In Islamic culture, Abaya is one of the most significant pieces of clothing for women. It is a graceful, gorgeous garment with the original aim of preserving Islam’s dignity. An Islamic Abaya is a long, usually black dress worn by women in Muslim countries.
Women are required to wear this Muslim clothing when they leave their houses. The Islamic Abaya is one of a variety of cloth worn following Islamic dress regulations for women.
The term “Abaya” is an Arabic word that means “cloak.” The plural of Abaya is Abayat. The Islamic Abayas come in a variety of styles. Some are lengthy hooded coats with sleeves, while others are simple, loose clothes thrown over the body from the top of the head.
Difference Between Hijab and Abaya
The main difference between a hijab and an Abaya is that a hijab is a headscarf that only covers the women’s upper body (head and shoulders). On the other hand, an Abaya is a long outfit that covers a woman’s entire body. Moreover, an Abaya is worn over clothing, but a hijab is worn as a scarf directly on the head.
History of Abaya
There are numerous discussions over the origins of this outfit, but definitive information is difficult to come by. Some individuals claim, however, that this Islamic garment is almost 4000 years old and dates back to Mesopotamia’s ancient culture.
When Islam came into being, women were encouraged to dress modestly to distinguish themselves from non-Muslim women and obtain greater respect and honor. The Quran referred to “Jilbab,” a long veil or shroud that must be worn to cover the body.
Later iterations of the jilbab led to the more practical Abaya that is worn by Muslim women today. In Arab countries and South Asia, it is now one of the most widely observed Islamic outfits.
Historians note that when Islam came to humanity in the seventh century, and the Quran was revealed, the concept of women covering their bodies grew more prominent and significant, especially in light of the Quranic verses.
It is thought that the garments used by Muslim women to cover themselves after the advent of Islam were inspired by the pre-Islamic Abaya-like garment and that it was during this time that the Abaya acquired the religious connotation that most Muslims associate it with today. However, it has undergone many evolutions since then.
Significance of the Abaya for Muslim Women
In Islam, women must cover themselves in public and around men to those they are not related to.
The Qur’an, Islam’s holiest book, commands that the Prophet Muhammad’s wives and other women cover themselves in public and around males to whom they are not related. The Prophet’s Hadith, or sayings, include verses about the requirement for women to wear clothing that cover their bodies.
Although, the exact extent of the awrah, or area that must be covered, is a point of contention among Islamic scholars, with various communities holding opposing viewpoints. However, it is generally agreed that Muslim women should wear modest and non-revealing clothes.
For Islamic women, wearing the Abaya is a natural aspect of their culture. “It’s how Allah wants us to dress,” explains Umm Ranya, a Baghdad-based Iraqi. “Islam promotes modesty, and we should do what it preaches.”
People who follow the Muslim religion are deeply devoted to their faith. Individual behavior, regulating law, family connections, business etiquette, clothes, diet, personal cleanliness, and more are all discussed in the Quran, which is their Holy Book.
These beliefs are followed by devout Muslims. According to the Quran, women must dress modestly and avoid drawing attention to themselves. It’s the way God tells them to dress.
God tells women in the Quran to lower their gaze, dress in self-effacement, and cover their bodies with veils. The Abaya encourages women to dress by allowing them to wear something basic that suits them. Muslims who are devout adhere to the precepts of the holy book.
According to the Quran, women must dress humble and not flaunt their wealth. Islam emphasizes both inner and outer decency, and we as humans feel safer and more secure when we are clothed. This is why, in some way, all religions encourage people to cover themselves and not be exposed to observers.
Moreover, the main purpose of the Abaya or any cloth that covers the body is to take away the sexual appeal, so people, not just women, are judged for the person they are rather than their physical appearance. Instead of objectifying women for the gratification of men and society, the Abaya empowers women.
When Do Muslim Women Wear the Abaya?
Muslim women wear the Abaya when they are in public places, such as universities, malls, workplaces, etc. Moreover, Muslim women also wear an Abaya during Hajj and Umrah as it provides satar during this important pilgrim. Some women also like to wear the Abaya during prayer times.
The Abaya is generally black in most Arabian societies, including Qatar and other regions of the Muslim world, where it has become quite the standard as a reflection of religious devotion and a symbol of Arabian culture.
However, in the Indian sub-continent, other parts of Asia, and Africa, women wear brightly colored Abayas too. Moreover, you can find abayas for normal wear as well as for festive occasions in almost any Islamic country.
The Abaya has progressed into a fashion statement in its own way because it is the only garment worn by people who wear it, with a plethora of patterns and variations currently available on the market.
Takeaway – Concept of Wearing Abaya in Islam
The Abaya is no longer just a body-covering outfit; it has evolved into a symbol of individualism and has taken on a life of its own. Abaya designers have elevated the Abaya to a whole new level, incorporating worldwide fashion trends and awareness of environmental and global issues.
However, one thing remains constant: the Abaya’s goal of promoting modesty, defying objectification, and empowering women.