Sunday, December 12, 2010

'The Overgarment' - A Pictoral

Candice did a post a few days ago about the jilbab and whether or not it can be worn without anything under it outside since it wouldn't make any difference to a woman's hijab requirements. The jilbab plus a scarf covers everything that has to be covered. Anyway, for some random reason that post made me want to do this post. The jilbab/scarf combo does meet all the hijab requirements and sure, if you're going to be wearing it anyway then you're not about to whip it off in the middle of the market so it doesn't, in a practical sense, matter. But it does cease to be an overgarment if it's the only thing you've got on.

For the purposes of this post lets assume that we all agree that Islam dictates a specific dress code and not just an enjoinder to modest dress and action, okay? I know there are arguments for both sides of that matter, but if you don't think that there's a specific rule about types of clothing then the jilbab doesn't matter anyway, does it?

For purposes of all 'hijabi' pics, I am aware that the clothes aren't loose enough to make most Muslims happy with them as hijab. I've gotten rid of all of my really loose clothes though, so this is more illustrative without being exactly correct hijab. It's the best I can do with what's in my closet. :)

Right. So, first, because I felt like it, here's typical casual me:

Now, I've heard different opinions on what clothing is appropriate when one is with other women or maharams. One says that you only have to be covered from collar bone to knees:

The other says that you have to be covered from collar bone to ankles and that your arms have to be covered to the elbows:

Unless, of course, you're concerned that the people you are with might tell tales about your looks. In which case you have to have your hair covered as well (which is also what you should wear around non-maharams):

So one way or the other that's the minimum amount of clothing that you have to wear when you're in the presence of any other human person. Excepting your husband, of course and then you get can naked when the appropriate occasion comes up. But that's neither here nor there...

Anyhow. That's my understanding of what is required, at the minimum for Muslimahs to wear. Like wearing a shirt and pants is the minimum in society. Yes, there are exceptions - people who walk around shirtless, etc. But that's not polite and they're not really dressed appropriately for most situations.

Now then, if that's what you have to wear inside and there's a requirement for an extra layer when venturing outside then it's essentially a coat, right?

And a coat is only a coat when you can take it off if you need to. That's why it's outerwear. You wear it outside/over your regular clothes. Like underwear is what you wear under/inside your clothes. :)

Can you wear a coat without anything under it?

Sure. If it's long enough you can even wear it as a dress. My favorite coat is long enough:

If it buttoned all the way down it would be just as long as my dress which is appropriate for all sorts of situations. No, you don't get an illustration of that one because sadly my coat doesn't button all the way down. :( But you can see the length illustrated, yes? But if I wear it as a dress it stops functioning as a coat and functions as a dress. I can't take it off if I get too warm. Similarly, for a friends wedding many years ago I wore a Jackie O style suit. A jacket with a matching skirt. It was the middle of October and I decided not to wear a top under the jacket so that the jacket became my top. I couldn't take it off because if I had I would have been in my underwear. See?

So while it's possible to wear the jilbab/abaya plus scarf as your only clothing and meet the requirements for Islamic dress it stops being outerwear once you've done so and just becomes your clothing. Nothing wrong with that, as far as I'm concerned (then again this is all from the peanut gallery anyway) but it's not an overgarment any longer because it's not 'over' any other garments.

On a sort of related note, the whole, once the women are old and have no prospects for marriage they can start removing layers thing annoys me. I get that it was a different time and all *hand waves* but who says older women aren't attractive? Are the Islamic rules of modesty only about sexual attraction? Then what's all that talk about respect and seeing the women as people and not sex objects, etc. all about? At what age does a woman stop being attractive? Especially in today's day and age.

You want to talk about attractive women who are way past 'marrying age' as thought of way back when?

Talk to Helen Mirren:

Or Judy Denche:

Not that that has anything to do with anything whatsoever. I'm just saying. Older people are still attractive.


  1. Oh how I loved this post and enjoyed your transformation! :D And I agree with you that older women can be beautiful. I know several in real life that I've thought, "I hope I look like her when I'm X years old because she is so attractive!"

    Thanks for taking the time to do this - loved all the pics!

  2. Oh, and a lot of time the women's attractiveness, too, has to do with their attitude and joy radiating from within. Some are just really pretty older women while some are beautiful because it radiates from within and shines outwardly. Anyway. :)

  3. The idea that older women are not attractive is evidence that the clothing edicts are time and culture-specific. In my husband's culture women are considered old and worn out at 50 and must be taken care of by their sons. My mom (in her 70s) and grandmother (95) are more active than his mom who's not yet 60. My mom is still on the market!

  4. Susanne,

    Clearly I have too much time on my hands! :) I actually did this between roasting a chicken. The chicken turned out lovely. Now if I could just figure out how to cook the giblets without frying them...

    It's true that a lot of the 'attractive' factor can come from the persons attitude. People who aren't 'model' pretty are gorgeous just because they are such wonderful people inside their bodies. If that makes any sense at all...

  5. Zuhura,

    The idea that older women are not attractive is evidence that the clothing edicts are time and culture-specific.

    But couldn't you argue the opposite, almost? That the clothing edicts are meant to bridge all times and cultures which is why no one specific age is mentioned? Certainly Mohammed had an age in mind when women ceased to be physically attractive and were unable to bear children in that time, so why not be specific? 'When you hit 50 you can remove such and such articles of clothing.' Leaving it open as it is one could say that whenever the culture says that a woman has hit 'undesirability' then she can remove the extra layers.

    That's ignoring a whole lot of other clues that say (to me anyway) that the clothing rules were very time specific and the general, timeless rule was more for modesty of course.

  6. Very cool post! I really enjoyed it!

  7. I see what you're saying, but in that case any woman could simply declare herself undesirable and do without such clothing. In fact, Khaled Abou el Fadl argues something similar when he shows that in early Muslim society only free women wore hijab (and I would assume jilbab as well) and so if you were a slave or former slave who had converted to Islam you were allowed to dress as you liked. He jokes that one could simply choose to remain at a lower class status and be free of the constraints of hijab.

    (Obviously I agree with you about all the other clues.)

  8. Candice,

    Glad you enjoyed it! :)

  9. Zuhura,

    It is a weak argument, really. But I thought I'd throw it out there just because I'm certain it exists somewhere. :)

    I see what you're saying, but in that case any woman could simply declare herself undesirable and do without such clothing.

    *lol* I like this one, actually. Anytime a muslimah gets asked why she doesn't wear abaya/jilbab she can respond that she's not pretty enough according to modern standards so she doesn't have to! It goes along with the stories I've read of women who get asked why they don't wear niqab 'because they're so pretty!'


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