Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Abayas, black henna and what ever else comes to mind

Wow, its been quite some time since I wrote anything here. I've had little tid bits that I wanted to write about, but never got around to it. So I'll mush them all into one post.

A few months ago in my Friday class the question came up about the proper clothing for Muslim women. Now don't roll your eyes! It is a constant struggle for some of us, and something that needs to be addressed. The question was "do we have to wear an abaya?". The instructor then quoted the following ayat:

And as for women past child-bearing who do not expect wed-lock, it is no sin on them if thy discard their outer clothing in such a way as not to show their adornment. But to refrain is better for them. And Allah is the All Hearer, All Knower. 24:60


She went on to explain that this ayat tells us that when we are out of the house that we have to wear an over garment that can only be cast off when we are past the age of child bearing, but that it is better to keep it on. Now lets ask ourselves a question. if we are not wearing something abaya like, what are we casting off? If we are wearing pants and a long shirt, what is under there when we 'cast them off'? How about salwar kameez? What is under there? Now a lot of sisters will say 'I'm not Arab, why should I wear something Arab??". The truth is... if it fits the requirement of an over garment, who cares what it is called. If you want to wear a giant sheet loosely wrapped around you, go for it. But its got to cover your 'inner clothes' and it can't be tight, transparent or short. So it became clear to me that most western clothes are not appropriate for wearing out in public. I'll start to brace myself for the storm of comments that will be coming my way over this one.


So moving on... the next thing I wanted to write about is black henna. You may, or may not know that I do henna as a little side business. I recently have been getting inquiries about doing bridal henna. This past weekend I went on a bridal consultation, and the sister asked me for the 'black henna'. For those of you that do not know, there is no such thing as black henna. What people call black henna is really just black hair dye made into a paste and put on the skin. It can cause severe burns, permanent scars and health problems. I absolutely refuse to use this death paste. Usually darker skinned sisters want this done because they say that natural henna won't show up (which it will). I calmly explained that I don't do black henna and why. She said that she had it done before and nothing happened. I calmly told her that it may not burn your skin, but it is getting into your bloodstream and causing problems. She didn't care... it was her 'big day' and she wanted it to show up. She called her sister and she came over to talk to me. She said that natural henna only lasts 3 days. I showed them what I had on my own palm and said that it had been there for 7 days and it was still dark. Her sister said it again. The bride to be said perhaps we can do a test on her before the wedding to see if it shows up. I agree, and we set a date and time to do the test. Her sister keeps going on about it not lasting. At that point I said, do you realize that as a Muslim if you knowingly do something dangerous like black henna that it could be considered a sin? Blank stare. Again, she said it was her big day. And for a final time her sister said that natural henna lasted only 3 days. I finally said, perhaps we should not do this at all. You seem to think I'm lying to you about the henna on my own hand. Oh no! they said, apologies galore. We part ways, agreeing on the date of the test. The night before the test I call to confirm and she tells me that she found someone to do black henna. Sigh. After all of the warnings and even bringing up that it could be sinful, she just didn't care. I guess its best that I didn't do it... she never would have been happy.


So I guess that is it for now, I'm all blogged out. May Allah swt keep us safe and on his straight path.

28 comments:

Candice said...

I was thinking about something similar just the other day. Since the overgarment is mandatory in the Qur'an, does that mean that a person needs to wear clothes underneath the overgarment? It seems like it loses its definition when a person starts to just wear nothing under it (it's "over" nothing- it is simply the garment). But seriously, is the purpose of wearing it really fulfilled differently if someone is wearing just an abaya or wearing an abaya with full clothing underneath?

Candice said...

And black henna... She really didn't get it, how frustrating!!

Candice said...

And black henna... She really didn't get it, how frustrating!!

Jamilah said...

Thanks for the comment Candice... the abaya was always meant to be a big ol loose dress that would cover clothes underneath. I think today the 'designers' are making them more fitted and trendy rather than what they were intended to be. I guess its meant to be something that you would put on over what you were wearing at home... what ever that may be... to cover your beauty.

I know not everyone is ready to wear a full abaya, and it does take some commitment... there is no getting around it when you are wearing one.. you look different than the average Betty Sue in the street. The Quran says:

O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better, that they should be known so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

The part that says so that we should be known and not annoyed, also tells me that we should look different and distinct from the non Muslim. We can't do that if we are wearing what they are wearing...

And yes, blech to black henna

London Henna said...

Some people aren't ready for the abaya...but inshallah those who aren't will get there..

ugh black henna! i had a bride the other day asking for black henna until i explained how dangerous it is..i never thought of explaining it was a sin, never came to mind, but inshallah i'll use that next time someone asks for it =)

jizakallahu khair.

London Henna said...

Some people aren't ready for the abaya...but inshallah those who aren't will get there..

ugh black henna! i had a bride the other day asking for black henna until i explained how dangerous it is..i never thought of explaining it was a sin, never came to mind, but inshallah i'll use that next time someone asks for it =)

jizakallahu khair.

Rene´s Bare Essentials said...

Salaam Alaikum,

Great post mashaAllah. I love abAyas and find that they conceal ones shape the best! And like you stated, a lot of abayas are now being designed under the influence of western mentality and are form fitting, flashy etc. These are fine to wear in settings with just women, but are advertised to be worn on a daily basis.

Revertive said...

Oh wow. I didn't realize this.

But must the Abaya be black? :( Black is sooooo depressing. Can't I wear a dark blue, or some other neutral-ish color?

Also, does anyone know where I can buy an Abaya that is made out of something besides really thick polyester?

Rene´s Bare Essentials said...

Abayas can be any color thats not too flashy (i.e. orange, pink, etc). Unfortunately in Saudi the government has made it mandatory for women to only wear black, whereas the men get to wear white. Black is probably the worst color to wear in the heat because it attracts the sun and makes one feel hotter. I love cotton abayas cuz they allow you to breathe and stay cool. Ill see if I can find some good websites for you, inshaAllah.

Banana Anne said...

Over the past few months, I have been trying to wear primarily jilbabs or jilbab-type clothing. From my understanding, jilbabs do not have to be an "abaya" or an Arab-style garment; they can be maxi dresses with a shirt and pants underneath and a cardigan over it, they can be floor-length trenchcoats, they can be long skirts and a tunic with a t-shirt and jeans underneath. I personally prefer to call the overgarment a "jilbab" because I think of an "abaya" as a jilbab native to the Arab world, while "jilbab" is a term from the Qur'an and applies to Muslim women the world over. As long as the clothing fits the conditions for a jilbab and a khimar, it doesn't matter what country it's from or what the color or design is (within reason, of course; I tend to stick to earthy colors because they are not flashy and I look decent in them).

Jamilah said...

Thank you for the comment Banana Anne... I am of the opinion that when we try to make main stream clothes fit the requirments we usually fall short. Either it is too flashy, to tight, or not long enough. I also don't see the point when there are simple easy options to go with.

I also don't see an abaya as an arab style garment. Its a big ol dress.. just because its an arab word does not make it arab.

Um Abdullah said...

SubhanAllah, after just writing a post ranting on how I'm not arab, I am gonna stand up for the "arab"abaya. I am a large girl, albeit pregnant, but large all the time anyway, and God knows I cannot ever find "american" type clothes to fit me loosely and be not grannyish...and unfortunately, store after store I go to, I cant even find abayas to fit me. It really sucks. Some Egyptian women are large and in charge, I know my husband's family members are, but unfortunately, none of the arab stores here or in new york sold clothes from egypt, or for large women for that matter. all the abayas I can find are for like teeny little girls. and on the rare occasion I find one in my size, it's RIDICULOUSLY priced. and by the time I find it, the owner knows I'm desperate after searching so long, so she doesnt budge on the price....gash.

Jamilah said...

I am also not a teenie tiny girl and my favorite place to get stuff is www.sunnahstyle.com. They are in canada and no its not cheap but it fits right and they are good quality. I've also gotten things from http://www.alhannah.com/ and they have all of the measurments up for you to check. I also have a favorte source in the UK that makes them custom... depending on exchange rates, they cost between $35-$45 shipped! I'm emailing her to get a website..I'll post it when I get it...inshallah

Banana Anne said...

@ Jamilah: Yeah, it really depends on your body shape. I'm pretty short, so long skirts and shirts from mainstream stores are usually long enough on me. My behind is a little big, but if i wear an unbuttoned longish cardigan it covers it. Just wearing a jilbab over everything is definitely less fuss, and it's what I often do, but sometimes I like to switch things up a bit.

Jamilah said...

Here is the site... she is on vacation, but will be back soon. I sometimes buy from her Ebay site too...

http://www.hijabonline.co.uk/

NeverEver said...

when I first converted i didn't own any abayaat and had no idea how to get one so I just wore what I had. I always wore a skirt/dress over pants/leggings with a long cardigan and a scarf that was wide enough to cover the whole chest to the bellybutton.

however, it was summer and i realized this was really hot, lol. Also i began to realize that you could still see my shape through the layers :-/

so a kind sister (mashaAllah, may Allah bless her) sent me two abaya and I was in LOVE! loose enough to cover my curves, light and loose material that wasn't hot and cut in a shape that stirs up a breeze when you walk :-D what can be better!?

Amy said...

Salaam Jamilah

I'm glad you brought up the issue of abayas/jilbab. (Essentially, an "overgarment.") As much as I really truly don't like wearing them (not that it matters,) it's really hard to argue with the Qur'an on this point, at least with any sense of honesty and humility.

I found when I moved to Washington from North Carolina that a lot more of the ladies I'm socializing with (for whatever reason) tend to wear jilbabs and abayas more than my friends back home, who mostly wore hijab but usually with tight clothes as well.

It's been easy for me to wear a coat around here (in Seattle it rains for 9 months of the year) since trench coats blend in. But since it got warmer I have a harder time making myself wear a coat--whether I call it a jacket, jilbab, or abaya, or anything else.

I don't have any good reason (compared to the evidence otherwise) not to wear it, but I still struggle with it anyway.

Amna H. said...

salam

wow.. this is an amazing post. I always wore an abaya but never thought of why its necessary... and to top it all I didnt even know that it was all mentioned in the Quran.

It was informative. Thank you sooo much. Jazakallah u Khairan. Your true reward would only be in Jannah for bringing out such delicate issues with such back up points so fearlessly. I am always afraid to, afraid of a stream of hate mails or arguing people.

Oh well... I just read in the comments about people having a hard time finding the right size of abaya that would be loose on them. Well.. I had/have a problem of that sort too. I am not large or anything but a little too tall. Taller than average woman. For me... there was nevr an abaya that fit me the way I wanted it. Like fully ankle length.

I told that to my dad and he was smart enough to think of a great idea. He took me to the fabric store and I chose a perfect black cloth, not to thick nor too light and revealing. And then I sewed it into a simple abaya from my friends sewing machine. And it wasnt hard cuz it was all straight and no complications at all!!

For those who cant sew, there are sum women who sew at home, just have to fish them out!

Abaya is a wonderful garment! Arab or not... and why do people have such prejudice against arab clothes?? I mean, our Prophet (SAW) was an arab and Its not lik anyone would go to hell for wearing anything that is arab. I mean its better than western clothes... and I am not an arab but still I dun hav a problem dressing their way!

Banana Anne said...

@ Amna: There's nothing wrong with liking Arab-style clothes. It's just my personal taste; I prefer plain, non-black jilbabs in fabrics like linen, denim, corduroy, and cotton, none of which are very traditionally "Arab". My style is very plain, conservative, middle-aged lady type, like classic stuff from L.L. Bean, Land's End, Eddie Bauer, and Shukr. While black, Khaleeji style abayas are pretty, they're just not my style.

prismaticexistence said...

Sister Jamilah, thank you so much for writing this post. I think there so much attention on hijab (headscarf) that we forget about the command to wear an overgarnment. Maybe this is why a lot of girls are seen with tight clothes and a scarf on thier head. I have to, however, disagree with your idea that an overgarnment can only be accomplished by wearing an abaya. I used to wear abaya exclusivly while I was pregnant as it was the only thing that could conceal my growing figure. I do not buy clothes online, so the only abayas available to me were the ones at the little stores around my city. I never found one that I actually liked. They were all gawdy and made from cheap material, but I didn't have a choice. Now, I wear long tunics (mid-thigh) and long skirts (a-line). I'm short so they reach past my ankles. I usually shop at Palais Royal or Sears, and I buy from the older women's section not the junior's. I find skirts that flow out instead of down. I'm a size 10-12 or a medium to large. I just get extra large, and I'm still able to wear a long sleeve shirt and yoga pants underneath. When I'm shopping I take my husband, and when I go out I pass several times by a mirror and check from all angles. I believe my clothes fit the criteria of overgarnment. Sister Jamilah, you say you "don't see the point when there are simple easy options to go with." Abaya might be easier to obtain for you, or you might like the syles out there, but that's not the case for everybody.
You also say in your post,"if it fits the requirement of an over garment, who cares what it is called. If you want to wear a giant sheet loosely wrapped around you, go for it." Well, I think that if some women can make mainsteam clothing or thier cultural garb into an overgarnment they should "go for it." Women need to keep in mind thier body type and the activities they engage in when they go out.

Again, thank you for this post.
Salam

Jamilah said...

Prismatic

I agree that it is hard to find a good abaya sometimes, but it is not impossible. I personally would not wear a long skirt and a tunic, because I feel that it does not BEST meet the requirements. That does not mean that it doesn't meet them, but it is not the best option. I am also a niqabi and I think it looks stupid to wear a niqab and a skirt and tunic, but that is just me.
As a revert, I went from my own personal style of mini skirts and tight shirts with heels to a fully covered Muslimah. It takes time and learning to get there. At first I did just cover my hair and still wear tight clothes, then I graduated to skirts and tops, and I finally found the proofs that abayas were the way to go.

I think that sometimes as reverts (or not) it is hard to leave behind they idea that you have to have a 'style' or something has to be 'you' before you'll wear it outside. When we are in our homes with our family we can be a fashionista... but when we are out, we should be modest and not worry about if something is not our style.

Also, as men are supposed to emulate the Prophet saws, we are supposed to emulate his wives.

prismaticexistence said...

O, I'm sorry sorry sister Jamilah. I'm bothering you again. I understand YOUR reasons for wearing abaya, but to say that abaya is the best option for everyone is not true. I'm sorry that it wasn't clear in my previous comment, but I do not dress in mainsteam clothing because it's my "style" or I'm trying to be fashionable. That's not the point I was trying to make. Believe me. I do not look hip, or modern, or whatever you want to call it. I look as modest as I did when I wore abaya. The point I'm really trying to make is it doesn't matter what it is as long as it's an overgarnment.

So sorry again.
Salam

Jamilah said...

Don't be sorry at all.. there is no reason for that. I still have to disagree. If you can get your hands on an abaya, it is the best option. That is what it is meant for. Main stream clothes are not. If given the choice, do you think the mothers of the belivers would have chosen to go to sears or to wear the overgarments that they wore? I don't know the answer, but I do know that if I follow in their example I will be ok.

Amna H. said...

"but I do know that if I follow in their example I will be ok."

thats like the best thing ever. I always respect people's choices about how they want to dress themselves but then at the end we as Muslims should think of who role models are. The Prophet (PBUH)'s wives are an excellent example for us and I know this one thing for a fact that Fatima (R), Prophet's daughter made a will that when I die take my dead body to the graveyard at night so nobody could tell whether Muhammed (PBUH)'s daughter short or tall, fat or slim.

Of course, you could continue with your style or whatever but I dont think anyone could really deny that the style of our mothers was the best, the most modest.

Honey said...

http://www.zazzle.com/bismillah101*

Slave2Allah said...

I used black henna once whilst i was in egypt and al hamdulilah nothing happened that time but later on I found out that it was harmful so NEVER AGAIN! I can't belive that some people dont take health issues seriously, i mean imagine a sister warning you and still dont care.. astaghfirallah.

NicoleMarie said...

Assalamu alaikoum,

Very interesting post!
Well I would have to agree about the black henna. I too, had the same problem for Eid, so many people asking me if I would do the black. Fortunately most people seemed to understand where I was coming from and not press it, I even had a few sisters tell me, "I will never use that stuff again"...who knows if they were just being nice to my face though...

About the abaya...I agree, abayas are great, in certain climates. Where I live, it is winter 8/12 months (give or take) and my city is a very dirty one, which means when you walk outside, you are bound to ruin the bottoms of your clothes. To solve this problem, I wear pants, and tuck them into shin-length boots. I see some sisters wearing long skirts, but at the same time they are always dirty at the bottom, caked with snow, dirt from cars, salt, and who knows what else! (I find when it's that cold outside, no one's looking at you anyway!) I have also had abayas that end up being too short, and I find I have more control over a skirt (when the weather allows) you can pull it up or down, or take it in or out to meet your needs. Also...I have seen some pretty revealing abayas. I have heard of some cheikhs saying you should only wear the head abaya, or a big khimar (the ones Somalis wear, that hand down to your knees), which honestly, are more modest than an abaya, but hard to do almost anything in. My main complaint with abayas is they are nearly impossible to breastfeed in, you end up showing your whole body anyway (unless you can find a private area, which isn't always possible), and the ones that button up show a lot of leg at the bottom anyway.

I agree that the clothing should be loose and modest, and many of us fall short (myself included) but I don't think abayas or long skirts are the only way all the time everywhere. I like to imagine prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his wives, and the sahaba dressing exactly the same way if instead of riding camels across the desert, they had to ride horses across the snowy, icy, windy prairies...they wouldn't have lasted long. I'm sure "traditional Islamic" clothing would be a lot different, and you wouldn't see the people of Saudi Arabia dressing in seal-skin coats and leg-warmers.

Allahu 'alim

NicoleMarie said...

Assalamu alaikoum,

Very interesting post!
Well I would have to agree about the black henna. I too, had the same problem for Eid, so many people asking me if I would do the black. Fortunately most people seemed to understand where I was coming from and not press it, I even had a few sisters tell me, "I will never use that stuff again"...who knows if they were just being nice to my face though...

About the abaya...I agree, abayas are great, in certain climates. Where I live, it is winter 8/12 months (give or take) and my city is a very dirty one, which means when you walk outside, you are bound to ruin the bottoms of your clothes. To solve this problem, I wear pants, and tuck them into shin-length boots. I see some sisters wearing long skirts, but at the same time they are always dirty at the bottom, caked with snow, dirt from cars, salt, and who knows what else! (I find when it's that cold outside, no one's looking at you anyway!) I have also had abayas that end up being too short, and I find I have more control over a skirt (when the weather allows) you can pull it up or down, or take it in or out to meet your needs. Also...I have seen some pretty revealing abayas. I have heard of some cheikhs saying you should only wear the head abaya, or a big khimar (the ones Somalis wear, that hand down to your knees), which honestly, are more modest than an abaya, but hard to do almost anything in. My main complaint with abayas is they are nearly impossible to breastfeed in, you end up showing your whole body anyway (unless you can find a private area, which isn't always possible), and the ones that button up show a lot of leg at the bottom anyway.

I agree that the clothing should be loose and modest, and many of us fall short (myself included) but I don't think abayas or long skirts are the only way all the time everywhere. I like to imagine prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his wives, and the sahaba dressing exactly the same way if instead of riding camels across the desert, they had to ride horses across the snowy, icy, windy prairies...they wouldn't have lasted long. I'm sure "traditional Islamic" clothing would be a lot different, and you wouldn't see the people of Saudi Arabia dressing in seal-skin coats and leg-warmers.

Allahu 'alim