So many people see a Muslim woman dressed in head to toe and think, “Oppressed! He’s forcing her to dress like that.” “He” refers, of course, to her dictator of a husband. After all, no woman would shun mini skirts, tank tops, and shorts of her own free will. No thinking woman would wear long sleeves and pants in the heat of summer. If a woman is dressed like that she is obviously either brainwashed or beaten. Right?
Wrong. I am an American, born and raised in a free country. Growing up, I was encouraged to wear make-up and dress provocatively. I was always told, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” So, I flaunted it.
Then, I grew up and starting questioning life, religion, and morals. Though my husband introduced me to Islam and Muslims, he didn’t force me to accept either. I became a Muslim on my own accord. I chose to dress conservatively.
[h]Koran Advises Modesty[/h]
If you ask a Muslim woman why she dresses the way she does, the answer will often be, “Because Allah told me to.” She isn’t trying to be flip; she’s trying to follow her religion. The Koran advises men and women to “lower your gaze and guard your modesty.” Both men and women are given explicit instructions about the parts of the body that should be covered in mixed company. The way they interpret those instructions varies greatly. Some women wear a heavy cloak-like garment that only reveals their eyes (niqab). Other women wear tent-like coverings over their clothes and a scarf (hijab) on their heads. Still others wear the hijab over conservative Western wear. For me, conservative looks like this:
- Long sleeve shirts extending at least to mid-thigh.
- Long, loose pants.
- Long, loose skirts extending to the ankle.
- Long, loose dresses extending to the ankle.
- No low necklines.
- No see-through materials.
- No clingy materials.
- Little to no make-up.
- Neatly groomed hair.
There are Muslims who would say that my dress is not conservative enough. Many would say that my hair should be covered. Some say that pants are forbidden (haram) for a Muslim woman. I feel that my clothes conceal my figure and that they do meet the requirements. Now, I am not a scholar and I am not trying to issue a religious ruling (fatwa). If I am wrong, may Allah forgive me and guide me.
[h]Modern Reasons for Modesty[/h]
Although many Muslim women simply accept the rules at face value, I am a bit more hard-headed than a born Muslim. I have already changed my religion before– I don’t accept things blindly. So, I look to more real-life, modern reasons for the things I do. Here are some reasons to dress conservatively:
- People look at you, not your breasts, bottom, or legs.
- People judge you based on your opinions or personality, not your shape.
- Men do not usually hit on a conservatively dressed woman.
- People actually listen when you speak.
- Most people treat you with respect.
- You save your sensuality and beauty for the one who truly matters — your husband.
There are also benefits for the family and for society. I will address those in another blog.
The next time you see a covered woman, try to think of her in a new way. Avoid the temptation to assume that she is oppressed by a tyrannical religion. Consider the possibility that she is an intelligent, thinking woman who has made a conscious decision to dress like that.
Until next time… Assalamu Alaikoum!