“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” ― Oscar Wilde
I had been a victim of fashion when I was younger. I was influenced by TV, teen magazines and also friends. I wanted to look like the girls in the magazines because I believed that if I look like them, then I will be popular amongst my peers. I was naive then.
As I grew older, I kinda lost the feeling of wanting to keep up with fashion. It was very exhausting not to mention costly. I had a very small allowance given by my dad and it was not enough to buy clothes. I came to realise that I was dressing up to please others and not myself. There were instances when my dad would march me back inside the house and make me change my attire because he deemed it was ‘too modern’! He would then tell me to change into ‘baju kurung’!. My dad is old school. He holds strongly to traditions. He prefers his daughters to be demure and modestly dress. I was modestly dress but definitely not demure, in fact, I was actually a daughter from Hell! I was rebellious and was always doing the exact opposite of what he wants. I suppose I have to thank my dad for being very strict then, or otherwise, I would probably be walking around half naked now! Astagfirullah! May God forgive me for my past ignorance.
You know, it was not just the clothes that we fall prey to but it was also the hair, the face, nails, the whole look. When I was my twenties, I was quite vain, who wasn’t?. I wanted to look good all the time, no, let me correct that, I wanted to look ‘great’ all the time. I would go to great lengths to achieve it. I remember spending hours in front of the mirror trying to decide what clothes to wear, how to style my hair and how to match my earrings. That was a lot of time wasted that I can never retrieve. I even allowed myself to be the human sacrifice to my sister to performing this D-I-Y facial treatment that went completely wrong. She practically burnt my front fringe and my entire eyelash!! I’m not joking! She really did burn my lashes. Instead of looking like a beauty queen, I ended up looking like some Japanese mutant! I was not married then, and my dad had joked that he probably would have to pay someone to marry me instead of me receiving the dowry from the groom! Luckily, my lashes grew back! Alhamdulillah!
That incident and a few others (like a bad hair perm) really got me thinking about whether it was worth going through all that hassle for the sake of beauty. I felt like a mannequin instead of like a person. People judge me from my exterior looks instead of what’s in my heart or mind, and, no matter how hard I tried, I found that I could never please everyone.
When I made the decision to wear hijab, I felt liberated! I was free from of all expectations. I wasn’t dressing to please human but I was doing it for the sake of God. My hijab also had warded off some unsuitable suitors away from me. I knew then, that, if I were to marry, it would be to a man who appreciates beauty from within.
“Women impure are for men impure, and men impure for women impure and women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity: these are not affected by what people say: for them there is forgiveness, and a provision honourable.”
Surah An-Nur 24:26
When I came across this verse, I knew in my heart that I want to try to be one of the ‘women of purity’ and after donning the hijab, I prayed that God will grant me a ‘man of purity’ who will be the ‘Imam’ for me and my future children. Alhamdulillah, God granted my prayers and my dad was relieved that he didn’t have to pay for anyone, to marry me!
After hijab, I started examining my entire dress code. The Wise Owl had once told me “sister, women in Islam is like a rare diamond. We need to keep it under wraps because if we expose her then the wrong person might steal her away. Her beauty is only to be admired by those who are the ‘chosen’ ones and privileged ones only. Her beauty will remain rare if she can only been seen by selected people. If an item can be seen by everyone and touched by everyone then it will become common. Women are also like rare flowers, if we expose it to the sun, it will wilt and shrivel but if we keep it covered and safe, it will bloom for a very long time. You need to decide for your self whether you want to be a rare jewel or a common flower” Ouch!... the Wise Owl was brutal but brilliant!.
From my reading, it is true that women are highly revered in Islam. We are held in high esteem and given a very high status. Even in his last sermon, Prophet Muhammad saw had specifically mentioned about us. Prophet Muhammad SAW did not tell the women folk to take care of their husbands but he mentioned about us. That is how important we are.
“O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”
Excerpt of the Last Sermon of Prophet Muhammad SAW
I also learnt that ‘hijab’ is not just covering of the head. It has a deeper meaning than that. It also means that we are supposed to be attractive to only our husband and not other men. We are to cover our other beauty, such as clothing, jewelleries, loving attitude, sweet voice, dazzling smile and irresistible charms from others and reveal it to only the chosen ones.
Before we go out, we need to examine our intention of dressing. Are we dressing for God or are dressing to please or attract other men or to show off our beauty?
If we dress to attract other men, then we might invite trouble into our marriage. Keeping a marriage work is already hard enough without outside interferences. For those sisters who are not married, then dressing for men would probably invite unsuitable suitors as the men are judging you from your external appearance only. If they find that they dislike then person inside, they might move on to someone prettier. If we dress to show off our beauty to others, then, we might find ourselves to be disappointed as we might appear to be ugly in other people’s eyes. Remember the saying. ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. So instead of getting the praises we expected, we might end up with harsh criticism.
When I decided to wear black abaya, my life became so much simpler. I don’t have to worry about matching colored jubah with headscarves anymore. Black has always been one of my favourite colors as it is elegant and it hides all imperfections! Trust me, after 4 kids, you would want to hide as much as possible! I admit that I do look different from others but to me if I’m different for the sake of Allah SWT, then it is fine by me.
Of course, I had people coming up to me asking me why should I copy the Arabs? Well, jeans or suits or mini-skirts have never been part of the Malay culture. These clothing are in fact influence of the western culture. The traditional Malay costume would be ‘baju kurung’, so unless that person wears 'baju kurung' all the time, do not accuse me of copying. Furthermore, if I am going to be accused of copying another culture’s clothing, I might as well copy the most Islamic one. Actually, abaya to me, is the outer garment that is specifically mention in the Quran.
“O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
Surah Al-Ahzab 33:59
This verse, to my understanding, refers to women putting on an extra ‘outer garment’ when we go out from the house to hide our beautiful inner clothing and sexy curves. So that’s why I choose to wear an abaya, plus it is prayer friendly. I can perform my prayers anywhere, anytime; no excuse. Others, may have different reasons to dress the way they do. I can’t speak for them. To me, we just need to re-check our own intention and get it right. We don’t have to check others’ intention. Their intention is strictly between them and God Al Mighty.
We have to have faith and trust that God Al Mighty wants the best for us. Even though some people have commented that I am more heavily wrapped than an Egyptian mummy, I don’t really care because I feel safe and comfortable. My outer garment is like a protective cloak around me, to ward off evil spirits. Sometimes, it makes me invisible. *wink*.
I believe it in my heart that, if you follow His Commandments wholeheartedly and you dress to please Him only, you will find that you can be the happiest woman in the world…..