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The History of the Abaya
The traditional abaya is a plain black robe worn by Muslim women to cover up their regular clothing. It could be described as a long-sleeved robe and is a traditional form of clothing for many countries in the Arabian Peninsula including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In Iran, the abaya is referred to as a chador and in South Asia as a burqa.
Abaya covers the entire body except for the face, feet and hands. It can be worn with a niqab, a face veil covering all but the eyes.
The origin of the abaya is unclear. Some believe that it existed as early as 4,000 years ago in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, and when Islam arose in the seventh century AD, the religion absorbed local veiling practices into its culture, possibly due to the dress traditions of women from the Arab Jahiliyyah. .
At that time, women wore dresses that exposed their necks, chests, even breasts, as well as other parts of their bodies. They also pulled their veils back while leaving the fronts open (understandable in the blistering desert heat). As a result, when Islam came, they were ordered to pull their veils forward to cover their chests and protect women from acts of disrespect.
Some believe that the idea of the “shroud” was more about class than religion. In the pre-Islamic urban centers of the Arabian Peninsula, veiling was considered a sign of privilege and luxury afforded to women who did not have to work. They differed from slaves and prostitutes who were not allowed to cover themselves or veil themselves, and nomadic and rural women who were too busy working to be bothered by something as impractical as a veil and another layer of clothing.
Source: Laura from Arabia, women24.com
Today, the strictest interpretations of Islamic Sharia law mandate that Muslim women wear a full-body veil in front of any man they could theoretically marry. This means that it is not obligatory in the company of fathers, brothers, grandfathers, uncles or young children and does not have to be worn in front of other Muslim women.
Abayas come in many types and designs and different styles and colors are popular among women from specific regions according to specific religious and cultural interpretations.
- The head abaya rests on top of the head and reaches below the ankles, ensuring that the woman’s body remains completely hidden.
- Black abayas are more commonly worn in Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
- White abayawith they are popular in the Muslim countries of the Far East.
- Colorful and embroidered abayas are becoming more and more popular in Jordan, Western countries, and now Middle Eastern countries as well.
Although black is the preferred color in some countries, Muslim women can generally wear any color they like as long as it does not attract unnecessary attention. For this reason, earthy tones are a popular choice.
Muslim women often wear designer labels under their outerwear and increasingly want to wear fashionable outerwear as well. Devoted doesn’t have to mean bland. Fashion designers are waking up to it, with specialist shops, websites and fashion shows springing up, leading European fashion brands including John Galliano and Blumarine have recently showcased models wearing the couture abaya.
Abaya has come a long way in 4000 years!
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