Well, one way to answer this question is to consider it by itself and regardless of any side issues. One may thus say that Muslim women –together with the rest of the world– need clothes! women in Islam, too, deserve to wear beautiful and stylish outfits! Muslim women, too, can have a job! And if all that is acceptable, there could be no fault found with designing such clothes or presenting them as a model.
As you know, though, Islam generally gives us the liberty to do all that is sensible, necessary, and harmless but always draws our attention to certain limits and red lines as well. Our answer to such questions, therefore, is usually like; “No problem provided that…”
So, let’s now have a look at those conditions for women in Islam that might concern fashion designing and modeling?
As you know, Islam has set a certain limit on women’s covering. This certain limit addresses women’s natural charm and attractions for men, and their understandable desire to expose them.
So, the big idea for setting such specific measures may be that women do not make a pledge of a special extent of covering for themselves which they would never break. Since, it will end up in what we can see today, where women’s bare body is so widely used as a tool to win men’s attention and pleasure. That’s why Islam has issued special rulings for women (and of course men’s) covering.
The second thing, which is even more repeated and stressed on in Islam, is modesty . But what is modesty all about? Cambridge dictionary defines it [with regards to clothes and behavior] as “a quality, in women, of dressing or behaving in a way that is intended to avoid attracting sexual interest” [i].
Of course, modesty is not exclusively for women in Islam. Men, too, are bid not to dress up or behave in a way that may attract sexual interest. What’s more, the same term is also metaphorically used to imply protecting all parts of the body from trespasses, such as modesty of the eyes, modesty of the tongue, or modesty of the heart. So, in a broad sense, modesty is the quality of protecting oneself against wrong desires. And that’s exactly what we need in fashion modeling.
Now, modesty is somehow different from covering obligations. It means a person (or a woman, as concerns this article) might be well covered following the Islamic principles of covering, but her type of clothes or her manners may still leave room for provoking sexual interest.
Moreover, the realization of modesty can be culturally variable. What is considered as an acceptable level of modesty in a cultural background may not be so in another. But in every culture, I guess, women know pretty well what kind of outfit or behavior could attract sexual attention. And that will do!
Finally, I should say that Islam is not opposed to men and women looking neat, good-looking, fashionable, or even attractive. If a woman is especially kind looking, for example, she looks particularly attractive to everybody.
Does it mean that she shouldn’t look like that? No way! What Islam tries to avoid is looking SEXUALLY attractive –in the same way that Islam asks men time after time to take care of their sight and never look at any woman –other than one’s spouse- sexually. Because Islam wants all sexual pleasure and satisfaction to be concentrated within wedlock and intended for its strength and persistence, rather than its disruption!
So, yes, fashion designing and modeling are acceptable for women in Islam [ii]. And yes, Muslim fashion designers or models are not the same as others who usually intend to be seductive in their manners and their type and extent of covering. Muslim designers and models are required to cover their body (except for the face, hands, and feet) and to look modest. In Muslim countries, therefore, fashion shows are held in segregated places when the kinds of clothes being presented do not go along with Islamic rulings on covering and modesty in public.
[ii] You can read more about whether Muslim women can have a job here.
- Al-kafi, vol. 3, p. 714 , Knaz al-‘Ummal, vol. 3, p. 126
You may wonder why Muslim women do not take part in some sports. Are certain types of sports forbidden (Haram) for women in Islam? Are women in Islam not allowed to enjoy themselves doing such recreational activities? Well, actually the question whether women in Islam can play sports is somehow same as the question if Muslims can eat or drink!!
And the answer is like, of course we can eat and drink! But, Islam always wants us to observe some rulings for our personal or social benefit. For example, drugs or alcoholic drinks that could lead to intoxication are forbidden in Islam, since they are far more harmful to the people and the society than they are beneficial [i]. So we can enjoy all the tasty foods and drink that God has kindly given to us [ii], and we should always be careful not to go further than such limits.
In the same way, we can say that generally speaking; there is nothing wrong with playing sports in Islam, both for men and women. Conversely, Islam encourages us all to do what makes us strong and healthy!  Still, there are things to keep in mind since according to Islam, we are not supposed to receive harm, nor to harm others .
Take gambling for example, which has become a part of many games and sports today, and which walks many people on the road to their ruin! When playing sports, then, we should take care that it doesn’t include any kind of gambling. The same is with sports which might lead to serious injuries to oneself or another person.
And how about women in Islam? Is there any special rule for them? Well, women are asked so much to observe Hijab and modesty, both in their covering and manners –as much as men are asked to take care of their sight, and maybe as much as both genders fail to do so! [iii]
Certainly, we know that it’s not really easy to conform to these rules. Women have extremely beautiful and charming bodies, which makes it the more trying for them to hold back the inclination (maybe the same applies to some male bodybuilders who tend to expose their bodies much more than cover it!).
Of course, it is all fine if you can take part in your favorite kind of sport in segregated places where there are no male spectators, or if there can be a special and verified covering for women in Islam, as we see many women doing martial arts, for example, with a headscarf, in order to be safe from sickly looks [iv] and to cherish what God has bidden them at all times.
Still, you may be interested in a type of sport which finds no way to go along with the Islamic tips on covering and modesty. You think to yourself, “Why can’t I go swimming at mixed pools? I’m not doing anything wrong, just wearing a comfortable suit for swimming! It’s men’s duty not to look at me in a bad way?” Well, quite so.
But what if some of them may fail to do so? Had you not better protect yourself from that? If you go to an outdoor swimming pool in the winter, YOU are not doing anything wrong. But the weather is cold! And regardless of your real intentions, it will harm you anyway! Unless you protect yourself from catching it with a jacket [v].
Think of how women’s body has become a, so to say, cheap commodity today, due to the lack of such considerations in some women. Think of how we could experience less abusive behaviors and more enduring families if all women preserved a certain level of covering and modesty and if all men protected their sight from what they shouldn’t look at [vi] Not to mention the heavenly reward that God has kept in store for those who listen to His instructions, and that is surely greater than the worldly benefit!
If you have made up your mind to live as a practicing Muslim, you be sure that you are doing the right thing, no matter what others say, and no matter what the circumstances. You can also be sure that God loves you very much for taking the trouble! And it never means that a Muslim woman who fails to do so is excluded from the Islamic Community (Ummah) and God’s mercy.
So, to sum up, what we said, Islam has no opposition to women’s sport. It just asks them to be modest before everyone and covered before non-Mahram men. If they think that the kind of sport they are to take up conforms to these suggestions, which a good many sports does, they can go for it without any restriction.
And if it doesn’t, they can find a way which goes closest to what God requires of them, or maybe they can think again and pick another type of sport for themselves.
[i] Quran, 2:219
[ii] Quran, 7:32
[iii] Quran, 24:30,31
[iv] Quran, 33:32
[v] You can read more about “the Islamic Etiquette of Looking” here.
[vi] You can have a look at our article about “Hijab” here.
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 78, p. 174, Sahih al-Muslim, vol. 4, no. 2052
- Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol. 26, p. 14, Al-Mu’jam al-Awsat, vol. 1, p. 90
There is a consensus among almost all Islamic jurists according to which Muslim women are forbidden to marry non-Muslims. This is clearly stated in Surah Baqarah: “do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you” (2:221).
This prohibition applies to both temporary and permanent marriage. But what can be the wisdom behind this Islamic rule?
In many narrations (Hadiths)  and some verses of the Quran (2:221); (24:26), Muslims are advised to marry those who are equivalent to them. Being equivalent mostly means to be similar in faith and religion; however, it also includes being alike in culture, wealth, education, and family values. Right after stating the prohibition on the marriage with non-Muslims in Surah Baqarah (2:21), the reason behind this is uncovered (2:221).
In this kind of marriage, the Muslim will be most probably influenced by the polytheistic beliefs (which are in direct contradiction to Islamic teachings) of his/her partner. In such a condition, if the Muslim accepts those beliefs, he/she will be surely destined to enter Hell, and even if he/she remains Muslim, the conflicts between the couple will make their life a real Hell .
Then, for Muslim women, marrying a non-Muslim man (whether disbeliever (Kafir) or a believer in other Abrahamic religions) is undoubtedly against the divine guidelines and Islamic teachings, therefore, must be avoided.
As soon as one gets married, he/she is not fully independent anymore to decide for everything in life. Many habits and interests will be influenced by the preferences of one’s partner and even some of his/her beliefs. Getting married to a non-Muslim means to be seriously exposed day and night to the practices and beliefs of a religion other than Islam, or even to feed the mind with anti-religious thoughts.
This might in the first place hinder one from practicing Islam, then make him/her indifferent to Islamic beliefs and principles, and finally end in converting to a non-Muslim! And, women are more prone to this change: “You (Muslim men) are allowed to marry who doubt in their religious beliefs, but Muslim women are not; since the woman is influenced by her husband and he makes her follow his religion” .
Islam completes the teachings of the previous religions , therefore it does not allow Muslim women, who have taken the straight path with the help of divine guidance, to deviate and join disbelievers (Kafir) or the followers of other religions by getting married to a non-Muslim and consequently to be supervised by non-Muslims and depend upon them.
Islam considers certain rights for the wife over her husband. Treating gently, keeping respect, helping in household chores, forgiving her major mistakes, and honoring her are the duties of a husband in Islam . Besides, men are required to pay the marriage portion (Sedaq) and the living expenses (Nafaqah) to their spouses .
These rights will be most probably ignored in a marriage with a non-Muslim man of whether an Abrahamic religion or any other religions and this is another reason to ban Muslim women to marry non-Muslims.
To many children, fathers are heroes or at least good enough samples to follow in life. To some, fathers are only a member of the family. In any case, fathers play a predominant role in the education of children.
Hence, a non-Muslim father educates children based on his beliefs, and he surely affects the characteristics, attitudes, and religious beliefs of his children and more generally the following generations. This way, Muslim women married to non-Muslims might find their children disbelievers (Kafir) or followers of other religions, which will be really regretful.
Some Rulings …
The only way Muslim women might marry a non-Muslim man is that he converts to Islam before marriage.
If the formula (Nikah) of a marriage contract is pronounced before the conversion of the man, the marriage contract will be void. If the man converts after this void marriage, the formula (Nikah) still needs to be repeated since the man had not been Muslim during the previous formula (Nikah) [i].
Not getting married to a non-Muslim man is such important that if non-Muslim women (whether disbeliever (Kafir) or a believer in other Abrahamic religions) deliberately join Muslims or immigrates to Muslim communities, and if their faith is examined, It is forbidden (Haram) to send them back to their disbeliever family if they want to stay with Muslims. In this case, Muslim women are not any more lawful to their non-Muslim husband, his husband neither (60:10).
[i] See Risalah Amaliyah for more details and the rulings.
- S. H. al-Amili, “Wasail al-Shia”, vol. 14.
- A. H. Tayyib, “Atyab-ul-Bayan fi Tafsir-il-Qur'an”, (2: 221).
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 103, p. 377.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 76, p. 7