Monday, 30 June 2014


Bored, I was looking at clothes online. And one item of clothing I totally love is the kaftan. Especially the yummy, amazing, stunning Moroccan kaftans. Getting lost in surfing the net admiring the highly embellished dresses, I can across quite a few blogs written by Muslim women. Interesting reading in their own right, but something I noticed as a common trend was the issue of modesty.

As a child in a well to do family at the time, modesty was always taught as having to do with behaviour. You don't flaunt your money and possessions, especially in front of the ones less fortunate, you don't brag about your high school grades (yeah, I was the perpetual nerd) in front of others that do not find it as easy to achieve the same things. Later, modesty was taught to be as a way always looking at my achievements in context. While my achievements were great (or so I thought at the time, anyhow), compared to the achievements of the person that invented penicillin hence saving millions of lives, were nothing. Later still, as I hit my teen years and discovered a passion for jewellery (still suffer from the disease), modesty meant more avoiding gaudiness and being moderate in the choice of accessories, in the sense that displaying the entire contents of my jewellery box at once was not only bad taste, but also immodest as it could be perceived as showing off.

Because of the world I had lived in, I always associated modesty with moderation. Yes, it was always encouraged to be proud of ourselves, but the idea of showing off was frowned upon. And, for me at least, modesty always had a lot more to do with behaviour then clothing. As a matter of fact, I don't think I have ever heard the word mentioned in regards to clothing until I married a Muslim. If my clothes were too skimpy or too much for the occasion, it wasn't an issue of modesty but of bad taste.

I know some very modest women some young some not so young. They never flaunt their abilities, they never brag, they know their own worth and feel no need to hit someone over the head with it. I openly praise my best friend for being a much better cook then I am when it comes to creating hearty, family oriented meals that taste and look delicious. And while she is very happy to be praised, who wouldn't?, she always points out that there is plenty more to learn. To be, that is modesty, it keeping it into context and being moderate in one's believes about themselves. And yet, when it comes to clothing, she often sports above the knee skirts and skinny pants, which she can easily pull off as she is one of those women that mother nature gifted with incredibly long, slender legs. What I would find lacking in modesty would be if she would feel the need to constantly praise herself on her great legs, not the fact that she wears clothing to show them off to the best advantage.

I had another friend, many many years ago that was fortunate enough to be stunning and she knew it. When it came to clothing, maybe she could have done with a little tone down, not so much in the cuts and patterns she chose, which always suited her to perfection, but in the number of designer labels displayed all at once on her body, and the fact that she had to point out the said designer names, in case that anyone was blind and did not see the markings. That to me, kind off screamed lacking modesty. We knew she had money, and no one begrudged her the fact that she did, however, poking out eyes out with it, was both lacking in modesty and terribly bad taste.

Jumping over to another decade and another friend. When it came to clothing, by just about any Muslim standard she was very modest. Not a hair showing, loose tops almost to the knee, scarf covering her neck and chest... And from underneath the scarf she will make eye contact with every male that crossed her path, her laughter and voice volume increased by about twenty decibels each time there was a man around and in the rest of the time she felt a compulsive need to point out what a great wife, mother, Muslim, sister, daughter etc she was.

I have to wonder who is more modest? A fully covered woman that did everything she could to attract attention to herself and spent the rest of the time going on about how great she was, or a woman that wears a tight top and a short skirt who always accept a compliment by offering one back and is by far one of the most unassuming beings I know?

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against anyone wearing anything. Hijab and loose clothing, dripping in designer labels or a bikini for that matter. As much as I am concerned, as long as you don't try to impose your views on me, you can wear whatever you wish, including chains and leather if that makes you happy. I might think at times you could no pay me to wear certain articles of clothing (for example the most hideous blouse I had ever seen that looked like rolls of toilet pater and it retailed at over 4Ks), or I might think certain things are absolutely tasteless, but as long as I am not wearing them, what do I care?

I guess that one I am trying to say by my various examples, is that for me, modesty is at once a lot more and a lot less than clothing. To me, someone saying they are more modest than I am, or some of my friends are, because that person is wearing something in particular, is simply put, immodest, because to me it says that you thing more highly about yourself then of others. And the hypocrisy or the pure blindness of the statement :"I am more modest then you because I am wearing X, Y or Z", makes me roll my eyes and bar my teeth.

To me, modesty is about attitude, towards yourself and others, is about the way you see yourself, is about not thinking you are better then anyone else, is about moderation. For me, modesty goes hand in hand with being gracious.