Salaam And Greetings of Peace:
In reading various Muslimah blogs, the pros and cons of wearing Hijab often comes up. Our sister Amal has written an excellent article on the subject. It is offered below, with her permission.
Greetings, my name is Amal. I am a Muslim convert from the United States – I have been a Muslim for about five years – and a student of the Spirit and of all religions for all of my life. I wish all here peace. Here is an article I wrote a while ago on Dressing as a spiritual exercise. I hope to some it will be valuable — it is the thoughts of my heart and spirit on this subject.
Dressing as a Spiritual Exercise – The Spiritual Value of the
Traditional Concept of Modest Dress
There are many contemporary arguments against the value of traditional modest covering in dress, and many of these arguments have some value in terms of their emphasis on individual choice and liberation from formal ritualistic constraints that may seem to have lost their reason and value in the contemporary world.
This said, however, there is a belief that traditional dress, as described in the Quran and the Bible, has many spiritual uplifting values that are lost in the din of arguments for the liberation of women and instituting more contemporary dress for the sake of living more comfortably in the modern western world. This discussion will try to illustrate the spiritual value of dressing according to the constraints described in the these books, with an emphasis on the underlying benefits to the evolution of the soul when the realities of these spiritual values are utilized in a sacrificial discipline aimed at bringing the spirit closer to Union with the creative light of being that was instilled within us from our very inception.
First and foremost, it must be understood that there are positive and negative reasons for both dressing in the traditional covered fashion and not participating in this practice. It is unfortunate that, too often, any discussion on this subject quickly deteriorates into an argument between fundamentalists whose focus quickly becomes
stridently judgmental of anyone who does not follow strictly every prescribed doctrine found or hinted at in the Holy Books, and progressively spirited people who feel that traditional dress is a constriction that serves as the outward symbol of the enslavement of the female members of Islamic society.
Both of these poles of opinion, in their strident desire to prove the righteousness of their positions, fails to address the positive spiritual value of traditional dress as a discipline that can help the soul to focus more clearly on its journey to union with its Creator.
What are the positive and negative reasons then for following or not following this described practice that is found not only in the Quran but other books of spiritual wisdom as well? First and foremost, in instituting any spiritual practice, it is important to ensure that this practice is rooted in humility and not in arrogance or self oriented pride. Pride and spiritual arrogance are two pitfalls that will surely enlarge the self -orientation of the person and this, by its very nature, will pull the soul further from
its journey toward Union with the Creator. Any practice of ritual or spiritual discipline that increases spiritual arrogance, (the feeling that the self is somehow better than or more holy than others in its sphere) should be closely examined until it can be undertaken with the proper humility of spirit that focuses the soul closer to the purification that leads to union with its spiritual Wellspring. Is it better to dress in a way that hides the self in the company of humanity if a specific form of dress is going to lead the spirit to judgement of others, or a feeling of being better than others in some spiritual way?
How often we see Muslims in western society who dress in the formulated manner judge other Muslims as being below them in spirit because they do not do so. It is very clear when this attitude surfaces, that spiritual arrogance and
pride is more the focus of the sacrifice evident in their dress than is a true spiritual focus of sacrifice for the good of Allah and His Kingdom. The first mark of a spirit on the Path of Truth is the purely humble way they move through the world filling each space and moment in time with small acts of loving sacrifice for the sake of easing the life of humanity around them. Such a soul is appalled when confronted with judgmental attitudes, and any spiritually
arrogant attitude that turns people away from reunion with their spiritual natures.
This said, still it is possible to adopt the Islamic dress ideal of hiijab with this spirit of humility intact. It is also true that one must not fail to dress according to ones belief in Allah’s will for them because they are afraid of appearing to be different or that they will attract negative attention to themselves. In this age of fear this is very important. It is difficult to stand out in the world as a Muslim and it is especially difficult for western people to move toward exposing themselves to possible discrimination and criticism by wearing Islamic attire. One of the most positive aspects, in fact, of adopting strict adherence to theIslamic dress code is overcoming this fear of ridicule. If the spirit is
properly focused on spiritual gain and spiritual growth, then the spirit will humbly discipline the eyes of the body to look downward, while the eyes of the spirit constantly focuses on the Heavens. If every breath and moment is spent in this prayerful discipline, then one will not see the ridicule or the stares of others, and in fact will most often generate goodness and love around them that is a reflection of what radiates from within their focused hearts.
One of the most beautiful aspects of dressing according to the modest described prescription found in the Quran is that so often when we expect ugliness, flowers of kindness and love appear instead. The very act of moving through the world dressed for prayer brings a prayerful focus not only to our own spirits but also to others who we see and move within our human environment. By making Allah visible through our dress, we remind continually not only our own souls of our evolutionary spiritual purpose, but also we radiate a small energy of that spirit to others that serves as a signpost to remind others in our sphere of influence of Allah’s continual presence in the world.
It is essential that we not center ourselves in judgement of others around us who are not dressed according to this standard, but instead welcome others to the warmth of our prayerful spirit in all aspects of what we do. The prayerful dress of the body should be a cloth that radiates and springs from the soul– and if this is so it will provide the spirit with a vessel that is continually prayerfully reaching out to perfection of its Union with the Creator from whence it sprang. If our focus is to always become an empty vessel ready to be filled with the light of hope and love and if our prayerful dress increases the focus that will aid us in this goal, then the purpose for this mode of attire is fulfilled.
The very act of dressing continually for prayer leads the spirit to constant prayerful reminder of its sole purpose for being- to evolve with every breath, every action, every step, every thought, every word and deed into a more perfectly clear reflection of the life source within that sprang from the very heart of the Creator. When one clothes the body with a prayerful focus, one is continually
reminded and drawn inward to this purpose and the outward demeanor becomes an inward reflection of this purpose more clearly in every moment of every day. To clothe the body for the health of the spirit – to clothe the body in a way that increases the awareness of the spirit that its focus must always be constant prayerful reflection – this is a hidden and beautiful purpose of dressing in the Islamic fashion.
It is important to understand that when this focus is there and is coupled with the proper dress, then not only does this prayerful spirit of reflection impact on our interior state but it acts as a beacon of hope and love to all others around us who are receptive to it and longing for it. The beauty of dressing for Allah lies in the spiritual lessons that are gleaned by the soul in this constant call to reflection upon Him, and also in the hope that this reflection
generates to others so deeply lost and in need of the reminding vision.
It is also true that this form of dress can decrease the tendency of the self to focus on vanity and the physical beauty of the body. If one uses this mode of dress to simplify ones desires for beautiful clothing and other physical artifacts, then one moves along on the road of detachment to the attributes of the physical to the value of contentment with simple utilitarian clothing. Detachment from desire and humility are very important spiritual goals, and when possible it is important for those who wish to deeply follow the path of the spirit to do all they can to provide discipline and avenues for fulfillment of these two attributes.
The purpose then of modest and simple dress becomes so much more than an attempt to somehow control the immodest responses of men to our sexual natures, or some ritual done solely because it is implied in a Holy Book. The true purpose goes deeper to the very purpose for our existence, which is to make every act that we do in life an
act of prayerful worship to Him who loved us into life and draws us to His heart for eternity.
Posted with permission of Amal.