I have the pleasure to share with Blue Abaya readers another article from "Anonymous Saudi Man". It's always interesting to read his view points as we hardly ever hear the Saudi men's side to common issues in the Kingdom. This time he is discussing the hijab and what he feels has been lost from its original meaning. Read also these posts from him: Saudi Punks and Thoughts on Tribalism Love and Marriage
HIJAB AND YOUTH: A MODERN LOOK AT MODEST DRESS IN SAUDI ARABIA
Islam requires its faithful to dress modestly and I know many Muslims who apply this tradition to their daily lives. I believe there are several important and positive reasons for modest dress. One reason is modesty stops the poor from feeling any shame for their lack of wealth, and it reminds the wealthy that their money is to be spent wisely and shared with those less fortunate. Another reason is modest dress helps build a friendly, comfortable society. Modest dress also invites creativity, and encourages people - both men and women - to express their individuality in artful and beautiful styles. Modest dress does not mean boring clothing!
For years Saudi women have been wearing the Hijab, Saudi men limit wearing gold and other forms of jewelry or adornment for religious reasons without really understanding the wisdom and implications of their actions.
I believe the spirit and interpretation of the Hijab is currently lost among modern Saudi youth. Perhaps they’ve been following religious leaders blindly without digging deeper into the legislations. Maybe they are simply confused, as I would assume everyone who studies religion in Saudi is. This might sound like a “Soufi” approach to the Hijab. However, I am not associated with any Soufi groups.
Modest Dress in Other World Cultures
Many world cultures have religions that strive to dress modestly. Some notable examples include the Amish Christian sect in the United States, other world-wide Christian sects (including the Roman Catholics), the Jewish settlers in Israel, secular and religious Shinto or Buddhists in Japan, and Muslims from both the Sunna and Shiaa sects in Saudi Arabia and Iran. I also see modest clothing popping up in non-religious societies like in China. I have also witnessed a revival of modesty among feminists in Western societies. It seems to me that the original meaning of modest dress in the Islamic religious tradition is much better understood in other parts of the world that by Muslims themselves.
Taking Back Modesty - Women
Modesty is also important for men. I find that people are easily impressed of other men in the workplace by the cars they drive or by the suits or accessories they wear. That is why I personally wear modest plaid shirts and a pair of simple jeans and sneakers at meetings or other work-related events. When more formal attire is required, I select a simple thobe with simple plain colored pair of sneakers. This doesn’t mean I do not wear clothing that is more fashionable, personalized, or artsy; I do wear what pleases me, just as I prescribed for women. However, I stay away from any excessive display of wealth through clothing.
Plain, simple, and equal clothing allows people to receive credit and respect for something they worked for rather than something they are given at birth. I believe this is so much more satisfying and healthy for a person's ego and tends to help level the playing field among all people in this life.
Modesty in the Saudi Youth
As I stated earlier, it seems the original meaning of modest dress has turned into a modern phobic reaction against sex. I see the original reason for the Hijab has changed into clothing that people preach about, something that protects women from sexual threats. The Hijab is now designed to cover a young woman's “check lists” of body parts that could arouse men's sexuality. This makes the Hijab seem more like a punishment to young Saudi women and a reaction to men's inability to control their sexuality.
What’s interesting is how there’s no mention in the Saudi justification of wearing hijab on how it’s supposed to limit the vanity of a woman and help keep excessive display of wealth under control. I feel the current interpretation of the Hijab has left out limiting the exposure of brand-name handbags, expensive shoes, or expensive jewelry. Those items are flaunted everywhere. The spirit of the Hijab I believe is now ignored through these displays of excess wealth. I also see this with young Saudi men. The Saudi men drive expensive German cars, wear expensive vanity accessories, brand-name watches, carry the latest cell phones, wear fashionable sunglasses, expensive jeans, designer thobes and gold threaded Bishts (Meshlah or Robes) although Muslim men are forbidden to wear gold. Sadly, I see many religious people tempted by this showing off, and some do indulge themselves in displays of wealth. They justify their actions through religious texts and opinions.
Art and Beauty Does Not Mean Expensive
Beauty does not need to be expensive. This is something that I try to live by. I don’t have to buy expensive accessories and brand names to look fashionable and artistic. In reality, most art and beautiful accessories are very personal and are not sold in stores, nor do they need to be made out of expensive materials. One might debate that expensive name brands and purchased “kitsch” actually diminishes the beauty and artistic value of an accessory or piece of clothing. Bring back modest dress in your life, and stop the excessive display of wealth. Men, you can still look elegant, smell nice, and look professional in inexpensive and modest clothing. Women, if you elect to wear the Hijab, do it for the right reasons. Spread the positive energy of modest dress through art and creativity.
-Anonymous Saudi Man
What do you think? Do you agree with his observations?