DO MUSLIM WOMEN COVER UP?
This article is
taken from my other blog FaceMyMusic.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Many people, including a large of number of Muslims themselves, find it
`oppressive’ and an infringement of their human rights to be told that Muslim
women have to cover themselves, revealing only their faces and hands. Many say
that we need to reinterpret the holy Quran in the `modern’ light of today’s
globalised world. In many ways, `modern’ may mean `without divine guidance’ as
many so called `modern’ ways is a result of man’s vain desires (nafs) as they
often contradict God given laws.
A Muslim is
someone who submits to the will of God. Allah SWT revealed an important verse
to our holy Prophet Muhammad SAW. We can find this verse in Al-Quran which
“They (the believing women) should draw their head coverings over their bosoms”.
(Surah An-Nur, 24:31)
Al-Quran is divine guidance for all mankind till the end of the world. It is
suitable for all times. It is not only contemporary but is actually far more
advanced as proven by scientific discoveries of today. Awareness of our
spiritual rights and obligations liberates us of the shackles of negative
man-made expectations, which fog our minds and divert us from the true path to
It many be a little difficult for some Muslims to cover their aurat because of
the influence and approval of the so-called `modern’ world, which constantly
demands they to look their `best’. It is a competitive world out there. There
is a subconscious need to be accepted and respected and even admired, by
others. This is very much the nature or fitrah of man.
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women that they
should put their outer garments; that is most convenient in order that they
should be recognized (as Muslims) and not be molested. (Surah Al-Ahzaab 33:59)
We are ambassadors of Islam and we should take our responsibility as vicegerent
of this world seriously. After all, we will have to present our book of records
to the Creator on judgement day. We are being observed in all that we do as we
go about in society. Our appearance and behaviour tells people much about Islam
– do our best at all times as an Ibadah. This is liberation and an expression
of our identity.
Putting on the hijab (veil/scarf) provides a message that a Muslim’s privacy
should not be violated. This tells people around her to know her as a person
rather than as a decorated object that is always trying hard to please others.
This is liberation. A Muslima is no exhibitionist or is she an exhibit. She is
an honoured mother, wife, daughter and our sister in Islam.
When we dress, it is not merely to please ourselves. Every time we put on a
garment we need to remind ourselves our intention to please Allah swt. Dressing
too is ibadah – an act of worship.
When a woman puts on hijab, she is issuing a statement of her identity as a
Muslim. She puts on the hijab because she accepts what is revealed in Al-Quran.
It is not just a garment to cover ourselves but it is a complete way of conduct
in public. It encompasses our behaviour, manners, speech and our appearance.
People who are not muhrim have no right and privilege to be too familiar with a
Muslima. The dress code sets the distance and limits to enable the Muslima to
go about her daily activities without harassment and fitnah. That is a
privilege, not oppression.
Her choice to accept the use of hijab and her outer garments offer her privacy
and freedom to express herself within the limits set by Allah swt. It is not
difficult to use our common sense to dress with modesty, self-esteem and
dignity. A Muslima can retain he femininity by choosing garments that are
comfortable, functional, graceful and pleasing to her. We all have choices, to
try our best to submit to the wisdom of Al-Quran, sunnah and hadith or to
reject them because of our own vain desires (nafs).
Many women themselves claim that the use of hijab is a very personal matter
between themselves and Allah swt. That may be true to a certain extent, but
this negative response often gives a false picture of our commitment to the
religion which we claim to be divine revelation!
When women begin to practise wearing hijab, InsyaAllah they will start to feel
rather `undressed’ if they were not dressed modestly. Their behaviour and
lifestyle may even undergo some change as they feel they are no longer comfortable
with certain activities which they used to enjoy when they were without a
Muslim identity. Very often women would say that once they make a commitment to
dress as a Muslim, they would have to give up all the activities they used to
enjoy, such as wearing scanty or revealing clothes, going to clubs and discos
where drugs, casual sex and liquor may be present.
Some women behave and dress modestly but are reluctant to wear hijab because
they choose to translate and understand the Quran and hadith according to their
own understanding. However, Alhamdulillah, there are more women choosing the
hijab compared to those who prefer to expose themselves after a half-hearted
effort to obey. Some women say they are not ready and some insist they will do
it in their own good time. It is alright when they say that to another human
being but when we express ourselves that way we need to remember the malaikat
(angel) is also writing that opinion down in our book of records. How do we
know whether Allah swt will give that time to change or not? Our choices depend
on our intentions (niat) and our sacrifice should only be for the intention of
pleasing Allah swt.
A Muslima dresses according to her lifestyle. The choices are almost limitless
– lots of textures of fabrics, shades, textures, design etc. One can wear a
Chinese cheongsam or samfoo just as easily as a long gown or even saree! The
only rules are that the clothes should ideally be loose fitting of non-clinging
fabric, not transparent and not should the body figure be revealed. A Muslima
reveals only her face and hands in public and dresses with knowledge, not
following the example of others blindly. One can be fashionable yet modestly
clothed. It is not the end of the world just because we cannot flaunt and
exhibit our best assets!
Let us enjoy the privilege of strict privacy and reduce the possibilities of
temptations, comparisons, envy, jealousy and ego as Muslims when we submit to
the will of Allah SWT to have self-respect, guard our modesty and be thankful
for this privilege of privacy and honour. It is ironic that some women should
feel they must have the right to take off almost all their clothes in the name
of freedom and fashions. It seems strange that people should want to fight for
more liberal interpretation of the word of Allah swt just so that their
daughters, sisters and mothers can live in a more modern and contemporary
Please remember that the cave men wore only the barest of furs and skins for
garments as they were uncivilised and lacked true spiritual guidance. As
society advanced, only the elite and educated societies dressed with modesty.
Many women in Europe, China and Asia often wore head coverings and clothes that
covered the whole body, showing only the face and hands. The lower the caste,
the less they wore. Generally only slaves were seen to be dressed in the barest
of clothing as they treated as the lowest level of society. So, we need to ask
ourselves, are we going forward or backwards? Who is modern and who is
regressing and becoming more primitive in the name of fashion and freedom?
Let us perform our ibadah with a sense of responsibility and accept the
challenge of practicing our religion with humility and sincerity. Let us
encourage each other to appreciate the mercy and blessings of Allah swt and
make a commitment to try harder to observe the challenge of practicing Islam
It is also interesting to note that whilst much negative attention is focused
on the weaknesses of individual Muslimah, many tend to forget that Muslim men
too have a dress code in Islam. Though men are not expected to run around
revealing their muscles and hairy chests, they are instructed to at least cover
themselves from the navel to the knee. Our brothers too, are required to
observe the rules of modesty, according to Allah SWT’s laws. It is confusing to
others when some men are not observing the rules of aurat and you can see them
happily play outdoor games like soccer, jog or swim in public. Many of them
happily run around in shorts no longer than their tiniest underwear!
for them, not to wear tight or revealing clothes that reveal their generous
waistlines and figure. They are also reminded not to drag the hems of their
clothes on the ground out of pride. It is a sunnah (tradition of our beloved
Prophet Muhammad saw) for Muslim men keep a beard so they can be recognized as
Muslim, as it is a sign of manhood to grow a beard.
not have to wrap their heads like the Arabs but it is appropriate for men to
dress smartly at all times. Why is it difficult for our brothers to dress in
the Islamic tradition when they expect women to cover themselves when they go
about so casually? Why not use the opportunity to also be an ambassador of
Islam by having a clear and positive Islamic identity? At least we can identify
and recognize each other wherever we go. This is a good way for solidarity as
Islam is borderless and all Muslims are family wherever we may be.
Men are also forbidden to wear gold or diamond and they do not wear clothes
made of silk as these are reserved for women. Insya Allah these are not
difficult rules for our Muslim brothers to observe. It is easy to find fault
with our sisters who are trying hard to obey Allah SWT but often those who
criticise do not make effort to improve their own lifestyle. Surely, as leaders
in their own homes and within society, they need to set a better example to
motivate their families to love and submit to the will of Allah swt.
All barriers are coming down, along with the good will come evil influences
with the illusion of benefits to mankind. The time has already come where evil
is made to look good and good is made to look evil to those who are careless
and ignorant of their spiritual obligations. May Allah swt always guide us and
protect us from our own vain desires.
Source: Fitrah Magazine ( Vol 8 ) published by Persatuan Darul Fitrah Malaysia.
Reproduced with minor modifications.
sparkled at 9:27