WHAT IS THE ISLAMIC DRESS
(Abridged and Selected)
Sayyid Abul A'la Al-Maududi (1903-1979),was one of the chief architects of contemporary Islamic resurgence, and outstanding Islamic thinker and writer of his time in India. He devoted his entire life to expound the meaning and message of Islam and to organize a collective movement to establish the Islamic Order. In this struggle, he had to pass through all kinds of sufferings. Between 1948-67, he was put behind bars on four occasions, spending a total of five years in different prisons of Pakistan. In 1953, he was also sentenced to death by a Martial Law court for writing a 'seditious' pamphlet, this sentence being later commuted to life imprisonment. In 1941, he founded Jama'at-I Islami, of which he remained Amir (chief) until 1972 and which is one of the most prominent Islamic movements in India and Pakistan. He authored more than one hundred works on Islam, both scholarly and popular, and his writings have been translated into forty languages." Here are selections from his long article: The Question of Dress " Comments within brackets are explanatory observations by the editor.
The Question of Dress
FUNCTION AND CRITERION OF DRESS :
Viewed exclusively in relation to the natural need , dress would appear to have just two functions:(i) (1)to provide a covering-since man has an innate sense of shame and modesty-for certain parts of the body; and ((2) to protect the body against the impact of the weather. A dress which meets these twin needs should, in its simple form, be the dress fit for all. (Any dress which fulfils these two conditions is good.) Available information about the earliest human beings shows that in the times when dress catered only to the original, natural needs of man, it had no great diversity of shapes. The little diversity it did have was due largely to climatic differences. But as human consciousness developed and man marched towards civilisation, as new resources were discovered and industries set up, and as that human faculty called taste became cultivated, certain superr-aadditions were made to the original dress.
It is impossible to enumerate all the major and minor factors which cause the birth, change, and evolution of variously,-shaped dress among various peoples. If we skip details and concentrate on the principal factors which accustom different nations to different styles of dress, we shall find that they divide into eight categories. 1-Geographical conditions, which 'compel the inhabitants of a country to adopt a particular kind of dress 2.-Moral and religious notions whose divergence makes nations use dissimilar dresses. 3.-Taste. The natural faculty of taste is, develops in each nation differently. As a result the likes and dislikes of nations differ. 4. The mode of life, which, too, develops distinctively in the case of each nation, conforming as it does to the distinctive geographical, economic, intellectual, and moral conditions of that nation. Consequently, each nation uses a dress which is best suited to her mode of life. 5.-The economic situation. This includes a nation's general means of living, her vocations and industries, her strong or weak financial position. The dress' of each nation is closelyy related to the state of her ' economy and changes with a change in the latter. 6.Culture and refinement. Each nation exists on a certain level of culture and refinement and her dress necessarily keeps to that level. 7.National traditions, by means of which one generation inherits from another a particular style of living and dress, and, altering that style here and there, bequeaths it to the coming generation. This continuity in the phenomena of life is actually a guarantee of continued national existence. Naturally, it is held dear by every nation. 8.Extraneous influences, which are exercised upon the thoughts and living patterns of every nation as she comes into contact, with other nations. But the nature and extent of these influences are determined largely by the political, intellectual and moral climate of the nation in question. These are the main factors which have a rigorous control not only over the dress of a nation but over her whole social life. The dress of each nation is the product of their combined operation.
TWO FUNDAMENTAL FACTS:
Two basic facts emerge from the foregoing analysis. One, that dress is not merely an external device for covering and protecting the body, it is also rooted deep in the psychology, culture, civilisation, traditions, and social setting of a nation. It is, as a matter of fact, a manifestation of the spirit which informs the body of a nation. It is through her dress that a nation articulates her nationality and introduces herself as a collectivity before the world. Secondly, every nation, undergoing a constant, though imperceptible, change. Slowly but surely, their change and evolution affect not only the dress but the whole gamut of the national life. When a nation advances in the field of knowledge and the arts, achieves enlightenment of thought, develops her industry, commerce and craftsmanship, attains economic prosperity, makes closer contacts with other nations and learns from their morality, culture, and mode of living various kinds of lessons, then a natural process of evolution is touched off in her social life: her sentiments change, her taste and manners improve and her way of life acquires grace and elegance. She-devises new methods to meet the, newly-arisen needs and expresses her respect for the national traditions in more befitting forms. With gradual development taking place in all spheres of life, her dress, in stuff and style, becomes more tasteful, attractive and decorous. (Thus, the dress is always changing. There is no sanctity with a dress. Every dress is good so far as it is in accordance with few basic conditions of Islam.)
CHANGE: NATURAL AND UNNATURAL:
This then is the only natural way in which a national dress is born, changed, and evolved. There is an artificial or unnatural way also, namely, compelling a nation to abandon her dress and take some other nation's dress as her own. As for change, it would occur in both cases But there is a world of difference between the two types of change. The former may be compared to the growth of a tree. As a tree grows, its colour, size, fruit, leaves, flowers, and branches change constantly. In spite of all these change, however, the "selfhood" of the tree remains unimpaired. If it is a banana tree. it will remain such till the end. If it is a mango tree, it will continue to be one throughout the various stages of its growth. It will take in much soil, water, air heat, and sunshine, but will thoroughly assimilate whatever it takes in. The other kind of change is exemplified by a tree which began as a banana tree but on which were suddenly stuck she bark, twigs, and leaves of a mango tree. No one can tell what this queer specimen actually -mango or banana! Stunts like this do not produce any genuine and profound change. They in fact impede natural evolution. But people who possess no insight into social problems and have a superficial way of looking at things, childishly think that if the external features of a nation's dress and living are altered the nation herself will change in a real sense. If the dress and mode of life are changed artificially and compulsorily, or only the dress is thus changed, chaos strikes the entire social life, because the other departments of life fail to keep step with the change and, consequently, suffer in the harmony of interrelationships. (Natural change is both natural and good but the artificial change, either imposed are born out of inferiority complex is not desirable. Thus tashabbuh or blind imitation of other dress is condemned by Islam.) Dress, language, and script are the basic elements of a nation's individuality. Without them her individuality suffers corrosion and a time comes when she is totally absorbed into other nations. It is this fact which explains why certain nations, now called extinct nations, disappeared from the face of the earth. Their extinction does not mean that their members al perished. It means that those nations failed to retain their individuality. They either themselves knocked down the props of their individuality or allowed them to collapse. Their members went on adopting the dress, language, script, and social manners of other nations and so ended up by losing their identity. A like fate awaits the nations who are taking the stupid measures of their unwise leaders as a .guarantee of progress. 7. A nation who adopts the dress and living of another nation in fact-betrays deep inferiority feelings. She owns that she is low and contemptible. She acknowledges that she possesses nothing of which she could be proud. That, in order to pass herself off as a civilised nation she is prepared to borrow indiscriminately from other nations, whom she regards as her model. ( However, we must state that the shape and style of a dress are not in themselves something sacred or permanent. They are rather the result of the combined working of a large number of natural and social factors. Every dress is good and mode of dress always change. It is wrong to identify one form of dress as Islamic. Every dress can be Islamic that fulfils the basic conditions of Islam which we will enumerate )
THE VIEW OF SHARIAH:
The religion of Islam is in' complete harmony with nature. In every matter it takes up a position which is supported by common sense and vindicated by sound thinking. Take an unjaundiced view of things and you are sure to reach the conclusions which Islam has already arrived at. Islam does not force man to wear a particular kind of dress and choose a particular mode of life. However, purely from the ethico-social viewpoint, it enunciates a few principles and wants every nation to amend her dress and living in accordance with them. The first principle relates to satr or essential concealment. Islam thinks it morally necessary that all male persons, to whatever nation or country they may be belonging, should conceal the bodily parts between the navel and the knees; and that all female persons, no matter what region of the earth they inhabit, should cover the whole of their bodies except the face, hands and feet.' If a nation's dress is not meeting these conditions, Islam would require it to be altered in the light of this principle. Once the conditions are fulfilled, Islam will deem its object achieved and will not concern itself with what type of dress that nation wears. ( Eastern or Western all dresses are good if they fulfill these conditions) (It should be noted-that, in regard to women, this injunction relates to satr and not to hijab. Satr implies what a woman must conceal from all [which includes her father and son] except her husband. Hijab means more than that. It draws a distinction between the closely related and the unrelated males. Islam does not permit women to go about displaying their charms and graces outside the limits of their domestic life) Secondly, Islam asks men to keep from wearing silk dresses and golden and silver jewellery, and both men and women to avoid using dresses which are luxurious and showy and suggest conceit and vanity. The Prophet said: "On the Day of Judgement, God would not look at the person who conceitedly trails his dress on the ground." Exclude these articles from the dress worn in your country or society and it becomes an Islamic dress. In the third place, Islam wants the human dress to be free from all those symbols of idolatry and polytheism which have been adopted by any religious sect. These would include the Cross, the Hindu cross-thread, pictures, and other un-Islamic emblems. Besides introducing these ethical and cultural reforms, Islam thinks it necessary that the Muslims' dress should have some distinguishing mark so that they do not get mixed up with non-Muslims, are able to recognise fellow Muslims easily, and succeed in cementing the bonds of their social life. No specific mark or symbol has been recommended for this purpose by Islam. The matter has been left to be determined by the people themselves.
IMITATION OR TASHABBUH:
At this point we are faced with the question of tashabbuh or imitation. Imitation means assuming the likeness of someone. It is of four kinds, and below we shall discuss each kind in the light of Islam. 1.Imitation of one sex by the other. Men's' imitation of women and women's imitation of men represent a deviation from the course of nature and are symptomatic of a diseased mentality. Islam, therefore, condemns it. The Prophet has cursed the men who wear feminine dress and the women who wear masculine dress. 2.Imitation by one nation of another. Sometimes a nation as a whole adopts the style of appearance of another nation.This emerge out of the inferiority complex and is not natural change or a conscious adoption of some form more useful. This, again, is an irrational attitude and is developed in a nation invariably at the time when she touches the nadir and indignity. It is severely censured by Islam. 3- Individuals' imitation of another nation. When some members of a nation imitate the ways of another nation, they give evidence that they have a weak and unstable nature that their character is like a liquid which assumes the shape of its container. Such behaviour is morally reprehensible and may be compared the one who thinks it a shame to be the son of his real father, honour could be achieved only by being related to an alien nation. This is a wrong state of mind not appreciated even by those whom we are following. WE can borrow dress from any nation but it should be not out of inferiority complex but in keeping with our necessities and advantages. That explains why the Companions, especially the Caliphs 'Umar and Hazrat Ali upbraided those Muslims who, were living in foreign countries, had abandoned the Bedouin dress and, bedazzled by the glamorous cultures of Rome and Iran, had started using Roman and Iranian dresses. 4.Muslims' imitation of the disbelievers. Such imitation is injurious to the collective existence of Muslims. It alienates Muslims from one another and. obstructs the cooperation which Islam desires to exist among them. Besides, it is an indication that a person who is a Muslim has quite strong leanings towards non-Muslims.: "Distinguish from the Jews .,and the Christians"; distinguish from the Zoroastrians." These words, found in so many traditions, clearly show that the Prophet wanted that Muslims should be able to recognise their brethren and treat them as such and treated like the members of that nation. Islam as it does not believe in the exaggerated Nationalism lends no support to anything which breaks the legitimate, natural bounds of nationality. The Qur'an tells us that although all men have a common origin , God has set up two types of distinctions between them: the one between the male and the female, and the other between families, tribes and nationalities : 0' mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. ((XLIX : 13) And that He createth the two spouses, the male and the female. (LIII : 45) These two kinds of distinctions are at the bottom of social existence and human civilization, and the Divine Scheme calls for their maintenance. The distinction between man and woman has been made so that a psychological attraction may exist between them. It follows that their distinguishing characteristics must be fully preserved. The distinction between nations has been made so that human beings are divided into such social groups as would facilitate cooperation among them. Again, it is essential that each social division or cultural group should have some distinguishing marks by means of which its members may recognise, understand, and become intimate with one another and differentiate themselves from the members of the other groups. Obviously, the only marks of this kind could be language, dress, living patterns, culture, and civilisation. The need .to preserve them is thus urged upon by nature itself. That is 'why imitation has been interdicted by Islam. There is a tradition in which the Prophet has cursed the woman who wears masculine dress and the man who puts on feminine dress.' In another tradition he has cursed the men who imitate women and the women who imitate men (Mustadrik-, Vol. iv, p. 194; Bukari, "Kitabul-Libas). The reason for this tough-line approach is that such imitation suppresses and diminishes the psychological attraction which God has caused to exist between the two sexes, whereas Islam wants that attraction to be retained. Likewise, the abolishing or mixing up of the cultures, practices, and dresses of nations is against the interests of collective existence. Consequently, Islam is opposed to this also. The Prophet said.. " .He who assumes the llikeness of any people is one of them." 3. The Caliph Umar wrote to Utbah binFarqad) Governor of Azerbaijan: " Take heed of wearing the dress of polytheists" (i.e. the people of Azerbaijan. (Abuu Daud) 4.The Caliph Umar had issued orders to all his governors not to allow the non-Muslim citizens to use the dress or present the appearance of Arabs. (Muslim: Kitabul-Libas) 5.The Arabs who were posted in Iraq and Iran in connection with military or civil services were continually reminded by Caliph 'Umar and Hazrat Ali to take care of their speech and refrain from speaking foreign tongues. For these reasons, Islam is against the idea of a nation becoming replica of another nation and trying to copy the latter's dress and mode of living. As for the cultural borrowing and lending that naturally takes place between nations in contact with one another, Islam not only approves of it but encourages it. It is not Islam's wish to wall nations off from one another by creating prejudices, among them and thus, preclude any kind of cultural or other exchange between them. The Holy Prophet wore the Syrian gown which was an article of the Jewish dress. The tradition says " He performed the ablutions while having a Syrian gown on" He also put on the narrow-sleeved Roman cloak which was worn by Roman Catholics. The Naushirwanian mantle, described in a tradition as the Persian royal mantle was also in his use. However this is not imitation. This is conscious borrowing not imitation . Imitation is the blind following out of a feeling of inferiority complex, when man's total appearance resembles that of another nation.