Table of Contents
Modesty always adorns a person. This trait is interconnected with simplicity and faith. Every sincerely believing Muslim knows that modesty is the main peculiarity of Islam. According to Muslim laws, sincerity, humility, and modesty are gifts from Allah and the most valuable things that a faithful Muslim woman can have. This trait beautifies both a young naive girl and a wise woman, who saw a lot on her life path. Observance of the limits of decency and moderation also affected the style of clothing of Muslim women. On this reason, modesty manifests itself primarily in the clothes of a woman, thus giving her an opportunity to look noble and feminine. For instance, hijab, as the main element of female clothing, is not a manifestation of a false modesty. On the contrary, it proves that a woman lives according to the laws of the Quran and wants others to appreciate her for the character and good actions rather than for her beauty, figure, or attraction. An Islamic dress and modesty are the major factors in the religion for Muslim women. Whether they cover their hair and bodies or just their bodies, Islam encourages modesty in women.
Modesty as the Feature of Islam
The manifestation of modesty is rather noticeable in people. This quality protects people against immoral behavior, while its absence leads to alienation from Allah and indiscrimination in beliefs and deeds. Commonly, modest people are humble and prefer staying in shadows and not attracting too much attention. Such behavior of Muslim people is aimed at fulfilling their duties and deserving the contentment of Allah. Modesty also includes restraint, and thus it is not inherent in people willing to underline their physical dignity. It also presupposes simplicity and lack of desire for luxury. Modesty must be manifested not only in behavior but also in the clothing of Muslim people. Particularly, women’s clothes cannot be tight-fitting or transparent and must hide their natural attraction. Thus, the main requirement for women’s clothing must be modesty. However, women are not limited in style, color, or other qualities of closing. As Abu Khadeejan mentions, modesty and sincere humility are gifts from Allah, and people possessing these qualities are blessed. This blessing is displayed in various aspects of life and protects a person from sinful deeds.
As it was mentioned before, clothing gives Muslim women an opportunity to look noble and feminine without manifesting their physical qualities. It is not a punishment or a test but a part of beliefs that should be treated with respect. Women covering themselves are not necessarily innocent girls. There are also mothers and married women among them. A hijab as a necessary part of women’s clothing is not a manifestation of false modesty. It is a reflection of a woman’s decision to submit herself to God’s will in every aspect of her life. A hijab is not only a part of clothing. It protects a woman from the pressure of the society, which usually idealizes stereotypes of definite physical features of women and lays focus more on identity than on physical attraction. The importance of hijab was discussed in many works and researches.
Hijab: The Clothing and Style of Life
The word hijab is often used when speaking about the clothes of a Muslim woman. However, this notion has a much deeper meaning. The word also represents everything that a woman uses to surround her conscious, heart and soul. Hijab remains the main and unalterable decoration of an Islamic woman. It is never removed when a girl goes outside the house. It is believed that hair is the beauty of a woman. Due to this reason, she must cover her head with a scarf and remove it only in the presence of her husband, father, brother, and son. A woman needs to be good only for her husband. Girls are ready to wear hijab at an early age, looking at their mothers, who are a standard of beauty for them. As Siraj points, hijab is not a piece of cloth covering and warming the body; it is a veil of modesty, humility, and shyness. The human body as a cause of shame in Islam must be covered and hidden. The origin of Muslim veiling causes many questions. Thus, some Muslims suppose that it appeared during the times of Mohammed, when many of his wives used covering in everyday life. However, this claim has no evidence. Jeffrey Hays also mentions that veiling was adopted by the next generations after Mohammed’s death as copies from Persia, India, or the Byzantines. It was custom clothing suggesting a high status, which came from antique times, particularly from Greece, Rome, and Byzantium. In old days, veiling was mostly used among city women rather than among rural ones as it hindered the latter from working on fields. Such a long tradition of wearing hijab has created many obligatory norms and features in Islamic dressing.
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There exist two types of hijab, particularly inner and outer ones. An inner hijab denotes the boundaries of behavior. Muslim women living in a non-Muslim society embody the culture of Islam for surrounding people. That is why, every woman wearing hijab puts all her efforts to display good manners and avoid frivolous behavior. An outer hijab is connected with dressing, which has a vast variety of types in different regions. Nevertheless, covering all body except for face and hands is a common feature of female clothing in Islam. Traditionally, women begin wearing covering clothes during puberty and its style greatly depends on customs and traditions. Therefore, it becomes evident that the hijab, which has a long history, is of a great importance in the life of a Muslim woman.
The Requirements to Islamic Clothing
In Islam, there are two main sources that establish the norms of this religion. Particularly, the Quran, revealing the words of Allah, and the Hadith, prompting the Prophet Muhammad’s traditions, serve as a guide for human behavior. It is evident that the existence of these laws creates definite requirements to the style of clothing of Muslim people. Islam as a religion presupposing equal rights both for men and women has a code of conduct concerning dressing at home as well as in public. The first requirement is connected with the necessity of covering some parts of the body, particularly the chest, and the right to leave other parts as hands and the face uncovered. However, some conservative cultures and societies prefer covering all the body, including face and hands, with help of a chador. Likewise, for men it is not appropriate to wear clothes that do not cover knees and chest. The other requirements concern looseness and thickness of clothes, according to which the body should be covered with clothing thick enough to make the body not visible. According to Huda, the appearance should be also modest, as flashy and shiny clothing creates a negative image. Islam motivates people to be proud of whom they are. Therefore, Muslim people should not imitate the faith of others. They should look as the religion says. It is obvious that masculinity must be a trait of men, who should not imitate the style of women; that is why, such feminine accessories as gold and silk are not appropriate for men. In general, the clothing is not a means for gaining admiration of others. It is an aspect of everyday life and the reflection of a human soul.
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The problem of the rights of Muslim women has always been a topic of discussion. It is rather often associated with the Islamic style of dressing. The norms of Islamic clothes often cause critical reviews of people of other religions. However, Muslims do not consider their manner of dressing as some restriction. The overwhelming majority of people are convinced that the clothes of Muslim women are boring; however, this opinion is erroneous. In spite of the fact that the clothing of Islamic women is rather modest, it looks modern and diverse, emphasizing individuality of their owners. The Islamic world dictates strict requirements to traditional women’s clothes, but it could not resist fashion trends. At present, there are many designers creating abayas and hijabs of indescribable beauty in Muslim countries. In such outfits, every Muslim woman feels a real queen and never resembles a humiliated and disenfranchised person.
Wearing modest dresses does not prevent people from doing normal everyday activities. The question of criticism of the Islamic dress code was discussed in the article of Abdulla Galadari. According to his research, this issue was mostly debated in Europe, where Muslims, trying to keep their culture and traditions, create obstacles to some laws regulating security questions. For instance, wearing a veil in public places can be used by people trying to hide their real identity. Similarly, Turkey considers it illegal to wear headscarves by women in public places. At the age of technological development, the presence of cameras helps to find a criminal when it is necessary. Some criminals who want to hide the identity use veils for this purpose, which creates difficulties in finding a suspected person and many security concerns. In addition, some Muslims with feministic views point that a veil is an outdated article of clothing infringing the freedom of women. Moreover, they insist on the oppressive character of Islamic rules of clothing when arguing about the necessity of wearing a veil. Nevertheless, most women choose covering as a psychological and necessary factor, and the society does not have a negative impact or use force to change their world view. It is not a secret that women in other religions may cover their hair too. For example, Jewish females and Christian nuns wear headscarves as a symbol of modesty. Summarizing the above mentioned, it becomes obvious that the Islamic dress code is a symbol of culture and identity rather than a sign of oppression or discrimination.
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Female modesty is also obvious in everyday clothes women wear both at home and at work. The dress code of a woman living in an urban society usually includes long skirts, long-sleeved shirts, and a hijab or a headscarf. Besides, some women prefer wearing western-style jackets. Jawad Syed conducted a research on the implications of modesty on female employment. As the scholar mentions, it is not easy to achieve equality between genders considering historical and socio-cultural contexts of modesty. Moreover, he points that clothes may create difficulties during employment as some women should work with uncovered faces and heads. In addition, some Muslim women can wear burga that covers all body, including the face. It is evident that for some women, such clothing as burga is a necessary attribute of culture and a manifestation of Islamic modesty.
Burga in Various Muslim Cultures
In Islam, a woman is a treasure that must be hidden from the eyes of other people. A modest girl is valued by the society. After marriage, a woman wants to be attractive only for her husband. Therefore, when a woman goes out into the street, she returns to a modest look. Muslim women can wear any type of clothing, and at the same time, remember that it should not attract unnecessary attention. As it was mentioned before, beauty in Islam has a harmful meaning, particularly because of evil intentions of some men towards women. In some cultures, there exists a piece of clothing covering the whole body, leaving only holes for eyes, burga. People motivate wearing of burga, mentioning some Allah’s orders created for the protection of a woman in the society. However, any woman who is old and lost her attraction is permitted not to wear this type of clothing, but from the perspective of modesty, it is still advisable. In various Muslim countries, the color of burga may differ and includes black, white, blue, or green ones. In some countries, such as Tunisia and Turkey, women wear only a head scarf or even remain bareheaded. Some countries create laws regulating the policy of wearing burga and some other necessary elements of clothing. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, according to Quran, a woman covers her face by niqab and wears a loose cloak called abaya. This clothing, as burga, is traditional for Arab woman.
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Abaya is a traditional outfit of Arab women. It is a thin soft and usually black cape or a free dress. In the Arabian Peninsula region, this clothing is combined with a veil and a niqab. It has been popular among women for a very long time because of its convenience and versatility as an outerwear in hot climate. The purpose of city ladies’ wearing such clothes was to hide their face and body from sun rays and keep the skin young and bright, protecting it from sunburn and age spots, as well as to avoid extraneous attention. Rural and Bedouin women dress differently, particularly, they use bright colors instead of a traditional black abaya. They wear long colored robes that are open in front and show colorful dresses dressed under them; they are often tied with a belt, allowing easy movement and work.
Fashion for abaya has changed, and currently there are many variations of the clothing. Some of these clothes are almost without decorations and are considered inappropriate in public. However, their main adornment is the expensive cloth and a thin lace ribbon on the top edge. The majority of women of the Persian Gulf are not urban by origin; they are Bedouins who recently became urban. For this reason, they still prefer an abundance of colors in home and evening clothes, but not in abaya. Since the Gulf countries began to grow economically, designers began to create various models of abaya, using complex styles, with a variety of colored inserts and embroideries, trim rhinestones and stones. Gradually, fashion trends appeared in many Arab countries.
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Important Aspects of Modesty
Sexuality and obscenity can be easily expressed with the help of the way of dressing. Modesty as a part of faith avoids everything that could be interpreted in a negative way. It is obvious that there exists private and intimate territory of a person, and according to Islam, it should remain within the boundaries. The types of clothes observed above help in the realization of this aim. The main criterion of modesty in clothes is not to make a sexual impression but contribute to the fulfilling of general rules of Islam. Thus, modest behavior is very important. According to The Worldwide Encyclopedia of Islam, Allah always watches people and knows everything. That is why, it is necessary to stay modest both outside and inside.
The manner of dressing and human soul are connected. The messages of Allah are understood by people within the heart. Moreover, souls are also veiled from God. The Islamic dress code is connected with the spiritual realm, and it is necessary to be married in order to remove the veil from the soul. Modesty is developed according to Islamic principles. A rather noticeable fact in Islam is that the soul is veiled from God too. The level of modesty is based on one’s feelings, piety, and faith. The sincerer a person’s heart is, the more obvious his or her modesty. Modesty reflects the humility of a person because of the fear of Allah. These qualities in connection with love form modesty and obedience in the believer. They help people be righteous and more patient and realize that Allah sees everything by creating difficulties and making them feel uncomfortable when doing something forbidden.
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God’s commandments concerning the rules of dressing for women are misunderstood and abused. As a result, many women comply with standards that are not established by God. The majority of Islamic countries have interpreted these commandments in a wrong way, mixing them with cultural and traditional beliefs. Consequently, women must cover themselves from head to foot. However, it is arguable whether it what the God requires from people. The Quran is the only source of religious law given by the God, and during studying it, a completely different set of rules concerning clothing of women becomes noticeable. The directives established by God are perfect, reasonable and do not create difficulties and discomfort for women.
Islam has a distinctive feature, particularly modesty. Since faith uses modesty in all aspects of human life, much attention is paid to this topic in the basic laws of Muslims, such as the Quran. To be modest means to be simple. Moreover, it means to submit and accept the truth. The lack of this quality in a person leads to egoism, and an excess of modesty leads to humiliation. Therefore, it is necessary to create a balance in this delicate matter. Sexuality and attractiveness are the features that must be hidden in Islam. Thus, there are certain rules about the clothes of Muslim women, according to which women cover their body with special clothes, in particular, hijab, burga, abaya, etc. As it was mentioned before, the Quran does not require women to cover their hair and body completely; however, it is necessary and obligatory to dress modestly and cover their breasts. Some Islamic countries have gone to extremes, forcing women to cover their whole body and allowing them to have only their eyes and hands bare. This imposed dress code does not correspond to the teachings of the Quran. Clothing of Muslim women often causes much controversy and criticism; however, women do not feel disadvantaged or offended. Islam teaches to be proud of the religion, and since modesty is part of it, restraint style of clothes is generally perceived as absolutely normal.