Swimming Hijab: A Way For Muslim Women To Holiday at the Seaside
The publisher of Islamic Tourism Magazine, Mr A.S.
Shakiry, suggests a way for Muslim women to adhere to the Islamic dress code and
still enjoy water sports and fun holidays at the beach.
Muslim women living in the 21st
century are faced with a dilemma: do they comply with Islamic dictates and
values or do they free themselves, to a lesser or greater extent, from the
constraints these dictates impose. This situation is highlighted and becomes
pronounced during summer holidays, when families go the seaside for rest and
recreation. Women, and even male members of their family, are under
psychological stress: some take pleasure in refreshing the body while bathing on
mixed beaches or swimming pools while others are wrapped in their hijab,
sweating and regreting the rules which are imposed on them by Islamic
traditions. Families are finding it increasingly difficult to convince their
daughters to wear the hijab and forsake swimming, especially when the children
are taken to the seaside.
It is obvious that Muslim woman must wear the hijab. The interpretation of this
obligation varies between shutting women out so they remain house bound, or
restricted to the family circle and female circles which are starting to
narrow in contemporary society due to the new trends of civilization.
Consequently, many social leisure opportunities for women who intend to observe
Islamic values, and wear the hijab, have disappeared. Some then start to release
themselves from these obligations to varying degrees. It is not just a question
of fashion: they believe that the hijab is an obstacle to their progress in
In this article, we do not affirm categorically that there are two groups:
respectful women who follow Islamic rules regarding hijab, and women without
hijab but respectful of the Islamic obligations of modesty in their clothing
and behavior. The phenomenon of the spread of hijab, following the Islamic
awakening embracing various continents, involved the development of a large
variety of models of hijab reconciling the Islamic requirements with the human
capacities of creativity and adaptation to the evolution of civilization.
Thus, an economic sector developed, allowing many people to live off its
products, such as the model makers, the producers, the distributors, the
advertisers and the editors. The fashion of hijab started to conquer markets
and was sought after, in particular, by young girls. The photographs of the
modes of hijab occupied the front pages of magazines, newspapers, as well as
television screens. There are even one or more specialized magazines bearing the
Thus, hijab has gained an aesthetic position showing the Islamic behaviour of
high values and humanitarian ethics, which evolved in accordance with
contemporary civilizations. The hijab will be the alternative to the dissolution
of manners to which civilization was lowered. This has been denounced by
respectful woman of human manners, as well as men, world wide, regardless of age
or belief. By a strange coincidence, on September 18, 2006, while going to my
office, I heard on the radio that it was fashion week in Europe (London, Paris,
Milan…). People in responsible positions raised their voices in these countries
requiring the prohibition of the exposure of underwear. Others called for
greater decency in the fashion parades.
Admittedly, all the countries and those in government work to educate women
through schools and universities, so they contribute to the development of
their societies, side by side with men. They provide them with a culture which
does not separate women and men from the respect of their values and traditions,
as well as general human manners.
My approach to the subject of hijab is that of global Islam where each city
around the world shelters some of its followers, and not of the Islam isolated
in certain cities or villages.
I wonder how the obstacles impeding veiled women from realising their full
potential in all fields: cultural, scientific, economic, social, and leisure in
accordance with Islamic values, be removed?
Our request is addressed particularly to the foqahas (Muslim theologists) of all
the Islamic doctrines, so that they exert every possible effort to find
solutions suitable to our time, on the basis of Sharia’a which is stated in the
Koran and Hadiths (traditions) of our Prophet. We know that the divine rules
were limited in their categorical judgements, and that the foqahas work through
ijtihad ( interpretation) to adapt them to the new aspects of the question.
There are divergences between doctrines, and foqahas of the same doctrines. Even
during the lifetime of the same faqih, it is essential to have a contemporary
opinion about the types of hijab, its need and limits of its observation. Women
wearing the hijab in various societies will thus have the legal backing to wear
it as the fatwas stipulate it is suitable. This is the minimum duty required of
the foqahas. They should deliver an opinion adapted to our time taking into
account God's equal treatment of men and women in rewards and punishment -
except in certain financial rights. But one should not confuse the opinion of
Shari'a and that of social convention which varies from one society to another.
It is imperative to provide private beaches for women, to create female sporting
clubs, including swimming and leisure clubs, or to reserve time, even on mixed
beaches where women are admitted in the programs of the present mixed clubs. The
needs of observant Muslim women throughout the world must be catered for.
The swimming hijab that I discovered during my last visit to Egypt is a
suitable solution to make it possible for a woman to swim with members of her
family in mixed beaches and swimming pools. I observed on Al Mountazah beach
in Alexandria, where I spent a few days with my family, a concrete example of
what observant women of various ages endured while trying to swim in their
I also found there many other muhajabas women sitting at the edge of the
beaches with their beautiful luxurious clothes. The beaches were so crowded
that there were six lines of tables for seated people and hundreds of people in
I contemplated this spontaneous popular phenomenon and compared it to other
beaches in different countries, especially Casablanca (Morocco) where the image
of its natural beaches and beautiful swimming pools is still alive in my
memory. I also remembered other beaches I had seen on my travels and thought
of these women who want to respect their beliefs and Islamic manners without
depriving themselves of the legitimate pleasures of life.
I found the premises of the solution when I saw the swimming hijab, known as
the 'legal swim suit' created recently in Egypt. In my opinion, this at last
answers all the requirements of the hijab. It is manufactured from industrial
fibers which prevent it from sticking to the skin when wet, and thus not showing
the contours of the woman's body as she comes out of the water. I believe that
technological developments, which are a gift from God, contributed to the
resolution of the question of the participation of women swimming with members
of their families.
Lastly, I must confess that the swimming hijab is the most difficult subject I
have ever tackled. During the past two months this subject caused me
considerable anguish. I looked at its various aspects, in particular the
theological issues, without being a theologian, and political without being a
politician. Because hijab assumed a political connotation it was prohibited and
challenged in several countries, including Islamic countries.
Will the extension of the legal shirt to the beaches of the world alleviate the
pressure on veiled women, or will it worsen their suffering? Will it convince
those who disparage Islam and claim it is not a religion of civilization, love
and beauty, applicable to all times and the places?
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