x), face (3x), arms up to her elbows (3x), then she wipes her hair and ears once, rinses the right side of her body from the tip of her roots of hair on her head, to the tip of her toes, and does the same to her left side. Then the process ends with rinsing both feet (3x). Finally, once she has undergone the process of purification, she is ready to be wrapped from head to toe.
Once the purification phase has been thoroughly completed, the second phase will come into effect. “Mummification” is known as preservation, which can be accomplished by wrapping linen around the carcass. First the head and neck are wrapped with strips of fine cloth. Then the fingers and the toes are individually wrapped. Second, the arms and legs are to be wrapped separately. Between the layers of wrapping the embalmers, the people who are in charge of mummifying the dead place “amulets” are then placed to protect the body in its journey through the underworld. Third, while the mummy is being wrapped, a priest reads spells out loud to help ward off evil spirit to ease their journey in the afterlife. Fourth, the arms and legs are tied together and a spell written scroll from the Book of the Dead is placed between the wrapped hands. Fifth, the mummy is wrapped with even more linens – with every layer, the bandages are painted with liquid resin to help glue keep the gauze together. Sixth, the picture of the God Osiris is painted on the surface of the cloth that is wrapped around the body. Finally, a large cloth is wrapped around the entire mummy which is attached with strips of linen that run from the top of the mummy to the very bottom and wrapped around its middle. It is then that the completed mummy has a painted board placed a top of it, which is then lowered into its coffin, which is than lowered into a second coffin. Once the family of the deceased have prayed on him, they bury the mummy deep into the ground with all of their lively possession to take with them in the afterlife.
Likewise to mummification, once the purification phase has been thoroughly completed, the second phase is to preserve the Muslimah. Parallel to the mummy, the Egyptians had a formula in preserving their dead; Allah (SWT)’s formula in preserving the Muslimah is through the “Hijab”. It was narrated by Aisha (ra), “When Asma bint Abu Bakr (ra), entered upon the Apostle of Allah while she was wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma’, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands” [Sunnan Abu Dawud 32:4092]. This proves that once a girl has entered womanhood, it is an obligation from Allah (SWT) to be preserved through the hijab. “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful” [The Holy Quran 33:59]. To this date, scientists have not been able to duplicate the formula they used in preserving their dead, and for thousands of years the mummies seized to change both physically or chemically, yet they still pique the curiosity of people from all walks of life. As a Muslimah they pique the curiosity of those around them – they are the walking mummy. Even though the fashion has evolved throughout the years- heck the seasons- for thousands of years the “fashion” or “dress code” of a Muslimah has not changed. The code is still as it is: dress in loose fitting clothing. Unlike the mummy, the only thing the Muslimah takes with her to the grave is her deeds and not her wealth.
At last, in order to successfully complete phase one and two, the mummy and the Muslimah have to have a quality: Patience. They cannot possibly complete both phases without it. The process of mummification is a long and enduring process and requires immense patience in order for the mummy to undergo the transition stage to get to the afterlife. Likewise with the Muslimah, she must be patient in this dunya with the hijab no matter how hard it is, so when she undergoes the transition stage – the grave, and passes InshAllah because of her patience; it is with Allah (SWT)’s mercy that she succeeds in the afterlife and enters Jannah. “He admits whom He wills into His mercy; but the wrongdoers – He has prepared for them a painful punishment” [The Holy Quran 76:31]. Furthermore, another quality a mummy has that makes it even more interesting is that it’s sacred, it cannot be touched for it appears strong but is fragile at touch. Like the Muslimah, she is sacred and fragile, and no one can just touch her. A Muslimah is a walking mummy – She is a walking ayah (sign). As the mummy’s inside is preserved, a Muslimah has to be preserved inside and out, “And conceal your speech or publicize it; indeed, He (Allah) is knowing of that within the breasts” [The Holy Quran 67:13]. The key to attain the first two phases is through a strong foundation of patience.
In conclusion, in an eerie, mystifying way, the Ancient Egyptians and the Modern Muslimah have a common denominator – the three “P’s”: in purification, in preservation, and in patience. Purification and preservation cannot be attained without their sister – patience. The Egyptians were known for their patience, the process of mummification is no easy task. Likewise, a Muslimah has to be patient with her duty of preservation if she wants to look her best in the akhira. In society, it goes without saying that a Muslimah is oppressed because of the hijab – but like the Sh. Khalid Yasin once said, “Let’s not ask a non-Muslims about how Muslim women feel…If you want to be fair, ask a Muslim woman.” Who would’ve thought that an Ancient Mummy and a Modern Muslimah have so much in common?