Asma Nadia and The International Book Project

I’ve had a lot of fun the last couple of weeks riding around the village on my bicycle snapping photos.  I am helping a student of mine named Wilda start a Rumah Baca in our community, and the organizations we are requesting books from, Asma Nadia and the International Book Project, asked us to send them pictures of the area.

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Text of Speech for Indonesian Speech Contest

This is the text of a speech on fashion my student, Wilda, delivered at a province-wide speech competition.  I helped her write and prepare for the speech.  She got 4th place.

Fashion Can Be Beautiful

Assalamualaikum Wr. Wb.

In the name of Allah, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy.  Praise belongs to Allah for allowing us to gather here for this speech contest.

I would like to thank the jury and everyone for gathering here to listen to my speech under the title, “Fashion Can Be Beautiful.”

Ladies and Gentlemen:

For muslims, fashion must be polite, neat, and beautiful.  This is God’s will.  And from my point of view, as a member of Indonesia’s young generation, I can tell you that balancing God’s will with current fashion trends in this fast changing modern era is not easy.  It’s hard.  It’s confusing.  There’s all these different things to consider, like: What will my friends think?  What will my parents think?  What does the Quran say?  How should I interpret what the Quran says?  And last but not least, what is beauty, and who decides?  What helps me sort all of this out is a quote from the Hadis that says, “Allah is all-beautiful, and loves beauty.”  When I read this I know that embracing beauty through fashion is not forbidden, but encouraged as a form of worship to Allah.  And I know that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between Islamic fashion and the modern world.  We are allowed to change.  So to illustrate this further I’m going to talk a little bit about the Jilbab.

As we all know, Islam has Syariat, or laws, to manage all of the things which happen to its followers.  The Quran directs all women believers, in Al-Ahzab verse 59, “to make their outer garments hang low over them so as to be recognized and not insulted.”  So Jilbabs are a commandment of Allah.  But they’re more than just a commandment.  They’re lahir-batin, outer and inner.  They’re proof that a woman has devoted her life to God, and that she has accepted God into her heart.  Marwa El Sherbini is an example of the seriousness of that devotion.

Marwa was a pharmacist from Egypt who lived and worked in Germany.  She was only 31 years old.  One day a man accused her of being a terrorist and told her to take off her Jilbab.  But Marwa declined and called the police.  The police arrested the man and there was a trial.  During his trial, the man took a knife from his clothes and stabbed Marwa 17 times.

This story should make us ask ourselves why Marwa refused to take off her Jilbab.  Had she done so the man may have left her alone and gone on his way.  But, then again, perhaps not.  The man was trying to strip away Marwa’s identity as a Muslim woman.  He was seeking to humiliate Marwa by getting her to renounce her faith, and taking off the Jilbab was his way of doing that.  We see, therefore, that a relationship exists between the Jilbab and one’s heart.

It has been said that the Jilbab is like a crown for women, a crown which gets its value from faith in God.  Think about that for a second.  A crown not made of gold or diamonds but just as beautiful, and made of cheap, regular cloth.  You see, without faith, the Jilbab is worthless.  Faith is inner beauty; it is a beautiful thing, having faith.  And women believers must respect, keep, and defend their Jilbab as they do their faith.  If Marwa would rather die to defend her Jilbab, then today, the young generation can find a way to reach a balance between God’s will and the modern era.  And in many ways, we are already doing that.  We are trying to combine the Jilbab with modern dress while still holding on to Islamic syariat.  For instance, there are now stores full of Jilbabs with different styles, different colors, different designs, and made of different materials.  And they are appropriately called “modern Jilbabs.”

So as “modern muslims,” we must realize that fashion is influencing our lifestyle and how we think.  We cannot avoid it.  Islam is Rahmatan Lil ‘alamin, which means the wisdom of Islam must be spread out to all people of the world.  Because of that, Islam is not always textual/strict when defining a law.  Some laws are contextual/flexible, and believers must balance Islamic laws with the reality of the situation.  We have to be smart and separate the good things from the bad.  And the way to do this is by our faith, our inner beauty.

It has been said that all people are born beautiful but let bad things come into their lives.  The Jilbab is a way to protect against that, to feel close to Allah and make us think twice before doing something bad.  So in conclusion, I’d like to say, 1)It’s ok to change with the modern era; 2) Fashion, as the Jilbab illustrates, is lahir-batin, outer and inner; and 3) Faith, or inner beauty, is a form of worship to God.

Ok, that’s all of my speech.  Thank you for your attention and Assalamualaikum Wr. Wb.