Bismillah ar-rahman ar-raheem
About a month ago Al-Athari in the UK sent me one of their popular batwing style Gulf overhead abaya to review. Unfortunately it arrived while I was out of town and then once I returned I was busy with getting ready for my courses to resume and then got caught up in those! I finally have a bit of time (in between studying) and wanted to get this review out! mash’Allah!
Al-Athari is a UK based business which specializes in abayaat, niqabs, thobes and other items from the Gulf countries. Most of their products are from Saudi Arabia and UAE and are in line with what is currently popular in those countries. Now, these are not off-the rack garments but are actually designed by Al-Athari for western Muslim tastes.
The abaya which they sent me is a black overhead abaya, batwing cut which is quite traditional in design but slightly updated according to western prefences. In the UK the overhead abaya is called a “Jilbaab”…much like how in France the overhead garment which I always talk about is also called a “jelbab”…this is because according to Islamic texts…the proper term for an overgarment which a Muslim woman is supposed to wear around herself as part of her hejab, is called a “jilbaab“. Hence, they term any garment which covers from head to toe, a jilbaab for this reason. For simplicity and comprehension of my readers in the USA I shall keep the term “overhead abaya”.
About the abaya: The cut is basically the same as what is sold in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries…traditional batwing style, a finger loop and closed front (some overheads in the Gulf now come closed-front)...but, for the western market…it has an attached headband (think, French overhead jilbabs) which is worn tied around the head with a fairly small face opening which lends itself well to niqab. The material used is a very good, everyday black crepe. I believe its called Mustaqbal…its a crepe which is popular in Jeddah (In Khobar everything was Saloona and forsan or internet-in true Gulf fashion). The abaya itself is very light on the head and it has the typical billowy cut which the batwings are famous for…but due to the tie-backs, is more comfortable for those sisters who wish to wear overheads but dont want to wear the traditional kind which rest on the head OR deal with elastic. As far as shipping goes, it took 2 weeks to reach me from the UK to USA via regular Royal Post and came beautifully wrapped up in tissue paper (alas, no pics as my son ripped it open before i could stop him!)
Now, I do have a few cons about the cut of this overhead. All those whom have read my blog for a long time know…I *know* overheads…LOL. I do wear them frequently and in Saudi and when in Iran wear them almost exclusively. I have no qualms with flitting around my city chillin’ in jeans, sneakers, a teeshirt, funky scarf and a black overhead worn on top as my overgarment. I love them…they are so comfortable and modest, mash’Allah. But…I am a bit picky about my overheads…mainly…I prefer them to be snap front or open front (hold shut). I like them to have the regular Gulf overhead cut where it rests on the head-no tiebacks…as one, I put elastic in them and 2…I usually wear a funky, contrasting scarf to freshen things up and to me, it looks odd to have the abaya on, with the tie-backs and then my colored scarf peeping out frm cheeks down. It just doesnt jive. It WOULD jive if I wore black scarves…but I almost never do that! Plus the head opening is very small..compared to the other Gulf overheads I have from Saudi and Kuwait. All have large head openings…even if they are closed front so more of the scarf is seen. So…I dont really find this aspect of the abaya good for my personal tastes. Now…if I wore solely black scarves OR wore niqab…the head opening and tie-backs would rock…as with a niqab you wouldnt need another scarf under it…unless you intend to flip your niqab up a lot in public…or if wearing a black scarf…everything would blend together anyway.
Hence, I have to wear the abaya with the tie-backs flipped UNDER the abaya and tied around my head like they would if it was a regular Gulf overhead with elastic. Also for the moms amongst us…due to it being entirely closed front…sisters who breastfeed may find this style a bit cumbersome to breastfeed under.
Otherwise, those are really my only qualms with this abaya…its overall a good, sturdy, high-quality and lightweight on the head abaya, priced nicely for sisters on a budget! The length they sent me (64inches) fit perfectly, it hit at the top of my feet and the construction is typical of abayaat produced in the Gulf.
Now, I wanted to get a bit of an interview from the owners of Al-Athari…so, without further ado…
Al-Athari co-founder and owner Maryan Ahmed began selling imported Niqabs from Saudi Arabia to the local sisters of South London around 2009. More so because sisters would ask for niqabs, rather than as a business.
The concept of Al-Athari was a fusing of Muslim born sister and Her revert husband’s desire to bring a sheek shopping experience to those in search of quality elegant Islamic clothing primarily within the UK, US and Europe.
“In Jahaliyah (pre-Islam).. you wanted new garments (clothes) you’d go west, central, uptown, wherever, you know?.. Have a good selection, look, try on what you want, like it buy it. Smart, casual, party wear it was all there… From what I have experienced in South London there aren’t any places like this for the muslim. I have to go a book store or Islamic store, alhamdullilah they’re good, but just a little limited in terms of style and fit.” – Harun Silvera
In the summer of 2011 Al-Athari was born. Selling beautifully crafted abayas from Dubai, to sisters of London and later Europe and the US.
“Even though there are lot of online business selling Islamic clothing I feel they tend to do the same things and are just a little limited. I want to bring a wide range, not too expensive but not compromising on quality. Inshaa Allah we are working to our store, starting in London, UK and bi’idhnillah US and Europe.” – Maryan Ahmed
Al-Athari products are designed and manufactured from Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Syria. At present Al-Athari is primarily an online fashion retailer and often showcase their products within the UK at road shows, conferences and Islamic events .
“We started by sending some sample abayas to a family friend and dress maker in Dubai, she replicated the look we wanted and made up about 40 pieces… From the go the simple but beautiful designs were an instant hit with sisters. At that time and still now, one of the biggest favourites was the abaya with stone and crystal designs on the sleeves.”
Here in the UK there is definitely a market for overhead abayas and jilbab. Alhamdulillah there are lot of niqabi sisters and the over head style is loved by them. Walking through South London, East London and places like Birmingham you will see sisters in overhead jilbabs masha Allah tabarak Allah. For Al-Athari the overhead Jilbab is a constant seller, maybe not as popular as some of the abayas we have but yes there is a nice size market for the overhead abaya here in the UK.
Because Al-ATHARI online store, the most common questions are about the Fabric, Sizes, Shipping and the stocking of different styles of Overhead.
We are are always looking for bright designers to work with to bring new and beautiful styles to muslims around the world. Currently Al-Athari are working with designers based in Dubai, UK and Canada.
Alhamdulillah Al-Athari is growing and able to provide muslims around the world with some elegant and modest styles.
All Thanks and praise to goes to Allah subhana wa t’ala, Ar Razaq, the one free from all imperfections. Alhamdulillah for the blessing of Islam, Alhamdulillah for the blessing of the sunah and Alhamdulillah for being blessed with modesty. Peace, prayers and blessing be upon our Rassol, His family, companions and all those who follow His way Ameen.
Thank you to all of customers barak Allhu fikum, without you guys there would be no Al-Athari
May Allah bless and guide us All and unite us with the truthfull, patient and anbiyah in His presence in the Jannah. Allahuma Ameen..
Jazakh’Allah’Khair to the sister behind Al-Athari for giving me the opportunity to review their popular overhead abaya style. May Allah subhana Wa Ta’al grant you much success in your endevours and I hope to see Al-Athari grow!