Muslim dress code and the impact of the Arabic dress
There is no doubt that the Islamic values are reviving in Muslim regions of Russia. If ten years ago one could see people dressed according to the law of Sharia mainly by mosques or Islamic educational institutions, nowadays they represent an integral part of most cities. However, fast growth of Islam provokes some kind of resistance among the local people. This is more about cultural misunderstanding. Tatar newspapers tend to say that because of the Arabic influence, the Tatars do not manage to properly revive their own national culture. IslamReview correspondent tried to explore this issue.
It is obvious that the Tatars are returning to their traditional Islamic values. The question is whether these values are to be set to a full extent or not. Some social activists along with journalists do not think they are. The Tatars have followed Islam for a thousand years, but it has acquired its own shape within this context. Although everything is set according to the law of Sharia, Muslim traditions in Tatarstan do reflect the local environment, people’s life style and their way of thinking. Apart from that, the pre-Islamic customs have their own impact on the people’s belief. For instance, the Tatar women have never worn skirts down to their ankles. Their legs up to the knees were covered by the so called leather ichigi boots. This choice was partly dictated by the climate in the autumn and spring time. Also, these boots were easy to clean and look after for. The female Tatars covered their heads, but they left part of their neck and ears open. This way they demonstrated their beautiful earnings. Tatar women were not used to wear wide straight dresses like the modern ones favoured by the modern Muslim females. The woman’s capsule wardrobe of the past consisted of a dress, a slim-fit waistcoat and a vest. These garments allowed a woman to look more attractive and well-shaped.
Social activist and the “Vatanim Tatarstan” newspaper journalist Rimma Bikmukhametova says that the outfits our Muslim women are wearing outside only show their tastes’ variety. The journalist adds: “I do not think we can estimate how righteous the person is based on the way he or she is dressed. The slim-fit clothes are considered “not to comply with Sharia” in some of the regions of our country. I am not sure that our local designers would be able to sell their pieces in Moscow or Nizhny Novgorod, for example. Muslim women do not wear skin-tight clothes in these regions because they do not find it acceptable.
Rimma Bikmukhametova admits that the older generation tends to follow the traditional style as far as the dress choice is concerned.
-This tendency has even got its own name “ak ebi” (translated as “white babushka”). This means that elderly women wear white fair clothes. The essential detail of the outfit would be a four-cornered white scarf tied on the head in the extended way. However, these babushkas can only be found in some rural areas of the country. One of the ardent followers of this style in Kazan is a famous enlightener Rashida Iskhakova. Overall, the Tatars preferring traditional clothes tend to wear the so called city style garments.
As far as men clothing is concerned, one can note quite a variety in their preferences.
- It is widely believed that the Tatar males used to cut their beards short and a long thick beard was not approved of. This might be reason for the existing fear and distaste among some people with towards a long-bearded Muslim. I think it is fashion that impacts the Muslims and therefore, they choose to go for the Arabic style. If you look at the pictures of the Tatars at the beginning of the 20th century, you will see that men used to wear beards of various length. Nobody had any negative assumptions about long-bearded men.
“Not a proper hijab, but more likely a light high-necked dresses with long sleeves”
Yet, it seems that there is a confrontation of Arabic and Tatar cultures in Tatarstan. To put it more precisely, there are some concerns within the society. To illustrate this, we can draw an example of a travel agency manager who complained about a guide wearing a hijab in Kazan Kremlin. The manager said that it would be better if the guide wore a national Tatar costume so that the tourists could get an accurate impression about Kazan and Tatarstan.
Russian Islamic Institute teacher Rezeda Safiullina Al-Ansi says: “That is nonsense! If so, Moscow guides should wear Russian style kaftans and kokoshniks. Adherents of certain sects (Wahhabism and Salafism) prefer to wear long beards, short male trousers and fully covered hijabs. It does not mean that such kinds of clothes are elements of the Arabic culture. It is not even worth talking about Tatarstan being under the Arabic culture influence. Each Arabic country has its own traditional dress which complies with Sharia. Anyone who has been to Yemen or any other Arab peninsula country can confirm that Kazan females clothing style is not Arabic at all. We would feel like we are wearing light pyjamas if we were among the Arabs. Their hijabs are normally dark coloured and made of dense texture. You would not see such garments in Tatatrstan.
According to Rezeda Safiullina Al-Ansi, Kazan Muslim women seem to have their own style and preferences in colours. They tend to choose moderate and positive colours. This has been pointed out by everyone who managed to compare us with the representatives of other countries.
Rezeda Safiullina believes that it is impossible to wear the traditional Tatar costume in a modern city. “Yet, some eccentric individuals manage to do it,” she adds. However, one can always add some traditional details to his or her casual look. Also, there is a special campaign for those willing to wear the historical costume in Kazan. It is called “Pechen bazary” (Hey market).
Kazan is a boiler where various cultures are mixed
“Pechen bazary” campaign aims at demonstrating how national clothes might be worn in everyday life. The participants put such national elements as kalfak, tubeteika or embroidered boots on, or rather, arrive fully dressed up in a national Tatar costume. Has this campaign been organised to provide the young female Muslims with the alternative “Tatar” style of hijab? The World Forum of Tatar Youth chair, Tabris Yarullin says that this campaign does not have such a goal.
-“Kazan is like a kind of a boiler where various cultures, subcultures and styles are mixed,” – he says. He adds that Muslim females wear hijabs in different ways. Some of them put a scarf on in an Arabic style so that everything is fully covered. Others prefer the so called Turkish style. It all depends on each person’s taste and preferences. There are women who choose not to cover their heads at all. Despite this, they do perform Salat and obey all the commitments of Islam. As for those worrying about hijabs and long beards, they seem to express their own internal fears this way. I suppose they are out of touch and this is why they are negatively biased. There will always be people with such an attitude. They will always point at someone and say that “these people are not quite right”.
Traditionally, “Pechen bazary” campaign is organised on the territory of Staro-Tatarskay Sloboda famous for its historic mosques. Imam of the oldest mosque “Al-Marjani” Ramil Mingareev advises Muslim women to follow Sharia as far as the clothes choice is concerned and not to worry that their style might not conform to some cultural traditions.
-It is not specified in Quran what kind of dress a woman should wear. The main point is that female clothes must cover her breast, her hands up to the wrists and her legs down to the ankles. The head should be covered in such a way so that only her face can be seen. There are no guidelines as far as colours are concerned. However, based on the Prophet’s, peace be upon him, hadiths, it is better to wear more restrained colours. This is not to attract other men’s attention. Tatarstan women prefer light-coloured clothes, such as white and green. It is allowed, but one needs to wear them moderately. The clothes should be loose. It is better not to wear tight pieces flattering body parts.
What about Muslim women who are eager to show off their national Tatar clothes and do not intend to trespass against the religious principles? Imam Ramil Mingareev suggests to wear such kind of outfits at special occasion celebrated within one’s family.