The Islamic Garden
The Formative Years
Young girls deserve to be dressed modestly. So let's not cheat them from a lifetime of confidence and positive self-image by dressing them like super-models before they can even talk!!
It is generally agreed that Muslim girls should start wearing the hijab by the age of ten or puberty (whichever is earlier), although they should begin training for it by age seven. But the question arises: Is there a special way of dressing before that age? As the mother of a three year old girl, I have faced this question many times and reached the conclusion that it is very important to dress young girls with the same levels of dignity and respect to which Muslim women themselves are accustomed. Treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves will help ensure that our daughters grow up with confidence and self-respect.
Any parent of a young girl (Muslim or not) has certainly experienced the shock of trying to find decent clothes for his or her daughter. On a recent trip to a popular clothing store in our area, I was stunned to discover that all of the clothes for little girls are designed to enhance their female traits (breast, hips, legs, etc.) which are not even developed, while the styles mimic those of older teenaged girls (who have also been short-changed by society's molding of them into miniature women.) Even a lot of the shoes sport high heels! Simply put, there are no clothes for little girls. So it is not surprising that we find most girls in the US dressed in styles which do not suit them and which also contribute to them being harassed by boys and later (as they grow older) by men.
Though it is widely acknowledged by society that the early years are the formative years, it is strange that so little attention is paid to how young girls dress. After all, it is a well-known fact that many women suffer from low self-esteem and other problems related to body image. This is not something which suddenly occurs once a woman reaches maturity: most likely it has been taking place since girlhood as she learned that sex appeal is synonymous with popularity. Having attended public school in the US since the age of four, I have witnessed this phenomena firsthand and can say with certainty that such roles are learned just as soon as boys and girls come together in one environment, whether children are capable of understanding that or not.
Given the respect that Islam demands for its women, Muslims must take extra care to dress their young daughters accordingly. While this does not necessarily mean they should wear hijab before the age of seven (though there is nothing wrong with that), they should, in my opinion, be dressed modestly in long, loose-fitting clothes. They should also wear pants under their dresses because girls at this age play a lot (doing cartwheels, rolling around on the ground, etc.), and they should have the freedom to do all that without the embarrassment of having their undergarments exposed.
Considering the lack of options in our stores, it is often difficult to find modest clothing for young girls. I have found it helpful to buy larger sizes and to shop during winter, often the only time when clothes with long sleeves are available. Other than that, I am trying to learn to sew.
Happily, my daughter rejects immodest clothing on her own.....I am sure this is from a girl's natural inclinations and simply needs encouragement from her family and overall environment.
The respected Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah bless him for his good work) made some comments about this issue which you may read here.
Originally published at Suite101.Com. Reprinted with permission.