Modern Islamic attire
- (This is like having "Modern Christian Clothing" as a topic... things vary to
extremes depending on how you interpret Christianity.)
The Koran says:
"Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their chastity; that is
purer for them. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard
their chastity, and not to make a display of their beauty except what is
apparent, and let them cast a cover over their bosoms.... And turn to Allah (God)
altogether, O believers, in order that you might succeed (Koran 24: 30-31)."
Thus the dress codes followed by modern Islamic women in aren't a decree from
Mohammed, but rather the result of local politics. The Koran simply requires
modest dress that hides the breasts.
My first memory of a modern Islamic woman is Queen Noor of Jordan. I was
about 10 when I read a story of what she was required to do to marry King Hussein
including her conversion to Islam. She seemed to be very much a Western woman,
and since she was born and spent most of her childhood in the USA, that makes
sense. Yet in a 60 Minutes TV show interview after her husband's death, they
showed many scenes of her in public in Jordan wearing loose fitting pants and
shirt with a large shawl (hajib) around her shoulders in case she needed to
cover her head and/or face. Her web site (http://www.noor.gov.jo/my_album2.htm)
shows her wearing mostly western dress, but with other women wearing the
hajib. However when she visits Oman (http://www.noor.gov.jo/offical.htm) she is
wearing the hajib.
At the other extreme are women who are required to wear a burka whenever in
public. So what constitutes modern dress for Islamic women depends on where you
are from, your socioeconomic status and most importantly, the politics of
The instruction to dress modestly and specifically to keep the most obvious
sexual organs covered is similar to medieval western dress in that the body is
considered to be a potential source of sin that must be kept covered to assist
in avoiding that temptation. Both the medieval and modern Islamic dress are
practical. A head covering protects hair from sun damage and keeps sand off the
scalp. Having something that you can use to shade your eyes, is a good
substitute for sun glasses. Loose fitting clothes won't bind and permit airflow
underneath which is cooler. Dressing in this manner is an expression of personal
beliefs and serves as an outward sign that you belong to that particular group.
People everywhere dress to belong. If you live in a country where looking at
another man could be considered adultery -- an offense punishable by stoning
in some places-- having your eyes covered protects you from potential troubles.