In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

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I was originally supposed to talk about something else on Friday, but I decided to address this because so many people went for ballroom dancing.

 

The night before Touch of Class, everyone was anxious about what to wear the next day. Expensive dresses and suits, extravagant shoes and jewellery – all were part of the preparations. I was optimistic, hoping for a break from the norm of form-fitting t-shirts and jeans. People should have been dressing beautifully, traditionally – but they were not. Societies once believed clothing should adorn the body; modern society stresses clothing should reveal it. The tight t-shirts and jeans had been replaced by tighter and scantier dresses and skirts. Girls walked through the hallways barely dressed, exposing their bodies to anyone with a curious eye*. I realized that this spectacle was not attractive; it was demeaning. Attempting beauty, we had drowned our morals in a repulsive display of body. What, then, can be defined as beauty?

 

In the Islamic paradigm, beauty relates the temporal and spiritual. Because the outward reflects inward realities, the Divine Law (sharī`a) prescribes dignified dress. The Law legislates for the benefit of its adherents, and modesty is required to ennoble us as human beings, the descendants of the representative of God, Adam; and as Muslims, the community of the paragon of Creation, Muhammad salawat.gif. Our predecessors were mindful of the relationship between outward dignity and inward perfection. For example, the Imams Abu Hanifa and Malik would dress like kings and give money to their students to fulfill the same. The wisdom behind such embellishment was that the people of knowledge would be respected, drawing the link between one’s appearance and others’ perceptions of character. As inheritors of sacred knowledge, they recognized external and internal excellence is requisite to carrying this responsibility. Likewise, Martin Lings relates that students would inquire from his shaikh, who was sensitive to beauty, about details such as the carpets and curtains in their homes. Many overlook the insight for such questioning, but Lings explains, “The nearest thing to the soul is the body, then the clothes in which it is dressed, then the rooms it lives in.” Muslims should realize that all facets of life, from the sacred to the profane, must be conducive to spiritual perfection and growth. The dignity Islam imbues in its adherents anticipates emotion that transcends the temporal and approaches the Divine. When we express ourselves through this lens, we will experience a beauty that carnality can never replace.

* This statement is not a condemnation. Women are forced into a degrading position, ‘liberation’, by an “industry… largely controlled by men who seek to persuade women to denude or adorn themselves to add to a public spectacle created largely for men” (TJ Winter, Boys Will Be Boys). The blame rests on those who feed the oppression.

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