Understanding Women Hijab, Abaya for woman and other Islamic and Muslim Clothing
Muslims follow the religion of Islam. As part of their religion they believe Allah to be their Creator, God and sustainer. Allah revealed the Quran (Islamic religion’s holy and noble book) and in it Allah has provided the commandments to all human beings to believe in only one creator (Allah), provided the guidance to live ones life, the concept of life and death, punishment and rewards after death in the next life, and many other such commandments.
Since the creation of the heavens and the earth, Allah has revealed his message to prophets and messengers. Some of the prophets included Jesus (son of Mary), Jacob, Joseph and Muhammad. Allah revealed his message on his prophets and messengers in the form of scriptures and holy books. These books include Bible, Torah and the Quran. Overtime, Allah’s message was changed by the people for various reasons. Allah sent Muhammad (saws) as the last prophet and revealed his last book, the Quran (also referred to as Koran) on Muhammad. The Quran has remained unchanged since its revelation more than 1500 years ago as Allah has promised that it would be free from any human changes until the day of judgment.
The foundations regarding Islamic Clothing are mentioned in the Quran and through Prophet Muhammad’s (saws) teachings and practices. The primary purpose of Islamic Clothing is to cover a man and a woman’s body as prescribed by Islamic law. This article briefly delineates the various forms of Islamic Clothing worn by Muslims across the world.
The common Islamic teachings require women to cover all their bodies with the exception of the front part of the face and hands (from the wrist area to the fingers). All other areas are required to be covered.
Understanding the concept of “Islamic Clothing” also requires an understanding of the term mahram and non-mahram. Although Muslim men and women are required to dress modestly at all times, a Muslim women is usually not subject to the same Islamic teachings in front of mahram men. Mahram men include husbands, brothers, fathers, fathers-in-law, sons and certain other close relationships. Everyone else not permitted in Islamic religion fall under the category of non-mahram.
Abaya are robes like dresses that Muslim women wear on top of regular clothing. The primary purpose of wearing an abaya is to completely cover oneself so as not to expose any bodily attributes or beauty as Islam instructs women to guard their beauty from all men except those who are specifically allowed.
Head abaya - Certain religious interpretations require a women to dress in clothing that should not expose any body formations whatsoever. In such cases, Muslim women wear abaya dresses that rest on top of their heads and extend below the ankles. This ensures that a women’s body formations stay hidden from men who are not lawful to a woman.
Black abaya – Black abaya are more commonly worn in black in most middle eastern countries, especially those in the Guf region. These countries include Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and other neighboring countries.
White abaya – These abayas are populary worn in Far Eastern muslim countries.
Colored abaya – As abaya are popularly worn among Muslim women, abaya designers have created new abaya fashions and have designed embroidered and colored abaya. These abaya are popularly worn in Jordan, western countries and are also now being worn in Middle Eastern countries.
Abaya dresses come in many types of fabrics. However, Rayon/Polyester material is the most common fabric used in their manufacture.
Other fabrics used include cotton, chiffone and georgette.
The word Jilbab refers to “something that covers”. Jilbab are often used synonymously with Abayas. However, new clothing trends set Jilbab apart from Abaya dresses. Jilbabs are more fashionable and western looking long coat like dresses that cover the body. Most women wear Jilbab over regular clothing.
Scarves / Shawls
Scarves and Shalwls are worn as Hijab to cover the head fully, the neck and the upper chest areas of the body. Scarves and shawls worn for this purpose usually have larger dimensions to provide coverage of the mentioned areas. As scarves and shawls are worn by non-Muslim women as well, Muslim women find larger selection of designs and colors and therefore use them as Hijab.
Niqab is a garment that enables Muslim women to cover their faces from non-mahram men. Niqab is widely used by Muslim women who believe in the Islamic teachings of covering ones face also (besides the head and hair)from non-mahram men. Figure 5 illustrates Niqab.
As Muslim women are required to cover themselves from top to toe, long skirts are popular among Muslim women. These popular skirts extend all the way upto the ankles to provide full coverage of the legs.
Long skirts are commonly found in western markets and therefore are less challenging to find and wear for Muslim women.
As mentioned earlier, one of the primary requirements of dressing up in front of non-mahram men is that Muslim women dress modestly and not reveal their bodies in the nude or by wearing tight clothing that reveals body shapes and contours. As wearing trousers sometimes makes it challenging to meet that requirement, Muslim women prefer wearing long tops and blouses to cover the hip and waist area.