What do Muslims wear when they go swimming? I hadn’t thought to ask until I encountered this query about swimming attire on ClickTheCity. Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen any recognizably Muslim Muslims at the beach or a public pool.
Muslims follow a dress code that is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Men are required to cover the middle part of the body from navel to knee, while women are required to cover the entire body except the hands and face.
It’s stricter for women because “Islam elevates its women to the peak of respect and saves a woman from disgrace and humiliation, giving her a chance to be treated like an honourable human being and not a mere sex object for the lustful desires of bestial miscreants.” The guidelines for women’s modesty are collectively known as the Hijaab. “Hijaab” literally means screen, curtain, partition and concealment. As a verb it means to conceal oneself from the view.
Obviously, swimming poses less of a challenge to men. My quick Google search for “Muslim men swimwear” turned up these wetsuits, which don’t appear to be particularly Islamic. Although I can’t tell from the picture if they’re just regular wetsuits or if they’re of a looser fit. The Hijaab requires women to hide the shape of their bodies but I don’t know if the same rule applies to men.
As for Muslim women, I found that:
Many women… don’t go in the water. Maybe they will go in the water up to their knees, and actually wear an old pair of tights or loose soft pants. The other thing lots of Muslim families do is to find a secluded area of beach where no one else but their families are… Many women actually go to one of their female friends house with a swimming pool and wear swimming clothes, but they won’t be exposing themselves to strange men there… In many Islamic countries, there actually are segregated areas of beach and swimming centers where Muslim women can swim by themselves. (Yahoo! Answers)
And then there’s the sartorial innovation known as the burkini.
Burkinis have been around for a few years, but since I’m not exactly at the cutting edge of conservative fashion, they’re news to me. They allow Muslim women (or women who, for whatever reason, are not comfortable with exposing their bodies) to enjoy the water while maintaining their modesty. You’d think that this would be welcomed as a good thing, but the burkini has not been entirely well received.
…The new swimsuits have drawn criticism from both East and West. “This is like playing a game with Allah,” asserted a poster on the website ShiaChat, complaining that the stretchy fabric reveals curves. (Time.com)
Women’s rights in the Islamic world obviously have a long way to go, and certainly there are more pressing issues than which fashion statements are acceptable in Islam. But the burkini is a bit more than just a fashion statement. It is an assertion of Muslim female identity. It represents a subtle renegotiation of the Hijaab and poses a challenge to the status quo. In which case I say, You go, girlfriends.