Fashion in Islam: Muslimah Edition | Expressions with ELEVEN
The term awrah for Muslimahs consists of covering their body and only showing their face and hands. From this interpretation and the mentioned in Surah An-Nur,
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and 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.” (The Qur’an, 24:31)
Covering our bodies and practising a level of modesty is a way to protect ourselves as women and to be in touch with our faith at the same time. A word that is tied together with the concept of awrah and covering up is ‘hijab’, also known as a headscarf. Headscarves serve as a purpose for covering a woman's hair and neck from people who are not within her ‘mahram’, which includes her husband and family relatives.
What is accepted in society today? :
Living in a modern and urbanised society today, many Muslims are more interconnected with each other. It is very common to see Muslims of different nationalities and backgrounds in local communities. Social media has also been a great driver for the spread of Islam and for people to learn more about the religion. Through official platforms and sharings by Islamic figures, many misconceptions about why awrah exists for both men and women and why it is observed that most women wear headscarves in public arose.
Nonetheless, with social media comes its points of debate. What does it mean to dress modestly in society today? The different types of fashion that have emerged from social media sites and the internet have shown how Muslim women dress around the world. However, some popular Muslimah influencers may present a certain style which some may deem as not covering their bodies properly. Fashion pieces such as tight, fitted tops and pants or corsets still show the shape of the body. Even the headscarf has been curated into different manners which may have completely gone against its initial religious purpose and has instead become a ‘fashion statement’.
To impressionable young Muslimahs who are figuring out their fashion sense and how they would like to cover themselves, seeing such controversial outfits on social media may influence them to follow suit and wear inappropriately as well. Fashion in Western media may influence them as well, to adopt a particular style at the expense of protecting their awrah.
In the workforce, many Muslimahs may face problems with getting employed due to their headscarves. In situations where they feel there is no other option, they are willing to give up on wearing their headscarves for income. There has been progress in this aspect, such as in Singapore, where recently Muslimah nurses are now allowed to wear their headscarves as they work. The concept of awrah is from the Qur’an, yet human interpretation and mixing of different opinions have made the definition to be more complicated for every Muslimah.
How do you dress? :
For every individual, style and fashion sense develop at very different rates. For Muslimahs who feel mentally and physically prepared to wear a headscarf or to begin properly covering their body the correct way, the transition may be harder for some. With the various types of headscarves as well as making sure that it does its purpose of covering one’s awrah, here are a few tips which I feel would be useful for Muslimahs who are taking their first few steps into more modest fashion and wearing headscarves:
1. Feel free to explore!
Even with the influence of Western fashion that may present types of clothing that are far from portraying modest fashion, it has many other fashion looks to offer to Muslimahs. On social media applications such as Instagram and Pinterest, there are various aesthetics that exist such as cottagecore, indiecore, and much, much more. There are also various Muslimah influencers who manage to take inspiration from outfits following such aesthetics and change them in a positive way. Every individual is different in their own way when it comes to fashion. Growing up, I felt that I had to abandon the old style I had before I decided to start wearing a headscarf regularly. As I grew older and saw the different types of outfits that Muslimahs all over social media were capable of, it inspired me to experiment and try different clothes of various colours and prints. Time is your best friend when it comes to finding what suits you best.
2. Do not force yourself.
Living in a humid and hot country like Singapore, it can be a struggle to wear a headscarf for a prolonged amount of time. For someone wearing it for the first time, it may be quite a challenge to handle. It is perfectly normal to feel deterred from wearing a headscarf on a regular basis. The same could go for beginning to wear modestly. With more fabric covering your body, it may make you feel very uncomfortable and is something to get used to. Easing your way into wearing it is like building a habit, so going about it slowly would be able to help you be accustomed to the headscarf. For example, wearing it once a week and progressing it to more days per week until you feel comfortable with it every day.
3. Remember why you dress as such.
There must be an instance for every Muslimah where they find a piece of clothing they would like to own but it is deemed as not a form of modest clothing. A time where they wished they did not have to wear their headscarf during the hottest day of the year or just wished to not have to go through the hassle of wearing their headscarf. At moments like these, it is important to recognise why and who you are dressing like this for. Wearing modestly is a way to protect your body from the desire and gaze of men, it also encourages women to appreciate and treasure their body for what it helps them do every day to continue living.