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Islam: Significance of Clothing

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Islam is the world’s second largest religion in the world today and was revealed to humanity by the prophet Muhammad. It is a monotheistic religion based on revelations received by the Prophet in the 7th century, which were later recorded in the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred text. Islamic practices are defined by the Five Pillars of Islam: faith, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and alms. Like almost every other religion, clothing is greatly significant in Islam and is secondary to developing a heightened level of consciousness with Allah. The Islamic dress stems from a development and cultivation of faith in the heart that leads to understanding the importance moral integrity. Prominent Islamic clothing includes the turban, thobe and abaya. Other than the modest look, clothing is highly significant to the Islamic culture.

A turban is a male headdress commonly worn in Islam and other religions such as Sikhism. It is make out of a long, slender piece of fabric, commonly silk, synthetics or cotton, which wrapped around the head multiple times until the crown is no longer visible. There is no set design or color for a turban, although white, black and green are the most common colors used in Islam, as Mohammad is said to have worn a white turban and green is seen as the color of paradise. Another noteworthy feature is the height of a turban, with a tall, highly pleated turban being a symbol of wealth and prosperity. For Islamic men, turbans are a way of following the Quran’s instruction to dress modestly and are considered particularly important in prayer, where the rewards are believed to be 25 times greater when the headdress is worn. Mohammad, known as the weaver of the turban, believed the headdress represented “piety, dignity and manhood” (Bennett) and used it as a way of distinguishing Muslims from other Arab civilizations that wore similar clothing. Although the turban pre-dates Islam it has become a symbol of Muslim identity.

In addition, Muslim men also wear thobes, which is simply a long robe. The top is usually tailored like a shirt, but it is ankle-length and loose. It’s usually white but may be found in other colors especially in winter. A thobe will be loose and not form fitting in accordance with the Islamic faith and it’s usually worn with trousers. The significant length of the robe is necessary because this prevents people to see the shape of the body. Thobes were worn in pre-Islamic times but was adopted by Islamic culture and now the thobe is commonly associated with Arabs and the Islamic faith. The popularity of the thobe is its ability to meet Islamic requirements on clothing and modesty.

The Islamic dress code has very strict standards for women and they are required to wear clothing that cover their entire body, such as the abaya. It is an outer garment worn by women in some parts of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. It is long-sleeved, floor-length, and is worn from either the shoulder or the top of the head. The abaya is worn over street clothes when a woman leaves her home, and is designed to be loose and flowing, hiding the “curves” of the body. It usually opens in the front, with overlapping layers or closing with snaps, ties, or a zipper. The abaya is worn for the purpose of purdah that is to “cover women and to conceal their beauty from men who are not related to them by blood or marriage” (Sarah). Other than its religious importance, an abaya also has some cultural and traditional significance. Women feel protected and secure while wearing it as the Qur’an said: “They will thus be recognized and no harm will come to them.” The abaya has been typically crafted to bring out the magnificence and dignity of the women while helping them to remain modest to the core.

The attire worn by Muslims is one of the most intriguing factors of Islam. Various styles of Islamic clothing exist that depend largely on the culture and preference of the individual wearing them, yet the underlying belief structures are similar across all Islamic cultures. The significance of Islamic clothing today is to provide adequate covering of the body as well as to ensure that one’s appearance does not pose an eyesore for another. However, the most important aspect of the clothing is that it doesn’t enable arrogance or self-indulgence.

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