Quarterly: Issue No 84
vS FASHION DILEMMA
Alhamdu lillah! We are witnessing
an era where the Muslim Ummah is trying its best to get back to its root, i.e.
the Pristine Pure Ideology of Islam. This revival can be seen in all aspects of
the Muslim society, even in its manner of dressing.
The use of hijaab and niqaab amongst Muslim women is growing each
day, not only in the East but also in the West. This is easily visible in the
public places, workplace, universities and even parliaments. Hijaab is no more
seen as a symbol of oppression of Muslim women, rather as an expression of
their empowerment. They feel more empowered when they make their own choice not
to show their skin in front of every Tom, Dick and Harry, but only to their
husbands. Most importantly, they are wearing it to please their Lord Allah
(Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), rather than to please complete strangers in
However, Modest Hijab Fashion is becoming a booming industry. Many
retailers, including brands as diverse as Uniqlo, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana and
Mango, are welcoming this trend by dipping their toes in the marketplace,
creating modest collections. In
2014, DKNY launched a bespoke modest fashion collection. In
2016, Uniqlo launched a line of hijabs, and Dolce & Gabbana
launched a collection of luxury hijaabs and
abayas. This year, Nike announced the
launch of their first “pro hijab”. Also, the “Hijarbie”,
who is a hijab-wearing Barbie, became an instant Instagram hit that has
attracted more than 80 thousand followers. All of these developments clearly
show that the hijab fashion industry is on the rise.
Amongst all of this rose “Modanisa”, a
Turkey-based Muslim startup that attempts to attract
modern Muslim women who want to wear modest clothes but also look fashionable.
In the words of its founder, Kerim Türe: “They want to have their rules but they also want to
look chic.” The name “Modanisa” is a
combination of two words from 2 different languages. “Moda”
in Turkish means fashion, while “Nisa” is an Arabic
word that means women. “Moda” could also denotes
“modest” which is the genre of fashion that Modanisa
presents, or “modern” which is the type of women that it wants to attract.
We must not also lose sight of the fact that there is a danger amidst
this positive trend. While it feels good
to know that hijab is fast becoming a global trend, it’s a double-edged sword.
We need to realize that hijab is actually a spiritual thing because wearing hijaab is obligatory on Muslim women when in public places.
Women are obliged to cover up as a command of Allah (SWT) and show up their
charms only to their husbands. This
means there are shariah rules pertaining to the wearing of hijaab. Islam has detailed rulings on exactly how the
hijaab should be worn. And this means modern Muslim Hijab Fashion
companies needs to make sure that their outfits and collections adhere to the
shariah rules, i.e. they are “shariah-compliant”.
Regrettably, on the face of it, it seems that these modern hijab
fashion companies do not have any such intention to make their outfits
shariah-compliant. Looking at the
outfits available and the models wearing them, one could easily see that many
of them clearly violate the ahkam (rules)
of Islam regarding hijaab and the Islamic Dress Code.
For example, “Modanisa” came into much
controversial media limelight when it conducted two fashion shows meant to
promote “modest” fashion for women. The
first show called the “Istanbul Modest Fashion Week” was conducted in
Istanbul in May 2016 held at the historic Haydarpaşa
railway station. The show presented collections from around 70 designers and
was attended mainly by Muslim audience.
The Muslims in Turkey were sceptical of the event and it even sparked a
protest outside the venue from the Free Thought and Education Rights
Association (Özgür-Der) who voiced their concerns and
chanted slogans of “Allahu Akbar”. A spokesperson for the group, Emine Nur Çakır, told
reporters: “It is worth noting that the reference point of the headscarf that
is seen as a simple commodity or an advertisement item by some people, is in
fact chastity and identity”. She argued:
“The headscarf, which symbolizes a stand, a lifestyle, an Islamic Identity, is
being sacrificed in the name of fashion – a product of capitalism, a system
equivalent to the jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic age of
Modanisa conducted its 2ndModest Fashion Week in London in February 2017 that
again got wide coverage in the media. The modest fashion industry made
their presence felt with dozens of designers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey,
UK, Europe and the Middle East gathering at the event.
Now let us examine the dilemma of Hijaab
versus Fashion. Hijaab
is something meant to conceal and cover up, while fashion is meant to be shown,
to be noticed by people. It even sounds and feels strange when you say the
phrase “Hijab Fashion”. Many would
question whether it is even allowed in Islam for women to have fashion.
Dr. Jamal Badawi, a
famous Islamic Scholar writes: "To some the subject of the Muslim
woman's dress might seem trivial. A basic
requirement of a true believer is making one's opinions and inclinations
subservient to what Allah and His Messenger have determined. Placing one's
personal opinions, feelings or inclinations above or at the same level as the
commandments of Allah is the ultimate of human pride and vanity. This means in
effect that a mortal is responding to Allah's guidance by saying, ' O my
Creator, Your law is your opinion. I have my own
opinion and I know best what is good for me.'
This attitude is befitting for unbelievers and the hypocrites, but not
for a believer no matter how imperfect one may be in implementing Islam in
one's life." (The Muslim Women’s Dress p.3)
Does Islam allow women to wear fashion clothes? Various rulings of Islam are applicable to
the topic. Let us examine them one by one:
refers to the area or part of the body that must be covered with appropriate
clothing. Women are obliged to cover their whole body except their hands (below
the wrists) and face in front of non-mahram men. This means the clothing of a
woman should not reveal the hair, the neck, arms, legs or any other part,
except the hands and face.
“Jilbaab” and “Khimaar”: When going out
in the public, Islam makes it obligatory on women to wear these two types of
clothes on top of normal clothes; the jilbaab (long
gown) and the khimaar (headscarf). The “Jilbab” (mentioned in Surah al-Ahzab Verse 59) is a full-length loose-fit outer
garment that goes from shoulders down to the feet thus covering the whole body.
It is worn on top of the normal clothes and is obligatory to wear in public
even if the clothes below cover the full awrah of the woman. It is also
referred to as an “abaya”. The “Khimar” (mentioned in Surah an-Nur Verse
31) is a headscarf that covers the head, the hair and the neck, going over the
chest. Basically, it covers the head, but not the face. Khimar is also
obligatory to wear when going out of home to public places, such as when going
to school, university or work, or going out for shopping, etc.
Zeenah (adornment): Zeenah means to
add to something and make its appearance look beautiful. Like a decoration or
adornment. When it comes to rulings of hijab, the word “Zeenah”
refers to artificial beauty, and not natural beauty of a female. Artificial
beauty includes beautiful clothing, jewellery, perfume etc. and these are the
things that a woman must cover up. A woman can only show “Zeenah”
to her husband or her mahram relatives. Applying this concept to women
clothing, wearing anything that “makes her noticeable” or “attracts the
attention” or makes people “turn their heads” would come under showing her zeenah and thus haram (not allowed) when done in front of
non-mahram men. This applies even if she wears the proper khimaar and jilbaab. For example, the jilbaab
has certain design or sharp colours, that attracts the attention of other men,
then wearing that jilbaab will not be allowed. Or if
the woman applies too much makeup on her face which makes her noticeable even
from far away, even though face doesn’t come under awrah, she will then not be allowed to wear
such makeup. Or if she wears bangles that make a nice sound when she walks that
make people notice her, or she wears an attractive perfume, all this would come
under showing zeenah, which is not allowed in front
of non-mahram men.
Ikhtilaat (Free-mixing): Islam forbids
any social gatherings that has both men and women free-mixing and intermingling
between them. Gender segregation is an important principle in Islam that
applies to the workplace, to the public places, to all social gatherings such
as weddings. In the context of this
article, the holding of a fashion show would be allowed if it is held for women
only, where men are not allowed to enter. If both men and women are
participating in the fashion show, then obviously it would be a social
gathering with free-mixing and thus haram in Islam.
From the above
discussion, we can conclude that Islam does allow women to be fashionable but
within certain limits and boundaries. Thus, a woman has more room to wear
fashionable clothes in front of her mahram men or in front of other women, but
she would be very limited when going out in public. Muslim women should be very careful when
choosing an outfit, to know in advance in front of whom she will be wearing it.
That’s because the choice would depend on whether she is wearing it in front of
mahram men or other women, or in front of non-mahram men.
Dress Code promotes modesty and seeks to minimize vice and immorality in
society. One of the ways it does so is by requiring modest dress. Islam sets
the standards of decency for both men and women.
a more conservative minimum dress code for both men and women. In Islam, both
men and women are expected to dress simply, modestly and with dignity. A man
must always be covered in loose and unrevealing clothing from his navel to his
knee. This is the absolute minimum covering required. He must never, for
example, go out in public wearing a short bathing suit. When leaving the home,
a Muslim woman must at least cover her hair and body in loose and unrevealing
clothing, obscuring the details of her body from the public; some also choose
to cover their face and hands. The wisdom behind this dress code is to minimize
sexual enticement and degradation in society as much as possible for both men
and women. Obeying this dress code is a form of obedience to Allah. Islam
forbids any sex appeal and physical allurement outside of marriage. In
contrast, Islam encourages sex appeal and physical attraction for both men and
women within privacy between married couples.
observers have assumed that the head covering of a woman is meant to show her
inferiority to men. This could not be further from the truth. In Islam, a woman
who dresses this way commands respect, and through her modesty rejects sexual
servitude. The message that the woman gives when she wears Islamic dress in
society is this: “Respect me for who I am. I am not a sex object.”
that the consequences of immodesty fall not only on the individual but also
upon the society that permits women and men to mingle freely, display
themselves, and compete or allure one another through sexual attraction. These
consequences are significant and cannot be ignored. To make women into sex
objects for the pleasure of men is not liberation. In fact, it is a
dehumanizing form of oppression rejected by Islam. The liberation of the Muslim
woman is that she is recognized by the content of her character rather than by
the display of her physical attributes. From the Islamic point of view,
“liberated” Western women — who often worry about their looks, figure and youth
for the pleasure of others — are trapped in a form of slavery.
May Allah guide us all to follow what
Allah has commanded us in His Kalaam (Al-Qur’an
Al-Kareem) with regards to our Islamic Code of Dressing. Ameen!
May the Peace and
Blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger Muhammad, the WITNESS to all
Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in
Your Mercy than in my own deeds.
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Kyalami Glen, Gauteng
Johannesburg, South Africa