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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Worldly Modesty?

Salam alaikum sisters, it has been a while since I have written anything close to Islamic thoughts or questions, so I thought why not write about something I have been pondering for some time? 

Today as I was opening the store, Ahmad was in his play area and the lady that works with us hadn't arrived yet. So I had a lot of quiet time to think while putting things in the showcases. While doing so, I was reminiscing my last trip to Missouri which was in November 2012, seeing my family and visiting my Mennonite friends. 

When I went to visit my Mennonite friends there was one conversation- more like a short discussion- that I have never been able to get out of my head. I have pondered over it a lot and thought to share my thoughts on what we spoke about. 

As I am sure most of you know, Mennonites are well known of their modesty, humility, and kindness (that is until the ridiculous show "Breaking Amish" came out). Anyhoo, while I spent my 1 week visit there, we discussed many things, but one thing we spoke about was what they thought of how Muslim women dressed. Do bear in mind, my Mennonite friends are very blunt and basically will tell you exactly what you asked without sugar coating it- which is exactly how I like to be answered. :) The lady answered, 

"If you ask me, I think you all dress worldly". 

I was quite taken aback by her answer as normally I wear the Abaya (or clothes that resemble the Abaya), and just happened to wear sweaters over it as it was very cold in Missouri while I was there. So I asked her to clarify what she meant when she said worldly, and she said my sweaters I wore would be considered worldly. I found that kind of contradictory as every Mennonite lady I have met in their sect of Mennonites, would wear store bought sweaters, jackets, high heels, etc. Even the print of their dresses can be very bright and bold. But what I am writing isn't to dissect what she said to me, but rather, put out questions and thoughts on it. 

Would it be too bold to say that following "fashion" would be considered worldly? Or even to ask what exactly is considered "worldly" in Islam? In all honesty, I have never heard my fellow Muslim sisters use "worldly", instead, I hear "haram", "immodest", etc. In the eyes of my humble Mennonite friends, and ex-church members in the SDA church, jewelry or any other flashiness or vanity is considered "worldly". For Mennonites, it is an OBLIGATION to wear modest clothing that resembles their fellow church members, as it is also an OBLIGATION for the men to wear a beard and not being allowed to wear shirts with animations on them (excluding stripes or plaid). They do not whatsoever follow a "culture" or "society" but rather, they have stayed pretty much intact as their ancestors (other than using electricity, running water and cars). 

Would wearing jeans and tight fitting clothes be considered worldly? Would conforming to society's standards by following their "fashion fads" be considered worldly?

As Muslim women, we often pride ourselves saying,

"I wear the hijab to avoid conforming to the society's standards".

But wouldn't following fashion fads be the same as conforming to society's standards, instead, just throwing a scarf on top of it?

I find that the Mennonites do not question what they believe, because they believe it is true. If we as Muslims find Islam is 100% true, why do we question or falter in what Islam teaches? I can understand there are moments in life when we must question and weigh what we believe, but once you come to the conclusion that what you believe is 100% true, why must we question, neglect, or excuse the smaller things in our faith?

When I first reverted (converted) to Islam, I was with a sister. Before Islam, I never paid attention to fashion, but after Islam, this sister, who I looked up to, stressed that we have to look somewhat "fashionable" as already we are ridiculed for the hijab. Why be ridiculed for not fitting in fashion wise? I do agree we as Muslimahs are practically "ambassadors" of Islam. We truly represent our religion when we walk out of homes with our hijab on, but we will only show what Islam truly is, if we follow the Islamic standards and not society's standards. If you go out of your home with Abaya (or clothes that resemble the abaya), and you are clean and do not smell foul, why is anything else necessary? 

This post isn't pointing at anyone and saying they are wrong, rather it is a collaboration of all thoughts I have been pondering lately. Let me know your opinions and thoughts on this subject. Also, there are no Islamic thoughts as a basis of this post, but just what I have been thinking of lately. Do your research and follow what you believe 100%! Again these are just my thoughts and I am putting this out for a discussion. :) 


18 comments:

  1. The difference is that those amish/Mennonite people have their own schools and their own jobs.
    Muslims have schools and jobs at mixed places with different kind of people.
    If we would wear amish clothes we couldn`t find a job or we get bullied at school.
    If you are not too much busy with fashion and have islam on the first place in your life i don`t think it's a problem if you wear a nice worldly modest blouse.

    XO

    Laleh

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    1. I wasn't saying that we should wear Amish clothes LOL, for one, they are not modest enough.

      Also, perhaps you have a misconception for the Mennonites, I know many of them who are nurses, who clean houses for others, who have bakeries, shops, where they met with the public on a daily basis. :) 30 years ago, they didn't have their own schools (the Mennonites that is). The older generation that I know speak of going to public schools. :) There is also a big difference between Amish and Mennonites and I was speaking of the Mennonites in the post. :)

      Also bear in mind, Mennonites are pacifists. So during the war drafting, many were tortured for not going into the army. The grandfather of the man I know wrote a diary while he was in prison due to standing for what he believed (refusing to fight). Some though opted to become Medics for the army and refuse to carry a weapon.

      This post about us being like them or looking like them, rather how diligent and firm they are in their beliefs, when many Muslims are not so much like this.

      Moderation is the key to everything. :)

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    2. This post *is not* about us being like them or looking like them, rather how diligent and firm they are in their beliefs, when many Muslims are not so much like this.

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  2. I think that Western concepts of modesty can often collide with Eastern concepts of modesty. In the West, not wearing makeup or jewelry is considered modest. Long, uncut hair is considered modest in some sects of Christianity. In the East, not wearing makeup and jewelry is considered un-womanly in all of the places that I have visited, and for all of the Arabs I have met. I think it's important to consider these different views of how women should dress when we think about modesty in the context of religion. Ideas of femininity and modesty are vastly different depending upon where you are, and there are different commandments for modesty in either Christianity or Islam. Christian women are forbidden from wearing gold, but there is no mention of a jilbab in the Bible, or covering the neck and chest. In Islam, we are allowed gold and silk, but there are stricter guidelines for dressing.

    These different ideas can often look odd to either party. For instance, one of my practicing Christian friends asked me why many Muslim women wear so much makeup, jewelry, and high heels with a headscarf. It seemed like a contradiction to her to cover your hair but be dressed to the nines elsewise. But for some women, this is how women should be dressing, and it is not necessarily considered immodest (whether that be correct or not).

    I personally think that as Muslim women we should be proud to be modest and not scared to be "unfashionable" -- although if you can find a way to fit your tastes without showing off and keeping to Islamic guidelines for dress, more power to you. We should not be afraid to wear abayas, or seem "less wordly". We don't need to compromise our modesty to "fit in" with fashion and others -- people are going to look at us as different regardless what we're wearing, whether we realize it or not, and people can sense when there's a double standard or inconsistency with the way Muslim women present themselves. I think that women who aren't afraid to wear what are considered "non-Western" clothes would be and are considered more modest by Westerners, and are ultimately more respected. They're not compromising themselves to try and "fit in".

    And technically, ALL clothes are wordly. They ALL come from the world, don't they? Unless these are some intergalactic garments! (Hehe :))

    Thanks for the interesting topic~
    Asalaamu alaykum!

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    1. I totally agree with you! I hadn't realized that the Eastern women viewed femininity that way. It is interesting to know that. I was researching what Islam and the Quran say about "Worldly things" and this is what I found:

      "The love of desires has been made beautiful to people such as women, sons, piled up mounds of gold and silver, branded horses, cattle and farmland. Those are the provisions of this life and with Allah is the best place of return."
      [Qur'an Al 'Imran: 14]

      "Say: Who has forbidden the Allah's beautiful things, which he has brought forth for His slaves and the wholesome types of sustenance? Say: They are for those who believe in the life of this world, exclusively on the day of Qiyama. In this way, we explain the signs in detail for a people who know."
      [Al-A'raaf: 32]

      "Attraction towards worldly possessions is, no doubt, the secret of the test. Allah creates all things that He bestows upon man with great sophistication, yet they are also of short duration. This is only to make people think and compare the things given to them in this world with the Hereafter. This is the "secret" of which we are talking. Life in the world is indeed magnificent; it is quite colourful and attractive revealing the glory of Allah's creation. To lead a good life and take pleasure in it is, no doubt, something desirable and man, surely, prays to Allah to lead such a life. Yet this can never be the ultimate purpose, since such a goal in life is not more important than attaining the good pleasure of Allah and paradise. Therefore, man should never forget his main purpose, while enjoying the benefit of these favours. Allah warns man about this issue in the verse below:

      The (material) things which you are given are but the conveniences of this life and the glitter thereof; but that which is with Allah is better and more enduring: will you not then be wise? (Surat al-Qasas: 60)"

      Thank you for such a well put together reply, I really enjoyed reading it!

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    2. And to reply to what you mentioned about everything being worldly, that is why I said I found what the Mennonite said contradictory as they have their shoes, material, sweaters, etc, from the "world". Hehe that is why I clarified that I wasn't making the post to dissect what she said but rather, expound on it and see what the Quran and Islam said about what she mentioned. :)

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  3. asalaam alaykum sister,

    I love your thoughts :) In sha Allah we meet in jennah, amin. What you say is very true. Some people use this argument to defend hijab but i think its adequate not completely true in all cultures. Hijab wasn't sent to rebel or conform but rather it was made an obligation simply because it is an order from Almighty Allah, and I think that should be what we always revert to when we speak. This is actually what I heard a Sheikh say, as he said it then becomes a form of dawah. The full magnitude of the blessings of hijab we will probably never know, but it was sent as an obligation by Allah who does :)

    <3

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    1. Very true, thanks for sharing your thoughts! <3

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  4. your sweater was probably "wordly" cause it was nice and out of their comfort for clothes to wear (not saying there clothes are not nice i mean looking at your jacket with a little admiration)
    anything that is not what our eyes are used to is not normal.... even though there clothes and shoes are from stores they prob fit a certain guidline.

    for me i think anything in excess is wordly like you start to focus on it too much..... too mauch jewellery .... you need to read up about raya and sakeena (egyptian serial killer sisters) dont be so extravagant.there is a lesson in this extravagant clothing and appearance can lead to jelousy, and appearance of money and a deffenate unwanted attention.

    we should dress to cover and be modest and i agree with you as long as clothes are clean and smell fresh and do the job they are acceptable. and personally i cant stand HIGH end fashion abaya designers and things yeas they are beautifull and look amazing but really for outdoor hijab wear pls no

    also i hear the more you are attatched to the worldly thing of this life like the more you desire it the more you cant leave it the more painful it is for your soul leaving the body cause it has to get dragged out.

    and those women mashallah are strong in their beliefs as you said and us muslims should be the sme we shouldnt care what others think and conform to society in skinny legs and heels just to fit in, but whatever is not in our comfort of lifestyle will always seem different.

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    1. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading what you had to say. :) Jazakalkhair. :)

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  5. salam alayki sister, nice to hear from you and wonderful, thought provoking post mashaAllah. I agree with the reply comment from sister Albie and the points she brought up regarding the way many of us are fashionable with our hijab and that make up etc is something that kinda compromises the true essence of hijab. Me personally I keep my hijab very simple and l home or family members homes.
    As long as we refer to the ayat about hijab, learn about their meanings on detail from the people of knowledge and keep our actions with Allah's pleasure then it is easier to stay away from fashion being the be all and end all of our dress sense. Modesty isn't just our dress either it is how we present ourselves holistically. Our speech and body language must also inshaAllah be modest too.
    May Allah bless us with good intentions and actions that are pleasing to Him. Ameen.
    Masalama

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    1. I agree, and I too keep my clothing and hijab very simple and basic.

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  6. Mashallah great post sister.
    Yes I have thought about this too. And Prophet SAW has cleared this up for us, for those who believe. He said do not dress who the kuffars dress. Do not imitate them in your dress and customs.
    One example was a man getting married and the prophet SAW saw him and he was covered in saffron/clothes dyed with saffron and the prophet SAW basically told him off for it, and said do not imitate the customs of the kafirs. That can be applied to many things, clothing, culture, wedding customs etc etc.

    And you are right mennonites know what is right and wrong and like you said they still choose to be worldly, but they are not saying it is ok what they do. Which is what i mentioned in my post about the camel hump hijab. The Quran and Sunnah make matters clear and as muslims we will disobey the Sharia in some form at some point. However, instead of admitting we are disobeying, people fall into Sin and start making up fatwas and their own islamic law. Some sisters go around telling non muslims Hijab is not fard, or Hijab is cultural. Authobillahi... Instead of saying yes it is Islamic practice but we choose not to obey. They try and make up Islam to fit their desires. Instead of admitting they are wrong and being disobedient.... and that is the problem.
    Allah says in the Quran for the "believing" women to wear an outer garment when leaving the house, jilbab... which is a one piece or two piece.... one piece to cover the top and another piece to cover the bottom. But sisters will deny this being true and start saying pants.trousers and a shirt is ok, and wearing mens clothing is ok, suits etc etc. When Allah clearly states Outer garment.

    Yes modesty is not just the dress... One shiekh said it beautifully "If you have modesty in your heart, true and sincere it would be reflected on the outside too" Some people say "its in my heart and that's all that matters" No it is not. Islam says and the Prophet SAW said you need to make people aware you are muslim.... first thing they will see is your appearance. So if someone sees you in jilbab they will know you are a muslim. If they see a brother with a beard and loose garments they will know he is a muslim. The prophet SAW never said to hide our identity he said to show it. So those who say to keep it in their heart are going against the prophet SAW and in our shahada we say "there is no god, but Allah and muhammed is his messenger" So when you disobey Allah and his messenger intentionally and purposefully do you think you are abiding by the Shahada?

    There are those who do not know, and everyday is a new day to learn. I never used to wear jilbab because I did not know... once i read it myself in Quran and hadith I did not deny or reject it I followed it. You have to Love Allah and Muhammad SAW before anything in life... then you will find it easy to say NO to fashion.

    Not to say Fashion has no place for us women... In our homes, behind closed doors and with loved ones we can dress up nicely and modestly and beautify ourselves in a permissible way.

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    1. I agree with you 100% <3 Jazakalkhair for taking your time to write so much! It is much appreciated.

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  7. Peace and Blessings be upon you and your family,

    Your post reminded me of a verse I had gone over recently in my Islamic School which is relevant to your thoughts. Here it is:

    Sahih International

    O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness - that is best. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember." Surah Al-A'raf Verse 26

    I would like to go on a tangent here and point out a small detail about this verse (There is so much that could be said, especially in regards to its place in this chapter). The word "Adornment" is used to translate the Arabic word "Risha" (The letters Ra, Ya, and Sheen)the literal meaning of this word "Risha" in Arabic is "the feathers on a bird". What a connection I would say! Now how does the word "Adornment" connect with the literal meaning of "the feathers on a bird"? I think this question is one of reflection for all of us. With my limited understanding,there are many functions which feathers have for a bird. Primarily it's a means of both protection and beauty (and I am sure there are many other uses as well. And Allah chose to use this particular word "Risha" to mean "Adornment". I find it quite interesting.

    There is so much to be said about this verse in regards to the discussion, but I am unable at the moment to articulate it well here. So I will leave with a quote I came across to highlight an important point in regards to modesty.

    "...Modesty isn't about covering up our bodies because they're bad or about hiding ourselves. It's about revealing our dignity.- Jessica Rey

    Insha'allah let me know what you think :D

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    1. That is funny, just the other day I watched the video where the lady says this. :) Thanks for the comment ukhti. <3

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  8. Salam aleikum! I found your blog today and read it all! Masha Allah for your efforts! Fashion comes and goes. Abaya is the fashion now, 20 years ago there where not many that wore an abaya. The style of how you wear the scarf is different.Thoughts on clothing differs from time and place. How you dress is important though: how modest do you want to be? How do you want people to percieve you? etc. You also have to think about behavior: is it modest enough? I am 42 yrs old: and I can say that in my 2Oies my thinking was more black and white: now it is more relaxed and grey. And when you are 20 you attract another type of attention and you are in an other stage of life. But you should never relax: you always have to remind yourself of purpose in life and are you doing the best you can. I live in Sweden (born and broug up here, not a convert though)and the most difficult thing I find at this stage of my life is that there is so much atheism here. I believe that it is different in different parts of the world. Here it is like you are a weirdo for believing in God./ Take care! S Susan

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