Modesty at the mosque

I remember during the Tarawih prayers last year, all I worried about when going to the mosque was how I was dressed: did my veil cover everything, was my abaya see-through, was I wearing nail polish? All these ridiculous little things actually managed to distract me from prayer on many nights, as I worried about what the women surrounding me were thinking and whether they were judging me.

One night, the friend I usually went with was told by another woman that she should not wear nail polish during prayer. My friend (rightly) flipped out and began ranting about how it was no one’s business except hers.  The whole incident was infuriating, yet it’s something that happens to a lot of women who go to the mosque.

At the same time, it seems men can wear and do whatever they want while praying. There were men in front of us who literally flashed their behinds every time they kneeled down. Skinny jeans are definitely not prayer-friendly. Yet no one said anything. I’m sure if a woman’s BEHIND was showing, there would be some kind of apocalyptic revolution.

This article reminded me of this issue, and I found it really interesting.

Something is very wrong when women are scolded for nail polish and stray strands of hair that peek out from beneath their hijabs, yet men escape rebuke despite such outrageous nonsense. Have we forgotten that Islam’s emphasis on modesty applies just as much to men as it does to women?

When we see people come to the mosque with thobes and other traditional, loose-fitting robes of various lengths over their work outfits, we like to think we’re stylish, progressive, and well-integrated with our khakis and tucked in dress shirts, but the fact is, traditional garments, such as thobes, are worn in the Muslim world precisely because they do such an excellent job of guarding one’s modesty, no matter whether you are standing, sitting, bending or prostrating.

Article here.

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9 thoughts on “Modesty at the mosque

  1. Good point! It’s sad that people would be so focused on others – are they wearing the right clothes? not wearing nail polish? doing this or that right – that they are not focusing on themselves and their own appearances before God.

  2. Assalamu alaikum,

    At my masjid, there are greeters for both men and women. If there’s a brother with his pants sagging so that his behind crack shows, I’ve always gone to the brothers’ greeter and let him know. The greeter then pulls the offending brother out to tell him to pull his pants up and put on a belt 🙂

    And, every few months, the khatib will remind the brothers that they shouldn’t be sagging their pants anyways, and that their shirts should fully cover them in ruku and sujood.

  3. My thoughts:

    Let’s not focus on bringing men down to the level we are at, but rising to the level they are at. It starts by going to Mosque not giving a shit what people think, and standing up for ourselves until people leave us alone.

    I don’t like that article snippet about thobes being the most modest, either. I don’t think dress code should be enforced on anyone, men or women. How can I judge a man for his skinny jeans when I don’t want to be judged for my nail polish?

    Us women need to just start doing. Just do. The article is saying that men need to start being judged also, basically. No! Women just need to stop being judged so harshly, and it doesn’t solve anything to, instead, start judging the men also in order to make this whole scenario “ok.” The only way to get past this is to walk boldly in our view that we deserve to be our own person without condemnation, men and women alike.

    I just posted a video on my blog about a convert (male) who was judged for wearing street clothes to the mosque, to the point where he refused thobe and was ostracized for it. No, thobe is not the best way to be modest, it is a cultural way of being modest that some will wear, yet others will not. The point is that we should not care about clothing at all, but prayer, and praising God. Why does a man with sagging pants affect my praying? Why does a woman with nail polish affect my praying?

    It doesn’t.

    • almost clever – the sagging pants affect my prayer when I bow to make ruku and get a full eyeful of someone’s bare behind. Kind of hard to maintain presence of mind on prayer when that’s in front of you.

      • Well, that is a start, at least you are able to see the man’s behind, instead of being in a completely separate room where you only hear the imam through speakers! So I say, good for you and your Mosque that you are able to complain about seeing a man’s behind when you pray!

        LOL 😉

  4. Really good point Sarah. As I was writing the post it struck me that it was sort of calling for men to start judging each other the way they judge women and the way women judge women. But I still posted it because I wanted to highlight the double standard: a man can show his crack and not even get chided, while a woman can let a single strand of hair show and get the whole prayer stopped.
    But yes, ideally, we should all mind our own business and not care about what other people do/wear.
    Ummsqueakster your question raises an interesting dilemma: so we get distracted by men’s bare behinds during prayer…do you think it is valid for a man to claim he gets distracted if a woman does not veil? Does he have the right to ask her to do so? Or does that logic only apply to private parts? Or only during prayer?

  5. During Ramadan one year in Bahrain my ex and I had been out doing some late shopping. I was heavily pregnant at this time and practically lived in a very loose pair of trousers (not jeans) and wore it with a long loose tunic style shirt. We wanted to perform late night prayers but were far from our neighborhood at that time and so stopped in a mosque along the way. It was a large mosque probably used for Friday prayers. I joined the other women there and we did taraweeah prayers. Almost the very second the last prayer was completed and I went to stand up a lady came rushing to me (with a few following her) and immediately started chiding me for wearing trousers in the mosque. She was going on and on in Arabic and Im assuming many of the other ladies there didnt imagine I could understand Arabic as they quickly jumped to my defense asking the first lady what gave her the right to “correct” me? Had she just spent the entire prayer thinking about me in my jeans thus making her own prayer void etc? I just stood there and let them all go at it for awhile…then smiled and made for the door. Before I could reach it and leave one of my defenders came rushing over and in halting English said ‘sorry sorry” and smiled at me.

    It wasnt the first time I was ever faced with a complete stranger wanting to correct my clothing according to their own standards…but this was the first time I had other ladies come to my defense.

    Also about the trouser thing…I wonder if Pakistani ladies are told they arent allowed to wear trousers in the mosque etc? hmmm

    • I know at my former Mosque we were told to wear long dresses and skirts, no jeans or pants allowed. Quran was used as the reason.

      My reply? Whatev

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