“Did my abaya put you off?” I wondered as yet another sister walked past me and bowed her head. Since embracing this type of Islamic clothing, I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings about how I’m now perceived as a Muslim woman. So I thought I’d put my thoughts into writing in case other sisters have experienced the same thing. Or if sisters are thinking about wearing the abaya and want some advice.
different reactions to my abaya
I’ve had many different reactions switching from “modest” clothing to just wearing a black abaya and changing the scarf I wear it with every day. Here are a few:
- What was wrong with how you dressed before?
- Masha Allah sister, you are protecting your modesty
- Isn’t black a bit of a depressing colour?
- **blinkered look** and quickly step away
The first and fourth intrigued me the most. I asked myself the first question and honestly, there was nothing wrong. I just hit a spiritual growth spot that allowed me to open to the possibility that this was the right decision for me.
As for everyone else, I’ll discuss their reactions below.
When I first decided to make the abaya a full time part of my wardrobe, my family were the first people I told. Even though I’ve been Muslim for over 6 years now and I’ve worn one frequently before, it was never an every day thing for me. My mom immediately encouraged me, as she did with the hijab, and told me to go ahead and get them made to my size (I’m 6ft so store bought was not an option). She came with me for the fitting and even helped me pick out the matching zips.
I’ve always been open with my family about Islam and the changes I’d need to make to become a better person. No music, no alcohol, no pub meals even the hijab wasn’t really a concern. But I did have concerns that going out in a plain black canvas every day compared to how I used to dress may be a hard step for them to accept.
As usual, alhamdulillah, they shocked me and embraced the change quickly. Now they’re just referred to as “Christal’s outside dress” (lol).
The fear on my side was that they would find it hard to adjust. However, as reverts/ converts to Islam we must give our families the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the changes we need to make to ourselves as Muslims. Many will embrace the new us, many won’t, but will that ruin your Islam?
We need to realise that this is a choice we’ve made and regardless of what they may or may not feel. We base our decisions on the deen and not on their reactions. If we didn’t, how many of us would still be Muslim?
Abayas and Friends
I’m grateful that I have a mixture of friends. All wear hijab alhamdulillah but not all wear the abaya. Some still work in the corporate world, some are stay at home moms.
For those that already wear the abaya full time, they’ve always encouraged me to wear it more. It’s always been a staple in their wardrobes for convenience and to fall in line with the conditions of hijab. I thank Allah swt everyday for these sisters as they made it so easy for me to join the abaya gang and feel confident to go about my everyday business just as they do.
For my friends that don’t wear it, they were curious. Especially a very close friend of mine. Why now? What changed? And honestly, all I could answer was that something in my heart was telling me now was the right time.
I worried she’d look at me differently or drift away because I was suddenly becoming “religious”. That I may not be fun anymore. But all those fears were unfounded. That’s the funny thing about fears, they’re based on what’s in our heads and not the heads of those around us.
women in the street
I love to give salaams to sisters in the street. For me, it’s a reminder that we may not have come from the same mother, but we share the same deen which arguably is even more important. But, it was their reactions to my abaya that shocked me the most.
I found that sisters that didn’t wear the abaya would avoid eye contact with me and walk past. Not even a smile. At first I thought maybe they were just in a hurry but every single one of them… Really? Every single non-abaya wearing sister was too busy to respond to my salaams? I wasn’t buying it.
I discussed it with my study group and they suggested that they may feel uncomfortable because they don’t wear the abaya. My abaya was a reminder to them of the standards of modesty Islam may expect from a woman that they were currently not reaching. I instantly felt guilty. I didn’t wear this to shame women, I did it to become closer to Allah.
Allah knows best why their reactions to me changed.
I’ve also found myself on the other end of this as well. With sisters who wear niqab or overhead abayas walking past me. Where they judging me for not being MORE covered? Only Allah knows.
hierarchy in abayas?
From my own personal experience, I’ve found that there is a “hierarchy” when it comes to perceptions of hijab.
More fabric = more piety to some people. I’ve had sisters watch me struggle to get my pushchair into the mosque rather than help and guess what, they were all niqabis.
I’ve had groups of sisters watch me give salaams and walk past me like I was a beggar on the street. I could argue that they didn’t hear but this happens so frequently I’d have to assume whole troops of niqabis are deaf.
It made me think, if that’s how they’re looking at me, how must they look at sisters who don’t wear the abaya or the hijab? We forget that our actions truly affect others and their progression in this beautiful religion. Imagine if sisters encouraged each other rather than fired shots every time your hijab didn’t reach their ideal standard? Yes, we all know what hijab is which I’ve explained before but if it was that easy, we’d all be wearing it the same.
MY COVERED CONCLUSION
Alhamdulillah, now I wear the abaya I pray Allah swt gives me the strength to never take it off. It’s become such a practical and spiritually uplifting thing in my life. It’s liberated me from the expectations of what a woman should look like in society and has guarded me from a lot of fitna. And the reason for that? I put it on for the right reasons. I didn’t put it on to please my husband, I didn’t do it for family, friends or to impress anyone else. It was a decision purely for the love of Allah.
Do I look down on sisters that don’t wear it? Ofcourse not! I never used to wear it before so who am I to judge? Would I encourage others to give it a try? Absolutely! You may find that you like it so much that you wear it full time just like I do now.
Don’t let others put you off a path you know Allah wants you to be on. Do it for the right reasons, do it for Allah and you’ll never feel like you’re missing out!