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My Daughter Does Not Want to Wear Modest Clothes

09 October, 2023
Q My daughter is 14 years old and we live in Canada. I used to buy her clothes on my own and about 2 years ago, she has been insisting to come with me and choose her clothes and I didn't refuse. However, since she used to go shopping with me, she started to choose immodest clothes and refused anything I chose for her. I tried many times to convince her that Muslims should wear modest clothes and that she can't reveal her body but all my trials just failed. Recently, she started to go shopping with her friends, many of them are non-Muslims and they buy very bad clothes. Whenever we talk about her clothes, we end up fighting and yelling at each other. please tell me how can I handle the situation.


In this counseling answer:

“Just tell her that, you do not respect immodesty, but you do respect her mind and soul, so tell her that you believe in her capacity to see through the garbage and lies and tricks of our enemies to the beauty and truth of Islam, even if she is not strong enough right now to take on the whole world as a warrior—give her that space and time while showing her that you believe in her heart for Allah and her intelligence. ”

As-Salaamu ‘alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhum,

Thank you for asking this very important question. It is about a very difficult yet common problem—so, thank you for asking.

My first suggestion is ask Allah for Help. When we feel desperate, like there is no solution to a problem, when we ask Allah to Guide us, we can begin to see things that we did not see before—the reason we get tested is to see if we ask of Allah or not. If we do, then we can get three Rewards, InShaAllah: Allah’s Guidance, Allah’s Pleasure, and Hope of The Reward in the Next Life, which is Unity with Allah, His Prophet, and the Sahabi!

Secondly, on a practical note, are you giving her the money she needs to buy her own clothes on her own, or paying for what she chooses? I am not recommending that you stop doing that. I only mention it because that aspect of your question confused me.

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The reason I am not recommending that is because I think it would be better to talk to her … So, the question is what to say since everything you said so far ends in a fight. Ask her what matters to her that has to do with clothes—in other words, clothes mean something, obviously, or else there would not be a problem.

Find out from her what they mean to her—don’t assume that you know what is going on in her head –or even what is best for her at her present stage in her development. In other words, you may know what is best for her in the long run (to obey Allah and be safe with people (modest)) but, that may not be what she needs to hear now. You have to “hear” her first.

Then, once you hear her out, she will, inShaAllah, return the favor, i.e., be willing to hear you out, out of “reciprocity”, i.e., if you treat her with respect, she will treat you with respect. It does not always work but does a lot, inShaAllah.

To figure out from her how to “reach her”, you have to “get inside her head” – not yours. Once you find out what is going on in there, “walk her” through the thought process that she needs to have, inShaAllah, i.e., walk her from where she is to where she needs to be (for Allah and her safety), inShaAllah.

If you just tell her what to do, you are not going to “reach her”; telling people what to do is telling them what your choices are —and why you made your choices, but so what – that is not her. You have to “launch” her into her own adulthood, which means making her own decisions.

When our children are small it is existentially essential that we tell them what to do, otherwise they will die–get hit by a car or fall off a cliff, etc. However, when our children enter adulthood, the parent’s role is very different; we have to let go.

However, we have to “transition” them first. To guide our children as to how to make their own right decisions is very hard and is an act of faith.

To do this, you are going to have to go out of YOUR comfort zone. Enter her world. Walk around in it (metaphorically) so you can get on the same page as her. Then you will be able to talk to her about the things that matter to her.

If she is receptive to Islam, there are tons of proofs that show that modesty is Islamic. However, I suspect that she is not there yet. I suspect she is operating from a worldly perspective, thus the problem. So, get “on her plane” so you can speak to her issues.

For instance, to be a Muslim woman in the West (Canada) today, you have to have the heart of a saint (I don’t believe in saints but it is a good way of referring to what I want to refer to here) and the nerve of a warrior. In other words, to wear modest clothes, and especially a hijab (khimar), one has to be an activist, an outsider, a leader—and a warrior and a saint.

We are not all that “good”—and were any of us that “good” at 14? A Muslim woman’s clothes are like carrying a flag around all day that says …. What? See that is the problem. To a Westerner, our clothes symbolize oppression. If they symbolized what we “really” are as Muslim women, we would want to were that flag, But, they do not.

So, have mercy on her by recognizing that, TO THE MODERN WORLD, modest clothes mean a barbaric religion—something akin to the life of the Dark Ages—and an oppressed woman who has no freedom to choose her own life, etc. it is a very tall order to expect her to fight that battle on her own—especially when she does not even know that she is fighting that battle or any other. That is the wall of obstruction that our enemies use to rob us of our selves and our children. So, to win that war, the first step is to realize that you are fighting a war with someone other than your daughter!

If you can get her to express these challenges that she is facing simply by the clothes she wears, you can begin to defuse their power. Reason with her about the truth about Islam and the falseness of our enemies. If you cannot get her to express her struggle, help her express it WITHOUT giving her ideas or info that she does not already think and feel. The way to do that is to get her to say what she is thinking and feeling, and then help her express it better with some words that say it better – do not introduce new ideas.

The most important thing is respect her – not her choice to be immodest but the fact that she will need to make her own choices now that she is becoming an adult. This is confusing because you have to distinguish immodesty from her humanity.

Honor her process even if it ends up in a bad decision. This is hard, I know. Just tell her that, you do not respect immodesty, but you do respect her mind and soul, so tell her that you believe in her capacity to see through the garbage and lies and tricks of our enemies to the beauty and truth of Islam, even if she is not strong enough right now to take on the whole world as a warrior—give her that space and time while showing her that you believe in her heart for Allah and her intelligence. Then, maybe you will make some progress with her, inShaAllah.

The most important point I would make to her (once you get her listening to you because you listened to her first) is that there is a difference between the public and private worlds—they are different. Our bodies are part of our private world. When we marry, we do so to go from the safe place of our parents to the safe place of a husband/wife—safe meaning a place where we can expose our mind and our body without it being shamed if we are imperfect or make a mistake. This is so that we can “develop”—to grow we need the safety of love and mercy.

The public world is not like that. If we make mistakes or have shortcomings or shortsightedness or lack of knowledge in the public realm, we are made to feel stupid. We are criticized and often ridiculed, especially by kids who can be brutal in today’s culture of bullying! The safest place where we can show our limitations, i.e., our “shame”, is with Allah, The next safest place is in the privacy of our homes, where we are loved and cherished by people who have mercy on us with our mistakes, inShaAllah. That goes for our bodies too. No one’s body is perfect and if it is, that too is private.

May Allah Make it Easy for you!

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About Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem
Nasira S. Abdul-Aleem, an American, has a BA in English from UC Berkeley and is about to receive an MS degree in counseling psychology (Marriage and Family Therapy - MFT) from the Western Institute for Social Research. For over ten years, Nasira worked as a psychotherapist with the general public and in addiction recovery.For the last few years, she has been a life coach specializing in interpersonal relations. Nasira also consults with her many family members who studied Islam overseas and returned to America to be Imams and teachers of Islam. Muslims often ask Nasira what psychology has to do with Islam. To this, she replies that Islam is the manifestation of a correct understanding of our psychology. Therapists and life coaches help clients figure out how to traverse the path of life as a Believer, i.e., "from darkness into light", based on Islam and given that that path is an obstacle course, according to Allah.