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Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem
I recently found this article and had been wanting to post something about it for awhile now, but darn finals…got in my way!
I really am deeply saddened by this article…its quite uninformed and totally buys into the whole “modern Islam” thing where the aspects of the deen is discarded so everyone can blend in and be just like everyone else…you know where you have Muslims telling you, your an extremist for practicing your faith and covering the way your supposed too?
(I took out the name as I dont want to be considered back biting!)
May 19, 2011
Stripping Culture from Religious Clothing
“Do you find it strange to see Western converts dressing more “ethnically” than other Muslims? My Ethiopian husband has often wondered how a woman born and raised in North America can look like more of a foreigner than he does.
In the early days after my acceptance of Islam I adopted what I thought was a traditional sense of style. Which tradition you ask? Arab, African and Pakistani were among the many. But in the ten years since reverting, I have realized that there is no particular culture dictating proper modes of dress for Muslim women.
Chapter Al Ahzab states “O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their persons…” The specific obligations of modest dress are generally interpreted to be the full covering of a woman’s hair and neck with an outer garment covering the rest of the body which is thick, opaque, wide and loose.
In Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Tariq Ramadan notes that the principles of deen remain the same regardless of cultural influences and that “the concern should not be to dress as the Prophet dressed but to dress according to the principles (of decency, cleanliness, simplicity, aesthetics and modesty) that underlay his choice of clothes.”
With some consideration, just about any clothing style could fulfill the conditions of modest Islamic clothing. So why wear a foreigner’s clothes?
Some reverts may dress this way because they are yearning for the deep attachment and connections born Muslims have to the religion and to each other. By blending in with traditional Muslim ethnic groups, reverts may attempt to achieve a sense of this shared belonging.
Reverts also typically have a keen desire to fulfill the expectations of their new faith group as strictly as possible. Indeed, I was encouraged, even warned, that continuing to wear western clothing indicated a weakness in my deen and that I had to reject any attachment to the faith I was raised in.
Of course there is no Islamic basis for this ‘encouragement’. In fact dressing head to toe in a black niqab in the western world may not actually be modest, considering how much attention women dressed in this manner receive. We also have to be careful about the assumptions we make. For all we know, a Muslimah wearing western clothing may be very pious, while another sister may be having a party under her abaya.
In any event, this ‘encouragement’ seems to be born out of a fear of cultural loss. Immigrant parents see their children straddling between the world of ‘back home’ and their new environment and in many Muslim countries, religion and culture are one and the same. But as western immigrants, the blurring of the lines between culture and religion can create unnecessary religion-culture clashes.
While few people convert to Islam for the couture, western born Muslim children may resent going to the mosque if they have to wear “embarrassing” ethnic outfits. By taking the focus away from Islamic principles, we run the risk of pushing away both potential reverts and western born Muslim children. It is more important that our children adopt Islamic values, irrespective of the style of clothes they are wearing.
Eventually I discovered that there are many different ways to fulfill the obligation of modesty, and importantly, that submission to God is independent of fashion. Now that I have embraced my western self much more as of late, to the joy of my husband, I realize that being Muslim does not require me to deny my ‘westernness’. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with wearing the clothing of a particular culture, merely that I no longer believe it is a religious obligation.
Islam and western culture are not incompatible because Islam is a religion for all times, all people and all places. And as we build Muslim communities in the West, a continued opposition to all things western will not foster healthy integrated communities. While cultural attachments may be maintained, it is the principles and values of Islam which must be the priority. In our outreach and our outfits, we only need only to display those values proudly for them to endure.”
What I think…You know, I do not think that western Muslim women are choosing “ethnic-style” looking clothing so as to better fit in with the Muslim community over here nor are they ignoring their western roots! What they ARE trying to do is dress in a manner which is modest and which fulfills religious requirements for their attire! This sister is unfortunately, neglecting the numerous ayaats, hadeeths and rulings which relate to hejab and covering…one purpose of hejab according to the Quraan and Hadeeths is so that Muslims, esp. Muslim women are recognized AS Muslims and not harassed, annoyed or propositioned by men unrelated to them and also as an outward sign of piety and religiosity (this goes for BOTH Muslim men AND women! as hejab is NOT just for us sisters, but also for the brothers too!).
Nowhere in the Quraan or Hadeeths-as far as Ive studied, does it say that hejab is about blending in and “when in Rome do as the Romans do…”…does it? And what about the rulings from pretty much every Islamic madhab which in a nutshell considers a Muslim womans hejab to consist of an overgarment OR overgarment-LIKE outfit (i.e. loose, baggy and long enough that no curves are hanging out and which still looks distinctively and obviously “Muslim”) and a khimaar/headscarf which covers the hair, neck and chest. Above and beyond that, almost no mention is made to any one specific mode of attire or color and the finer details vary by madhab (to cover the feet or not, to cover the chin or not, to cover the face or not…). So really does it matter if a sister chooses to go out in a long tunic and baggy, loose skirt and a covering scarf or a abaya from Saudi Arabia or a Pakistani Shlwar Kameeze which is long and baggy…?? No, not really…is the baggy skirt or even wide legged jeans with a long tunic and less “foreign” than the abaya…? Perhaps to some people yes, but who should it matter to anyway?
If a sister is more comfortable out in public in a black abaya and shaylah imported from Dubai or a jilbab imported from Jordan or, heck, even a Senegalese BouBou…then what does it matter if its not jeans and teeshirt ala’ stereotypical American style…and really who is to say that jeans and a teeshirt and distinctively western anyway and a jilbab is foreign…? Who? Jane Doe down the block?
It really shouldnt matter as long as the sister is comfortable and is covered according to what she follows as proper hejab…If we cover Fi Sab’Illah (For the SAKE of Allah!) then we really wont care if people think we are stepping out in “foreign”-ish looking clothing…We arent covering for them anyway.
p.s….and how can you judge someones eastern-ness or western-ness or northerness or southerness by what they are wearing…its illogical!