Do you want to be a good role model or a “modest” fashion model?

There’s been much debate on muslim women wearing a headscarf and modelling for representation as; influencers, supermodels and even in magazine’s dedicated for the desires of men. The two arguments voiced by Muslim women are:

1. Muslim women need representation in the fashion, make up world and;

2. Muslim women do not need representation from the fashion/make up world as it opposes the concept of hijab and is not allowed in Islam.

We hope to address the opposing arguments in light of the Qur’an and Sunnah and come to conclusion on what is correct and how to approach this popular topic in a way that is clear, understandable and lead us all to what is pleasing to Allah.

So what does Allah tell us through the Qur’an and Sunnah about women?

When we first look at the Qur’an we see that not only is there numerous mentions of women but there is an entire chapter out of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an dedicated to women. Allah instructs us to treat women well, especially in their roles as mother, child and wife.

“And they (women) have rights similar (to those of their husbands) over them to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allaah is All-Mighty, All-Wise”

[al Baqarah 2:228]

And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I urge you to treat women well.”

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 331; Muslim, 1468.

This verse and narration example and highlight the importance of women in Islam. If Allah has set the status of women so high, the obligations He set on them must also be high in order to keep the status of His creation high. That makes sense right?

“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allaah is Ever Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful”

[al-Ahzaab 33:59]

Hijaab is an obligation that Allah has commanded us to adhere to from the heavens above – I never wish to have to explain and argue this as it is clear. When we look at the women around the Prophet ﷺ at the time, they saw much importance in the hijab and adhered to it strictly:

It was narrated from Safiyyah bint Shaybah that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) used to say: When these words were revealed – “and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)” – they took their izaars (a kind of garment) and tore them from the edges and covered their faces with them.

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4481.

Their level of obedience was high, they did not question that which was revealed, sadly it seems that the hijab is now up for question by those who have not even sought knowledge in regards to this matter or who have come to a conclusion in line with their desires. The sahabi strived to fulfil the commandments in the best of ways.

Now that we have briefly looked at and hopefully understood the value of women in Islam, the obligation of hijab and the implementation of the hijab by the women around the messenger we can move on to the current debate that arises online almost on a weekly basis.

How is the hijab treated today?

Although there are conditions of hijab that must be fulfilled before we can truly claim to be incorporating hijab into our life, the term “hijabi” has been widely used for anyone that covers their hair or even part of their hair or identifies as a hijabi.

The conditions of the hijab are:

  1. The hijaab must cover her entire body
  2. It should be thick enough to conceal what is underneath it
  3. It should be loose-fitting, not tight
  4. It should not be so attractive as to call men’s attention to it
  5. It should not be perfumed
  6. It should not be a dress of fame and vanity (i.e., it should be extravagant or excessively opulent)
  7. It should not resemble the dress of men
  8. It should not resemble the dress of kaafir women
  9. It should not be adorned with any crosses or pictures of animate beings

If we look to these conditions then consider if we fulfil these and if others do we would notice that many do not meet all the conditions. Sadly, this can be due to lack of education in this area or simply the inability to prevent oneself from pursuing their desires.

Women at the time of the Prophet ﷺ not only abided by the obligations of hijab but they would dress in such a way that they would not be noticed.

It was narrated from ‘Urwah that ‘Aa’ishah said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to pray Fajr and the believing women would attend (the prayer) with him, wrapped in their aprons, then they would go back to their houses and no one would recognize them.

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 365; Muslim, 645.

Hijab is also in character and that doesn’t only mean kindness and consideration (which is the narrative widely spread today) but it means that there is no desire for fame or the desire to be seen by non-mahram. As we see from this narration, the women would not walk about so they are recognised whereas today on Instagram and when you walk around you see sisters sharing their pictures, seeking to be recognised, seeking to be seen by everyone online and even offline when they get fame and move on to organising “meet and greets”.

It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “The riders used to pass by us when we were with the Messenger of Allaah (S) in ihraam, and when they drew near to us we would lower our jilbabs from our heads over our faces, then when they had passed we would uncover them again.

Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1833; Ibn Maajah, 2935; classed as saheeh by Ibn Khuzaymah (4,203) and by al-Albaani in Kitaab Jilbaab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah.

These narrations are of pertinent importance because they teach us how the women at that time would strive to not be seen or noticed it gives an insight into their character which the Prophet ﷺ approved of. They would contribute to the Islamic world without looking for fame.

Currently, with Instagram and social media we are constantly seeing Muslim women starting off as smalls blogs or vlogs on hijab moving on to being paid for modelling and styling clothes that are seen to be modest. It’s a domino effect. These muslim women state things such as “I want to show other muslim women that they can be pretty and in hijab, they can dress modest and we need representation”.

The first question that arises is: Is this standard of modesty in line with the hijab and why do you need to be known and seen? Simply put, if it doesn’t comply with the above conditions then it is not modesty and if Allah and His Messnger ﷺ said to hide your beauty and you can only show your beauty in front of your male relatives then why are we uploading our pictures for anyone and everyone to see? If your modelling burkinis and clothing that show your figure then it is an active effort to move customers away from the correct hijab rather than making clothing more suitable for those that observe the hijab.

The second questions is: Why do muslim women need representation for companies that sell clothing, make up or anything else in the fashion world when we know that displaying our beauty is not allowed? It doesn’t make sense that we seek representation in a world that isn’t made for us.

Not only is this happening on a grand scale for companies but muslim women are creating their own blogs on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram that are solely designed to showcase their beauty through make up tutorials and their clothing which in turn shows their body as it doesn’t comply with hijab. So many sisters have gone from having an account with a small amount of followers, to gaining a huge amount of followers and then later being paid to advertise various make up, skin care and clothing. This isn’t just affecting those seeking to be major models but those that start off small, that start off with maybe a good intention but then get lost in it all.

While sisters get more famous there seems to also be a noticeable difference in how they start to dress. Many begin to take steps away from the correct implementation of hijab. So even starting off small can lead to major issues that will affect one’s emaan.

Lastly, many of these women that model and seek representation for muslim women and to be the “first hijabi to model for…” or model a hijab, a burkini or even a bikini do not realise that doing this and calling others to follow in their steps will not only lead others astray but increase them in their sin.

The Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever sets a good precedent in Islam will have the reward for that and the reward of those who do it after him, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever sets a bad precedent in Islam will bear the burden of sin for that, and the burden of those who do it after him, without that detracting from their burden in the slightest.”

Narrated by Jareer ibn ‘Abd-Allah (may Allah be pleased with him)
Muslim (1017)

In conclusion:

We can’t be looking for representation, we don’t need it. We have the best example to follow and were given the best role models: the wives of the Prophet ﷺ and the women around the Messenger ﷺ . So we should not be looking to go completely against Islam’s teaching and the examples given to us and become models seeking to make way for muslim women and change the meaning of hijab and strive to influence others to follow this incorrect take on hijab.

It all goes down to….Do you want to be a role model like the wives of the Prophet ﷺ and the women around the Messenger ﷺ or do you want to be a “modest” fashion model on Instagram and mainstream magazines like PlayBoy and Sports Illustrated which look to just showcase the awrah and beauty of a women for the eyes of men?

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