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Friday, 22 April 2011

Islam and High-Heels

by Sweet Modesty by Sadeel Allam on Friday, 22 April 2011 at 05:38
High-heels, to wear them or not to wear them? That is thy question. The best starting place to get information in regards to making a decision is the Qur’an and Sunnah. Now, how we interpret that information is a complete different research.

A decision for Allah is not like no other. We don’t need researches and studies, we just have to look back at decisions we made in our life and examine their outcome. The theory I present here is that in order to make a good strong decision, we have to gather and understand information from different perspectives. From religious level to the dunya level, to understanding our human nature, the nature of this dunya, to the history behind the thing we are trying to decide on, and the command of Allah SWT will lead to understanding which enables us to make firm decisions, because our decisions are as good as the knowledge that informed us.

Understanding the human nature and the nature of this dunya
Per my Islamic Studies Instructor at Salihah Central, I present two hadiths, which I want to introduce to make my point on the nature of the human and the dunya. Because understanding how this world and humans were created, it helps us understand the commands from Allah SWT. I will put the hadith and its explanation.

 “This world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the unbeliever” – Tarmidhi, Muslim

Allah SWT created in the human desires and He put us in this world to attract those desires. Now, do you understand why it’s hard to give up things from this dunya? Part of those desires is beautification.

“Women are the snares of Shaytan” – Razin

It doesn’t mean women are evil. It means Allah SWT created the man with natural attraction towards woman. The man’s weakness causes him to sin. Now, do you understand why we have to protect ourselves with our hijab because it also protects others?

Now combining our human nature and the nature of the dunya, one can see the need of religion as a guidance and protection from themselves and this life. As one friend said, “I come from the dunya (this world).”  Prior to Islam, some revert and born muslims are clueless of the here-after, even of their own purpose of life and don’t even know why we need trees except for scientific reasons. This makes it hard to understand religion less Allah’s command. Per recall of stories of people’s lives, this reason may come from being a revert, growing-up not in the best environment, no support, non-practicing parents, loosing balance of our religion and this life, sadly and plainly neglecting knowledge and so on.  Reverts and born muslims come from all walks of life and we all have our own personal signs from Allah SWT when we begin to search for Him. We all have our story.

Understanding High-Heels
Since for us humans, it’s easier to believe what we see first. I had to see and understand where high-heels came from and why do they represent what they do now. Why this sensual and negative stigma from the religious perspective? How did they get their reputation? I searched and came to know that heels go back to ancient Egypt and were worn by the higher social class and that in ancient Rome prostitutes were identified by their high-heeled shoes. Victorians liked the inner arched because it represented the curve of women and some wanted to feel taller.  As time moved on, they came into the U.S.,

“The desirable and sexual nature of the high heel was also noted by the Puritans in the New World. The Massachusetts Colony even passed a law banning women from wearing high heels to ensnare a man or they would be tried as a witch.”

As I kept researching, I found how these famed shoes were disliked by the feminist in the 1990’s:

“In the 1990′s post-Feminist Era, the idea that fashion, specifically sexy high heels, were not simply oppressive but offered pleasure to women became more widely accepted.” (Gamman 1993)

Yet, they are loved by the fashion and entertainment world. Surely, high-heel shoes have come a long way. By learning their history, it helped understand their reputation of today.

In addition to its history, I came across numerous reports stating the health hazard of high-heel shoes. NPR states,

“A British study has found that women who wore high heels daily for years had shorter calf muscles and stiffer, thicker Achilles tendons than women who favored flats. And those bulkier tendons are harder to stretch. Ouch” - published in Journal of Experimental Biology.

In 2010, Iowa State University states the following:

“While women have been making a fashion statement in high heels for years -- wearing trendy stilettos, wedges, pumps and kitten heels -- there's reason for concern about what those heels may be doing to their knees and joints over time. A new study by an Iowa State University kinesiology master's student has found that prolonged wearing of and walking in high heels can contribute to joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis.”

Now, that I have seen the history and the reputation they have trolled along in history, I wanted to know the benefits of high-heels. The pros of them. I found an article per ABC News stating the following:

“Dr. Maria Angela Cerruto, a urologist at the University of Verona, Italy, found that the tippy-toe posture of heels can tone a woman's abdomen and pelvic floor.”

It’s then when I came across a twist. The Huffington Post in 2010 published an article from Time Magazine Reports on a study stating Men Don’t Notice When women wear High Heels, Study Says (POLL). Time writes,

“The researchers wanted to know whether the changed in posture that comes with high heels -- longer legs, accentuated rear and tilted torso – get noticed by men.”

The result was negative men can’t decipher between heels or flats. This was a research done as a larger project of attraction and movement. Can this be the salvation for the muslimah and her high-heels? If study showed men don’t see the difference between high heels or flats. Then what is the problem for a muslim woman to wear them other than their bad reputation in the eyes of religion? We will get to this part shortly.

Now, what do men think about high-heels even if they don’t notice them?
In 2010 Men’s Health Magazine did a survey,

“According to the survey, as many as 65 percent of men agree women wearing high heels and just 20 percent who admit that they do not mind the weather to wear flat shoes shoes." According to their view, women in high heels are so sexy.”

Understanding Allah’s Command
I found this verse in the Qur'an to be the most closest to the issue of high-heels.

Allah says:" And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment." (An-Nur 24:31)

Prior to going further, I found a study from Stanford University on “The Perceivable Auditory Difference Between Male and Female Footsteps” The conclusion is as follows:

“…it is clear that individuals can correctly identify the gender of male and female walkers based on auditory cues alone only when the walkers are wearing stereotypical gendered shoes. When an individual hears what he/she believes to be a high heel or the heel of a leather male dress show, he/she quickly attempts to identify the walker as either female or male respectively”

This study proves to us that a males and females can identify gender by the sound of high-heels. It is also mentioned in their study that men lead their walk with shoulders and women with hips.

The tafseer explanation of the mentioned verse, per Ibn Katheer,

“During Jahiliyyah(time before Islam), when women walked in the street wearing anklets and no one could hear them, they would stamp their feet so that men could hear their anklets ringing. Allah forbade the believing women to do this.”

Per my research online and using Ibn Katheer tafseer, I found nowhere stating high-heels are haram. Scholars state“At the very least it is makrooh” to make unnecessary noises with your feet when you walk. I would like to add the opinion of my Islamic Studies instructor, she agrees also muslim woman should not make noise with their shoes and only that of which is natural. She states that high-heels do accentuate the walk of women through her hip movements and that high-heels do make noise bringing attention to them. She then adds that high-heels are considered Makrooh Tahrimi, an action closest to haram, but not Haram. She also added, one can wear them with long loose clothing that doesn’t show at all the way a woman’s body accentuates. Now, there is another aspect to high-heel shoes. What about keeping the height and quieting the noise with rubber soles?  Isn’t wearing something that creates height a way to deceive or lie of Allah’s creation? I presented these questions to my instructor. She advised, it’s not a way to deceive or lie because there is no actual change done to the body itself.

Understanding our human nature and the nature of this dunya makes it clear that we have desires embedded in us like our DNA. We can’t change our human nature, but we can control it through the tools in our religion from the mercy of Allah SWT. It is also proven by a study that men and women can tell the gender from the sound of high-heels. In addition, a survey proves that more than half the men view high-heels on a woman for its sexiness. The interesting aspect is that they don’t notice them, but do hear them and connect high-heels to sexuality. Indeed our famed high-heels have a history of sensuality and sexuality that have earned its reputation of today. In addition, they are also proven to be health hazardous. In the realm of health, I did find these shoes benefit the women's libido. Allah’s command is a mercy, warning and guidance to us. Recently, I asked, “How can you prove that what the Qur’an says is real divine information revealed to our Prophet Mohammed SAW? Part of the answer was, “In his message Allah SWT told us about the past, present and future.” With a simple interpreted verse, we can see the miracle of divine revelation. The mentioned verse was not only for the women of that time, but for the women that will come in the future.

High-heels are not haram, but can be haram if wearing them with the wrong intentions. The height doesn’t serve as a way of lie or deceiving because there is no actual change done to the body itself. If wearing high-heels one must be sure the clothes are loose to a level, no one can see the accentuated body and its movements caused by the high-heels and that the high-heels are not making unnecessary noise when walking. One though must keep in mind the symbolism of heels and even though your intentions might be pure, their representation and symbolism is clear from the mentioned history and surveys.

Allah SWT prepares our hearts in ways we don’t know. Per my Islamic mentor, Alcohol was not prohibited right away in the time of ignorance. Allah SWT first prepared the hearts of those, so when the command was ordered, they easily accepted.  Preparation can be by gaining knowledge of a matter and acquiring love for it. So, by the time we take a decision to change something of ourselves for Allah SWT, it becomes easy. In some cases it might take years. In revert born and not cases, some reach a level of seeking change like a thirsty person in a dessert. When they find a well, they drink from it as much as they can. It’s easy at moments to embrace belief because you carry it within, but when it comes to embrace it outwardly, that is when some realize they hadn’t fully embraced what they thought they believed. This is a way I test myself, through a saying, “Put your money where your mouth is at and if you’re going to talk the talk, then you better walk the walk.”  Otherwise, why go from a life of turmoil and confusion to stay the same in a religion that offers you understanding and clarity.

The answer might be obvious that we have to be cautious of how, when and in front of whom we wear high-heel shoes. I know having control and balance over this issue is not easy, but doable. It’s one of those dunya objects that attract our desires of beautification and when it gets out of hand and transgresses the fine line between our desires and the command of Allah, it’s hard. Some love the way they make them feel.  They feel tall, like the attention, the body looks slimmer, and they adorn the feet very pretty, some just like the comfort, the confidence, the femininity. Some like the ummff! That sexy power!  I leave the decision to you because it’s your life, your deen, your soul and we are all at different levels of knowledge and spirituality. And it is you only who will face Allah SWT on the day of judgement.

By Sadeel Allam

“Somehow we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.” - Eleanor Roosevelt


  1. Answered by Shahkh Rami Nsour
    Question: Salaam Alaykum,
    Could you please tell us if it is permissible for women to wear heels? I have read that since they make a noise when we walk, it attracts the attention of men which makes it impermissible. However, what if they do not make a noise when one walks. What is the ruling on it?
    Answer: If the heels make noise and attract the attention of men when a woman walks, then it would not be permissible (haram). This is because Allah says, “And let them not stomp their feet to make known their adornment which has been concealed” [Quran 24:31]. This was in reference to ladies who would wear bangles and stomp to make a sound thereby attracting the attention of men.
    If they do not make noise, there remains another issue. High heels are worn for attraction, and can accentuate the female body and movements. A recent study on high heels showed that both men and women find that high heels make a woman more attractive. See the following Huffington Post article:

    Why Do High Heels Make Women More Attractive?
    The style of dress and walk that a Muslim woman should adopt should be something that avoids attracting attention as much as possible. Sisters should try to emulate the model of the daughter of Shuayb (peace be upon him) who would later marry Musa (peace be upon him). About her, Allah said, “She came walking with modesty” [Quran 28:25].
    Another wisdom that we find in women, and men for that matter, reducing the attention of others, is to prevent jealousy and evil eye. The more we stand out to others, the more that we put ourselves in a position to have them possibly feel jealous of us.
    In conclusion, it is prohibited for a woman to wear high heels if they accentuate her form to others or if they cause a sound that would attract the attention of men. And Allah knows best.
    General Counsel, Maliki Fiqh

  2. Assalamu alaikum sister
    I read your post and it is very informative, mashaAllah.
    But I wonder if its allowed to wear heels when we are going for a party which has the genders segregated. Is it permissible then?
    Jazakillahu khairan.