Fashion - the God of the youth
One of the most pressing concerns for a lot of Muslim youth today is the role fashion plays in their lives. Far from being dictated by the laws of Allah, many of us are instead slaves to fashion, an addiction that has the power to ruin lives and our changes of winning the ultimate battle to gain entry to paradise. Brother Showkot Ali discusses this idea in this month's fantastic feature...
Clothing, we all have to wear something, even though on occasions we would prefer to wear as little as possible especially when the weather is very hot, which for the UK is a rarity. Some people would prefer if we wore nothing and went back to nature, which they re-create in nudist colonies, some even go topless when they sunbath and there are beaches reserved exclusively for that purpose.
Many of us whose countries of origins are in the Indian sub-continent understand the dilemma of having to buy two different wardrobes for each country, Summer clothes for holidays abroad and winter clothes for life in the west. The other problem we face is that clothes bought in the west can be worn over there and regarded as being trendy and cool. While clothes bought from back home are considered backwards and out of fashion when worn in the west.
So this thing called fashion has now cropped up and we need to understand what it is and how it affects us, I say us because it affects me as well.
In the west unlike abroad you have to buy your clothes from a shop, whereas in Pakistan or Bangladesh you can actually have your clothes made for u, such as shirts, trousers etc after all the labour is cheap and we are all millionaires once we times our pounds or dollars by 120 etc. Also if you wear any clothes made in the west you are regarded as being trendy and in some remote villages and areas you can actually be regarded as a trend setter with your western clothes. Someone told I met when I was in Bangladesh that youth used to wear a sheet wrapped around them called the longhi, but since the many visits by Londonies (us westerners ) now they all wear tight jeans or trousers especially when they visit the town otherwise they will be regarded as village bumpkins and looked down upon.
But in the west you are very conscious about what you wear, we often hear about this thing called " In " and " Out " in relation to clothes and we are all very careful to be in and not out, coz the consequences are horrific, worse than Jade Goodey on a bad day. Newspapers and magazines have sections where these things are discussed at great length.
So in order to be in we need to carefully and diligently follow and observe what the latest top model, actress and singer is wearing, for boys its what the top footballer, actor, sportsman, or singer is wearing.
It's not just about wearing nice clothes and looking hot but also the label and brand name is also very important. So brands like Nike, Adidas, Prada, Fila, Nokia Is the in thing but they come at a price which is beyond most of the youth's budget. So what to do if you don't have rich parents? Getting a job and doing things on the side, illegal things like selling copied cds, computer games etc help to raise the funds for an expensive past time of keeping in with fashion which is worse than a drug or alcohol addiction. For some petty crime is the answer mugging younger kids, extorting money, shop lifting, selling drugs and stolen mobiles, and car stereos is the answer.
It's funny and sad that even inside the masjid shoe racks have signs telling us not to bring expensive trainers to the masjid for fear that they might be stolen and to keep valuables safe. SubhanAllah if we are not safe from theft inside the houses of Allah then where are we safe? And it does happen. I once had a pair of new shoes stolen from one masjid and I'm not insinuating that it was the people praying there who did it. Someone told me that back home there are people who take an old pair of sandals when they go to pray but when they leave they take the most expensive and latest pair with them. A friend came up with an idea to prevent shoes and sandals from being stolen, leave one pair in one rack and the other pair in another rack, thieves will not steal one shoe or sandal, it's the matching pair they seek.I actually tried this and it works.
So this fashion craze amongst the youth does lead many to crime in order to feed this expensive habit and conform to society after all who wants to be viewed by friends and peers as being the sad person who buys his clothes form jumble sales and second hand shops or even Tescos or the market.
For some who cant keep up or afford the latest gear fakes have become a very big growth area, where you can buy what your mates are wearing plus the label for a fraction of the price and even the experts cannot tell a fake from the real thing.
This is illegal but the principle if "it's not hurting anyone then what's wrong with it applies here". At school I had a mate who used to sell labels which he cut out from old clothes and sell them to people to sew onto their cheap clothes and thus giving the illusion that they were the latest gear, very sad I know, just goes to show the extremes people are willing to go to in order to please people and fit in.
Oh, we Muslims really enjoy our shopping trips back home, buying the latest dvds, cds, computer games, and of course clothes, most of which we see in the high street shops are in fact made in sweatshops of the 3rd world.
So in most cases we come back with not just the mosquito bites, weight loss due to diarrhea and married to our cousins but also, looking trendier then when we went a great advertisement for our countries of origin.
The advertising industry spends billions every year to advertise their brand names and wares on football shirts, massive billboards, films, commercials and anywhere else one chooses not to look. They are everywhere and you can't escape even if you wanted to.
All of this creates the want and desire to buy thing which we don't really need but are in fashion, everyone is wearing it, and it does look nice. There has been many a time I bought things from just window shopping which looked nice. I fooled myself into thinking I can wear it later and save money in the process.
So the public, u and me are tricked into entering the shops coz we need some new gear, to look good in and impress the opposite sex of course. It's not just about how good looking you are but also the clothes you wear which makes you look hot and desirable. These are clothes which are fitted and show your figure, the one u obtained by working out fanatically at the gym, by going on a starvation diet; Mr Atkins springs to mind here. Also clothes nowadays which reveal and show flesh are becoming increasingly popular as well, coz why imagine what's under that tight fitted top, after all seeing is believing.
Some of the clothing I see in shops make me ask the question are these clothes for outdoor wear or in the privacy of your bedroom. They leave nothing to the imagination and some of them contain phrases like "I am sexy", "Hot babe" and "touch me "etc.
In many shops people who don't fit the ideal image and size find it hard to buy clothes which fit their size and are made to feel inadequate and ugly. This of course leads them to shop elsewhere for those large sizes and for quite a few to join a gym, watch what they eat, count the calories. In some cases this obsession for the ideal body leads women to anorexia and for boys to taking steroids to be able to train harder and other weight loss tablets with its disastrous consequences. Much anguish and mental turmoil is created leading to sadness and depression.
Because of this societal obsession with appearance and the clothes which fit these perfect bodies we find many women scared to have children at an early age for fear of losing their curves and boyfriends. The 8 figure otherwise known as the spindly figure remains the holy grail for women some of whom will do anything to obtain it including plastic surgery and liposuction etc, regardless of the harm they are doing to their bodies.
For guys it's the muscles which attract the hunnies, quite funny that for women it's the skinny figure and for men it's the opposite. So hours doing weights and then wearing a tight top, showing off the biceps is what is considered cool and will attract the interest of the female species.
A sad side effect of all the advertising has even affected children's clothes which in some cases seem to be a miniature version of the tight and revealing tops worn by their elder sisters with the same disgusting slogans on them. A recent report found that a lot of paedophiles buy catalogues containing pictures of children wearing these clothes.
So what's wrong with following fashion and wearing nice clothes is a question on the mind of many people, especially after reading thus far?
The simple answer is there is nothing wrong with following fashion and wearing nice clothes, this answer may make many say huh! What was the whole article about then? Well we accept Islam as being the final guidance for humanity until the last day. All the answers to issues we face can be found in Islam.
Also our belief in Allah cannot be taken in isolation and divorced from the way we live our life because what is the point in saying yes I believe but I live my life based on what I think is good, or what my mates are doing or what the society wants me to do. So we have to take our answers for good and bad and what's allowed and not allowed from Islam
For boy's tight clothes which reveal the shape of certain parts of our bodies is not allowed and here I am talking about the tight trousers which making going to ruku uncomfortable. Wearing of silk and gold is not allowed either. Also clothes especially football shirt which contain advertisements for alcohol and gambling is haram. I have once seen someone come to jummah wearing a Liverpool football top with Carlsberg written on it.
Shorts which are above the knee are also forbidden because our awrah has to be covered at all times and for men that is from the knee to the bellybutton. We cannot show our awrah or see anybody else's, which means we cant jump into the communal showers after sports at school either.
Some people think that if you follow Islam you must wear plain, simple and long robes as opposed to the latest fashionable clothes, it might come as a big shock to realize that Islam places emphasis on our appearance and we are allowed to wear the latest clothes as long as they conform to the Islamic rules.
In Sunanut-Tirmidhee it says:
"Allaah loves to see the effects of His blessing on His slave."
Hasan Saheeh: Related by at-Tirmidhee (no. 2963), who said it was hasan saheeh.
Ibnul-Qayyim (d.751H) - may Allah bless him- said, commenting upon this hadeeth: "The phrase 'Allaah is beautiful and loves beauty', includes the beautiful clothing which was asked about in the same hadeeth. It is included by way of generalization, meaning that beauty in all things is what is meant here."
In Saheeh Muslim, it says:
"Allaah is good and only accepts that which is good."
In Saheeh Muslim it is reported that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam: peace be upon him) said:
"Allaah does not look at your outward appearance and your wealth, rather He looks at your hearts and deeds."
Following fashion is fine as long as the clothes are Islamically permissible.
For women the requirements are defined by Allah swt and not man or woman for that matter.
The dress code for Muslim women of late has been a cause of controversy in the west of late and it would be fair to say still cause's confusion for many people. So it's important to refer to the Islamic evidences as opposed to using our mind or following eastern traditions from back home.
Her body should be covered except her face and hands. The clothing shouldn't be see-through or tight so that the shape of the body is revealed. Therefore the whole of the woman including the neck, feet and hair (even one hair), except her face and hands are awrah (that which is haram to reveal to a non-mehram man). Any exceptions to this have been defined by the Qur'an and Sunnah and not by man's mind.
In one hadith reported by A'isha RA, she said that the Prophet saw Asma bint Abu Bakr wearing thin clothes. The Prophet SAW turned away and said,
"Oh Asmaa, if the women reaches puberty, it is not allowed to be seen from her except this and this", and he pointed to his face and hands.
"Oh Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (jalabeeb) all over their bodies)."
[TMQ Al-Ahzab: 59]
Its quite funny that nowadays sisters wear 'jilbab' but it does not fit into the right category, how it is meant to be a loose over garment worn over home clothes and not reveal what you wear inside, but instead sisters wear 'jilbabs' that have slits up to the knees and are tight fitted, defeating the whole purpose of the jilbab. Also the jilbab consists of one piece of cloth, so you can't wear a baggy skirt and a loose top as that is two pieces.
However Islam lets us have scope within its paradigms so whilst sisters can match their khimar and jilbab to suit the "in" colors of that season if they so please, Islam makes us recognize the limits and thus its irrational for them to become obsessed with looking fashionable as this intention can become extravagant and foolish because fashion is changing faster than the weather and to keep up with it requires time and effort which can be used better for the cause of Islam.
"Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes). "
So we as Muslims should spend our money, time and youth sensibly seen it is indeed a precious commodity which very quickly passes us by. One day we are 14 and the next we are in our late 20s and no longer considered a youth, job, marriage, kids and a few white hairs replace hanging out with mates and cruising.
"But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift . Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayateen (devils), and the Shaitan (Devil Satan) is ever ungrateful to his Lord."
[TMQ 17, 26-27]
Instead of wasting our money in buying clothes we don't need because our wardrobes are already full we can spend that money in a variety of ways which will gain us reward in the next life.
Our time spent dressing up and visiting places where men and women free mix and commit all manner of sin can be used productively to serve the cause of Islam, which is in constant need of youth to carry the dawah as it was carried in the past by youth like Musab ibn Umair Ra, and Ali Ra to mention a few from a list which contains hundreds.
Also as Muslims we should be more interested in following current affairs and the affairs concerning the Muslim ummah than following fashion, which will not benefit us at all and make us a slave to Marketing executives of multinational companies who are thinking up new ways to take our hard earned money.
In this life we all have choices and we can choose what we want to wear and not wear and this is a great blessing from Allah swt who has not only given us free will but also given us guidance on how we should live our lives and the ultimate motivator is the reward at the end of it on the day of judgement.