Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Clothes are synonymous with protection, they protect us from the cold, just as from great periods of heat. They cover and preserve modesty. On a spiritual level, the proper clothes protect us from evil. In a poetic sense, it is also said in the Qur'an that man and woman are a garment for one another. So you have to wear the best clothes.
At the very beginning of Islam, the art of tailoring was not very developed. The accouterments were rudimentary and were of practical use more than anything else. The Arabs wore clothes of rawhide, simple coats woven in one piece, where a weaver (tailor) would do all the work. However, it was during the conquests of Asia, Africa, and Europe that they redefined and refined the art of clothing. It was at these same times that they began to adopt a more sedentary life. All these civilizations that the Muslims encountered, created a dynamic of exchange that fueled the progress of Islamic culture. From the Orient to the West, styles of clothing stood out from each other.
So there was no uniformity at this level, the clothes reflected in a way, the cultural diversity of Muslim peoples. It was, as it is today, to find the balance between the simplicity that the faith advocates, and the traits of beauty, refinement, or sex appeal, which may tend towards lust. In this meaning, modesty in the manner of dressing was encouraged, with no definite style of clothing. Traditionally, it has been more suitable for men to wear sober colors while women would wear more colorful apparel. Cotton, linen, wool was considered suitable. Silk was allowed for women but forbidden to men with a few exceptions. The colors of the clothes most approved were black and white. There were however divergences depending on the outlook of certain colors to wear.
Of course, these dress codes or codes of conduct are not new to the Abrahamic tradition, so we can witness their variations and evolution. For example, what we can find in the Qur'an can be put in comparison to what is in the Bible or the Torah. Speaking of this, all observations must be put in the context of the time, where we can grasp the spirit and intent of the prescriptions. In the Bible, we can refer to 1 Timothy 2:9, which in today's feminist perspective may raise tumultuous conversations. We can either refer to the Bible or the Torah in verses such as Leviticus 16:4 and 19:19, Numbers 15:37-41, or Deuteronomy 22:5, etc. In the Torah, it is prescribed not to wear wool or linen. Men's dress must be distinctive from women's dress. In ancient times there was also a dress code that differentiates the Hebrew clothing style from the Egyptians. Symbols in the clothing styles are also to maintain the memory of the codes they live by. There are also clothes for festive and holy days, or in respect to one's vocation to the faith. Nevertheless, the keywords that are consistent through the Abrahamic tradition are modesty and distinction.
(hidjab; khimar; malhafa [lit. All - element - which veils], izar [lit. Drap]; choudar; haïq; ‘Odjar; niqab [veil]; milaya [black veil in Algeria]; safsari [Tunisia]; litham [Sahara]; taguelmoust - tamacheq [Touareg] djilbab; chador [Iran]; yachmak; petché; tcharchaf [turkey]; purdäh [India].
Wearing the veil, scarves, and other dress codes have spread from East to West for various reasons. Depending on the geographical area, the veil with several denominations and the dress codes are specific to regions, beliefs and, in some respect, they are arbitrary to the people who covet.
The veil has different designations depending on the general meaning that is attributed, or depending on the location: in Arab countries (Maghreb, Machrek), Persia, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, and depending on the purpose for which it is used. Fabrics, colors, wear, and meaning change from region to region, from one social class to another, sometimes even from one age group to another. It should be noted that the meanings attributed to the hijab go beyond a piece of garment designed to cover women. The term Hijab is also expressed in a deeper spiritual context (*Qur'an - Surat Al-A 'raf 7:46). Verses 16 and 17 of the Surat Maryam (Mary) also refers to the veils in a metaphorical way. The words "...so she screened herself from them" can also translate into putting a veil between them. (**Qur'an - Surat Maryam 19:16-17).
Sacred Qur'an - Maulana Muhammad Ali Version - English Translation
Historically, the principle on which it is based is relatively simple and constant: at the beginning, it was the harem of the Messenger of Allah [P.B.U.H.] which was incited by divine decree, to wear any cloth (izar) so that it can be distinguished from the common. Etymologically, the word hijab means “separation”, “protective veil”, "preservative" in a non-sexual sense. It was therefore a sign of distinction reserved for the harem of the Messenger [P.B.U.H.] and free women (hûrra). Slave or very poor women were uncovered, breasts uncovered, or completely naked. They practically didn't have any rights and were often the prey of attackers. The free women wanted therefore to wear the veil, to distinguish themselves from female slaves. In times prior to the advent of Islam, Arab women did not cover their hair and walked around with bare breasts. The Qur'an prompts women to cover their breasts with the cloth of their headdress (cloth covering the hair) (24:31). It is the Muslim way to dress the line between intimacy, and the public space. However, we can identify in the time of the Messenger [P.B.U.H.], unveiled women carrying provisions to soldiers, caring for the sick and wounded, even engaging in combat if necessary, helping their husbands for cultivating the land, serving at festivals, undertaking business, negotiating with men, etc. In fact, women don't have to wear a veil or cover their face as Islamic law does not require it. Again, the veil is more of a mark of distinction.
It was the Fatimid classes that popularized and codified the veil. On this, all Arab women went with the flow by adopting it as a distinctive garment of their modesty (hichmahchoums) and their dignity (horma). Quietly, the veil became sophisticated and has specialized: thus the veil of the young lady is brighter than that of elderly women; in cities, the veils are more colorful, while in rural areas, women wanting to stand out started to wear a dark or brown veil (except nomadic women). Sometimes they use a simple cloth (kerchief) that they throw over their shoulders. We can also see in Yemen, Afghanistan, or Arabia, that some women wear a veil similar to a long sheet that covers the entire female body, including the eyes. The niqab of the Maghreb (veil that is placed over the nose and which covers the lower face) becomes khimar, an ornate "wire mesh" that completely hides the face and eyes of the Yemeni. Of course today the dynamic translates with a greater variety of ways to define it, and to wear it or not.
Nowadays, several stylists specialize in the field of fashion and try to give a new image to the veil. They design more fashionable more attractive veils for women according to a concept of modernity *. So beauty is not necessarily doomed, it is rather accompanied by a form of modesty *. However, the emphasis is that beauty should not be the focus, and anything that explicitly arouses desire as part of intimacy, is for the private circle. The key element is that this prescription is particularly applied in front of a person's gaze who is outside the inner circle. Prescription, therefore, calls for the mastery of sexual passions for both men and women and is part of a code of social decency. To specify, the woman does not have to hide her face or her hands. This is confirmed in the Hadith by the Messenger [P.B.U.H.] when telling Asma, his wife Aisha's sister, what is proper for a woman when she reaches puberty (Sunan Abî Dawud - Hadith No. 4104).
The veil continues to raise questions about the status of women in Islam, and the integration of Muslims in the welcoming societies. For the majority of Muslim women who wear the veil by conviction, the use goes according to their spiritual practices, the construction of their identity, or by opposition to the hyper-sexualization of women. In the history of the world, women have been the subject of worship or veneration, just as they were perceived as sexual objects, and beings of the second rank only having a reproductive role. Contrary to what is popularized, the Qur'an puts the emphasis on several occasions, on the relationship of equity between men and women as human beings, and more so in regard to Allah (God - The Creator). According to some, the dress code allows for the emphasis on character, intelligence rather than appearance. Paradoxically, this is a way for women to assert their relationship of equality with men. Like some women who are deprived of rights, many Muslim women wear the veil out of choice and demand. For others, the veil is a symbol of femininity allowing them to flourish as women. However, questions relating to the veil reside in common sense. Namely, depending on the context, the level of "coverage" that is appropriate to the integration of public spaces, and according to the activities. Although imposed in some regions of the world, we see more and more a desire of women to reappropriate the veil, and the choice to wear it or not. It is not the dress code that makes Muslims but Muslims who make the dress code.
Qur'an References: Clothing: [(2: 187), (7: 26), (22: 23)] Veil: [(7: 46), (19: 16-17), (24: 30-31, 60), (30: 59), (33: 33, 53, 55, 59), (38: 32), (41: 5)]
Bible/Torah References: Dress Code: [(1 Timothy 2:9), (Leviticus 16:4 and 19:19), (Numbers 15:37-41), (Deuteronomy 22:5)] Dictionnaire détaillé des noms des vêtements chez les Arabes/Detailed Dictionary of Clothing Names Among Arabs - By Reinhart Dozy Dictionnaire des symboles musulmans – Rites, mystiques et civilisation/Dictionary of Muslim symbols - Rites, mystics and civilization - By Malek Chebel [Albin Michel] 1995 P. 442-443. Voile\Veil
Grade: Sahih (Al-Albani)
Reference: Sunan Abi Dawud 4104
In-book reference: Book 34, Hadith 85
English translation: Book 33, Hadith 4092
34 Clothing (Kitab Al-Libas)
(1535)Chapter: What A Woman May Show Of Her Beauty
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin
The hijab has liberated me from society's expectations of women - Nadiya Takolia: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/may/28/hijab-society-women-religious-political
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