By Zaahied Sallie
The arrival of Islam in Arabia during the 6th century was to install a Quranic and Divine worldview upon a culture predisposed in misogyny, savagery, and spiritual decay.
As Islam unfolded along with its maturing followers; pre-Islamic ideas, words, phrases and perceptions were reformed. This reformation of perspective, thought and language was critical in establishing a philosophy rooted in the Divine. A purified culture emerged as a result of Islam. From this, we understand that Islam may enhance a tradition. The opposite to this axiom avers not, and care and caution should be exercised.
The primary ingredient in this reformation was Monotheism. Understanding the Unity of God (Tauhid) became the criterion to judge whether a tradition or expression was compatible with Islam. The emerging Islamic culture (thaqafah) annulled all previous Jahiliya (pre-Islamic) dispositions. Thus the tenets of Tauhid will remain the criterion for judging foreign ideologies today as it was during the rise of the various sects of Islam.
The above is crucial when reflecting how emerging beliefs are born through words and language and can be accelerated when the language or phrase is often tied to a visual expression. The emerging idea roots more swiftly in the psyche and may settle as part of our core beliefs. This phenomenon is more apparent today with social media dominating our lives.
Take the phrase ‘Islamic Fashion’ as an example. This contrivance is an oxymoron. It is a misnomer and antithetical to Islam. Islam means to surrender one’s desires and submitting to the Divine. Fashion is following modern trends generated through corporate and capitalist marketing and in this context, it refers to clothing. The two words are mutually exclusive.
This farrago of misrepresentation has been spun and is now trending amongst Muslim women and the larger women’s fashion industry. This fashion is marketed as ‘modest’. However, the word’s visual depiction is often skewed with female models exhibiting the clothing in an immodest manner. This false representation is another form of indoctrination making young impressionable Muslim girls fair game.
Directly linked to fashion is the model. The Western model is a representation of the prostitute in that she sells her body for money by posing and wearing the clothing she advertises. She has now commodified herself and has become an object to be goggled. The objectified model is often viewed with lust and seen as a sex symbol within Western society. All this is incompatible with Islam and should be rejected for what it is; the demeaning and dishonouring of women.
The global market economy forces all business to diversify as part of its globalised agenda. This need for expansion is almost always driven by the desire for capital gain with the move by global fashion houses toward the Muslim market ostensibly no different.
The Muslim market has been identified and will be campaigned to extract every dollar from its apparently deep coffers. The latest Global Islamic Economy report suggests that worldwide spending on Muslim clothing is projected to grow to $327 billion by 2020, up from $230 billion in 2014.
The global fashion industry by nature is immodest and rife with prurience. It has become an endeavour from amongst the Muslims to follow this culture with its runways, extravagance and vanity under the guise of Islamic Modest Fashion.
‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr Narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
“What befell the children of Isra’il will befall my Ummah, step by step, such that if there were one who had intercourse with his mother in the open, then there would be someone from my Ummah who would do that …”
(Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2641)
Turkey’s Modest Fashion Week held recently in Istanbul drew heavy criticism from amongst Muslim conservatives.
Academics Banu Gokariksel and Anna Seco wrote, “Veiling-fashion remains controversial because it combines two systems that are seemingly incompatible: veiling, with its powerful set of religious, cultural and political references, and fashion, an unmoored system of self-referential change associated with capitalism, modernity and a particular kind of consumer subject.”
This article is not an admonition against fashion or what Muslim women wear or do. That is between slave and Lord. It is a defence against an onslaught of emerging ideas foreign to Islam but trademarked as Islamic.
It is time to set the record straight. ‘Islamic Fashion’ is not Islamic. It is a veneer. It is fashion cloaked in a false idea.