There is in Malaysia a truly George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four scenario. There is an ‘Anti-Corruption Act’ to nab those who complain about corruption; an Institute of Islamic Understanding to promote an orientalist version of Islam; non-Muslims advising the Muslims how to reform Islam, else Islam will `die off’ due to its failure to change with the time; naked women claiming to be wearing the ‘dress of taqwa (piety)’ and therefore more in tune with the ‘spirit of the Qur’an’.
Then there are some ignorant journalists from the mainstream media claiming to have authority to interpret the Qur’an. Some `Islamic scholars’ who boast about their ignorance about Arabic language and claiming that they learnt their Islam from the Malay and English translations of the Qur’an: to them Arabic is in fact an impediment to knowing Islam because once it has been told by such guy that the ‘Arabic Qur’an’ is as old as Prophet Muhammad and therefore not suitable for the modern world! No wonder they also claim that going back to the Sunnah (Prophetic examples) is equivalent to riding camel, as said by Malaysian premier, Mahathir Mohamad recently.
But the real concern is the debate that exists today about the Islamic dress code. This petty bickering has to stop. The issue about proper dress without proper facts erodes the Muslims’ collective strength, hardens the hearts and puts hate between themselves. One example is that the tightly-controlled Malaysian media are so carried away by a meaningless dress debate when in actual fact the issue was whether it was right for Muslim ‘sisters’ to take part in a beauty contest, fully dressed or half naked. That unwanted controversy was aggravated by the media when the Selangor State Religious Department (JAIS) arrested on stage three Muslim beauty contestants for disregarding a fatwa banning Muslim participation in beauty contests. If JAIS has no right to intervene in a situation when the existing Shariah rule is openly challenged with impunity, what the hell is it for? To go after Muslim rapists and wife beaters they might say. The good doctor in Malaysia had expressed extreme displeasure at JAIS’s making good use of its ‘little power’ and now wanted it to concentrate more attention on wife-beating and rape cases in Muslim households. But if these people with ‘little power’ cannot come even on a public stage to enforce a law which is clear and straight forward, how are they going to enter private houses and hide under the bed to catch wife beaters and rapists?
Those who respond to “Oh ye who believe,” must realise that the Islamic form of dress comes directly from the Shari`ah code which is not time-bound and space-bound - that will be admitting that God does not know the future! Shari`ah is the body of legal and ethical knowledge that is the foundation to an Islamic life-style. This body of knowledge comes from the Qur’an and the Prophetic examples of Muhammad, upon whom be peace. Conversely, the ruling about dress did not come from a bunch of bearded men - nor are they questioning the taste of exotic fashion designer.
“A Muslim is actively and consciously participating in the service to the Will of his Creator. Because if man allows his own imperfect will to take the lead in his life, what seems to be constructive behaviour will become destructive behaviour”. Shari`ah defines what is lawful and prohibited. People are not left forever groping and experimenting.
The Islamic dress code is not a tool of oppression. And it applies equally to men and women. The purpose is to protect their awrah - which translates into “that which is hidden.” Abdul Wahid Hamid, author of Islam the Natural Way says, “Islam, being a universal religion has not prescribed any particular form of fashion or style of dress. However, it sets certain requirements of dress whatever the climate or region. The man’s awrah extends from the naval to the knees. A women’s awrah is the whole body with the exception of hands, face and feet.”
Proper dress strengthens the intellect and compels Muslims to deal directly with their many issues instead of their bodies. Abu Huraira narrates the words of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, as saying being “although clothed and yet naked” (a hadith reported by Muslim). This is a situation which men and women should avoid in matters of dress.
Muslims in Malaysia should not be obsessed with minor problems. Satan is ever present where there is bickering, fear and arrogance and his only objective is to create mischief.
Muslimedia - August 16-31, 1997