Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dressed but naked...

I look at a lot of modest dress blogs, and IMO overall the Christian women are actually more modest than the Muslimahs, even though the Christian women don't always cover their hair, ankles, wrists etc. The reason I say they are more modest is they are usually more simple and plain and frugal in their style choices, and that for me is a big part of what modesty really means.

You don't see a lot of Orthodox or Plain Christian women posting blogs about their love of high heeled shoes or bright orange & sequined caftans or what shade of lipstick to wear. I see these kind of posts on so-called "hijabi style" blogs a lot. There's something laughable about a woman in a neon pink abaya, blue hijab, designer high heels, plucked eyebrows with every pore of her face slathered in 3 coats of makeup, obsessing over whether or not a strand of her hair might be showing and thinking she is being "modest."

I grew up in an area with a large Muslim population and I never saw Muslim girls dressing like this even just 5-10 years ago. Now it is very common to see a Muslim woman in skin-tight clothes wearing a hijab on her head. I see Muslimahs born into Muslim families wearing tight clingy things I would never dream of wearing out in public.

I'm trying to figure out what is the root of the confusion. I think there are two main things at play here: post-9/11 Muslimahs were harassed and attacked for being visibly Muslim and there still is a lot of hostility toward Muslims in Western countries. These "fashion-hijabis" say they want to be fashionable and stylish, but I think they are partially motivated by making themselves look hip, Western/secular and thus less threatening to the non-Muslims around them. A flowery pink hijab is less severe to the Western eye than a black chador. Most of the hijabi fashionista bloggers seem to be born Muslims either born or living in the West or converts growing up in the West.

Another thing I feel is coming into play is Muslim women in the Islamic world are experiencing a spiritual revival, but they are trying to make this fit with the secular tastes which are all around them and in the mass media (i.e., places like Egypt where the hijababe phenomenon erupted). They are trying to adapt their religion to their personal tastes rather than the other way around.

Christian modesty bloggers are doing the opposite. For a Christian woman to dress in a specifically modest way, and especially covering the head, they are mostly doing something very out of the ordinary for their faith and culture. They seem to be drawn away from secular fashions is if to make a strong statement that they are not "of this world." Muslim women who cover their bodies and heads on the other hand are doing something largely accepted in their faith and culture, and so they do not feel as compelled to make an anti-fashion statement. I don't know how to explain it clearly, but that's the sense I get.

Clearly a lot of women out there, including those inclined toward modest dress, are looking to the outside to fix something internal. This is a problem which effects all women. We buy clothes and makeup and perfume to feel good about ourselves. Why do we feel bad about ourselves in the first place? Usually, it is those same companies which make the clothes, makeup and perfume using advertisements to make us feel bad! So in being "fashionable" we feed into and perpetuate our own misery.

What does it really mean to be "stylish?" To me, being stylish means expressing the true, inner you to the world through the way you dress and present yourself. I am a very shy, modest person and it comes through in my clothes. People understand something about you by looking at how you present yourself physically. When I see a Muslim woman who is wearing tight, flashy or trendy clothes but a headscarf on her head, the message I get from that is "I'm very confused about who and what I am."

What I see in so-called "hijabi style" blogs is not style per se, but trendiness. Puting on the latest trend is not stylish at all. Looking through Glamour or Cosmopolitan or Vogue or looking at what celebs are wearing and then adding some long sleeves, a headcovering etc is not being stylish. It's more like being a slave to someone else's idea of what is fashionable, i.e. being trendy. When you look through fashion magazines and adopt those ideas, that is what you're saying to the world: "I'm a slave to trends and I want to be accepted by the world as 'cool'!"

If you're dressing modestly out of a religious belief, being seen as "cool" by the greater secular society is the last thing you should want. When you copy ideas from magazines and celebs, think about who you are trying to be accepted by: the sort of people who get their cues of behavior and dress from the media, from sex-obsessed women's magazines and celebrities are most likely not the sort of people you ought to be following or impressing. You're going against God when you follow the Godless. If you are really dressing for God why would you follow secular fashion trends at all? I don't know what is "in style" and I don't care.

How can you justify buying expensive designer clothes from some (likely homosexual) designer whose advertisements almost always degrade women, and use nakedness or depictions sexual perversion to sell their products? These are the same fashion designers who parade twig-thin teenage girls pumped full of cocaine half-naked on the catwalks and make grown women feel awful about their own natural, normal grown woman bodies. How can you put even one cent of your money into those designer's hands and feel good about it? I've seen women wearing headscarves with Calvin Klein logos on it. :-/

Another thing to consider is the proper dress code is one of the things which draws people to Islam in the first place. I remember growing up always being fascinated by the long robes and headcoverings that Muslim women wore, and I knew even as a child that was the way I wanted to dress one day when I grew up! I thought about how it was exactly like those pictures in my 'Picture Bible,' all those depictions of Biblical women like Virgin Mary (ra). When someone looks at a hijababe they get a wrong impression about Islam.

When modern Christianity lost its sense of modesty in dress (at least most sects have) all the other sins you see so-called Christians engaging in seemed to follow in after that. Clothing is important because it effects behavior and social decorum.

As for makeup, do you know how bad the cosmetic industry is for the environment and for human health? Many cosmetics contain poisons and known carcinogens. Read about it here. You slather chemicals on your face to look better, but it can end up killing you and destroying nature. Ladies, if you need makeup to feel better about yourself, would it not be prudent to look inside yourself for what is making you feel inadequate?

Women wear makeup and jewellery and flashy colors it is to attract attention to themselves and to compete with other women. There is no other reason for it. That is what secular fashion is all about. You can say that is not your intention and you just want to be "stylish" but others don't see it like that. Men especially do not see it that way. When you cover up but use alluring glittery fabrics, bright colors and sexy shoes, you send a mixed message to men.

The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam) stated that in later generations of his ummah there would be "women who would be dressed but naked and on top of their heads what looks like camel humps. Curse them for they are truly cursed." (Muslim)

What means "dressed but naked?" To me, it would be an outfit which overs the body but shows the curves (like I said, many Muslim women dress this way these days) or an outfit which is so flashy and wild it draws attention to the woman as if she were standing there naked (ditto).

I have more respect for plain dressed Christian women who do not cover their hair than I do for a Muslimah who slathers herself in makeup, wears neon colors, and wears skin-tight clothing but always wears a headscarf. Because the modest Christian woman in turning to modest dress is rejecting the whims of the society around her, and going against decades of practices within her faith. She is doing something which takes a lot of courage for her.

The hijabi fashionista on the other hand is trying to fit into the perverted materialistic culture around her and going against what she knows is right and being led by her ego. "I want to feel good about myself and be stylish." This should not be your motivation in how you dress. If you want to feel good about yourself, volunteer or give to charity. Looking to Calvin Klein and JLo is not the behavior of a modest, chaste, humble woman who orients herself toward God and wants people to accept her for her intellect and spirit. When you bring secular influence into something which is supposed to humble you & remind you of God, you profane it and it becomes spiritually meaningless. You become "dressed but naked."

Yeah, I'm not perfect and I'm not claiming to be. But it bothers me to see people who are on the right track (living their lives for God) but being led astray by their own ego, and then sticking their fingers in their ears when someone calls them on the harm they are doing to themselves. This sort of criticism is not meant to insult anyone or make them feel ashamed or make me feel better about myself or superior. It is about helping you, me and everyone else question why it is they do the things they do and hopefully understand & accept themselves.


Pixie said...

I feel style and modesty can go together, but it is all about moderation---and NOTHING tight or overly sparkly. Sexuality should not be displayed (as in body parts), or excessive wealth (a poor man should not feel ashamed and a rich man not disdain).

Sab said...

i totally agree. i have seen many young muslim girls wearing really thight pants and fashinable things. ok so a sweater cover lower than thei butts, its skin tight! im not a muslim, i have no right to judge on someon elses religion and how to dress and etc.
but this not what modesty is all about in my opinion.
u either are or ur not.
blessed be.

Anonymous said...

I like a lot of the points you made, and I am a modest christian woman, but as a christian woman I was appaled by your anger and judgment towards these woman who dressed a bit too flashy for you.You seem to have a lot of unresolved anger bubbling out, and possibly some issues with your inner self, I am not trying to pass judgment on you, or be disrespectful, but I truly believe God loves everyone and he made everyone, and your comment about gay designers was a bit too much. Jesus is love, and I will love openly like him. I think a lot of people forget who Jesus chose to share company with, they were not the best looked upon in the community, but he never judged, so I shall never judge. Peace and Love, T

Muhala Akamau said...

I appreciate your comments. Though strong, I certainly understand where you are coming from.

I've had the same thoughts about 'modest' women being slathered in make-up and even came across a website selling middle eastern clothing and other items for women. With regard to prayer shawls it was selling, an ad read "pray in style". That seems to be quite the oxymoron!

I have been a Christian for many years, but am new to covering and modest dress. I've been happily married to a believing hubby for nearly 15 years. Hubby was not exactly thrilled about my decision to cover. I want to honor God by honoring my hubby and being submissive. Hubby is a good, God-loving man who understands and appreciates my views but likes me without head covers. He allows me to cover during the day when he's at work and he's fine with me covering for Sunday worship. This whole thing is really new and different for him. I see him being really upset if I were to bust out in very plain clothing. I know what hubby finds attractive and I know he appreciates a certain 'stylishness' to my clothing. This is not to say that I'm flashy. I'm not. But I do think that sometimes the reasons women dress the way they do might be for other reasons than what meets the eye. I try to keep my dress tasteful and understated. I want to be like Sarah who honored Abraham. In honoring my hubby I am honoring God and His Word, which commands me to honor and submit to my husband. My husband married a godly woman, so when I honor God, I become (over and over again) the woman my husband chose to marry. If I were single, I'd cover all the time and could focus on doing that which honors God alone. As it is, I am coming into this journey a bit late, but I'm blazing a trail! God bless you in your journey, too, dear sister. His name be praised!

Random Muslima said...

Salamu alaykum,

interesting post.. I partly agree but then again... inshaAllah for those young and yes, often confused muslimahs wearing little this and thaht can be a gate into proper hijab.
InshaAllah we rather welcome then and celebrate their iman and help them develope in their deen than push them away with judgement.

Jamaican Hijabi said...

Thank you for the reminder, it has given me a lot to ponder

Anonymous said...

Great Post,
I am one of those modest dressing Christians. I know some Christians dress very plainly and that is what they feel comfortable in and I respect that. I tend to dress more modestly with more modern clothes. So if I see a dress thats not form fitting but 2 short I'll wear a pair of jeans under it or a sun dress that I like, I'll put a jean jacket over it or a sweater.
Some of the women in my church miss the point of modesty and think they are dressed modestly because that have on a ankle length skirt but, if it's skin tight it kind of defeats the whole purpose.
I'm happy I came across your post.

Pamela said...

Are you going to keep adding to your blog?

Gail said...

Assalaam waliekum.
I agree with what you said. I believe that Muslimahs can look good and be modest. When I sew or shop for abayas, I have to consider practicalness over fashionable.
"How it's design, could I wear this two years from now, does it cover well and will stand up to a day of running after, shopping, spills, being stepped on during Salat" are a few questions I ask myself.

mumtaza said...

Well you've got it all figured out. Jennah is yours and everyone else can only dream about. It. Mabrouk. What about genuinely liking bright colors? What about seeing pink or red shiny on your lips and smiling and remembering to feel thankful to Allah. What about being a natural extrovert and being yourself as Allah made you. Can you be shy and wear plain clothes and not bother anyone? Should you have the freedom to do so? What did the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him have to say about backbiting? Oh and good work pointing out that clothes are designed by *gasp* those dreaded homosexuals. If you study history and look around today you'll find your life would be largely altered for the worse without the contributions, hardwork and creativity of homos. You sound like a judgmental bitch.

justsaying said...

mumtaza: "You sound like a judgmental bitch." Seriously? First giving her a lecture about not backbiting and then publishing a trashy insult on her blog(!)

Judging by the length of the post and the intense language I can see you where quite frustrated when you wrote this. When I see a so called "Hijabista" (A Hijabi that also takes pride in being a fashionista) I think most secular westerners thinks something in line with "she wants to be accepted by us, like in please accept me even though I´m wearing a veil". It may look a little desperate. I understand this phenomena though. It was the same in secular Turkey during the 80:s as it is now after 9/11 and all the following horrible happenings in different Western countries the last decade that muslim terrorists has claimed to be responsible for.

And I think muslims feel different about the veil than christians who now takes up veil again does. From what I´ve understood muslims use it as their main identety-symbol, because most other religious women have stopped veiling it has become what´s distinguishing them from the crowd. Offcourse it´s meant to be part of a whole modest dress, but I think this is easy to forget when this one part of the dress is what´s making the difference of being recognised as a muslim or not. I saw a documentary about how loads of muslims started to veil after 9/11 to show a more positive image of their religion to the west. very easy then to become a "Hijabista".

The veil is described as having a spiritual symbolism in the New Testament, rather than the scriptures in the Old Testament and the Quran where it is only described as part of modest dress for the woman to be recognized as a modest beliver by people. But most christians who veil today are also very affected by their culture and since they have not read a direct translation of the bible, let alone studied the greek, they belive any headcovering will do as a christian veil. Paul actually wrote about a very specific kind of veil- the original word is katakalupto, litterally meaning a long, draping garment that goes down from the head. (Offcourse he was writing about the garment that Mary and all the other first christian women where wearing!) But many christians today only wear those kind of clothes considered modest by todays western society. they might need to step it up a little in my opinion.

As for myself I am part of the growing number of self-studying christians returning to the original larger type of veils and veiling as part of my clothingstyle, because we are to be in a state of praying and giving thanks to God all the time of our lives. Some christians-and also some jewish women in Israel- are even taking up the faceveil in this age and time and from what I´ve heard it has something to do with their conviction that we are in the last times. Though I´m not planning on starting to cover my face I am planning to wear the modest garment that is called Abaya in the arabian culture nowadays. This is the simple garment that all the first christians-and Christ himself- wore. Looking down on this garment or the long veils are actually looking down on the first christians.

justsaying said...

If it was not clear from my last comment, I want to add that while muslims nowadays use the "Hijab-style"-veil to identify themselves and others as muslims christians use the cross as the main christian identety-symbol. I don´t know, but it makes sense somehow that christians who veil then also focus more on modest dress in general. If you get alot of salam-greetings just by putting on one cloth then you might easily fool yourself into thinking that you´re done with inproving your dress. This is just guessing, though..

Sarah Walker said...

thank you! and I totally agree. I am a Christian who has been called to a plain modest life and though it has been a struggle for me to get past some of my worldly thinking, Its been an awesome journey. I have often wondered about the colours and things, expecially the cuts of some dresses, of some "modest" womans dress. It baffled me as to the why when you dont follow it through..thank you so much for this post.

justsaying said...

The reason stated in the quran for muslim women to wear headcoverings and modest dress is to be recognized as beliving women and avoid being (sexually) annoyed. This clearly shows the Islamic veil has to to with social interaction between people and you can say it´s cultural. When you live in a culture where the majority of women has a VERY low modesty-standard it´s enough to wear a headscarf to stand out as modest and visably a beliving woman. It´s easy to get stuck on a relatively low modesty-level just cause you´re more modest than everyone around you and you think that´s enough.

But when it comes to the christian women dressing modestly today you forgot that they DO often belong to a community. If not by family then by friends they´ve met online. Sisters supporting eachothers. But the problem with most of these communities is they belive going back ONE century in fashion is enough to really wear the type of dress described for beliving women in the New Testament. Even though all the pictures from anicent times are on their blogs. Why settle for clothing-styles from the time when great grandma was young? It´s more modest than todays fashion, sure! But it´s still just fashion from a cultural era LOOONG after the time of the first belivers. If you´re going to go against todays fashion to follow them why not go for that anicent really simple dress that even Mary wore? If you REALLY want to look like a hardcore beliver. Christians who dress modest today may be brave, but not brave enough to go all the way. There is still too much concern about what people will think. Some say-with anxiety- they can´t dress more plain/modest because then they will look like muslims. And so they stop developing in their modest dress.. Lame excuse when everyone knows it´s just to put on a big cross and then there´s no question about what faith you have.

nicnac said...

Hey thanks for a very interesting article.

I've recently become Christian (going on 3 years! :) ) And I'm trying to find a balance in my dress... The Bible says that women should cover their hair WHEN PRAYING AND PROPHESYING (NOT all the time), and it says that her long hair is a glory to her - it has been given to her AS A COVERING. Then it says, DECIDE FOR YOURSELF, IS IT ACCEPTABLE FOR A WOMAN TO PRAY AND PROPHESY WITHOUT HER HEAD COVERED? To me that means it's not 100% required.

I do dress modestly, but I also felt like God was putting it on my heart to cover my hair aswell to show that I love Him. I did for a while, but my parents (not Christian) said I was being weird and told me to take it off.

The Bible doesn't say that women HAVE TO cover their hair, especially not all the time, but it DOES say that we MUST honour and obey our parents ...

I know that the Holy Bible does say to show inner beauty through who you are, not to chase after looks - another type of modesty. I think you can be modest without covering your hair. Mary covered hers for cultural reasons (besides which, married Jewish women commonly cover their hair).

So people might point at me saying that I'm disobeying God by not covering my hair ... but by disobeying my parents, wearing a covering, I'd be disobeying Him ... like DIRECTLY. My Mum told me sternly not to fast from food; I got sick from the time I fasted, so now I go without other things. ... that's an aside.

But yes, anyone know a Biblical response to my pickle? I'm trying to obey God, and head coverings aren't the be-all and end-all; what about having the Holy Spirit in us? Doing good deeds? Loving others? :) Beautiful things! :) :)

Anywho, peace out, just want to encourage you ladies in sticking to principals, even in this day and age.

Bless you!! :)


justsaying said...


Oh, I can give you a biblical response on this alright!:) I also want to encourage ladies in sticking to principals. First; What bibleversion do you read? You say you have only been christian for 3 years. Do you know there are direct-translations and translations of many translations? And that it can be like reading two different books reading two different versions? Have you studied the greek and arameic of the original texts? Secondly: have you read the reason why women should wear a covering and not men? Man was created in the image of the most high and therefore reflects his glory. But woman was created from man and made more attractive/beautiful to man! It is therefore that women are called the glory of men. So when a woman shows her hair or attractive bodyparts she draws the focus to her own glory. By covering her own glory she GIVES UP HER GLORY TO GIVE GLORY TO GOD. That´s really sgiving love and probably why you are feeling that he wants you to wear it to give love to him:)

I will continue in another comment, as I have loads of information to tell you! Hopefully you will understand something about the wisdom behind this calling. Although I know some of his callings does not make sense to us from what we know I think we should thrust him and try to understand.


justsaying said...

This will take some comments to fit in the little essay I have written, LOL!

Now, have you come across 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 16-22? Ever wondered why nuns wear the veil all the time? There IS a text in the New Testament that says we are to be in what I would describe as a STATE OF worship all the time! Praying and giving thanks constantly in all circumstances!

As for the text in Chorinthians- Did you know there was originally two DIFFERENT words, but after several translations both where translated into just "covering"? This have caused many to belive the hair is the covering! But the original words written was; Peribolaion, which means the long hair of a woman and; Katakalupto, which means long, draping garment from the head! Because I have studied this text I can also tell you it said the glory of the peribolaion ( you know the long explanation why a womans long hair is more beautiful than a mans long hair) is FOR THE SAKE OF a Katakalupto. (Which you now know means garment, not hair.) NOT AS A COVERING; but FOR THE SAKE OF A COVERING! I also want to add that the last sentence of that text was not the decide for yourselves-one! the last thing he wrote about this covering was that he wanted them to know that in NONE of the other churches they had another practice than that women was wearing it! That means we are to chose right from wrong for ourselves, but also that we should keep this in mind while chosing!
Do you know that ALL the first christians -including Mary- was persecuted to be killed all over the roman empire a time after Yeshua had been uplifted to heaven? But even though they risked their lives they stuck to their faith and continued spreading it all over! They preached for the jews to abandon all their cultural practices and ONLY do what was important. If what we nowadays call "the veil" only had been cultural and not important do you think those women-brave enough to give up their life for their faith- would have kept wearing it? I don´t think so.

justsaying said...

If you have studied the text closley you also know that it refers to a covering "for the sake of the angels". In other words for the spiritual world! It´s not just about culture of this world. If a woman sits alone in her room she should wear this covering, atleast when praying consiously. I have heard quite a few women saying their dreams got calmer when they started wearing it while sleeping. So I tried that, but it does not seem to matter for me. But when some says it really works for them I do belive that. God works differently with everyone.

I can also tell you something most people who have studied this text very deeply seems to have missed. The historical background as to why this text was written! It was a letter to the church in Corinth including other instructions about modest dress as most know. But what most don´t know is that NEVER before in documented history has there been a sexual moral downfall as fast as the sexual revolution of 1969 as the sexual revolution in Corinth about 30 years before this letter with reminders was written to them! (It could might aswell have been written to us of the western society of today and I will show you why.) Social norms for women in Corinth went from dressing modestly and being chaste until marriage-as in most cultures throughout history-to wear clothes and hairstyles to attract sexual attention to themselves on the streets. And-prepare yourself- USING CONTRACEPTIVES FOR THE SAKE OF HAVING SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE. EXACTLY! Whithout Marriage even being on the map,just "sexual freedom". This revolution was even coexisting with a feministic revolution in that society.. All this and much more happened in ONE GENERATION. Just like the more recent one..

Creepy, right?

justsaying said...

I want to enlight yet again how EXTREMELY unusual it is for a society to change it´s sexual norms in just a decade with ONE single generation rebelling against the elders. Other than Corinth and the modern western society it is belived to never have happened! It usually takes generations-hundreds of years! And the shift has been VERY gradual to be permanent in all other societies where sexual norms where changed. I strongly feel that the letters to the Corinthians is also a reminder to us today.

But everything else aside: If HE HIMSELF was putting it on your heart to cover your hair with a garment to show that you love Him then by all means do...!!! This is touching:'( He is the most high and knows much better than your parents what´s good for you and hs authority over all of you. And if doing what your parents tell you means going against what God is telling you(!) it´s a TEST of your faith and your love for him. Do not fool yourself into beliving it´s ok to stop following your call because your parents tell you. If you felt he told you to stop lying and they told you to say "white lies" to save their reputation would you? MAYBE you are at a point in your life right now where you have a greater connection with him than your parents do? And as Yeshua said when his followers told him his parents and brothers and sisters had arrived- Everyone who followed him was his family. And he did not make way for his biological family. He teached his followers to love everyone equally as family. And as Paul wrote: We are all one in him. Not even nationalities separates us if we share the faith!

You say that you belive it´s important to love others. I agree, the bible says that someone who is wise, has a faith that can move mountains, can speak in tounges etc of gifts, but without LOVE is useless. But what´s MOST important is to love the most high-the creator!:) BEFORE you love his creation. Because it is him who has given you everyone and every good thing you have EVER experienced. If he asks you to do something in return there is no question you owe it to him! If you feel that HE has asked you to do something to show your love FOR HIM then that´s a REAL honour! It shows he thrusts you to be able to do something back for him. So whatever your calling may be-thrust in him. We only have one life and it´s our own responsibility to live it right in the end. Not our parents.

I wish that you will be able to follow this call about covering your hair to show love to him and every other call he will give you!

Blessings/ a sister in faith