Recently I have been thinking about whether ‘urf has anything to do with our styles of covering as Muslim women and muhajabaat or munaqabaat. Well, of course in some sense, I’ve answered my own question…’urf does have something to do with this…but really, how much of an influence is it for Muslims living in societies without a historically large Muslim presence or community-like those of us in the USA, Canada, UK, France, etc. Anywhere deemed “outside” of the traditional “Muslim world”.
So rewind, I know some of my readers are new Muslims or maybe just dont in general know what ‘urf is and are probably scratching their heads like…wha??
‘Urf is in a nutshell (and Allah knows best, I’m not a scholar) is basically relating to what is customary/the norm in an area. In some madhabs-such as Hanafi and Maliki schools of jurisprudence ‘urf was considered within the fiqth of the schools. In the Maliki fiqth, ‘urf is the 11th source of fiqth in that school, its alongside. Although its not considered a part of shariah per se, because it was incorporates into the fiqths of these schools it was generally considered when a Maliki or Hanafi scholar made a ruling.
To me, it makes sense, after all how can we judge who is more modestly dressed? A Malaysian woman in her bright florally Baju Kurung and large tudung or a Saudi woman in her black abaya and shaylah. BOTH are modest and both would fall within the Islamic guidelines of what constitutes hejab …but both are quite different and both styles follow the norms of the society/culture which developed it.
Obviously this is an easy thing to do if one is residing in a society in which Islam is predominant and which there are forms of attire which are traditionally worn by Muslim women.
But…what if you don’t? What if you are a Muslim in a predominantly non-Muslim society in which hijab is not the norm? What do you do? What impact does ‘urf play if any?
Personally I think the answer to my rather philosophical question depends. Obviously I do not agree with a sister watering down her hejab to suit local standards. I know that here in the USA or in France or in the UK its the norm to be uncovered-thats the societal norm, but, it indeed does against Islamic values and rulings to strut around in immodest attire.
I think in this sense…as far as ‘urf is concerned-we should take what is most common and popular in the Muslim community worldwide-as long as it falls within what is appropriate according to Islamic guidelines and that would be acceptable-as in some form of an overgarment and a scarf of some style which covers everything it should be covering! Like for example, right now…some popular forms of overgarment attire for Muslim women are the jilbab or manteau/pardesu and the shoulder abayaah. These styles are currently worn by Muslimaat around the world regardless of ethnicity, culture or country. So while maybe the shoulder abaya used to be a form of attire which was solely worn in the Gulf states (and a recent innovation at that!), its no longer the case. Hence, as far as ‘urf and living in a traditionally non-Muslim society, I would think that these styles are the most suitable. There are also some forms of attire which developed fairly recently which are majority worn by Muslims in western countries…the ever so popular (in France) Agerian style overhead which they called the “jelbab” pops to mind. I kind of consider this to be an indigenous western form of hejab, even though it developed in Algeria, its extremely common in France and around western Europe.
Obviously, I do not believe that this includes the currently trendy and -very wrong- styles of hijab which some Muslim women currently wear which indeed fall far-far short of what would be considered as constituting even the barest form of hijab! Such as skinny jeans or snug fitting pants or skirts and a immodestly fitting top and a short scarf which barely covers anything beyond the neck! Thats not hijab-its a joke!
So, what you think that ‘urf should play a role in how we as Muslim women and muhajabaat/munaqabaat dress?