Religious Wisdom: Modest Dress Code
Different Religions promote modest appearance, among men and women, to various degrees. The dress is influenced by norms and ideologies which are also part of the religion and culture.
Hello, Dear Readers and followers, welcome back to my new story, I hope all’s well. Clothing is one important and common topic and most time different people from different religions are interested. There are many different religions around the world and have different beliefs and differences. Religious clothing is worn according to religious practice, tradition, or significance to a faith group.
There is no single religion, whether universal or local, that does not have its own beliefs about the relationship between the body and God. An important aspect of religion that must be observed is the religious code of dress for both men and women. It has always been an important factor in Islam, Christianity, and other religions.
Clothes are our first human invention and our first evaluation. It all started when Adam and Eve (PBUH) went down to earth from heaven. We all knew this story from our religious beliefs.
Clothing is a communicator of many things (identity, beliefs, social and political order, individuality, group allegiance), and placing the totality of clothes, and the body in general, within a theoretical framework, can be approached in several ways.
Read more about Religious Significance of Clothing here;
Religious Wisdom: The Religious Significance of Clothing
Religious clothing is worn according to religious practice, tradition, or significance to a faith group.
It is one of the basic necessities of life. It is protection and modesty. Modesty, sometimes known as demureness, is a mode of dress and deportment that intends to avoid encouraging sexual attraction in others.
Modesty means dressing and behaving in a way that does not make those around you uncomfortable. That means modesty is both culturally and situationally different.
Modesty: A humble, unpretentious manner or appearance.
The concept of modest dress changes according to culture and religion. In several religions, being modest means to make oneself sexually unattractive, usually by covering up certain body parts that are seen as a source of temptation. Both males and females are expected to be modest in both Islam and Christianity. Dressing modestly is also about being comfortable with what you wear.
Read more about Religious Modesty here;
Religious Wisdom: Modesty & Modest Dresses in Islam & Christianity
Different Religions promote modest appearance, among men and women, to various degrees.
There are many things to consider modesty and decency are the most important of them, any true believer of any religion is supposed to dress very well because people are addressing you the way you dress, decency attracts good people, while indecent dressing attracts unnecessary awareness.
According to holy scripture texts in different religions, you will see those religious believers are to be dressing decently, which means indecent dressing is a sin before God and man.
The same basic principles apply with regard to modesty and respect for the Lord in Islam and Christianity. The Scriptures offer us a dress code, with not only calls to the aforementioned virtuous principles. So different schools of thought scholars together set some moral principles and rules based on Holy scripture studying and teachings.
Now to be sure each of these references has nuances related to culture and epoch, just as it would be incorrect to overlook these nuances, so too would be incorrect to be dismissive of the teaching itself. Therefore, throughout the religious world, the Scriptural teaching remains ideal or standard, yet the application remains religious scholars flexible in order to bring about spiritual growth and progress in the faithful.
In general, it is a good idea to be aware of the dress code, and not only refrain from being critical of it but also to respectfully follow it because it has salvific import for us and others.
The first section discusses the modest dress codes in Islam and Christianity. The second section is about traditional dresses which wear Muslims and Christians in their daily lives according to their Holy Scriptural texts.
Modest Dress Code:
Every religion and society define modesty in its own ways. The concept of modest dress changes according to culture and religion. Perceptions and opinions differ everywhere.
Knowing what it means to dress modestly can be difficult because there is no religious principle and rule list of clothes you can and cannot wear in Islam and Christianity.
It also has a different meaning for every person. There’s no one way of dressing modestly. It all depends on the person and his or her opinions and beliefs. It’s also not restricted to gender; anyone can dress modestly.
Now, modest dressing is related to the general idea behind modesty and the dictionary meaning of modesty is “the quality of being relatively moderate, limited, or small in amount, rate, or level.”
Hence, Modest dressing is simply put as making cloth choices that are “relatively moderate “, wearing clothes that feel appropriate and comfortable to you, doesn’t show too much of you but the key is to have a personal style that feels appropriate and comfortable to you!
To dress modestly is to show propriety in the way you dress. To be modest is to be unpretentious or to have an accurate estimation of oneself. Modesty does not only concern women it is also for men as well, and it doesn’t only have to do with revealing clothes. It means much more, and certainly not less, than dressing appropriately.
The role of culture is very significant in any society and in many countries, traditions are part of the laws. Culture shapes the norms and standards of any society. It is the culture that can uplift a society and a culture can also cause the downfall of any society. Hence, the role of culture is really important in any society.
culture has huge impacts on the people of that society. Therefore, culture influences the dressing of the people greatly. For instance, if the climate of an area is warm then people of that area prefer to wear light clothes like lawn or cotton. But if the climate of some country is cold then very warm clothes are being worn by people of that place.
Another way in which culture influences the dressing of the people is that people practice religion which is also a part of culture. Religion has a great impact on the dress code of the people as they wear clothes that are allowed to wear in their religion. For example, most of the Muslim women wear attires in which their bodies are completely covered as ordered by their religion. So, Muslim women wear shalwar kameez, long maxis and burqas or abayas etc.
Also, the dress is influenced by norms and ideologies which are also part of the culture. Like the western and eastern ideologies shape the dress code of the eastern and western people to some extent. In the west the dress is deemed as reflection of liberalism that everyone wears in which he or she feels comfortable and good while in eastern countries.
Christian Perspective on Modest Dress:
The biblical idea of modesty has to do with one’s heart and attitude as well as with one’s actions and appearance.
Paul and Peter both write about modesty, and specifically about dressing modestly, in their epistles. Paul writes to Timothy, “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9–10). Here Paul is not so much talking about revealing clothing as he is about flashy clothes. His emphasis is on wearing respectable apparel that demonstrates modesty and self-control. Braiding hair, gold, and pearls were costly and showed the wearer’s social status. Paul is not saying that it is wrong for a woman to braid her hair or wear jewelry; the emphasis is on wearing clothes that are appropriate for the occasion, not too much or too little, not overdressed or underdressed. Christian women and men should not be trying to assert their social status or draw attention to themselves through their appearance.
Peter has a similar emphasis when he writes, “Do not let your adorning be external the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3–4). Peter de-emphasizes the importance of what we put on and instead emphasizes the heart. What makes someone attractive or what makes someone stand out is not the way they look, but their heart. We dress modestly because we have an attitude of humility and a desire to honor God in all our ways.
While women are more often the subject of discussions on what it means to dress modestly, this principle applies to both men and women. Paul uses the same Greek word to describe “respectable apparel” for women in 1 Timothy 2:9 as he does to explain that an overseer must be “respectable” in 1 Timothy 3:2. Modesty is an issue for all believers. We are to be modest not only in our appearance but also in our behavior. It is the same principle when God chose David to be king: “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Our adornment is not primarily what we do or do not wear, but our adornment is our character. Good works and a gentle and quiet spirit please God and are much more attractive to people. When our heart is in the right place, our outward appearance is much more likely to also be appropriate to the occasion.
“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes…” (1 Timothy 2:9)
In the Old Testament, God gives this law:
“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5)
This refers to transvestitism or cross-dressing, not to a woman wearing pants that are designed for women. The simple principle is that men should look and dress like men masculine and women should look and dress like women feminine.
Islamic Perspective on Modest Dress:
Islamic clothing is known for its modesty. A Muslim is allowed wear whichever clothes he wishes so long as they are modest, free from impurities, not made from forbidden materials and within textual guidelines. Textual guidelines mean that it must abide by the commandments of the Qur’ān and Prophetic Tradition.
“O children of Adam, we have bestowed upon your clothing to conceal what should be concealed, and as a fine adornment — and the garment of righteousness, that is best.” (Al-A’rāf 7:26)
Allah has mentioned here reasons for clothing: to cover the body and conceal what should not be revealed in public, and to beautify the body so the person looks better.
Both men and women are expected to show modesty in the clothes they wear. Women are expected to dress in a way that shows they are believing women. The Qur’ān instructs the Prophet,
“tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to wrap their outer garments (the jilbab) around themselves. That is more suitable so that they will be known as pious women, and not be harassed.” (Al-Ahzāb 33:59)
Women are also told not to display their finery. This means that the dress is meant to protect the wearer from harassment and to prevent one from becoming obsessed with pride in one’s outward appearance. It is also a way Muslims can develop a society that respects the boundaries between men and women.
In this way, each person is judged for their piety, honesty, hard work, and values, not mere outward beauty and fashion consciousness. Many Muslim women completely conceal themselves in a ‘jilbab’ (outer garment covering them from their head to their feet), along with gloves, and a face veil (niqab) that allows only the eyes to be seen. All of this is from Islam. However, not all of it is obligatory. The gloves and face veil are not obligations but recommendations, and most women choose not to wear them.
So, the hijab is the Islamic practice of preventing women from being seen by men except by their closest male relatives (referred to as mahram). Men are not allowed to shake hands with women unless they are closely related to them, such as one’s wife, daughter, paternal aunt, maternal aunt, sister, etc.
Some People (Non-Muslims) even some secular Muslims wrongly believe that the hijab is a cultural practice rather than a religious one. They are very much mistaken because Allah has instructed the women, “and they are to draw their veils (khumur) over their heads and chests (juyub) and not to reveal their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons…” (An-Nūr 24:31)
It is important to note that Islamic teachings regarding modesty are addressed equally to men and women. All traditional Islamic attire pieces for men are based on modesty. The clothing is loose-fitting and long, covering the body.
The Quran instructs men to “lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them” (4:30).
“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise — for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and great reward” (Quran 33:35).
The Islamic scholars have said it means that they are to cover their heads, necks, and chests with a scarf.
Allah instructed the men,
“To lower their gaze from looking at women with desire other than their wives, and to protect themselves from fornication. That is purer for them.” (An-Nūr 24:30)
Men are commanded to dress modestly in loose garments that do not reveal what is between their navel and knees. All lower garments such as trousers or long shirts (i.e. thawb) must be above the ankles just as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has commanded,
“What is below the ankles of a lower garment will be in the Fire.” (Reported by Al-Bukhārī, no. 793)
And he said,
“The lower garment of the believer should come to the mid-calf, but there is no sin on him if it comes between that point and the ankle. But whatever is lower than the ankle is in the Fire.”
And he said three times,
“Allah will not look at the one who lets his lower garment drag on the floor out of vanity.” (Reported by Ibn Mājah, no. 3704)
The Rules of Modest Dress:
The basic reason for the modesty of dress is to subdue the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.
As I earlier said there is no religious principle and rule list of clothes you can and cannot wear in Islam and Christianity. So different schools of thought scholars together set some moral principles and rules based on Holy scripture studying and teachings.
There are many issues around us relating to modest dress codes in societies and also questions from other religions especially those who want to convert to religion for some reason. S0, to avoid such problems, religious scholars set these modesty guidelines for both men and women.
Traditional Christianity rules:
These traditional Christianity rules for the modest dress are from the New testimonial Bible.
- No slacks “because they immodestly reveal the feminine contours of upper leg, thigh, and hip”
- No makeup
- No low necklines
- No sleeveless dresses or shirts
- No very tight or very thin clothes
- No dress hemlines at or above the knee
- No sleeves above the elbow
- Uncut hair
- No jewelry or accessories for women Isaiah 3:16–25 & Isaiah 3:16–23
- No braided hair, no nice clothes, no gold jewelry 1 Timothy 2:9
While the Bible does not set specific clothing guidelines for men.
- No hair covering the tops of a man’s ears
- No hair touching a man’s collar
For Both Men & Women:
- No tattoos Leviticus 19:28
- Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material Leviticus 19:19
- No cross-dressing or sharing clothes (not even coats) Deuteronomy 22:5
- Make tassels on the four corners of your coat Deuteronomy 22:12
- Nakedness Genesis 3:21
Traditional Islamic rules:
These traditional Islamic rules for modest dress are from the Quran and Sunnah.
For women when in public among unrelated (non-mahram) men:
- Clothing must cover the entire body except for the face and hands when in the company of non-related males.
- Clothing must be loose, so the shape of the body is not seen.
- Thick enough so that it is not see-through.
- Should not resemble the clothing of men.
- Should not be ostentatious.
- Should not be perfumed when around unrelated men (non-mahrams).
- Clothing must conceal whatever is between the navel and knee.
- Must be loose, and not see-through, so that the private areas remain concealed (by loose, not tight garments).
- All garments must be above the ankle bone.
- Should not resemble the clothing of women.
- They should not resemble something that merely seeks to imitate un-Islamic practices/fashions (e.g. clothing of Buddhists, priests, rabbis, hip-hop artists, movie stars, etc.)
- It cannot be made of silk or colored/dyed with saffron.
According to the demographic Clothing Items Worn by Muslims:
Most people are familiar with the image of a Muslim woman and her distinctive dress. Fewer people know that Muslim men must also follow a modest dress code. Muslim men often wear traditional clothing, which varies from country to country but which always fulfills the requirements of modesty in Islamic dress.
Muslims generally observe modest dress, but the variety of styles and colors have various names depending on the country.
Here is a glossary of the most common names of Islamic clothing for both men and women, along with photos and descriptions.
The word Hijab is sometimes used to generally describe a Muslim women’s modest dress. More specifically, it refers to a square or rectangular piece of fabric which is folded, placed over the head, and fastened under the chin as a headscarf. Depending on the style and location, this may also be called a Shaylah or tarhah.
A general term for a woman’s head and/or face veil. This word is sometimes used to describe a particular style of scarf that drapes over the entire top half of a woman’s body, down to the waist.
Common in the Arab Gulf countries, this is a cloak for women that is worn over other clothing when in public. The abaya is usually made of black synthetic fiber, sometimes decorated with colored embroidery or sequins. The abaya may be worn from the top of the head to the ground (like the chador described below), or over the shoulders. It is usually fastened so that it is closed. It may be combined with a headscarf or face veil.
An enveloping cloak was worn by women, from the top of the head to the ground. Usually worn in Iran without a face veil. Unlike the abaya described above, the chador is sometimes not fastened in the front.
Sometimes used as a general term, quoted from the Qur’an 33:59, for an over-garment or cloak worn by Muslim women when in public. Sometimes refers to a specific style of the cloak, similar to the abaya but more fitted, and in a wider variety of fabrics and colors. It looks more similar to a long tailored coat.
A face veil worn by some Muslim women may or may not leave the eyes uncovered.
This type of veil and body covering conceals all of a woman’s body, including the eyes, which are covered with a mesh screen. Common in Afghanistan; sometimes refers to as the “niqab” face veil described above.
Worn by both men and women primarily in the Indian subcontinent, this is a pair of loose trousers that are worn with a long tunic.
In the Indian subcontinent, both men and women wear these long tunics over loose trousers in matching suits. Shalwar refers to the pants, and kameez refers to the tunic portion of the outfit.
A long robe was worn by Muslim men. The top is usually tailored like a shirt, but it is ankle-length and loose. The thobe is usually white but may be found in other colors, especially in winter. The term may also be used to describe any type of loose dress worn by men or women.
The thobe is a long robe worn by Muslim men. The top is usually tailored like a shirt, but it is ankle-length and loose. It is usually white, but may also be found in other colors, especially in winter. Depending on the country of origin, variations of the thobe may be called the dishdasha (such as is worn in Kuwait) or the kandourah (common in the United Arab Emirates).
A square or rectangular headscarf is worn by men, along with a rope band (usually black) to fasten it in place. The ghutra (headscarf) is usually white, or checkered red/white or black/white. In some countries, this is called a shemagh or kuffiyeh.
The ghutra is a square or rectangular headscarf worn by men, along with a rope band (usually black) to fasten it in place. The ghutra (headscarf) is usually white or checkered in red/white or black/white. In some countries, this is called a shemagh or kuffiyeh. The egal (rope band) is optional. Some men take great care to iron and starch their scarves to precisely hold their neat shape.
A dressier men’s cloak that is sometimes worn over the thobe, often by high-level government or religious leaders.
The bisht is a dressier men’s cloak sometimes worn over the thobe. It is particularly common among high-level government or religious leaders, and on special occasions such as weddings.
These white cotton pants are worn beneath the thobe or other types of men’s gowns, along with a white cotton undershirt. They may also be worn alone as pajamas. Serwal has an elastic waist, drawstring, or both. The garment is also known as mikasser.
This wide band of patterned cotton cloth is wrapped around the waist and tucked into place, in the fashion of a sarong. It is common in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, parts of the Indian subcontinent, and South Asia.
Known by various names around the world, the turban is a long (10 plus feet) rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the head or over a skullcap. The arrangement of the folds in the cloth is particular to each region and culture. The turban is traditional among men in North Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, and other countries in the region.
A headscarf is a scarf covering most or all of the top of a person’s, usually women’s, hair and head, leaving the face uncovered. A headscarf is formed of a triangular cloth or a square cloth folded into a triangle, with which the head is covered.
Keffiyeh or Shemagh:
The keffiyeh or kufiya (Arabic: كُوفِيَّة kūfīyah, meaning “relating to Kufa”), also known in Arabic as a ghutrah (غُترَة), shemagh (شُمَاغ šumāġ), ḥaṭṭah (حَطَّة) and, in Persian, as a chafiyeh (چفیه), is a traditional Arabian headdress.
a short-sleeved robe, lighter than the djellaba.
while it is rarely worn, there are indeed some elderly women that still use this long, white veil. Head for the old part of Tunis if you want to see one.
some older men still wear this flat red hat made of wool. It is a symbol of the Tunisian traditions.
Algerian women love colors and embroideries. This traditional embroidered jacket has made its big return on the Algerian fashion scene and is now used on important occasions and weddings.
this veil, almost forgotten in Algeria, is still worn by some Libyan Berber women, as well as Moroccan. It is a long white piece of cloth which covers the whole body.
a white cloak wrapped around the body, usually worn with the tagiyah
much like the djellaba and the gandoura, the gallabya is also a long tunic without buttons or a proper neck. It comes in colourful and embroidered variations for women and in neutral colours for men.
This skullcap is usually worn under the ghuthra (men’s headscarf) in the Gulf and the Levant as well. The particularity of Egypt is that some men were this cap on its own.
these baggy and comfortable trousers are also commonly seen in the Gulf under a dishdasha. They are one of the few traditional garments still worn by some Lebanese countrymen. They are used on their own, no thobe needed. They have also been recently reinvented in a more fashionable female version.
Different from the Gulf, this is considered a female garment in Syria. It is dyed black and red and often accompanied by a belt of the same color.
just like Lebanon, these trousers cannot miss from any traditional attire. They are long, loose and come in black or neutral colours
Jordanian and Syrian thobes share the same colours: red and black. A group of Syrian men wearing their traditional clothes
the typical Saudi thobe resembles a long shirt. It has a two buttoned neck, it is tight and made to have cufflinks (kabak).
some women wear this local version of the black abaya
the name is the same as the Qatari dress, but it comes in a more colourful version and different models. It is usually used for weddings, traditional dances and so on.
the UAE name for dishdasha. It is collarless and features a long tassel called tarboosh
a common headscarf wrapped around the head
there is no space for the shumagh in Oman, substituted by the traditional cap which comes in different colours and has holes to keep the head cool.
a turban which is wrapped around the head, with or without kumma underneath it
it is the Yemeni version of theabaya.It is widespread in the urban areas
more or less the Yemeni version of the niqab
literally “curtain”, is the traditional dress of the capital Sana’a. Nowadays, only elderly women wear this colourful piece of cloth which covers them from head to toes
this headscarf, differently from the shumagh, is wrapped around the head just like a turban. It comes in many different colours
while the white thobe is very common in the North of the country, all men of the coastal areas wear a skirt called futa’
it is not unusual to see this dagger hanging from men’s belts, especially in the northern areas. The more valuable ones have been used by the same family for generations. There are also cheaper daggers manufactured in China
just like the Egyptians, also Sudanese men like being comfortable wearing this loose-fitting tunic. They usually add a decorated scarf called an immah
the skullcap is worn without the keffieh to keep the head cool, again just like Egypt
The dress code for Both men and women in Islam is modest and simple. Revering God is the most important guideline for Both men and women when they choose their dress. The righteous reverent man and woman will know that God is always watching them, they will therefore dress modestly and in line with God’s requirements for decency and morality. Any man and woman know full well what clothes are considered decent and what clothes are revealing, they will not need to be told. This is why God set the rule of reverence as the Best Garment and covers your intimate pats from other rules.
And also, Clothes reveal so many things about not only the personality but also the region and social class of the wearer. Moreover, the choice of a certain item of clothing assumes a fundamental moral value.
As you have seen there is an infinite variety of Islamic garments and what I have listed represents only a minimum part of it. Clothes remain a fundamental element in the cultural identity of each country in the Islamic countries.
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