An interview with Dari

Dari is a friend of mine, recently I found out that she is trying to wear the overhead abaya all the time when outside and around non-mahram men. Alhamdullah she went from wearing pretty typical western hejabi clothing (tunics, pants and scarves) to full overhead abaya in an effort to better herself. mashallah. As you all know, I’m very interested in the overhead style of garments and am trying to wear them myself (yes, here in hillbilly h3ll) Obviously I became extremely interested and excited about her change. Alhamdullah she lives in a city here in the US which is known for its large and diverse Arab and Muslim community. I couldn’t help but wonder whether her location meant that wearing the overhead is easier and whether people tend to be more accepting of it.

(Dari at home in her overhead abaya, face blanked out for privacy)

I asked her to write about why she chose to wear the overhead abaya (here, she calls it an “abaya”, she calls the shoulder abaya as “jubah”-just to clarify) I think what she writes is quite beautiful and moving. Regardless of ones madhab, how can you not want to dress like the women of the Prophet (SAWS) family? mashallah…

“My Abaya story
I have decided to wear the abaya in westernized America because I feel that by wearing this piece of clothing I am covering my true beauty. I have tried long shirts with skinny jeans, long shirts with wide jeans, even skirts, but nothing comes close to the coverage that the abaya gives. Whether it be the overhead abaya or the shoulder abaya, I feel that if you are following the path of Marium (Mary) (A.S) & Fatimah Alzhara (A.S.) than you are capable of wearing what they once wore. They are our role models and they are our saviors in this world. So what if their clothing was in the past, this is the future doesn’t that mean that we should be more aware of the indecencies that we are capable of doing in society just by wearing what naked America is advertising? Skinny jeans, leggings, short tees; basically everything tight and see-threw; that is what we are being sold in America. Yet look at all the churches what do the sisters wear? What do the Jewish people wear? Do you see the connection that I’m trying to make? In Islam, Christianity, and Judaism we are all encouraged to cover our bodies from the indecencies of the outside world.
The main reason I have taken this huge step in my life is that I want to follow the footsteps of Lady Fatimah (A.S.) with my utmost ability. The least that I can do is cover my body like she did. I want to cover my body until the day that I die, like she did before she died; being crushed by the door trying to cover her beauty from the man who killed her.
Alhamdulillah for this abaya transformation, I have actually gained more friends through this experience who like me for my intellect not for my looks. I feel that the only bad things about wearing my abaya in westernized America is that I have to be more aware of the ignorant people who don’t understand its high standing. Some people think that its too extreme to go and put on an abaya. I believe that the abaya is a safeguard that will protect me from the offenders of the outside world whether it be in this country or elsewhere.
Inshallah, I will get to my desired goal, my goal is to be as careful with my modesty as humanly possible. Nowhere in Islam does it say that I can’t be modest even after having worn all the things I wore. Nowhere in Islam can a person be rejected for not being born into Islam, or being born into a certain style or type clothing. I want to keep up my hard work and mainly I want to be accepted by Allah. That is my ultimate goal. Alhamdulillah for all the wonderful things I have achieved and Alhamdulillah for all the things I plan to achieve.”

<please say mashallah for this sister>

(Dari in Iraq, visiting family)

I still wanted a bit more insight…like what is your family and communities reactions? Just for the record, Dari is a busy young woman, shes at University studying Biology and is quite active in her community so she is definetly not just sitting at home, shes out there where people can see her, Ive added a few personal comments in burgundy.

1) What is your name and background?
My name is Dari, I’m a 22 year old Arab American. Originally from Iraq although I came here at the age of five and have lived the American way of life ever since. Ive had a very proper Islamic youth., and my family are practicing Muslims. I began to wear hijab in the second grade, I wasn’t forced to wear it like many girls here, I actually made that decision.


2) What is it like wearing the overhead abaya in your area?
Everyone here tends to be somewhat okay with the overhead abaya. A few examples,
a. Some people think I’m older and they ask me for prayer directions and religious questions about certain topics even though I’m not that knowledgeable about Islam myself. This one old Lebanese Lady once called me Hajja (when u go to Hajj ur a Hajja) even though I’ve never gone to hajj, but am hoping I can do it Inshallah. So she asked me if it were okay for her to pray in the eating area of the mosque. She spoke in Lebanese Arabic so it took me a while to understand her so I replied in English and I told her I think its okay. She was so really surprised, she was like you don’t know Arabic? I was like yes I know Arabic, I just don’t speak Lebanese Arabic.
b. I interact mostly with a variety of people. My classes rarely have one Iraqi girl in them but I would say that my main interactions in society are with Lebanese, white and black Americans. I’ve actually received many positive reactions from my White American friends as well. I think they were really curious about my new change and they wanted to ask me more about it.

What a great dawah opportunity that is, mashallah…also, thats funny your sometimes mistaken for older, a female scholar or a hajjah. Ive noticed similar associations in my own community and in other communtiies ive been around. Its like they think you must reach a certain “level” to be able to dress like that. I.e. waiting to put on hejab until you do Hajj or until you get old. Weird and definetly not right from an Islamic standpoint.

3) What does your family think? Whats the norm for hejab in your community?
My family is very supportive of me in everything I do, Alhamdulilah. This change was especially supported by my mother. One of my sisters goes against my change (Dari comes from a big family, mashallah) because she believes that I should have an inner change before I can go about and wear the abaya. I believe that if it easier for me to change from the outside it would help me change on the inside as well.
Girls my age usually wear anything sold from American stores like “forever 21” or “Papya”. Their clothes are usually tight skinny pants with long shirts and a scarf.

Again, the assumption that one has to be a “perfect” Muslim in order to say, wear niqab, wear abaya or overhead abaya or even to wear hejab (scarf and modest attire) is really prevelant as well. I can’t begin to tell you all the sisters Ive met who wish they could wear abaya (shoulder) or niqab or even just hejab but are kept from it by their families and spouses because they are not considered “perfect” Muslims. I agree 100% with what Dari says. Putting on niqab, or abaya or overhead abaya or even hejab doesnt mean your a perfect Muslim, but I feel like its a step in that direction, alhamdullah and should be grabbed as an opportunity, plus sometimes even if your emaan is low, just doing these extra things is enough to get your spirit back up and enable you to work harder. Another thing is that, if you wait and wait will you ever reach that point of perfection? Maybe not…you’ll have regreted missing the opportunity.

4)You attend University and wear the overhead, how is that going?
I am attending University of Michigan majoring in biology and looking forward to pre-medical studies. The only thing I don’t like about wearing the abaya are the stares that I get from *some* non-Arabs (apparently even though the University is in a predominantly Arab/Muslim town, many of the students at the University are not from the area), this one Asian girl in my organic chemistry class kept starring at me throughout the class period. I starred back at her, but she kept starring back, she was right next to me so imagine how uncomfortable it was for me!

wow, yah,some people really, really lack tact. Although I think most of us have experienced that. mashallah though your able to handle it and again, its a form of dawah. Maybe she was just interested/curious but too shy to say anything?

Okay thats it, I hope this post was helpful and interesting. I know some sisters who read this blog want to wear the overhead too but just lack the encouragement to do so. I’m still working on it myself and I admit my surroundings arent very helpful, but its a struggle and one I’m working on. As a side note, I ended up getting a dark brown sleeved overhead to wear around…I think it may blend in better, en’shallah. we’ll see…please say doa’a for me.

Also I found a few pictures of Muslim women in the West wearing the overhead. This one sister is on TV and from the UK. I love how she pairs really bright and often printed scarves with her overheads.

I LOVE her floral shaylah in this one…


8 thoughts on “An interview with Dari

  1. mashallah, i love her style is the first pic. i wish i could someday wear something similar, maybe even with some coloured hijabs under. i saw that style first time in cairo this last summer and fell in love with it. unfortunately i´m not alowed to wear it yet, or hijab for that matter, but insallah someday. i love to read these stories of inspirational sisters!

  2. Mashallah for the sister’s decision. It’s not good to put away good deeds because who knows how long we are gonna live on this earth. There is even a hadith in which Prophet (SAW) said sth like: ‘Live for the dunya as if you were to live forever, live for the ahira (Hereafter) as if you were to die tomorrow.
    We should strive to live every moment as best as we can, and dressing modestly for the sake of Allah doesn’t require from us any ideal character. We are rewarded for the intention and for working hard to improve ourselves in all areas of life, isn’t it? And I think dressing modestly can lead us to more efforts to BEHAVE modestly as we are aware that people recognize us as muslims and judge our religion by our behaviour. So let’s be good examples:)

  3. MashaAllah! I completely agree with everything here – especially all the points you made too sis. Like I remember once being in abaya here and a Muslim non covering sister saw me and said “Oh did you just come from the mosque?” .. “No” I said and it was like she thought abayas are only for the mosque and such.

    Also I agree that we can all decide how to change ourselves in our own ways – I am like Dari, I decided to wear the hijab as a way to help myself become a better Muslim as I had just converted at the time. I see no contradictions to be honest, wearing hijab is a way to better our Islam so why not encourage that? MashaAllah for her – and also for her style, love it!

  4. I’m proud of her. She’s very courages and firm in her belief. I wish I have her strength to also wear an overhead but it might be too eye-catching in my community. Anyway, I like how she went through all the gradual changes in her attire. It’s better because she’ll be very strong with her last choice which is the best. Sometimes I have this small fear when I see a sister makes a drastic change in her attire because from past experiences, she might changes back to the former. I know not everyone is like that but gradual changes are usually accompanied with better understanding of the Islamic teaching. Insyaallah she’ll be very committed in Islam.

  5. Mashalla, sister this is great even if it is not allways easy on the way to improve . We wish you all the best !
    I did same from no scarf>to short scarf with Jeans to long skirt>to abaya>Khimar with abaya> now to overhead ( halflong ) with abaya under. Yes all this in 5 years and now the wish for niqab but this is not to put in practise at the moment :(.
    Just sometimes i ask myself is it to maintain for the rest of my life to wear the overhead abaya? What is if i would come in financial hardship and would be forced to work ? Would i find a job like this ? Then ones someone asks me do you make a mark with this extrem long scarf as extremist muslim? I just answerd no , no i just like to be covered as much as possible. BUT beside this question i ask mysef i say that this is shytan who trys to make me leave the right way to follow the sin. And i feel inside me the feeling of deep satisfaction and happyness not the restless feeling of thinking i need more change on my style . I finaly find my personal style , i found me :). 3 Days ago my husband had a car accident luckly he wasent hurt el hamdulillah but the car was not to recognise any more , so sometimes we get a reminder how fast this life can be over. And on day of Jugement we can not say anymore hey i will go out and cover myself next time better.

  6. MashaAllah what an inspiration! Next month I’ll recieve my overhead abaya from Iraq inshaAllah…can’t wait 🙂

  7. MashaAllah sister, keep on keeping on 🙂 I really love sister Dari’s style of the overhead (Chador) and the black scarf she’s wearing underneath. Does anybody know if these are found in any online stores? Also, sister Asma in last picture…. MashaAllah, this is exactly the kind of overgarment I am looking for. Suggestions, anyone?

  8. MashAllah Sister Dari,
    This interview really touched my heart. May Allah provide you with the most success and triumphs in all of your endeavors.
    You give me so much inspiration (to wear hijab, to be a better muslimah!) MashAllah.

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