“When virtue and modesty enlighten her charms, the lustre of a beautiful woman is brighter than the stars of heaven, and the influence of her power it is in vain to resist.” ― Akhenaton
A few days ago, I woke up one morning and the first word that popped up in my brain was ‘modesty’. The whole day the word stuck in my mind and I was beginning to wonder the real meaning behind the word.
‘Modesty’ in simple English basically means “1.Reserve or propriety in speech, dress, or behaviour 2. Lack of pretentiousness; simplicity.” It also means “behaviour, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency”.
In Islam, modesty or ‘haya’, refers to shyness. It includes inner and outer modesty. Modesty does not only refer to clothing but also the demeanour of the person.
“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Faith consists of more than seventy branches. And haya (modesty) is a part of faith.” (Al-Bukhari)
“O children of Adam, We have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. These are some of God’s signs, that they may take heed.” (Al-Araf 7:26)
Yesterday, a young brother asked me about modesty of Muslim woman or more specifically the awra of a woman in Islam. He told me that he is very confused with the current clothing trend and would like to know the exact boundaries of clothing for Muslim women.
I was actually taken aback with his question. I am used to getting this type of question from sisters but this is the first I am being asked by a brother. Then a thought came through my mind, “hhmmmm is this trick question or does he genuinely wants to know?” So, I decided to give him the benefit of a doubt.
I told him that in Islam, as how I understand it, a woman must cover everything except her hand and face.
“‘A’ishah (Allah be pleased with her) that Asma’ bint Abi Bakr (Allah be pleased with them both) entered upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) while wearing thin clothing, so he turned away from her and said, “O Asma! Indeed when a woman reaches [the age of] menstruation, it is not proper that anything should be shown except this and this”, and he pointed to his face and hands.”
Narrated by Abu Dawud
From what I understand from this hadith, is that our feet are also part of the body that needs to be covered. If our feet are uncovered then it is akin to exposing our awra Awra is not just the hair or the head or the body. The common mistake that I see women make is, covering everything but their feet.
The Wise Owl also taught me that the women’s covering must be loose and not tight or figure hugging or transparent.
“There will be women who will be dressed but they will be naked. Their heads will be like the humps of camels. They will not enter Jannah and will not even smell the scent of Jannah while it can be smelt from a far distance.” [Sahih Muslim]
The whole purpose of covering our body is to conceal our beauty which includes our body figure from men who are not in our privileged list. So, next question is, who are the men in our privileged list? That answer is found in the Quran….
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.”
Surah An-Nur 24:31
There you have it, the men in our privileged list. In Islam, we are given such high regards that only a selected few can view us in our full glory. Those who are not in the list, are not worthy of an audience with us.
Wearing tight or transparent clothing not only goes against the whole concept of covering up but also similar to that person being naked.
The young brother also asked me about the current fashion and colourful clothing that is available for Muslim ladies nowadays. Ok, this part is a bit tricky....... Some may say that the issue is subjective and some may say it is a personal choice. To some extent, it is both subjective and a personal choice. Each woman has her own freedom to learn about Islam and her personal choice on whether to follow what she had learned. After studying under the tutelage of the Wise Owl and the Wise Old Man for years and after various discussions and arguments going back and forth between us, I have drawn my own conclusion about women’s dressing in Islam. I do not expect others to agree with me as the conclusion that I have made is for ME to follow. If others wish to adopt the same reasoning , then so be it but I do not wish to impose my thoughts on others.
So here goes….. to me, modesty is Islam is not just the clothing that we wear but also our attitude and character. Personally, I think that, we women can wear the most colourful and attractive clothes but it should be worn within the vicinity of our homes. When we step out of our sanctuary, we should dress as plainly as possible, in fact, to the point of being invisible to others. We should not be seen attractive to people whom we are not suppose to attract. In fact, from my understanding, we should be wearing another outer garment over our normal clothes when we step out of the house. The outer garment refers to abaya or jilbab. It is like a cloak or a robe to be worn over our fancy clothes.
“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
Let me give you an example, if you are carrying a very expansive sparkling diamond, would you carry it in secured chest, away from prying eyes or, do you carry it in a transparent bag so that everyone can see it and possibly steal it? To me, women, are like sparkling diamond, if you let too many hands touching it, it will lose its shine and lustre. I am also not a freak on display, for people to stare and comment, nor am I a cat-walk model strutting on the runaway when I step outside the comfort of my home, hence, I would not dress to please people but rather, try to dress to please God. Before you step out of the house, the first thing that you should ask yourself is “why am I wearing this and who am I trying to please?”. Your answer will reflect your intention.
There is nothing wrong in wearing colors but I personally prefer black. Wearing colors sometimes makes a person stands out in public and can attract unwanted attention and that is one thing I wish to avoid. I have been called ‘fanatic’ by some, over my stand and choice of dress code but seriously……….. for me, I am only trying to be a proper Muslim.
I don’t speak for others and I don’t question their intention. I have too much sins of my own to worry about, than to wonder or ponder about others but the principles that I follow is quite simple and clear. It all boils down to intention and the willingness to obey God’s Commandments. I also have nothing against being fashionable but, if a person wants to promote and encourage Muslim women about fashion, then, make sure that she is encouraging the correct method of clothing and within the correct sphere, otherwise, she might end up bearing the sins of others due to her conduct.
“Jarîr relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever initiates a good practice (sunnah hasanah) in Islam and is emulated by others in doing so will get the reward of it and the reward of all those who act upon it without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And whosoever initiates an evil practice (sunnah sayyi’ah) in Islam and is emulated by others will bear the sin of it and the sin of all those who act on it without their burden being diminished in the least. ” [Sahîh Muslim: (1017)]
Anyway, back to the young brother, after giving a lengthy explanation about my views on Islamic clothing, I finally told him that, in the end of the day, I can only give my two sen worth of opinion. To accept or to reject is the liberty of each individuals, after all, I am not a pious Islamic scholar to be followed as an example, but just a plain simple person who is trying her level best to be a Muslim………