Friday, July 19, 2013

Ramadan Action: The Modesty Spectrum

Asalamu Alaykom,

Get ready for a revolutionary idea.

I have no idea what you wear on your head and it doesn't matter; go ahead and read this regardless.  If you're a man, then you can bow out of this conversation because I'm really directing this at the women readers.  Some of you choose to wear hijab and some of you don't.  It's a heated issue and I get that.  I want both of the two camps to read ahead.

WAIT!  Please keep reading.  I swear to God I'm going to say something new about hijab which might surprise you.

If the modest way you act and wear your clothes in public is an intentional, faith-based decision rooted in Islam, then you are wearing hijab.  Basically, ALL of us Muslimahs who follow our faith are wearing hijab.  You need to see that.

None of us are running around naked...right?  Astragferallah for stating the obvious but going around without clothes is on the far end of the immodest spectrum, and once you then realize that then, as long as you're clothed, you are somehow modest.  Totally bare would be IMMODEST.  Get it?

Women who make decisions to cover themselves because they fear Allah are striving for modesty.  Let me say it another way:  if you act and dress in response to an inner morality based in Islam, then let's say that you are somewhere on The Modesty Spectrum.   I've coined this phrase and I like it.  I'm going say that another name for The Modesty Spectrum is hijab.

It isn't about the scarf.  We need to let go of that easy way out.  No, you can't scoff at another woman without a scarf on her head because she might actually be covering herself MORE than you with a scarf on your head.  We are warring with each other over a piece of fabric AND IT AIN'T ABOUT THE FABRIC!

Likewise, if you've been feeling oh-so-secure about your own modesty because you wear the right clothes whereas the Muslim chick over there wears jeans, then stop yourself.  As I said before:  IT AIN'T ABOUT THE FABRIC!  Her heartfelt attempts to cover herself might have more sincerity than yours.  You can't judge your sister and backbite her for what she's done because you simply don't know.  Allah is The Best Judge in all our affairs.

Don't put yourself down because you aren't doing hijab "right".  NO ONE DOES IT 100%.  It's an impossibility to have all the aspects of modesty handled to perfection.  The question isn't how you can look more like the picture you found on Pinterest.  It's about how you can be more authentically YOU.

Remember, hijab is not about a certain style or fashion design.  Hijab is about avoiding undue attention towards yourself; it's a barrier between you and the world.  There are many ways to close yourself off from others.

  • Making the intention to be modest
  • Asking Allah to remove the want for attention from you
  • Asking Allah to forgive your transgressions
  • Identifying supportive friends and family members
  • Refraining from socializing unduly
  • Limiting your glances at men
  • Avoiding men's glances
  • Eliminating men's friendship
  • Being professional not friendly with men in the workplace
  • Covering skin
  • Covering hair
  • Wearing loose clothing
  • Wearing opaque fabrics
  • Keeping clean without extra embellishments
  • Being without attractive scent
  • Speaking in a direct way without flirtation
  • Avoiding loudness
  • Wearing quiet jewelry and shoes
  • Walking without seducing
  • Not listening to music which pulls on nafs
  • Not watching TV and movies which pull on nafs
  • Not reading books which pull on nafs
  • Not fantisizing about men who aren't yours
  • Staying connected to the Quran and hadith

My list isn't in any specific order.  I typed them up randomly and I didn't go from least to most or from first to last.  You could jump around that list as you wish.  Did I leave anything off?

Some of these actions you are already doing.  There might be a few of these which you think are stupid.  Some of these you wish you could do, but you are scared you'd fail if you tried.  God knows all your thoughts and feelings!  He is closer to you than your jugular vein.

Allah has always known that you aren't perfect.  If He had wanted you to be an angel, he could have made you into that.  Instead, he made you imperfectly human.  You are not a perfect Muslim...or even a good Muslim...or a bad Muslim.  You are simply Muslim.  This means you are constantly striving to be better and often failing but never giving up.

Islam Believes in the Spectrum

It is an Islamic ideal to view life as being on a spectrum.  We are not the religion of absolutes, regardless of how the media wants to label us.

There is a hadith, a saying from the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), which is, "Whoever of you sees an evil must then change it with his hand.  If he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his tongue.  And if he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his heart.  And that is the slightest faith."

All of those are good actions.  The Prophet (pbuh) didn't say there is only one action and if you don't perform it, then you've done something bad.  No!  He said there are levels of ability and to do what you can.

There are so many variables for our decisions regarding our modesty. We decide based on upbringing, on culture and media, on our man's opinion (or on our dream man's potential opinion), on the reaction in our place of employment and on our friends' input.  I'm not saying that we should listen to all those factors, but the truth is that we do.

Learning to follow Allah's guidance is a process.  When we negate a woman's process to find modesty, we keep the un-Islamic GOOD or BAD, VIRGIN or WHORE dichotomy alive.  Each Muslimah has found her current place on The Modesty Spectrum---and so have you.  That placement is not stagnant because we are organic beings and we are constantly changing.

It's a process for everyone and no one needs to belittle another person's process.  After all, it doesn't feel good when you get judged, so don't turn around and do it to someone else.  Pretty much everybody's ways could get a thumbs down from some corner of the ummah.  The point isn't who's right or wrong about hijab.  The point is that it's a PROCESS and that we're all in hijab somewhere on The Modesty Spectrum.

Modesty Spectrum

Where are you on The Modesty Spectrum?  That's what you have to figure out.  Are you where you want to be?  Again, that's up to you.

What I'm going to offer, as food for thought, is that ALL OF US could upgrade our hijab.  Each one of us could be more modest.  If we start the process with the intention to become closer to God by protecting ourselves more, then inshahallah nothing will be wrong with the outcome.  Each improvement means that we are leaving behind the norms of the mainstream; becoming more like a stranger to the world.  That's OK.  Let it happen.

I know it's really normal for women to want to show off their bodies or their attractive personalities but you don't have to.  Allah has given you permission to clothe and contain yourself so that you feel comfortable in public.  Some choices we make are from the natural way we are as people but a LOT of what we wear and the way we act is from societal conditioning.  Nurture verses Nature.

Re-examining at Ramadan

Re-examining values at Ramadan is best because you don't have so much of the world weighing you down.  You are releasing your need for following the crowd and remembering that you need to follow Allah.  Pointing the finger at women who don't cover up to your liking is really pointless---get it?  Point LESS?!  It's quick turn of phrase...oh well...I'm fasting so forgive me my bad puns.  We need to have Ramadan be about becoming the best we can to be in this exact moment.

Who you are in this moment?

Ask yourself, "Is this how I want to be?"

I am not going to tell anyone where they should be.  That's between you and God.  If you're married, your husband might have a few things to say about it as well.  I'm not force-feeding; I'm offering food for thought.  I'm not going to tell you how to find a higher level of modesty.  You probably already know exactly what you could do because it pulls on the core of your being.  That common core we all have is our connection to Allah.  If you follow your gut instinct, you will find what you need to do.

May Allah be pleased with your efforts.

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