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.
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>
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…