I am a teenage boy, who is very protective of my younger sister. Thankfully, she observes Hijab, and it makes me feel proud of her. The way girls are dressing up nowadays is highly provocative. And these are girls from reputed families, whose parents aren’t concerned about their Satar (portion of the body that has to be covered). I know many boys, who discuss such girls in a very indecent manner. I fear such talks can corrupt these otherwise decent girls. What can be done?

Answer: You are raising a very important issue, which is plaguing our society. While fashions have always come and gone – from tight, short shirts to baggy and long ones, from Shalwars and trousers to flappers – the recent influx of western-style designing is alarmingly changing the entire landscape.

Nowadays, we commonly see sleeveless shirts and capris on the Pakistani media. Many young and impressionable girls, as well as women, are enamored by this glitz and glamour and sadly, have assimilated such dressing into their everyday lives. For them, this is the face of progressive thinking, taking them forward to an advanced future. They do not realize that it only betrays an insecure sense of identity.

On the other hand, Islam has timelessly defined the parameters of proper clothing to be worn in public. At its most basic level, it specifies the need for women to wear non-sheer, non-fitted clothing which covers all parts of their body “…except only that which is apparent…” (An-Nur 24:31). Similarly, men are instructed to conceal themselves in loose, opaque clothing from navel to knee and preferably also the rest of their body, for the Prophet (sa) was rarely seen with his body uncovered.

In this context, it must be mentioned that men should also exercise caution. Body-hugging jeans/trousers and shirts are not allowed. Likewise, shorts must cover their knees whether out on a morning run, in the swimming pool or at the beach. Very often, men are more worried about women not realizing the fact that they too are stepping beyond their Satar and making women quite uncomfortable due to their immodest attire.

As far as boys talking indecently about such girls, the first question which must be asked is: does a person’s dress give someone else the license to backbite or slander? The answer, of course, is no. We are each accountable for our own acts to Allah (swt). If the girls are dressing in a revealing way, they are responsible for that. If the boys are gawking at them, they are answerable for that.

In fact, such behaviour of both boys and girls corrupts not only them but also the society at large. If anyone researches the marital relationship history within the United States, they will see that it all began with chaste courtships for marriage. Now, centuries later, the American society is beleaguered with such vices as premarital sex, teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, same-sex relationships, abortions, etc. Unfortunately, we are jumping the gun by importing their culture indiscriminately, and we run the risk of spreading similar problems much faster.

The umbrella of Islam shades men and women from such corruption and provides a moderate lifestyle, in which men and women show respect towards themselves as well as others through modest dress, controlled talk and purified hearts. Yet, people will discern this only if they experience Islam in a positive way. For instance, trying to tell a non-practicing person not to dress a certain way because Islam forbids it always backfires, because the roots required for the flowering of Islam are missing. After all, they are already more or less aware of the Islamic point of view – but averse. We have to work on their hearts, before we tell them to cover their bodies. Indeed, the injunctions for Hijab did not come with the first revelation of the Quran. Rather, they came much later, when the novice Muslim women’s hearts had already been infused with the love of Allah (swt).

Active Dawah and education about the basics of Islam in a beautiful and pristine manner are the needs of the hour. At an individual level, you and your sister can attend lectures and youth-oriented activities currently taking place in the city. Then, both of you can encourage your respective friends to join in, too. Creating an awareness of the fundamentals of what’s right and wrong is always the first step toward adopting the right and rejecting the wrong. While it may seem difficult in the beginning, have the courage to calmly and politely advise those among your friends who indulge in gossip about girls; similarly, your sister can counsel her friends to dress more modestly.

Instead of name-calling or even pointing fingers at another culture, it is better to use simple logic to convince those around us of the dictates of Islam. Slowly, increase the circle of people, whom you are giving Nasihah (advice) to and Insha’Allah, you will feel that you are doing something about this epidemic. At the same time, do remember not to measure the worth of your actions only with results – after all, only Allah (swt) can change the hearts of people; our job is only to convey the message in a beautiful manner, full of wisdom. And on the Day of Judgement, Allah (swt) will not ask us about the actions of someone else, but what we ourselves did.

Let us rise to the challenges that our society faces and pray to Allah (swt) to help us in His cause.