Why Do You Dress
Narrated by: Najiyah Umm
As a Muslim
woman I am occasionally asked about my manner of dress. I
always try to give a friendly and informative answer, but
often either I or the questioners are in a hurry, and they
walk away as confused as ever. So allow me to share with you
a bit about the Muslim woman's dress in this written form.
covering like this did not begin with Muslims. Both the Torah
and the New Testament instruct women to cover their heads.
Consider images of Mary the mother of Jesus. She is always
dressed exactly like Muslim women dress today! Practicing
Jewish women still cover their heads, although they now do
it with wigs instead of scarves, and some Christian sects
like the Mennonites and Amish have also retained the head
covering. In God's last revelation to mankind, the Qur'an,
He also instructs women to cover their beauty.
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 husbands' fathers..." (Qur'an An-Nur, 30-31)
What it Signifies:
associate this type of modesty with submission and the subjugation
of women. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, they sometimes
witness in the media truly oppressed Muslim women, who, ignorant
of their own faith are treated poorly in the name of Islam
by unscrupulous or equally uneducated men. Secondly, their
own history and scriptures predispose them to this belief.
Commonly called the "Eve complex" there is a school of thought
in Christianity which blames Eve for Adam's sin of eating
from the forbidden fruit. The Church's historical view of
women as temptresses and soulless vessels of sexual evil is
a result of this belief. Additionally Paul associates modesty
on the part of women with submission to their husbands when
he says in I Corinthians 11:3 "...the head of every women
is the man....." But in Islam, although the husband is considered
the leader of the family (as every organization has a leader),
the two concepts of modesty and obedience are not linked as
they were by Paul.
in the Qur'an that the believing women should "cast their
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." [Qur'an Al-Ahzab,59]
woman's manner of dress is not a symbol of her submission
to man, but rather a symbol of her belief in God. It was prescribed
by God to protect women from co modification, objectification
and sexualization, which occur when they display themselves
to all, and sundry rather than reserving their beauty as something
private and precious.
of covering are many. A Muslim woman forces people to deal
with her on a person-to-person level. She is known for her
talents, intellect and personality only, not as "fat", "beautiful"
or "a red-head". She maintains dignity at a time when women
are constantly being treated in a sexually degrading manner-
she is not sexually harassed or date raped. A Muslim woman
retains the respect and reverence that Western women gave
up when they began to mistakenly associate lack of modesty
with equality and freedom. Muslim women also retain a healthy
body image- young Muslim ladies don't suffer from anorexia
or bulimia, spend countless hours on manipulative "beauty
magazines" or countless dollars feeding a piranha-like beauty
industry in an effort to gain the acceptance of a society
that values youth and sex and unattainable perfection. Muslim
women are comfortable with themselves, confident and dignified
in their covering.
West the Women' Lib movement was greatly needed. But in reality
such a movement was not necessary, because God granted women
all the rights they fought for and even more, 1400 years ago.
Islam guarantees women the right to be educated, to choose
their own spouses, to initiate divorce, to work outside the
home, to own property, to own a business and to keep any money
earned for themselves if they so choose. Under Islamic law,
women have always voted, held public office, participated
in society, and spoken out if they disagree with leaders.
Muslim women are also the only women anywhere guaranteed inheritance.
The Face Veil:
time of the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him), the "outer garments" with which the women covered
themselves were sheet-like cloaks which covered everything,
leaving only the eyes showing if necessary. There
is a difference of opinion among Muslim scholars as to whether
the face must then, by definition, be covered. I
personally believe that in all matters the correct interpretation
is that of the companions of the Prophet himself (peace be
upon him) and the earliest scholars. By far most of them taught
that the face must be covered. In my research of the Qur'an
I also cannot see another interpretation! I am part of a growing
movement of "modern", educated Muslim women who are striving
to return to this spiritually uplifting practice. God
willing it will then lose its reputation as being oppressive
and will come to stand for faith, dignity and respect, as
it originally did.