Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why My Abaya Is Blue..

First of all what is an abaya? For those who don't know, it's the black "overcoat" or "cloak" some Muslim women choose to wear over their normal clothing when they are in public.

In KSA it is obligatory for everyone, even the non-Muslims and western women to wear it in public places. Actually I recently found out that there is no specific law that stipulates it is a MUST. And for sure it doesn't say anywhere it has to be BLACK.

The Saudi religious authorities have made the abaya compulsory for all women and the muttawa (religious police) will enforce this on all women. One interpretation of Islam is forced on everyone.
Yet the Quran states: "there is no compulsion in religion".

I really hate being part of the masses. Everyone looks the same here! In Riyadh most women cover their faces too, so these women are literally like black faceless blobs blending into the mass (no offense anyone!).


I want to feel more like an individual. I want to show other women its ok to be different, there's nothing to be afraid of. Women can show their personality with how they dress, and still be modest. There's nothing wrong with showing some personality!

I hope slowly change will come to Saudi and women won't be so worried about what others and the muttawa will think..I don't believe this is what God intended. That all women (and men) should look the same and cover their true selves! Back in the days of Prophet Mohammed men and women used colorful attire and the Prophet's wife Aisha wore red and yellow garments. Only very recently has black become the standard color of dress for women.


Also I think its a form of control from the Saudi government. It forces people into the same mold, it rules out individualism and change. There is only one accepted way of presenting yourself in public here in KSA. If you don't go by that people will see you as someone "gone astray", unreligious, western-influenced or even crazy!

My abaya is blue also because I feel like I'm different, I don't fit in any ready made category. I am Finnish and proud of my roots, but Saudi-Arabia feels like my home. I am a Muslim yet I would also describe myself as a feminist, which most people wrongly think don't go together. I'm also a person that does not accept everything that is thrown out there and believe all that is said in media. I always question and research things and think with my own brain. Reasoning and individual thoughts are often frowned upon by fellow Muslims which is why I feel I don't belong sometimes.
I am shy, but I have strong opinions and I am passionate in things I believe in..I'm not afraid to jump a bungy jumps, dive with whales and sharks or skydive, but you won't find me first in line for public appearances!

Maybe you could call me some sort of a rebel too. Wearing a blue abaya is my way of speaking out for women's rights in Saudi.

42 comments:

omaimanajjar said...

Hello Layla!
that is very brave !! wearing a blue abaya..! I kindda like that!
it takes alot of courage to do such a thing..coz you know its risky and those mutwaa could've got u in trouble!
I like your attitude.. but be careful
Omaima Al Najjar

Laylah said...

Hi!

thanks, yes I will be careful and inshallah I wont get into trouble with muttawa :)

Tara Umm Omar said...

Kudos to you for wearing a blue abayah! There is nothing in Islam that says we must always wear a black abayah. Have you had any stares by the people when you're out and about in Riyadh?

Tara Umm Omar said...

Also are you married to a Saudi?

Laylah said...

yes I do get quite a few stares, more from women than from men though, alhamdulillah I am not trying to attract mens attention but to make a statement :)
Usually younger girls will whisper and point at me and giggle, older women will just stare.. wonder what is going on in their minds!

Tara Umm Omar said...

Masha'Allah you are very brave. I hate to draw attention to myself so couldn't fathom wearing any color abayah except black here.

Basma said...

i say GOOD FOR YOU! be different! who said there was anything wrong w/ that??

Anonymous said...

Salam Layla, can you put your picture with this colour of abaya? Is it really such light like a colour of your blog?
Greetings from Poland

Nadia

Laylah said...

Salaam Nadia!
I wouldnt dare wear a light blue abaya in Riyadh-instant jail sentence!
Its the color of my banner, and now I have added a picture of it too :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much. It's nice colour. What about Saudi women? Do they comment your style, or it's popular>

Nadya

UMAR said...

Assalamu alaikum,
I like this word from ur article **I really hate being part of the masses.** Your way of explaining the event in all the article are very nice.Now i starts reading all your post and i expect your post in future also.insha allah

Sofija said...

I would like though transmit (reschedule) on moment and lose in this crowd :)

I am a Muslimah said...

Assalamualaikum Layla. I love your attitude and your courage mashaAllah. May Allah bless you. I had one question. In one of the comments, you said that you would immediately be put to jail if you wore a light blue abaya in Riyadh. Why is that?

Laylah said...

I don't think a very light color abaya would be viewed as ok by the religious police so they most likely could arrest you for it :(

Anonymous said...

Hello Laylah, I loved your blog!!!
After reading this article, one question came to my mind: Would it be allowed (for Afgan women, for example)to wear Burkha in Saudi Arabia? In eneral, burkhas are light blue in color...

Thanks and best regards,
Iva

Laylah said...

Hello Iva!
Thanks for stopping by glad you liked it!
That's a very good question about the afghani burkha!I would say wearing it in Jeddah medina or Mecca would be fine but Riyadh I'm not sure really!perhaps they would get stopped and advised to change into a black one.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog!

I'm an American about to move next month to Riyadh to teach English. I'm no stranger to wearing an abaya and hijab, having previously lived in Yemen (until things got too heated this past March). My head scarves are rather colorful and were fine for Yemen; however, I haven't found any reference to wearing colorful and/or patterned hijabs---that is, anything other than a solid black---in Riyadh. Please enlighten me.

Shukran, akhti!

Laylah said...

Hi there!
You will have no problems wearing your colorful hijabs in Riyadh or elsewhere in KSA.
I wear different color ones all the time! Its mostly the Saudi women that actually wear the black ones, other arab nationalities will often have different colors :)

r.alsharif said...

I think thats great of you to breakaway from the norms of society and wear a blue abbaya! :D

A.Stranger said...

:) I always thought all women in Niqab looked exactly alike, that was until I started wearing Niqab.
Then I realised how one's individuality really shines through.
I live in Bahrain, so there are plenty of Niqabis here as well.
The first thing I realised was how my brothers would be able to point me out in a crowd. It was because they knew me so well, that regardless of is I was ninja now, they could see the clear difference in me and other women.
:)

Iggy Pickle said...

What can I say, your beautiful whether black or blue - as long as it's an abaya we're talking about. I would wear a pink abaya, and risk arrest. Or maybe no one would see me, because I would blend into the rest of the pink scenery, especially in front of a pink house or mosque...

Iggy Pickle said...

What can I say, your beautiful whether black or blue - as long as it's an abaya we're talking about. I would wear a pink abaya, and risk arrest. Or maybe no one would see me, because I would blend into the rest of the pink scenery, especially in front of a pink house or mosque...

Reem Philby said...

Salam Laylah, interesting post :) I lived in Riyadh all my life up until the point I got married and moved to Jeddah. Here I got used to wearing colored abayas ,, so I have a few in different colors and I wear them in Riyadh when I visit my family. More interesting: I actually made those abayas in Riyadh lol ,, I admit the guy in the shop wasn't thrilled with the idea but he still made them. My family keeps telling me I shouldn't wear them in riyadh, but honestly I never found it problematic :) I love colored abayas :D

Reem Philby said...

Salam Layla ,, Interesting post ,, I live in Riyadh all my life up to the point I got married and moved to Jeddah where I got used to wearing the colored abayas. I still wear them when I visit my family in Riyadh and although they keep telling me I'll get in trouble I honestly never did alhamdulillaah and never found it an issue :) ironically, I actually had those abayas made in Riyadh LOL

Laylah said...

Reem Philby-good for you for being different :) Hey can I ask where you got those abayas made, and where you got the fabrics from?

funika said...

I was googling of shops at Jeddah to get a new Abaya for my beautiful wife ,interesting to have a new colored one instead of the black.. And i was lucky to read what you wrote about it.. so would you please help me finding any good places selling colored abayas here in Jeddah..Thx

bigstick1 said...

Seriously it is absurd that women have to look like bats.

Proud Muslimah said...

How ironic. The woman nearest to the camera has a bag that says "boring boring boring boring boring boring" on it while your blog was about the flatness of an entire society wearing the same thing.

coincidence? ;)

Proud Muslimah said...

Also, Layla, I noticed your quote that Muslims sometimes feel like thinking with our own brains is frowned upon and that's why you feel like you don't belong.

Organized religion is hard for us free thinkers. I have an uncomfortable time belonging to such an institutionalized lifestyle at times too. However, I've learned that the only way that I can find peace in an organized religion is to stop seeing it as being that. People have made Islam organized (not only that, but you are literally surrounded by muttawa and individuals that squash personal interpretation of religious texts). It is really hard for me to even get along with the Muslim community because I don't see the world through the same eyes that they do. Like you, I am a Western convert. I come from an entirely different world. The only way Allah fits into my life is when I stopped applying cultural standards to him, stopped feeling like I couldn't have any freedom of thought in interpreting my religion MY WAY, and started making Allah my own personal friend. If Islam truly is the true religion, it needs to fit in with everyone--not just people who live a uniquely Saudi/Arab lifestyle. I also, as a human being, have a brain that Allah gave to me. Why give me a brain if He didn't intend for me to use it?

Laylah said...

Proud Muslimah-I hadn't noticed the "boring" bag! That is such a funny coincidence! Thank you for being sharp eyed and noticing it :)

I do sometimes feel squashed and suffocated by "advice" coming from hundred directions in what a "real" or "good" Muslim is supposed to look like, act like or say.
Especially on this blog, but also in real life. Some people I thought were friends cut contact with me just because we disagreed on a religious ruling or whatever. Seriously people are that shallow. Often the holiest of all are like this.
It draws me further from the community and I prefer to keep to myself.

"Why did he give me a brain if He didn't intend for me to use it?"
Exactly!

Melissa said...

It must get tiring having to wear black all the time. That blue abaya is beautiful, I really love the beads on the sleeve. I got a lilac colored one from a friend when she was living in Saudi for a little while and I'm adding some pretty trim to the sleeves.

sherry said...

Variety is the spice of life.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog by accident and what a coincidence! I also have a blue abaya and it has pink embroidery on it. I have been here in Riyadh for 6 months. I have only had admiring glances from ladies in it. Ironically, due to its jean material it is more modest than the standard-issue flimsy black one (particularly on a windy day!).

Anonymous said...

I have a blue abaya too! I have always worn it here in Riyadh. It is blue jean material with pink embroidery. It gets admiring glances from women all the time!

Anonymous said...

I have a blue and pink abaya! I have been in Riyadh for a few months now. It always gets admiring glances from women.

Anonymous said...

my abayah are all coloured. I only wear black when i go to makkah coz its the only one that has a tight enough sleeve that will not roll up when I pray. no run-ins with mutawas just yet. And my abayah are all chiffon and some are made from chiffon silk... if i have to wear this outside my house i might as well wear something i like...

The Quran said covered but never said it has to be black.

Renee van Zyl said...

Yay to you for the blue abaya. I live in Jeddah and amongst others I have a brown printed abaya and a green one. I figured, they can't sell it if I can't wear it? And green is my favourite colour so this is my way of not always being depressed when I have to go out into the sweltering heat all covered up!!

Laylah said...

Thank you everyone and yay for all the blue and colored abayas out there :)

Saadia Mirza said...

I agree with everything you said :) The abaya doesn't have to be of any shape or color. A loose cloth to cover your whole body from head to toe is called Abaya. I love styling my loose but elegant abayas. I Personalize them. There is nothing wrong with it.

Anonymous said...

Salaam Aleikum. I personally think the abayas are black to force women to stay indoors given the color absorbs more heat (notice how men wear white thoubs, specially in summer) and the same color clothing (black/white) is an attempt at social cohesion - to make people appear the same so that status (wealth) differentiation is less visible but closer examination of the cloth and the perfume will give it away !



Sadaf Afshan said...

Asslamaleikum, Masha'Allah you have a very interesting blog. I live in Toronto and run a small home based as well as online business dealing in what I like to call contemporary abayas, jilbabs, hijabs etc. I have been wearing an abaya for the past 6 years and have grown up seeing all my female relatives wear it. However even I felt that most women are just tired of wearing the same old black abayas and here in Western countries you really tend to stick out in the crowd if you wear a traditional black middle eastern abaya. Another problem with most middle eastern abayas is that I hardly find any cotton ones atleast here in US/Canada.So, I thought of coming up with something that is chic,comfortable yet modest.
However, I am planning to go for Umrah next year InshaAllah so I was wondering if I would stick out in the crowd if I wear brown/grey/green cotton abayas ? Please advise.

Laylah said...

HI Sadaf!
No you won't stick out of the crowd in Mecca at all with colored abayas, in fact most non Saudis there don't even wear abayas..Many from the African and Asian countries are wearing their traditional clothing, some have Umrah clothing so women might be wearing even white, light colored albeit covering clothing. In Jeddah colored abaya are more common than in Riyadh as well.