I came across the tafsir for a few ayaat from Surah al A’raf earlier this year. The following explanation is a paraphrase from Nouman Ali Khan’s tafsir from his Quran: Cover to Cover series—
Allah tells us in Surah al A’raf:
This ayah occurs in a very interesting and deliberate context. The preceding ayaat mention the story of our parents Adam alayhis salam and Hawaa salamun alayha, their dwelling place in Paradise, and shaytan’s whispers to approach the forbidden tree. At approaching the tree, their shame becomes apparent to them and Allah reminds them of His command. Immediately they ask for forgiveness and Allah forgives them both, sending them down to Earth for a certain time. It is right after these ayaat that Allah says: “Oh children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment.”
Through this ayah, Allah tells us that we are not permanently born into sin. If the sin had continued then Allah would not have given us clothing to cover our shame up again.
Clothing is thus, a gift from Allah. And Allah does not only say that it will cover up our ugliness, He also adds the word “reeshaa,” meaning that we should look good, look fashionable, look decent. He wants us to be beautiful by means of our clothing and dress nicely. Even Rasulallah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam loved gifts of clothing.
Nouman Ali Khan explains this and preceding ayaat with a unifying message: Allah is teaching us an attitude.
Everything we have is from Allah. How appropriate and wonderful then that we make an effort to look our very best when we stand before Allah. The more effort we put in our preparation for salah, the more meaningful our prayer will become. We dress up impeccably for job interviews, immigration appointments, graduations, parties, because they’re important occasions. Allah is telling: dress up for Me—this is important.
But then He adds: “the clothing of taqwa (dressing up your heart and beautifying it with the outfit of taqwa) is best.” It also means that we ought to wear clothing that represents taqwa—clothing that is decent, protects us from shamelessness, isn’t tight or revealing, isn’t inappropriately high or low. This is both literal and figurative.
The last part of the ayah states: “That is from the miraculous signs of Allah so that they may make an effort to remember.” Every time we dress up for worship, our clothes become ayaat of Allah so we can do dhikr. What Allah does in the Qur’an is He does not let you escape dhikr. The sky is dhikr, trees are dhikr, but even our clothes are dhikr. When you dress nicely you remember: “anzalna alaykum libaasa: Allah sent libaas.”
It is such a beautiful religion subhan Allah—everything is spiritual. You don’t have to sit in a sermon to be reminded of God. Even your clothing reminds you of Allah.