September 19, 2005

Response to Steve regarding Sania Mirza

This is a response I made to "Steve" regarding my Sania Mirza post on my main blog. I've decided to post my response here, in addition to the main blog, as I thought my comments might be helpful for those who are interested in learning about Islam.

Steve wrote: "I think a reasonable person can debate what kind of clothing is acceptable under Islam. I know dozens of Muslims who ruitinely wear shorts and skirts, and at the same time affirm most of the basic principles of Islam."

Those shorts-and-skirts Muslims must be young. :) Yeah, I've heard of cases up in Malaysia where a young woman might go out in public wearing something skimpy but also wearing a hijab. Go figure. Still, there are clearly defined dress codes for both Muslim men and women. Those women who wear the shorts and skirts are not following the dress code. While they may "affirm most of the basic principles of Islam," Islam is not a "pick and choose," cafeteria-style religion. Muslims should (ideally) follow all aspects of Islam as much of the time as possible. As my wife would say, "We strive to be better Muslims."

"That being said, whats at issue is whether or not the actions of this tennis player is worthy of a 'fatwa.'"

A fatwa in and of itself is merely an opinion, and does not necessarily have to be obeyed. Most people who ask for a fatwa normally ask for themselves (i.e., they have a particular situation they would like resolved, and they are looking for guidance in the form of a fatwa). That someone asks, "What about the type of clothing a female tennis player wears in public, like Sania Mirza?" seems a little odd, but is still not out of the realm of the ordinary. In that regard, Ms. Sania is worthy of a fatwa, as is any other Muslim in the world.

"I completely agree that an Islamic council should be more worried about things like Wahhabism or the Mujahadeen than tennis attire."

In all honesty, the vast majority of fatawa that are issued deal with very mundane, daily life issues. There's nothing wrong with an Islamic council dealing with the bigger issues (many Muslims wish they would), but most of their work deals with very small issues.

"However, it is the position of some Islamic scholars that if the purpose of rules and regulations regarding attire is to not attract attention to ones self, then covering up in conditions such as western society and or tennis courts might actually defeat the intended purpose of such modesty..."

Possibly, but... The purpose of the dress code, of course, is for modesty; it's not necessarily to not attract attention to one's self. While a pro female tennis player might attract attention initially by, say, wearing a sweat suit instead of a skirt and blouse, don't you think the fuss might die down fairly quickly (within a year's time at the most)? Is women's beach volleyball popular because we value the women as athletes...or because they wear bikinis? Was Anna Kournikova as popular as she was because of her tennis skills (her having never won a Grand Slam tournament) or because of her looks?

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