Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Great Abaya Debate: Head vs. Shoulders

My readers from outside of the Kingdom cannot possibly understand the time and passionate debate that Saudis devote to this issue. Families quarrel over it, marriages dissolve over it, women have been damned to hell by clergy for it and signs have been hung in public about it. Never since the days of "tastes great, less filling" has there been a public debate of such mammouth proportions: should the abaya be worn from the head or shoulders?

Many non-Saudi people are now asking themselves, "why don't they get rid of it all together"? Trust me, the abaya's extinction ain't happening any time soon. For well over a decade now, what kind of abaya a woman wears is like wearing a public advertisement of her moral values, level of religious dedication, and ethnic background.



I established from before the time I got here that I wasn’t going to wear a "head" abaya. I’d been forewarned by my ‘bad-girl’ Saudi friends about how awkward and uncomfortable they are so my decision was made before I got here. To make matters worse, my mother in law bought me a head abaya and sent it with my husband preceding my leaving America. I gave this monstrous, heavy black tent a test run and it turned me sour. It was much bigger and heavier than this one:

Upon arriving here the first thing I did, while wearing that big ugly heavy abaya from MIL was go to the souk and place an order for a "shoulder" abaya to be made for me. I had to be advised as to what the local styles were so that I wasn’t pegged as a foreigner or weird looking just by the sight of me. I never got one of the really skinny or showy abayas, I always had them cut very wide and flowy as well as forgoing all the sparkly crystals and embroidery. There was a catch…I was pregnant. After a few months my baby belly became really obvious so I decided to return to a head abaya so I didn’t look like a black python who’s trying to digest a whole rabbit. I went and had one made with lighter fabric than the one my MIL sent me, no zipper or snaps down the front (old-fashioned), and a slimmer design like this one: I found out it wasn’t so bad. It’s actually cooler than the shoulder abaya. After wearing it awhile I was mostly unbothered by it (except getting in and out of the car with baby stuff). I cooled down even more by forgoing the rectangular scarf under it all, just wearing a three-piece face veil with no scarf under it all. Mmmm, breezy. Loved it. I found out some unexpected benefits: the flirters all but left me alone.

Perceptions of women wearing an abaya from the head:
-She is a religious woman
-She is a traditional woman
-She is not looking to flirt
-She is modest

- of course she's Saudi


Pros of wearing head abaya:
- Judged by others with the above listed criteria
-If I put my hand up to the a/c vent in the car I’ve got a central cooling system that goes up my sleeve and all around inside my abaya.
-No/less flirters
-I can hide friends underneath my abaya with me…no joke, I did this at a wedding once with a friend who couldn’t find her’s when the groom was going to enter.
-Easy to breastfeed a baby under. The whole kid fits under there and people maybe wouldn’t even guess the kids there.
-Don’t worry about a big, huge, pregnant belly. You’ll still look pregnant but it’s not that obvious…you could just be fat.

Cons of wearing a head abaya:
-Hard to look left/right, up/down without the stupid thing needing to be either held on or readjusted.
-Once you get up from a seated position you gotta hoist it back up onto your head.
-Hard to carry stuff on your shoulder (purses, baby bags) without yanking it off your head.
-Can't manage carrying a wiggly baby/toddler with all of the above issues.


Perceptions of women wearing an abaya from the shoulders:
-She is modernized
-She’s a “bad” girl
-She’s rebellious
-She’s young
-She’s irreligious
-She MUST be looking to flirt


Pros of wearing a shoulder abaya:
- Unobstructed movements including looking around, getting up and down from seats or in and out of cars.
- Carry as much as you can.
- These two pros are ALL I need to prefer a shoulder abaya

Cons of wearing a shoulder abaya:
-Although maybe ok for a teenager, looked down upon as undignified for anyone older than that. -All of the perceptions listed above.
-Here comes the flirters.
-Stuffier
-Cant breastfeed as discreetly as with a head abaya.
-You look weird very pregnant.
Considering I've had several Hijazi friends that don't even cover their hair, I know that these issues may have already been dealt with long ago in other parts of Saudia. But here in Al-Hassa, the debate still rages on. Attitudes can vary drastically with regards to what's appropriate, even within the same family. My husband prefers for me to wear an abaya from my shoulders, although I'm the only woman in his family who does. Unfortunately due to public perceptions, the choice is not necessarily one based on beliefs but rather, on what the neighbors are gonna say about them.
All images were taken from www.essenceofblack.com

63 comments:

The Observer said...

:S!

It is sad to know that your choices is only limited between head abaya and shoulders one!!

And it is kind of funny how things are relatives between societies. I mean shoulders abaya wearers are considered to have less morals while here in Amman it is only a matter of wearing a veil or not!

I wonder why Saudi women who don't believe in the necessity of wearing the abaya do it! I mean why dont they try to change that attitude, and if they cant, just leave the country for those men! They wont survive much without you!

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

A lot of Kuwaiti women wear shoulder abayas, but they don't have to look like the one you showed. I used to only see those in Dubai, but they've recently become popular among young women here. They're often very elegant and kind of attractive - and sometimes form-fitting.

(Just to be clear, a lot of Kuwaiti women don't even wear abayas; in fact, many don't even wear hijab. And many others wear "hijab" with tight clothes, makeup, perfume, etc., and no abaya.)

I wear one from the head, and I have it sewn up the front but a lot of women don't; they hold it closed, which would drive me nuts.

"-Don’t worry about a big, huge, pregnant belly. You’ll still look pregnant but it’s not that obvious…you could just be fat."

And on the other hand, after you've finished having those babies and still have that belly, you can tell yourselves that you still look fat but it's not that obvious... you could just be pregnant!

Note to the observer - women wear abayas and men wear dishdashas (thobes). Do you feel sad for the men? Believe me, they have very little chance to change the style of their dishdashas. They can only play with the way they style their ghutra (headdress), and buy various nice pens, watches, and sunglasses, in order to show their fashion sense. ;)

Personally, I like not having to worry about it. I need one black purse and one black pair of shoes, and it doesn't matter what I'm wearing underneath.

UmMuhammad said...

Well I finally learned how to post my comments, (yes Iam a little computer retarded) and I have to say that I loved the head abaya when pregnant but have switched to shoulder abaya with long Egyptian khimar over it. And if Im not going out with hubby I wear my new ferasha or butterfly model w/ extra long/wide shayla. What do people say about those ferasha models Daisy?

sunil, Al Hasa said...

All these Perceptions
-She is a religious woman
-She is a traditional woman
-She is not looking to flirt
-She is modest
are the control lines drawn by the male society and they cleverly linked these concepts with religion.
Changing a dress code means a lot..

أبو سنان said...

I think it is interesting to note the way that dress, what is considered okay, changes from region to region in Saudi.

You'd never get away wearing things in Riyadh that you do in Jeddah.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

observer- you've hit the nail on the head because it's also an issue that western women have to deal with, just on a much narrower bandwidth...how what she wears is attached to her perceived moral values. Look at the debate over "Bratz" dolls...aka "hoochie-barbies". Same debate, different clothes.

ann- You did the same thing I did with my head abaya...sew it up. Great/practical minds think alike:)

ummuhammed- the "farasha/butterfly" is actually an older model. After that came out there was another one called "hafash/bat" which is a similar concept only the 'wings" go all the way to the wrist instead of there being a cuff. With both styles, there is a seam sewn into it, tracing the contours of the body and arms thus, making it as figure revealing as a "skinny" abaya. I had one made for me but without the seam. It's still viewed as a youth abaya and seeing as how I'm not a teenager, I don't feel entirely dignified in it but wear it anyway, at least until the next style comes out:P

Sunil- So true...they managed to use the same "religion" card with the driving issue too although it is sooooo not a religious issue!

أبو سنان -I remember one particularly "holier-than-thou" nadji woman looking down on my hijazi friend's lovely velvet trim abaya by saying, "I wish I could wear one like that but my tribe is such-and-such and we just can't do that." She didn't even try to 'veil' her snobbery.

Danya said...

Wow, I never realized how much of an issue that was. An abaya was also modest to me (unless it was form fitting or overly glittery, in which case AT WORST I would think the girl was stylish (which is not necessarily bad) but I would not judge her morality). Eh, subhanallah.

Anonymous said...

There are some deep issues regarding
the idea of Abaya. The following article
provides interesting insight about this.

########################
http://qisas.com/stories/155

The following incident took place when Muhammad Ali’s daughters arrived at his home wearing clothes that were not modest. Here is the story as told by one of his daughters:

When we finally arrived, the chauffer escorted my younger sister,
Laila, and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day.

My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them.”

He looked at me with serious eyes. “Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”

Source: Taken from the book: More Than A Hero: Muhammad Ali’s Life Lessons Through His Daughter’s Eyes.

#####################

Now tell me , which dress gives you pearl-like feeling ?

A. Head Abaya.
B. Shoulder Abaya
C. Bikini

HM said...

On my wall, I have a picture of a Muslim woman shrouded in a burka.

Beside it is a picture of an American beauty contestant, wearing nothing but a bikini.

One woman is totally hidden from the public; the other is totally exposed. These two extremes say a great deal about the clash of so-called "civilizations."


The role of woman is at the heart of any culture. Apart from stealing Arab oil, the impending war in the Middle East is about stripping Arabs of their religion and culture, exchanging the burka for a bikini.

For me, the burka represents a woman's consecration to her husband and family. Only they see her.

It affirms the privacy, exclusivity and importance of the domestic sphere.

The Muslim woman's focus is her home, the "nest" where her children are born and reared. She is the "home" maker, the taproot that sustains the spiritual life of the family, nurturing and training her children, providing refuge and support to her husband.

In contrast, the bikinied American beauty queen struts practically naked in front of millions on TV. A feminist, she belongs to herself. In practice, paradoxically, she is public property. She belongs to no one and everyone. She shops her body to the highest bidder. She is auctioning herself all of the time.

In America, the cultural measure of a woman's value is her sex appeal. (As this asset depreciates quickly, she is neurotically obsessed with appearance and plagued by weight problems.)

As an adolescent, her role model is Britney Spears, a singer whose act approximates a strip tease. From Britney, she learns that she will be loved only if she gives sex. Thus, she learns to "hook up" rather than to demand patient courtship and true love. As a result, dozens of males know her before her husband does. She loses her innocence, which is a part of her charm. She becomes hardened and calculating. Unable to love, she is unfit to receive her husband's seed.

As an adolescent, her role model is Britney Spears, a singer whose act approximates a strip tease. From Britney, she learns that she will be loved only if she gives sex. Thus, she learns to "hook up" rather than to demand patient courtship and true love. As a result, dozens of males know her before her husband does. She loses her innocence, which is a part of her charm. She becomes hardened and calculating. Unable to love, she is unfit to receive her husband's seed.

The feminine personality is founded on the emotional relationship between mother and baby. It is based on nurturing and self-sacrifice. Masculine nature is founded on the relationship between hunter and prey. It is based on aggression and reason.

Feminism teaches woman that feminine nature has resulted in "oppression" and that she should convert to male behavior instead. The result: a confused and aggressive woman with a large chip on her shoulder, unfit to become a wife or mother.

This, of course, is the goal of the social engineers at the NWO: undermine sexual identity and destroy the family, create social and personal dysfunction, and reduce population. In the "brave new world," women are not supposed to be "nest" makers, or progenitors of the race. They are meant to be neutered autonomous creatures that indulge in sex for physical pleasure, not for love or procreation.


At his press conference on Sunday, Donald Rumsfeld said that Iranian women and youth were restive under the rule of the Mullahs. He implied that the US would soon liberate them. To Britney Spears? To low-rise "see-my-thong" pants? To the mutual masturbation that passes for sexuality in America?

-------------------------
For more ,visit this link.
http://www.savethemales.ca/180902.html

Cairogal said...

I think you do see the dishdasha styles varying nowadays. The Qatari collar, the different shades for different season, playing around w/ the head wrap...I don't feel sorry for the men ever, simply because on a hot day, they are wearing white and typically all-cotton.

nefer said...

Do people never get tired of the same old, boring, overused oysters and pearls and diamonds and gems and stealing things that lie in the open "argument". Why don't we try using some more origional comparisons of things that are hidden: like iron or fossils or rock salt or lead. How come people don't like comparing women to lead? Its hidden. How about Oil? Oil is hidden and valuable, not to mention that it's the cause of a lot of problems in the world particularly because it was unhidden -- much like women (especially those troublemaking American women).

Anyways, about the actual topic... I've never worn an Abaya but if I had to choose one based purely on the way it looked I'd definitely go with the off the shoulder one. And I had no idea there was such connotations associated with head vs shoulders. Kind of seems like a big fuss over nothing considering they're all black and for the most part rather shapeless. Sunil's comment pretty much sums up how I feel about dresscode/modesty issues in the Middle East

"My readers from outside of the Kingdom cannot possibly understand the time and passionate debate that Saudis devote to this issue"

Very very true :) And you have a great writing style by the way. Very humorous

UmmAbdurRahman said...

first i have to say that the photographs you chose actually further the idea that head abaya is better than shoulder abaya. You probably did so without even intending or knowing you did it.

the first two are completely devoid of shape while the latter is feminine and figure hugging. in an ultra conservative society like saudi arabia I can see how a shoulder abaya like that one would cause some trouble.

I wear black shoulder abaya and it looks nothing like that one. it is aline cut with flared sleeves, but not at all hugging aroudn the waist. it is very long and flowy. i put on top of it a 60 inch square khimar which helps to keep the chest area more covered than a head abaya anyway.

can you imagine a lady with DD's and a head abaya? all of her assets are clearly showing. So, would she be considered immoral if she opted for a style that covered her more properly? cuz that lady in the pics is nowhere near a DD. If we all wore itty bitty training bras and had the figure of a 12 year old boy I guess we could get away with wearing almost any abaya and no one would care.

But for us women, real women with real women's bodies, covering up our bodies should be of more importance than whether our abay comes from the head or the shoulders.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

danya- just wait till you hear the million other ways to be perceived as an immodest here, it's not hard to do...that should be a post- "101 easy ways to get labeled a Saudi Slut":P

anon- I've heard that quote before, and it's a lovely sentiment, but not necessarily applicable in this instance. Not all shoulder abayas are immodest just as not all head abayas are modest. The latest trend in head abayas tailors them to be just as figure hugging as many shoulder abayas.

HM- although I tend to disagree on most of your views on feminism in general, I found myself agreeing with several points that you made about modesty.

Cairogal- they're starting to play around with bits of colored embroidery too...ooooh, daring:P

nefer- LOL and thanks for the compliment:) Just like I said to Danya, I'm going to have to devote a post on some of the gazillion ways to be viewed as indecent.

UmmAbdurRahman- your shoulder abaya sounds kinda similar to one of mine. I don't wear a khimar though because it would make me appear foreign (although I know of Saudis that do). It's because of those "womanly curves" that I was forced to go to a head abaya while I was pregnant. Let's just say...it wasn't just the belly:D Now people here are having issues with skinny head abayas too. I don't buy skinny anything...defeats the purpose of covering.

The Observer said...

Wow, I loved the bunch of people debating on this blog. Here is an intelligent debate with a lot of intellectuality.

Ann, actully no, I don't feel that bad for men wearing deshdasheh. It isn't about the style of wearing, it is more about feeling comfort in what you wear without having other people labeling you.

Look closely at the cultural sexism in Saudi Arabia. Men deshdasheh is white, while women abaya is black! With the hot weather of Saudia, and as you know, white reflect light, while black absorbs it! It is like women going in public have to go through hell in order to do so! and yet, they have to cover their entire head with black otherwise they would be considered immoral!

While maybe there are as well some social pressure of favouring men who wear traditional Saudi clothes, there seem to be no moral implications on men who choose otherwise.

Besides, men deshdasheh is even better from men than wearing a jeans in such hot weather! I would prefer the deshdasheh if I had to live there!

Saudi stepford wife daisy, you are right! It is a global issue with different levels! I just wish women around the world stand up for themselves. It is no one business what a woman chooses to wear!

Sunil Al Hasa said...

How a human body(male or female) become sacred? if so why should cover the sacred things. Blessed things must be obviuos.

Bird said...

------------------
The Observer said :

Saudi stepford wife daisy, you are right! It is a global issue with different levels! I just wish women around the world stand up for themselves. It is no one business what a woman chooses to wear!
-----------------
Yes,the woman must know how to use her freedom with responsibility. She should consider other women who are not as beautiful as she is. If a beautiful woman shows her
pearls in public, she will act as a home-wrecker as she will trigger a torrent of frustration in the minds of some married men who might feel the urge to switch to a better girl. Just ask a western woman who has been dumped by her her recent boyfriend or husband. The society should teach the women to be home-makers,not home-wreckers.

Anonymous said...

-----------------------

Sunil Al Hasa said...

How a human body(male or female) become sacred? if so why should cover the sacred things. Blessed things must be obviuos.
----------------
Have you ever gone to a shop ?
How those expensive food-items are kept ? In open air or in a nice package ? Try to learn from your environment.

Carol said...

SSW, Kudos for another nicely done topic!

I'm finally taking the plunge and getting my "no-nonsense" practical abaya made which includes side pockets, front pocket (similar to the breast pocket on the men's thobe), velco fasteners since I tend to damage or break the snaps and buttons as well as a hood. It's a fact; the abaya is the profesional "suit" many individuals see first when meeting a professional woman in the Kingdom (unless working in an exceptional environment like a hospital or women's only facility). Therefore one should be cognizant on what first impression would be made. Most women I know (myself included) have several abayas for various occasions (business, casual, wedding/formal, etc.)

And another issue I plan to research and post on my own blog on of these days is the impact of the "conformity" in that the women wear the black abaya and the men (at least in the summer months) wear the white thobe. Those of us in Saudi tend to live in a WIB/MIW society (women in black; men in white).

Keep up your informative, thoughtful, provocative and entertaining posts!

All the best,
American_Bedu

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Observer, Sunil, Bird, Anon and the rest of my readers- Although we can debate till we’re blue in the face on what the world SHOULD be and how men SHOULD react to women, the fact is we’re living in the here and now. In the here and now, men are visually stimulated by the sight of women’s bodies. How they react to that differs greatly from culture to culture and that’s one of the issues in my post. Although in a western country where women are not “covered” by Islamic standards, they are in fact covered in some manner, as in business or church attire. Where it may take the sight of cleavage or a J-Lo booty in a tight pair of jeans for a man to get turned on America, it may only take the sight of a soft, white hand or the curve of a hip under a slim abaya to get a Saudi man’s attention.

To most westerners, any abaya at all is a deterrent. But I found, after I started covering in my late teens in America, that once I wore a hijab all the western men who may have previously hit on me left me alone and started treating me with the utmost respect…but Arab men started hitting on me! As a reaction to this, I started covering even more. I’ll tell y’all this, it takes an awful lot of clothes to deter many Arab men, even in America! Some of my very light-complected friends in Saudia even wear gloves just to keep the flirters from pursuing them, as white-skin is considered a thing of beauty. Even while wearing nikaab in England I’ve been approached by Arab men (Asian Muslims seem much more polite as I’ve never been hit on by one). Although I’d like to be able to wear whatever I please, the world just doesn’t work like that which leaves me to take on covering as a defensive measure so I’m not treated disrespectfully and end up killing a lecherous twit one day who thinks I may be cute. I don’t think I’ll do well in jail:)

As far as which abaya is best; in my own humble opinion, as long as the woman is wearing a looser-fitting style there shouldn’t be anything wrong with the shoulder abaya. Considering how slim some head abayas have become these days, I don’t think one can be judged as a harlot simply for wearing one from the shoulders.

Carol- I do similar adjustments for my abayas, in various colors I may add, that I wear when outside of Saudia. Because it just doesn’t conform and I already stick out like a sore thumb in many instances, I find myself unwilling to stick out more by making practical adjustments like that. I’ve seen how many Saudi doctors and nurses have made adjustments to their “work” abayas and they make sense, but I wouldn’t wear one outside of that environment.

Anonymous said...

I don't wear an abbaya here, but when I go home, I always wear one otherwise it would be a similar situation as any woman would face when not covering in SA. I wear the shoulder abbaya and I know there are lots of *fancy* styles but I like the simple ones, basically, one that does it's *job* ie, covering. If I did live in SA I would prefer the first choice you had(picture), seems comfortable and tent like :)
I really would love to visit jeddah, my BIL lives there so maybe inshallah one day. Heard it's much *liberal* than most parts. sf

Cairogal said...

Abaya as a deterent: I worked w/ an American guy in the UAE who openly flirted and pursued relationships w/ women in abayas. Let me tell ya...it wasn't hard for him to do at all. So many of these girls get a real thrill out of it. None of the relationships went anywhere serious, but the abaya to his was either a challenge to overcome or just an article of clothing. Which, in reality, is what it is. A hejab? It's a piece of cloth. Why you wear it and how you behave in it-that's what modesty is or is not.

A canadian muslim friend of mine wore the niqab in the UAE and faced constant harassment from men, who upon realising that she was a western Muslim, had already assigned a whole different set of values to her. She's been Muslim for many years no, but has since removed any head covering. Men who formerly aggressively pursuing her (she's divorced) not see her as a foreigner.

Anonymous said...

---------------
SSW

As far as which abaya is best; in my own humble opinion, as long as the woman is wearing a looser-fitting style there shouldn’t be anything wrong with the shoulder abaya. Considering how slim some head abayas have become these days, I don’t think one can be judged as a harlot simply for wearing one from the shoulders.
-----------------------------

Your opinion should not be based on some factors like public perception and reaction which change over time. Rather
it should be based on the golden standard set by the Quran and the Sunnah which are unalterable.

Which abaya is the best one ? The abaya which can satisfy the constraints as indicated in the following verses of the Quran is the best.


###################################
Allah Ta’ala states, ‘And they should draw their veils over their bosoms.’ (24:31)

‘O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (except eyes to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed.’ (33:59)


Allah states, ‘They will not reveal their adornment except to their husband or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women.’ (24:31)

################################

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

Carol, the abaya in the UAE can be very different. I don't want to come off as judging individual intentions, but many of the women wear it as a cultural item; there are shops in Dubai where you can pay a thousand dollars for an abaya, and some are very elegant and have the look of lingerie. And the women might have half of their hair sticking out (in that "camel hump" style), a ton of makeup and perfume. That's very different from the ones worn by women who are trying not to look attractive.

I'm sorry your Canadian friend had that problem... That hasn't been my experience. When I started wearing hijab, it mostly stopped the men from bothering me, but there was still an occasional pest. When I started wearing the niqab, that all ended immediately. Guys at work wouldn't even come inside my office; they'd stand at the door. And if I was in an elevator alone and it stopped at another floor where a lone guy was waiting, he wouldn't get in.

But even with niqab, there are different styles and they give different signals.

Sunil: "How a human body(male or female) become sacred? if so why should cover the sacred things. Blessed things must be obviuos."

What does that mean? That we should all walk around naked?

Kite said...

Hi Daisy

I have been lurking around your blog for sometime. I'm kind of fascinated by the abaya debate. You write well.

I grew up in SE Asia in the 70s and 80s before moving to the US. To cut a long story short, SE Asia has a huge Muslim population. They also have their traditional costumes, some of which are pretty loose-flowing. But most of them did not cover their heads until the late 80s and 90s. In fact, women from the older generation (above 40 years old) typically do not cover (ie coloured hijab with brooch) unless they are getting dressed up for something particular.

The upper classes (and the really old ones) typically use a thin / translucent shawl as a head covering as a nod to modesty.

It is the younger ones who started wearing the hijab on all occasions as a sign of solidarity with Muslims worldwide. And I always felt that they took things a bit out of context -- the weather here is hot and humid -- and the head covering consist of knitted wool cap to gather the hair and then a colourful hijab with brooch on top. Someone once told me that the woollen cap in hot and humid weather results in scabs on their head. I've been to Dubai and sometimes, I see the Saudi woman with her abaya -- I don't know what you have under the abaya -- but it's probably not a woollen cap. I can even understand that a loose, long and flowing gown is advantageous in a hot desert, though I don't understand the black colour -- white seems more practical.

Now and then, we have some local Muslims imitating the Saudi style -- I have a lot of Muslim friends but I typically give a wide berth to these ones, because they typically signify people practicing a stricter (and thus less friendly or even deviant) form of Islamism. It doesn't help that the ones in the media spotlight typically are found to be living in a communal compound that rejects modernity or have 10 or more wives per man, and they justify it witheir brand of Islamism. If you read some one-to-one interviews of the women, they talk about finding peace and keeping themselves safe from the glances of other men through this overt show of modesty, they are nowhere as normal as you and your friends. The population at large consider them somewhat cultish, though fellow Muslims hold their tongues out of respect for their common religion, and non-Muslims try to look the other way for fear of provoking racial/religious tensions.

Funnily, when the Middle-Eastern tourists come visit, they may be in abayas and niqabs, but the niqabs are typically coloured and the tailend of the scarf is always so heavily beaded and tassled that they cannot be construed as modest at all.

By the way, I think the jilbabs are much more attractive and still modest enough. See http://www.desertstore.com/For-Sale-Directory/Jilbab-Islamic-Clothing.html. As someone who has never worn the abaya, I can say that I don’t get hit on all that often. And even if I do, I can take care of myself. This is a credit to both the men around me and myself, the woman.

As some of your other readers comment, modesty is relative. And can I add that it is also a matter of the heart and the attitude. You are a well-travelled woman who has been exposed to different cultures, and you are probably smart enough to realise the truth of it all.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Muslim, nor do I live in Saudi Arabia. I am asking this question with respect, not to start trouble.

Women are told to cover themselves to be though of as chaste, good decent women and not the kind of woman that inflames the passions of men.

The problem is not with the women but rather the men. Why can't they treat women with respect, and not look at them with lust? Men should not annoy women, they should not look at women drooling. They should respect women as sisters, wives and mothers and not treat women like things.

The sin is not with the women for having bodies and forms given by God but with the men sinning with their improper thoughts and actions.

I am not saying this is the case with a bikini or something improper. Why can't I be as respected with a shirt and slacks?

The men behave badly and unchastely Why are the women punished for the men's lusts?

It is as if there was a rapist on the loose. You could force women to never leave their houses and the rapes would stop. But the criminal is the rapist, not the innocent woman who just wants to live her life in freedom.

Let me close this by saying again that I am not trying to denegrate things that are required that you do culturally. I've just always thought the onus was on the wrong person in the equation.

Thank you. Joan

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

SF- Jeddah’s like another world and it almost doesn’t seem like part of the rest of Saudia. I’m not with you on the first abaya though. I find I dip my sleeves into stuff when I’m eating out and if I don’t sit just right, the fabric from the arms gets caught under my butt and I gotta readjust to be able to move my arms. I prefer more of a sleeve to my abayas like in the second picture, both head and shoulder ones, which makes it easier to carry stuff on my shoulders like purses.

Cairogal- even the prostitutes here wear good-old, respectable looking abayas so the fact that your boss had such an active dating life with “covered” Emiratis doesn’t surprise me a bit. Like I said in my previous comment, I had to cover more as a result of Arab flirters. At one point I was even wearing gloves (something I never deemed necessary in the west) just to advertise my UNavailability! As kite says in a comment after yours, “modesty is relative” and that’s so true in this situation. Because the men are looking for so much less, as Ann said, even different styles of nikaab can send different messages. It’s a signal that a foreigner wouldn’t pick up on but a native male could read volumes into.

Anon- you’re preaching to the choir on this one. I’m in complete agreement with you. The part where I have a feeling you and I may differ is that I haven’t been convinced that a black Saudi-Style head abaya is the one and only way to satisfy modesty requirements. Although there’ve been times, like during pregnancy, where my “cups runneth over”…my “bosom” has always remained unrevealed to the general public. In fact, I know for a sure that the shoulder abaya I currently wear could not only fit me, but also my two daughters inside because of its width. When my body is back to my normal proportions and I don’t have an enormous baby belly to try and cover up, the loose-fitting shoulder abayas I’ve always bought do the job with fabric to spare. I still assert, just because it’s a shoulder abaya, doesn’t mean it’s immodest.

Ann- Bingo! Intention says it all, doesn’t it. I’ve seen some gorgeous abayas with the new colored floral patterns stitched up the sleeves which beg me to buy them. I’ll buy them for my non-Muslim female family members as a souvenir when they come to visit me and I’ll stick to my plain one.
I can understand if this Canadian woman got this reaction because unfortunately it happened to me on some level as well. I think some Arab men react like lecherous predators because once we cover, we turn into something familiarly attractive, like the girls they used to flirt with back home who also covered like this. Once we wear nikaabs we’re upgraded even more… we turn into Grade A halaal filet Mignon:)

Kite- I enjoyed the insight into your culture and upbringing but I gotta say, wool caps!! Ugh, how uncomfortable. Just to let you know, all our headgear is either sheer polyester chiffon or some of the older styles are extremely comfortable, breathable cotton gauze. I also like jilbabs, especially for my winter styles while living outside of the country. It’s better for driving since the sleeves button at the wrist which keeps my arms covered while my hands are on the steering wheel (God I miss driving!). I switch to a shoulder abaya style with wide sleeves during warmer weather as it’s breezier and feels more “summery”. I hope you don’t mind me quoting you in the future as I have a feeling this issue will come up often… “modesty is relative”. Great comment.

Joan- I've asked myself the same questions at different times. But unfortunately, the world isn't ideal and I've gotta exist within the here and now. Fact of the matter is, men are turned on by the sight of women's bodies and it's a good thing they are otherwise our race would die out. I suppose you could look at it in a slightly different context...it's like locking the doors to your house. You, as an innocent, are having to spend money on security systems and must remember to lock your doors and windows because of thieves/rapists/murderers who may get into your home and cause you harm. Because of these individuals, you must take measures to protect yourself i.e., locking up your home and valuables. My modest dress is like hanging one of those ADT security company signs on me, "Attention pervs, this perimeter is guarded by the good-moral security system". Just like the ADT sign, it may help deflect a potential intruder.

sunil al hasa said...

Dear Anoni..
We are talking on human beings and not about synthetically processed, refrigerated and attractively packed foodstuffs. Hence your caparison is not logical. I am ready to learn from living things but not from the packed dead bodies.

Suburban said...

Daisy, Everybody Else,

THe ADT comaprison "Attention pervs, this perimeter is guarded by the good-moral security system" priceless!

I prefer a shoulder Abayah, loosley cut, with minimal detailing.

In Oman, we often wear bright headscarves with the shoulder abayah. I like bright red, and khaki green. I never cover my face, 'because I can't stand having anything over my face. It's terrifying, and makes me feel trapped, like having a panic attack. But that's more my own psychosis than cultural or moral.

I cover when it's convenient for me, and depending on my plans for the day. I don't cover for the benefit of anyone else, or because I worry about what my friends / boss/ family/ strangers will think. Having been such a rebelious teen, There is little that would shock them now. I think every day that I stil live here, still behave like a good mother / wife is a pleasant suprise to them.

The reason I cover, when I do is between me and god, and it's nobody elses business. Yes, I do get more hassle when I'm uncovered, but the hassle doesn't bother me in the slightest. Assholes are assholes, regardelss of what I'm wearing.

When appropriate, I wear a bikini at the beach, because having spent years swimming in an abayah, a bikini is more practical for swimming, and allows the sun to reach more square inches of my skin. I love the feel of sunshine on my skin.

ok. I really need to pack. Daisy, thanks for the fantastic discussion. KEEP. IT. UP.

Regards,
Suburban.

Marie-Aude said...

As a non muslim, I never heard, or nearly never heard this pearl and diamond stuff.

But my first reaction is a human is not a "thing" that a man can get through effort.

My second reaction is : what are the most precious things on earth ? Things we could not live without ? Air and water.
Is air covered and hard to get to ? No.
Is water covered and hard to get to ? Not always.

So what ?

I can perfectly understand the need for decency, modesty, but to jump from that need to an assertion that implies that a woman's body is a valuable possession is highly disturbing.

The Observer said...

Bird, I cant believe your logic! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is a relative issue. A husband should be committed to his wife no matter how many other beautiful women is out there! Beautiful women shouldnt cover themselves just because another married man is not satisfied with his wife!

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy , actually women are turned on as well from the sight of a man's body! Why do women have to cover their bodies while men not?

Physical attraction is a natural treat of us human beings. Most of us have the ability to control themselves no matter what part of bodies we see! Women shouldn't cover themselves for the sake of other men not getting attracted!

umyusuf said...

Assalamu alaykum
I thoroughly enjoy your writing style and the topics you choose, quite entertaining, insightful and informative as well. The abaya/hijab (any women articles of cloting) topics will be debated till the end of time. Nevertheless it is always important to let people talk about it. What is important in my opinion is the person's intention. Allah knows best. Our faith and intention should dictate our choices not our culture or others around us and as long as we do not harm others. In Malaysia a bright, colorful baju kurung is suffice, in Pakistan loose shalwar kamis covers well and a loose skirt/pants with modest blouse is sufficient in the West. Again Allah knows best and love all His creation. Human beings are the ones who make things difficult for each other.
Great blog. I think you should write a book about your experiences and observation living in SA. You got great talents.

zainab said...

Assalamu alaikum
Another well written post I really enjoy your blog.Living in the u.s.of a, as long as I have on some loose fitting clothes and khimar,the men here dont pay me much mind. Al Hamdulillah! I dont think they want to waste their efforts trying to figure out whats under my long skirt and oversized tunic shirt while theres x amount of women walking around in miniskirts and tiny shrunken tops.Although there are alot of freaks out there that have alot of time on their hands and they just might enjoy trying to figure out what lies underneath.....UGGGHHH!

Seeker said...

----------------
SSW

I hope you don’t mind me quoting you in the future as I have a feeling this issue will come up often… “modesty is relative”.
Great comment.
---------------

Is it really great ? Underneath this seemingly innocuous comment lurks the poison of moral relativism which "is

the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth; it is the opposite of moral absolutism. Relativistic positions often see moral values as applicable only within certain cultural boundaries or in the context of individual preferences."

Its history can be linked with Karl Marx and his handlers. In a subtle way this moral relativism

can be equated with "immorality" or amorality.They argue that various historical and cultural events and practices (including the Stalinism, Apartheid in South Africa, genocide, unjust wars, genital mutilation, slavery, terrorism, Nazism, etc.) present difficult problems for relativists, because these acts, which are condemned by the "majority of people" everywhere, are not absolutely "bad" from a relativist perspective. This is, in fact, exactly what moral relativism states. "


"On the other hand, I suspect that sexual relativism (homosexuality) is the basis of moral relativism. If we don't know what is male or female, we will not know what is good or bad. It is no coincidence that the people who advocate sexual relativism also advocate moral relativism and their rise is parallel. "

----links---

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism
http://www.savethemales.ca/281101.html

Umm Maymoonah said...

"-I can hide friends underneath my abaya with me…no joke, I did this at a wedding once with a friend who couldn’t find her’s when the groom was going to enter."

Thats so funny mashaAllah.

I have to say even though the first picture does look heavy i've come across and even have a head abaya that is really lightweight and flowy mashaAllah it's probably not as slimming as the second picture but the quality of the fabric really does make a difference.

I think the head abaya's are great!

Aysha said...

It was enough for me seeing the # of comments :P
Even in English language, this issue will continue to be major ^_^

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

As Muslim women, we have certain guidelines about our dress - that it covers what needs to be covered, that it's loose and not transparent, etc. It doesn't matter what society we live in - we have to follow those.

The style or color of our clothes is something that we can be flexible about, as long as we meet those conditions. So in Malaysia, they have their own way of dressing, and in Somalia they have another. But usually, if a Malaysian or Somali woman goes to Saudi, she'll wear a black abaya, because that's what's normal there. And when I travel outside the Gulf, I might wear something other than a black abaya.

Also, there is a level of modesty that's required for men, too. The Saudi man, for example, wears a long robe that coves his arms and legs, and he usually has his head covered.

The Muslim man is not supposed to be looking at women with lust. But it's simply not true that women are turned on the same way as men are.

In Islam, sex is considered a natural and beautiful thing, but only within the context of marriage. In an Islamic society, sex outside of marriage is not condoned and should be punished. But you can't just say that, while the society bombards people with images of sex. Islam is a complete way of life, and everyone ahs a part to play his or her part in making a society Islamic. So, for example, we don't want pornography, we don't want childen having role models who are admired for their sexual adventures, and we don't want women (or men) dressing in a way that is immodest. We want our children (and adults) to be used to modesty, and to see that as the norm.

Throughout most of history, in most societies, people dressed more modestly than what's the norm in the U.S., for example, now. When American women wore long dresses, men would get excited to see part of an ankle. I read one time that when Japanese women wore kimonos, men got excited at seeing the back of a neck...

Has anyone read Wendy Shalit's "Return to Modesty"? She's not Muslim, but it's a very interesting book.

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

As I was typing that last comment, I had the news on, and I couldn't help notice how women's bodies are used...

There was a report about how the Internet is changing political campaigns in the U.S., and they spent as lot of time showing a "sexy" music video with some woman - in tight, skimpy clothes - looking at pictures of Barack Obama. Then it was a sports report on the Tour de France; today's winner got the yellow jersey and was posing with two beautiful women (in yellow) on either side of him.

Another thing that Muslims like to say is that women's bodies are used to sell everything from soap to cars, and that's not a sign of respect or liberation.

The Observer said...

Ann,
One has to respect others believes. While I am not a muslim, I respect Muslim women choice of wearing hijab based on their own well, not based on others well in their society.

Having said that and talking from a historical perspective. Hijab wasnt invented by Islam. Covering woman has been around long before Islam. It was a way for wealthy men to protect their women at a time physical power played a major role in people's live where women find themselves dominated by men with stronger bodies and had to abide with that.

Even in different Islamic countries, you can see the relativity of wearing the Hijab. It isnt an issue of turning men on, because a women wearing a shoulder abaya would turn a man in saudia while he wouldnt notice her in Jordan for instance!

You cannot stop men from harrassing you no matter what you wear! Our attraction for each other is just a natural matter. We shouldnt deny it. People can choose whether to act on that attractin or not based on their believes and preferences.

you shouldnt deny women attraction to men's bodies, if they dont have it, they woulnt have sex in the first place. People differ in the strength of their sexual urges, you can just ask some women who are more comfortable in expressing their sexuality, and you will figure out that they are attracted to men the same way men are attracted to them. This is nature!

Marie-Aude said...

@Seeker

Relativism is not in the moral, but in how it is expressed and practised.

Being modest is the morality, and the command is not relative. You have to be modest, not "more or less" modest.
But what it means to be modest, whether for example coloured abayas are acceptable or not, etc... depends of where you are. And this is where relativism starts.

Things change also over time. There was a time where having slaves was generally accepted, it is not anymore. Someone who was having slaves in former times would be able to behave correctly with them. By now the simple idea of having slaves means not behaving correctly to a human being.

Here again the basic moral "behave correctly with other human beings" is not relative.

RK said...

Hi Marie-aude,

It seems to me that you have misunderstood the allegories of pearl and diamond. And women in Europe
is so cheaper than air and water that they are now mercilessly exploited. Just check this link.


------------------------------
--------------------------------
http://www.expatica.com/actual/
article.asp?
subchannel_id=83&story_id=16897


-----------------------------
"
But what about the morality of it?

“Doesn’t really come into it,” says Terry, “It’s what some clients want, and nobody gets hurt, nobody’s ripped off, or robbed. They want Spanish culture? Well, that’s what this is – European culture!”

It’s a point of view. Leave morality out of it, and it’s just a business, like any other.

Beyond the cruelty, the depravity of the lowest end of the business, the virtual slavery of the roundabout girls, and it’s just another, lucrative business, supply and demand, market forces at work."

------------------------------

You have also watered down the danger of moral relativism. Just think deeply about Terry's answer.

Aliyah said...

Bismillah.
Assalaamu alaykum!
I really enjoyed this post and I agree with all your pros/cons (& public perceptions) of head vs. shoulder. I loved wearing the head abaya -with triple layer niqab minus headscarf) whilst in the U.A.E. for the cooling solution you mentioned in the car (hold wrists up to the AC vent, whoosh and "Ahhh!"). Nothing around the chin & neck, yay!

Living in a non-Muslim country, I wear a shoulder abaya with an extra wide shayla with niqab (no eye screen as I dislike the “flipped-back look”). Personally, I love to wear all black - not because it is considered by some (not me) as more religious however I do agree that certain colours may stand out more depending on the culture you are in- but because the most comfortable and softest niqabs come in black and I just love it as a colour, tres chic, no? When I am in the West, I choose non-black colours such as chocolate, navy and grey (all with minor accent trims but no sequins or glitter) to avoid the "islamism" label from some misinformed people. I fully agree that when in the Gulf, many Muslim women (including me) do opt to wear black, as that seemed to me to be the norm there. While I was in the U.A.E. and K.S.A., I observed the local men noticing the different styles women wear and also the different way people all interacted with each other depending on the type of hijab women wear – it’s a like a badge of who you are, where you are from, and if you are serious or flirty. The fact that the minor details of abaya and niqab is so noted by local men is very interesting, no? I must admit I, too, am fascinated with the different types of regional variations of hijabs (from all over the world) that women wear.

While I wouldn't like men coming on to me, I don't mind people know I'm a not a local because as you said, as soon as you open your mouth they know straight away anyway. I’ve never had a Muslim man come onto me while in niqab and while I have heard of it happening, I still get shocked when I hear of it.

I love your blog and your (tentative) future post titles sound great! Can't wait to read them!

Ma’a salaama,
Aliyah

Nzingha said...

glad I'm in Khobar I really am not for the head abyas. I fight with my abya as it is, let alone to have it over my head.

It used to be a shocker to see the form fitting abyas (I use a shoulder non form fitting decorative ones lats of glam ohhh I'd probably be branded with a big red S.. ok so would most of the ladies in this area) now if you take a walk through the malls you'll see girls w/ the open chests showing their goods.

Shahrazad said...

It is like Iranian National Chador..

Anonymous said...

" I dislike the “flipped-back look”
same here! give me a single layered niqab anyday.

Joolya said...

What I find troubling about the cover/not to cover debate is this: no matter what side one comes down on, the largest issue always seems to be about how the world (men) see and react to a woman's body and clothing and not how the woman herself uses her body and clothes.

The universal thing that pops out at me from these interesting comments is that no matter what our culture, we do want to look nice, and that we like to wear pretty things rather than ugly things - also, things which are comfortable rather than uncomfortable.

In America - not everywhere, but the more extremely fashion-conscious places - the problem for women who want to look nice and stylish is having to do uncomfortable things like wear tall spikey high heels and wax our eyebrows. Otherwise you are frumpy. Seems like in SA the choice of abaya is just the other side of the coin, the other extreme: the most "proper" dress is just uncomfortable and impractical in a different way than the high heels and tight pants.

Ultimately, I think, the woman who wears the most ridiculously impractical outfit shows that she is rich/high-status enough to have the luxury of dressing impractically. For example, I'm always amazed at women in the US who wear these tiny, tottery shoes and little cute jackets in the winter. I mean, when it's -20 degrees and the ground is covered with ice and snow, I have on big boots and a down coat! This is because I have to walk to the bus stop and stand in the cold for fifteen minutes every morning; if I had a car and driver I wouldn't have to step in the snow or worry about freezing to death coming home from the grocery store. (Not to mention, who has time to shave her legs every day for that short skirt?!)

Similarly, a woman whose movements and peripheral vision are hampered by yards of hot fabric in the desert climate is only going to be safe and comfortable if she doesn't have to do any heavy lifting or carrying of stuff ...

It's no surprise that (many) men like "their" women to be wearing the abaya or its Western equivalents (the impractical outfits that reveal her toned and tanned skin). It's less about the sex appeal and more about the status. What I mean is this:
1) When all the women are draped head to toe in black, just the suggestion of breasts or a glimpse of a wrist will be enough to drive a guy wild - when all the women show off their arms and legs, those things are less of a big deal, but then the guys will obsess over whatever else is hidden ... Very few of us, males or females, don't like to look at the human form or want to see what is hidden. So no matter what the fashion is, or what is considered "modest", people are going to flirt and ogle. It's just a matter of what they are ogling.
2) If your wife, girlfriend, or daughter is decked out in totally impractical clothes, it implies that you, the man, is so rich and successful that he can supply all her basic needs. See, again, it's all about the males!

My problem is especially with the second point - why should my body exist primarily in relation to men? That is what I find insulting about both the abaya and the ridiculous fashion standards in the West. Because I don't think it's really about "modesty" as such. If one were truly modest, they would be modest stark naked. If they were not, they'd be lascivious in a full-length burlap sack. It's about status and ownership of females by males.

Sprite said...

How I miss my wearing my abaya! As a non-Muslim in the Eastern Province I used to wear a 'shouder' abaya when out and about in Khobar. My friends and family think it's strange, but I loved it - so stylish! It also meant I never had to worry about what I was wearing underneath, unlike other western women, who'd dress up in shapeless, men's clothes.

Just my fashion perspective!

lajyseh said...

In response to your comment about Arab men hitting on you more AFTER wearing hijab, all I can say is I agree completely. It's not just in America/England, try 100 feet away from Al-Masjid al-Haram.
Not what you'd expect on an innocent pilgrimage.

noel said...

[24:31] "And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall draw their barriers(coverings) over their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands." Yes this is an english translation, yet I believe it conveys a clear message. Yes women (and men alike) are to be modest in dress and behavior, which is very important to the function of a society. However, I am curious as to why many people translate this into meaning that women are to be invisible. It is sad to me that some of our sisters are repressed into believing that if their clothing has any sort of color or decoration that they are "bad" and are looked down upon by members of their society. I can whole heartedly understand the desire to be left alone by other men, which if that is a womans goal they should go ahead and cover everything from head to toe. However, this should always be a personal choice, and the way a woman chooses to cover herself (or a man for that matter) should never be dictated or judged by any other than Allah. They also need to remember that if they are covered in the first place and a man tries to flirt with them, there should be no sin on the woman for she has done nothing to invite this sin, it belongs to the man for he did not follow Allahs directions to be modest regarding women. I have never seen anything in the Quran that even hints that men and women are to only ware certain types of clothing in certain colors. And the words of Allah are perfect, Allah does not forget anything. If Allah truely made it necessary for a woman to hide everything about herself except her eyes, then why would we need to wash our hands, feet, faces, arms, and you know, even our Hair during ablution? But like I said, if this is how a person wishes to cover herself, then it should always be her right to do so. I just don't think other people should dictate what people are to wear (unless of course, it is too revealing and does not follow Allahs instruction) especially if it causes hardship to the person, as Allah does not require hardship for us. Family members, neighbors, and others should never assume they know the strength of a persons faith or standing with Allah based on clothing. Infact, people should never assume to have such knowlege no matter what the circumstance! To those new Muslimas who are reading these blogs and are feeling guilty for liking to ware nice or colorful clothing, the best advice I can offer you is to pray for guidence on this sensitive subject and follow what you feel is correct, not what others (other than Allah) have decided is correct for you.

Anonymous said...

ASSALAMU ALAYKUM
Shame on u ppl.How could a muslim talk so bad about somthing in islam.it should not have a debate on this at all.I think we should leave dat for the kuffar to do.They comment on everything in islam.We should fear ALLAH & dont debate on things that he made hallal.It's your choice to wear the jilbab from the head or the other.

Lady Writer said...

Slmz
I agree with Anon, that women shouldn't be the one's to burden the brunt of men's lustful gazes and as a result have to wear a tent (with smuggling benefits).

So, the Holy Qur'an says that the believing MEN and believing WOMEN should lower their gaze.

Proceeding on the assumption that the Qur'an can't be wrong, there is CLEARLY a reason for "men" coming before women in this injunction. Brother - keep your eyes on the pavement.

And whilst I acknowledge that what I wear may attract a man's gaze, and I should have respect for a man by not going out looking like a peacock, just as he should respect me by not chasing my...skirt/tent, none of us are responsible for another's sins. It is not upon my head, as a woman, to excuse a man's lack of self restraint by dressing like something out of a latex fantasy...

Brilliant write, thoroughly look forward to reading your works!

khaleejia said...

thanx to beautiful muslimah post i found ur blog and its very big pleasure to know one more nice person all over here.
abt ur this post,supposed to everyone had have and will have his/her own opinion but mostly society make rules and form our opinions as well. just in my opinion everyone should look at himself only but anyway we do criticize other ppl.that is not good actually and then we suffer ourselves from others' critic to our side.

Manos Musulmanas said...

As-Salamu Aleikum wr wb
I also found this blog from beatiful muslima, Al hamdu lillah. ongratulations your post is great.
I must apologize for my english, i'm from Argentina (here jut wear hijab is too much).
Always people think that i'm wearing my hijab because of my husband:s that's sooo wrong. Cover your self is a choice in life al hamdu lillah, hijab is da'wah, nothing about any opressive husband, just a blessing from Allah subhana ua ta'ala. Hijab is protection, but is hard to understand for some, freedom doesn't mean less clothes...
About colours men wear white for one reason: sunnah! just look bukhari the book of dress hadiz 1987. Some people told that women wears black for the same reason but i didn't found any hadiz, otherwise i found a fatwa from Ibn Yibrin on the book Fatawa al mara' wich says: women can wear any colour that she wants ...but.. if there some colour on that country that used to be for men she musn't wear it.
Any way i think abya's are great and no one can't take away it, it is in my heart
May Allah keeps us cover. Amin
Ma'a salamah
Agustina from Buenos Aires

Anonymous said...

As a non-muslim, I thank you for describing the different wardrobes of women in the KSA. I am always looking for enlightment when it comes to cultures other than my own...and that twist of humour you put in your articles, well they are always appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Ruling on a woman wearing the abayah that comes from the shoulders:

http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/8555
Take a look and Allah knows best.

ameerh said...

that is good something and the Muslim Woman
save her self because the man don't look to her ^^
but the woman who are not Muslim All the men look to her :)
and the Islam its the Best Religion Really
and thank you so much
keep going ^____^

Najwa said...

Wow after reading this, I am so glad I can choose anything to wear! It is unfair to force women to wear like this.. But if you do it on your own free will than that's ok.

I find covering from head to toe including your face and hands is like telling woman should not be seen or heard and that is sad.

Sarounah said...

Assalaamu 3lykum.

Interesting piece and very well written . Masha Allah 3lyk

Okay, I tried to read all the comments but they seem quite a lot and are quite repetitive. But Well DONE. An interesting debate.

I just wanted to comment on the fact that this is a cultural issue and NOT an Islamic one.
I was in Makkah and was talking to this Saudi Girl, from Riyadh, she told me that she covered her face in her city but not in Makkah. I being curious, asked her why? She replied by telling me that if she was not to wear it then she would be looked down upon, it was a custom.
I then said but Islamically you need to be modest. She said, you see, Islam says a lot of things.

You see, it our beliefs and strength of faith. Our lack of practice and belief in our religion that causes us to be like who we are.
You notice a clear difference between the one who Prays five times a day and the one who wears Abaya yet does not practice their religion accordingly.
I known Saudis, yet not being one, and I do not wish to generalize but many do NOT practice their religion.
Go to the west, you get much better and practicing Muslims.
From childhood to adolescence I have watched Saudi women and men strip their modest clothing in airplanes and airports as soon as they reach their western, or more free as they think to be destinations.
It really baffles me for starters!
We are slaves to our Lord. How good are you as a slave if you indirectly deny that He cannot see you while in western countries?
Know Saudi Arabia, the west detest you, not for what you may think. But in fact it is because of the acceptance of One God.
And this was how it was during the time of the Prophet.
They found the beliefs logical within the Qur'aan and Sunnah, but they were unable to testify to One God.
So the point is, why do the Non-Muslims still find other things to debate with. The reason is because we need to stop giving them that.
We fail to give the true picture of our religion.
As Muslims we have submitted our self and soul to Allah. Are you sure you have? The moment you strip when your outside the Mamlakah, do you know what a statement you are making against your OWN religion? If you can do this then why wouldn't the infidels do the same?
There is nothing wrong with the religion of Islam, it is the nonpracticing and ignorant ones who claim to be Muslims that fail to realize that they are portraying an incorrect picture.
Saudi has turned the abaya into an cultural issue when in fact there is NO issue and it is an Islamic belief. It must be done regardless.
As Muslims we should be competing in being THE MOST MODEST.
And NOT the LEAST!
I do respect everyone's views, however, as Muslim's there is one main view and that is:

The woman is to cover.

How it is done, is up to her, but still it has to be within the Sharee3ah boundaries.

This thing of why women should cover when men are the culprits?
Tell me, If you see a Gold necklace on the fall, naked, not in a box, it is easy to get to
If it was boxed, it makes it harder to get to. OR even IMPOSSIBLE.
Which is better.
Use your logic.

Salaamu 3lykum
Sister from UK.

Yasmeen Elsayed said...

شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام
شركة تخزين اثاث بالدمام
شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
شركة عزل اسطح بالدمام
شركة رش مبيدات بالدمام
شركة تنظيف خزانات بالدمام
شركة تنظيف بيارات بالدمام
شركة تنظيف موكيت بالدمام
شركة تسليك مجاري بالدمام
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام
شركة تنظيف شقق بالدمام

Yasmeen Elsayed said...

شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام
شركة تنظيف فلل بالدمام
شركة تنظيف بالدمام
عزل وتنظيف الخزانات
خدمات التسليك والتسربات
نقل وتخزين الاثاث
مكافحة الحشرات ورش المبيدات
خدمات التنظيف
شركة تنظيف مسابح بالمدينة المنورة
شركة تنظيف موكيت بالمدينة المنورة

Yasmeen Elsayed said...

شركة تنظيف منازل بالمدينة المنورة
شركة تنظيف مجالس بالمدينة المنورة
شركة تنظيف فلل بالمدينة المنورة
شركة تنظيف شقق بالمدينة المنورة
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالمدينة المنورة
شركة تسليك مجارى بالمدينة المنورة
شركة رش مبيدات بالمدينة المنورة
مكافحة حشرات بالمدينة المنورة
شركة تخزين عفش بالمدينة المنورة
نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة

Yasmeen Elsayed said...

غسيل خزانات بالمدينة المنورة
شركة تنظيف بيارات بالمدينة المنورة
شركة تنظيف بالمدينة المنورة
عزل وتنظيف الخزانات
خدمات التسليك والتسربات
نقل وتخزين الاثاث
مكافحة الحشرات ورش المبيدات
خدمات التنظيف
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام
شركة تخزين اثاث بالدمام

Yasmeen Elsayed said...

شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
شركة عزل اسطح بالدمام
شركة رش مبيدات بالدمام
شركة تنظيف خزانات بالدمام
شركة تنظيف بيارات بالدمام
شركة تنظيف موكيت بالدمام
شركة تسليك مجاري بالدمام
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام
شركة تنظيف شقق بالدمام
شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام

Yasmeen Elsayed said...

شركة تنظيف فلل بالدمام
شركة تنظيف بالدمام
عزل وتنظيف الخزانات
خدمات التسليك والتسربات
نقل وتخزين الاثاث
مكافحة الحشرات ورش المبيدات
خدمات التنظيف