Quarterly: Issue No 84
HIJAAB 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 public.
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 ignorance) lifestyle”.
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:
Awrah: Awrah 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.
The Islamic 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.
Islam prescribes 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.
Some Western 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.”
Islam teaches 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 Mankind. Ameen.
O Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in Your Mercy than in my own deeds.
Requesting your humble duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Kyalami Glen, Gauteng
Johannesburg, South Africa