Fashion is all about leaning forward. Designers do their thing by pushing the limits and this post is almost a stream of conscience reaction to men’s fashion because I highly doubt one day we will have practicing Muslim males showing up at masjids wearing mini skirts and high heels and the while sporting burly beards.
Did you think high heels were only a women thing? If so you are completely wrong! In fact, thanks to Persian (Muslim Safavid) fashion, heels made their way into European court (Shah Abbas’s diplomatic missions to Germany, Russia and Spain). Soon enough, heels were all the rage amongst the aristocrats from Vienna to Westminster (until Napoleon banned them, I wonder what complex he had against them since it would only have helped him!). What Persians had worn out of necessity, the heels helped them control their stately steeds in battle, were soon to be regulated into the world of women’s high end fashion, Jimmy Choo’s, anyone?
But the current trend in fashion for androgynous fashion- the mixing of masculine and feminine characteristics (think Prince, Marilyn Manson, Annie Lennox, Boy George, Steven Tyler…). Basically its the ideal of either having no gender value, or having some aspects generally attributed to the opposite sex. I would say would be the idea that in Europe little boys could not wear pants during the Victorian era because those garments were the exclusive dress of grown men. So women wearing pants during that time was unthinkable (interestingly enough Paris just took off the ban on women wearing pants but the Hijab is not permitted!).
Well bringing back the blog to relevancy, I was perusing through Pinterest’s collection of Men’s Fashion pins and came across the JW Anderson collection, I was immediately reminded of the many men’s fashion restrictions placed by the Prophet. JW Anderson has created the perfect line of boy’s dressed in mini skirts and I cringe at the thought that his design might influence other men’s designers to follow suit, happily though, this whole thing is a blurb that history will allow us to laugh at, or maybe not… Judge for yourself:
So besides this being the bane of fashion and totally a FML moment, I wondered what the Prophet had to say about this, because he had a lot to say about men’s fashion and not just about women’s fashion (i.e. the Hijab) yet we barely hear about that in our culture wars. For instance in one Hadith the men who shave their beards were seen to be to be outside the realm of mercy from Allah (as Reported by Ibn Abbas (R.A.) in Tibrabi). (Apparently beards also keep you healthy, go figure!)
In one variant, “The Messenger of Allah cursed men who made themselves look like women and women who made themselves look like men.” [al-Bukhari]
Abu Hurayra said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, cursed any man who wears women’s clothes and any woman who wears men’s clothes.” [Abu Dawud]
The whole thing is just fascinating to me because it seems to me the projection of societal norms is leaning towards this androgynous fashion. Pop culture is thriving on this norm, within the fashion industry this style of gender neutral clothing has been raising itself in one form or another since the 1990’s. The acceptance of skinny jeans, and even women’s jeans worn by teenagers (sometime rock stars) is increasingly becoming acceptable.
I do then wonder how Islam will cope with this trend. Women wearing jeans, at least in the West, is now a settled fashion question. Though from what I understand girls can’t wear trouser type things during prayer therefore they will don long flowly garbs.
Clearly cross dressing by men is prohibited in Islam but what about androgynous or “genderless” dress, or transgenders in general in Islam?
(Curiously enough is there a “necessity clause” for instance in the case of Mualana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid standoff fame, who was caught trying to escape arrest while wearing a burka?)
In my search for this I ran across this article on Transgenderism and Islam, where I found a translation of renowned Hadith scholar An-Nawawi.
I unfortunately can’t share due to copyright restrictions. which makes me hate JSTOR, may God rest Aaron Swartz soul and allow his mission be accomplished!
But the what I can share I am pulling from Wikipedia just to avoid any sanctions or what have you:
“A mukhannath is the one (“male”) who carries in his movements, in his appearance and in his language the characteristics of a woman. There are two types; the first is the one in whom these characteristics are innate, he did not put them on by himself, and therein is no guilt, no blame and no shame, as long as he does not perform any (illicit) act or exploit it for money (prostitution etc.). The second type acts like a woman out of immoral purposes and he is the sinner and blameworthy.”
While the whole thing requires more reading on my part, I will leave you with this. In the same country as the Burka Wearing Mullah, the Pakistani Supreme Court ruled that the government must take proactive steps to protect transsexuals from harassment and discrimination, although no legislation in the area of gender identity exists. Pakistan officially protects ‘Third gender’ discrimination back in 2010. Which is not to say that the actual protection occurs, but if you ever visit Pakistan, its totally an open secret that no one officially wants to recognize.
The last thing to remaining untouched in this post on fashion is the elephant that never leaves the room- Hijab- and well, on that account I will borrow the Nobel Peace Prize Tawakkul Karman, the mother of Yemen’s revolution, response to a question by a journalist on how the hijab is not proportionate with her level of education and intellect:
“Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is a regression back to the ancient times.”