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Abaya 101 – Complete Guide For Beginners

What Is an Abaya in Islam?

The Abaya is a simple, loose overgarment worn by women particularly in Muslim countries. It is typically worn over everyday house clothes when women wish to leave their homes. It is traditionally black in colour and its loose and flowing design help it to hide the curves of the woman’s body. The rationale behind the wearing of the Abaya and its design is derived from Qur’an 33:59;


“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused.”


These long-sleeved, floor-length garment can be worn with pieces of Islamic clothing such as the Hijab or the Niqab, this is because the Abaya covers every part of the body except for the head, feet, and hands. To cover the hands, some women wear long black gloves.

The Abaya has a long history in the Arabian Peninsula, even before the introduction of Islam. It was worn by women of status in urban centres who had no interest in working outdoors. It was later adopted for religious reasons as a sign of privacy and modesty. Abayas come in two main styles; they can either be worn from the top of the head or from the shoulder. Abayas can be made from different materials, some of which include silk, crepe, satin, internet, and georgettes.

Can a Non-muslim Wear an Abaya or Hijab?

Of course, non-Muslim women are allowed to wear the Hijab or Abaya. In fact, in religious strict countries like Saudi Arabia all women, regardless of their religious inclination are expected to cover particularly when visiting certain sites. There is no prohibition or offence to Muslims when a non-Muslim woman wears a Hijab or Abaya.


But in non-Islamic countries or countries where Muslims are a minority, some people may react with hostility when they find you donning the Abaya or Hijab. There have been instances where women wearing the Hijab have been intimidated by reason of their outfit. Some may view you as a religious extremist or that you are making a political statement. If you do not mind the risk associated with wearing these unique garments, then you are free to put it on.

Quite often, non-Muslim women and girls across the world wear hijab as a sign of solidarity with groups that have been oppressed. February 1st is earmarked as World Hijab Day, where women who usually do not wear the Hijab are invited to try it. The Hijab and Abayas are apt for women who wish to appear modest and divert attention from their bodies.

In tourist destinations such as Dubai, tourists are easily spotted wearing Hijabs and Abayas. Although it is not exactly compulsory to dress this way, it is usually a sign of respect for the Arabs and the Muslim culture, and the natives appreciate it when they see foreigners dressed this way.

What Are Abayas Made of?

Abaya designs can be made from virtually any type of fabric. One of the major determinants for the fabric used for the production of abayas is location and function. Some of the most popular fabrics used for the production of abayas include Lexus, Internet, nidha, Jersey, Poly Crepe, Satin, and Chiffon. For everyday abayas, they can be made from cotton, rayon, polyester, or a blend of these materials. Abayas for important occasions and events will be made from nidha, silk or georgettes. And if you wish to wear an abaya around the house, this can be made from jersey fabric or other stretchy materials.

Weather and location also influence the fabric used in the production of abayas. For warm countries located in the Gulf region, such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, materials such as cotton, linen, and viscose are popular. Custom fabrics are used in countries such as the USA and the United Kingdom due to its cold winters.

The price for abayas varies depending on the quality of the fabric, its weight, the embroidery, and the rhinestone used.

The most extensively used material for Abayas in Middle Eastern countries is Crepe and they come in different varieties, from thin and light to thick and heavy. The thick and heavy Crepe Abayas are common during winters while the light and thin are popular during the summer seasons.

What Is an Abaya and What Is a Jilbab?

Abayas and Jilbabs are two different garments worn mostly by Muslim women. They have a lot of similarities hence it is easy to mix them up. These clothes are worn as a form of protection and can act as a sign of modesty.

An abaya is described as a long cloak or robe that is worn over everyday clothing and tends to cover most parts of the body. Abayas are typically black in colour. They come in different styles, but a majority of them contain some sort of embroidery. It is not uncommon to find abayas with hood, but majority run from the shoulders downwards. Some describe abayas as a traditional hijab. Abayas can be worn alongside other Islamic clothing, such as the hijab or the niqab. Some women are known to wear black gloves, which helps to cover their hands.

Similar to the abaya, the jilbab is a loose article of clothing which is worn over regular everyday clothing. It is also described as a cloak or long robe and comes in varying styles with some having embroidery. Some are open from the front with buttons or a zipper to close together and yet others come in a sewn up dress pattern.

Women who prefer jilbab to abayas are of the opinion that it aptly fulfils the Quranic demand for a hijab. Jilbab has a reference from Qur’an in Surah Al-Ahzab. Also, abayas are typically a shoulders-down garment, while jilbabs are mostly head to toe garment.

In Indonesia, the term jilbab describes a headscarf instead of a long baggy overgarment.

What Is the Difference Between an Abaya and a Burqa?

Abaya and Burqa are two different types of clothing available to Islamic women. Although they may be different, they serve a similar purpose of covering the awrah or modesty of Muslim women. Abaya is basically a long dress or cloak with long sleeves. It is typically worn over other clothing and has an opening in the head, sleeves, and bottom. Although typical to Arab women, other Islamic women around the world are beginning to adopt it for its comfort, ease of wear and style. Due to its openings, the abaya is sometimes worn with other Islamic outfits such as hijab, socks and/or niqab.

The burqa is also a loose outer garment but unlike the abaya which is typically from shoulder to toe/floor, the burqa is from head to toe. The burqa covers the entire body, hiding the shape of the woman from males outside the family. The burqa is the most concealing of all Islamic clothing, covering the head and face leaving only a mesh screen through which the woman can see through. The face veil hangs loosely from the scarf or is attached to the side of the scarf and can be turned up if the woman wants to reveal her face. The burqa can be a one-piece or two-piece garment. The first piece is a loose frock type garment which covers the entire body, while the second piece is a skirt or pant-like garment which covers the legs.

While the word abaya is commonly used in Saudi Arabia and most other fundamentalist Muslim countries, a burqa is a term common in South Asian countries.

What Is the Difference Between a Hijab and an Abaya?

Abayah is a garment worn by Muslim females which covers their entire body leaving just their face, hands and feet. It is made of loose material, thereby not revealing the figure of the woman. Although popularly among Arab women, the abaya has been widely accepted by Muslimahs across the globe for its ease of wear, design, and modesty. Abaya can be made from different materials, from cotton to linen, from internet to silk. Some are light in weight while others are heavy. They typically come with some form of embroidery. They are worn over casual clothing, particularly when the woman wants to go outdoors.

The hijab as a word can be used as a verb and as a noun. As a verb, it describes the act of covering up generally, and as a noun, it refers to headscarves worn by Muslim women in the presence of males outside their immediate family. The hijab covers the head, hair, neck and the chest area, but leaves the face clear. They come in different styles and colours. Some countries like Saudi Arabia mandate the use of hijab, while some, particularly in Europe, ban the use of all or some types of hijab in public or in certain localities.

The purpose of wearing the hijab and the abaya is for the observance of Islamic modesty standards.

What Is the Difference Between a Hijab and a Burqa?

The word hijab describes the act of covering up and can also be used to describe a type of headscarf worn by Muslim women. The hijab covers the head and neck but leaves the face uncovered. Hijab comes in different styles and colours. February 1st every year is termed World Hijab Day where people from different faith across the globe are invited to wear the hijab as a sign of solidarity with Muslim women worldwide. It is aimed at creating a more peaceful world that encourages mutual respect and acceptance. The event was first celebrated in 2003. The hijab is the most common type of head-wear worn by Muslim women in the Western world.

The difference between hijab. niqab and burka

A burka is a form of Islamic dress that conceals the most. It is the most restrictive form of Islamic head-wear. Compared to the hijab that covers the head, hair, and most part of the chest, the burka covers everything. The burka completely covers the face with a mesh cloth covering the eyes and through which the wearer can see. Although the mesh cloth allows the wearer to see, it still leaves their eyes hidden. The burka is traditionally associated with countries in South Asia, e.g. Afghanistan.

Who Wears the Burqa?

The burqa is the most concealing of all Islamic garment worn by Muslimahs. It does not just cover the entire body but also covers the face, leaving only a mesh veil through which the wearer can see. The burqa is also known as chadri or paranja. For various security reasons, 13 nations of the world have issued bans on the burqa, some of the most popular are China, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark, France, and Chad.

Known as chadri, the burqa is widely used in Afghanistan and has been worn by Pashtun women even before the coming of Islam where it was regarded as a mark of respectability. The Taliban, after seizing power, insisted that women wear the chadri when they appeared in public. Although this is not required under the current Afghan regime, it is still enforced by local feudal lords in southern Afghanistan. They come in different colours depending on the location; light blue in Kabul area, brown and green in Kandahar, and white in the north in Mazari-i-Sharif.

Aside from Afghanistan, the burqa is common among the Muslim population in India. In Nizamuddin Basti, young unmarried women or young married women in their first years of marriage are obliged to wear the burka. In later years the husband can decide if he wishes for her to continue to dress in this fashion. The style of burka worn in India is somewhat different to that found in Afghanistan.

What Is the Difference Between Butterfly abaya, Open abaya, Closed abaya, Kimono abaya, and Draped abaya?

Abaya is one of the essential garment that any Muslimah should have in her wardrobe, this is because of its ease of wear, convenience and the fact that it adds modesty to your appearance. An abaya is something you can easily slip on or wear over your home clothes and go to an event. With an abaya, you don’t have to bother about your pants being too tight or your legs showing too much. It helps to keep you as comfortable and as fashionable as possible. Abayas come in different styles and designs to match individual preference.

Below are five major abaya designs that you can choose from:


1) Closed Abaya:

plain black abaya

plain black abaya

The closed abaya is the simplest and most traditional of all abayas. It is the most convenient option for anyone who doesn’t like to stress about their dress; you can easily slip into it. It doesn’t come with front buttons, thereby giving peace of mind as you don’t have to worry about the buttons coming off. There is no need for you to wear pants underneath, perhaps just tights.

The con of the closed abaya is that depending on the cut, it may restrict movement.

2) Open Abaya:

ruby velvet cape abaya 2

ruby velvet cape abaya 1

The name alone gives an idea of what type of abaya this is. This type of abaya comes with buttons along the front and it is a more popular option as compared to the closed abaya. As compared to the closed abaya, the open button abaya allows movement and supports the flexibility of styling for more than one option. Some open abayas now come with a belt around the wait to offer a more comfortable fitting.

The con of the open button abaya is that the buttons may start to loosen as time goes on. Aside from that, you would need to wear proper pants as your legs would be visible whilst walking due to the open nature of the abaya.

3) Kimono Abaya:

midnight blue kimono abaya

midnight blue kimono abaya

The Kimono abaya has a lot of similarities to the Abaya cardi except that it derives its inspiration from the Japanese Kimono which has one side crossing over the other and has a sash. The Kimono abaya has one of the most modern designs and can be flaunted for any occasion. It is also flexible, allowing you to dress the way you like, with pants, skirt or dresses. Kimono abayas typically have large open sleeves and compared to the open abaya, there is no need to worry about buttons coming off.

For the Kimono abaya, a lot of effort is required. Women would need to wear a top and bottom under the abaya.

4) Butterfly Abaya:

black zip line abaya

black zip line abaya

The butterfly abaya helps to provide a modest fit with excess fabric under the sleeves which creates a beautiful rippled effect. The bottom of a butterfly abaya can be draped and is similar to a maxi dress bottom.

5) Draped Abaya:

floral blossom cape abaya

floral blossom cape abaya

This abaya draws its inspiration from the Grecian draped gowns. Its comfortable design allows the wearer to move freely, particularly because of the soft flowy fabric which glides easily on wearers skin. This abaya is certain to make you stand out beautifully. You will only need to wear leggings with this abaya and you don’t have to worry about the buttons coming off.

Where Is the Niqab Worn?

The niqab is an Islamic dress that is worn which obscures the entire face except for the eyes. Although it has its origin in Saudi Arabia, it has spread to other parts of the Muslim world. The niqab has always been a topic of debate between Muslim scholars, some of whom are of the opinion that the niqab is not a requirement of Islam while others, albeit a few, insist that it is required, particularly in the Hanbali Muslim faith tradition. To women who wear it, the niqab is part of a particular interpretation of modesty and they wear it in public areas and in front of non-mahram men, i.e. non-related men.

The niqab actually pre-dates Islam and there is evidence that it has been used by certain Arabian pre-Islamic cultures. It is still a subject of debate within Muslim countries and it is often considered fringe. The niqab is worn mostly in its region of origin; the Arabian countries (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates). Despite its acceptance in these countries, it is not regarded as a universal cultural custom nor is it culturally compulsory.

Despite its controversies, the niqab is worn by Muslims in not only Muslim dominated countries but also in regions where Muslims are a minority.

What Does the Burqa Represent?

The use of the burqa has been the subject of debate and ban in many countries, particularly in the Western world. The argument of those who antagonist this mode of dressing is that women are forced to wear it. They argue that in Muslim controlled countries of the world women lack basic rights and equality, and the burqa is just another example of patriarchal control.

But many women, both in Islamic countries and in the Western world have come to state that wearing of the full covering is their choice and their right, and they have not been influenced or intimidated by any means. They interpret the Holy text to mean that their faces must be covered.

According to some women, the hijab, burqa and other forms of Islamic dressing are not of subjugation, but means of equality. This reason is that when they are in public, they will not be judged according to their appearance, thereby making them free from unwelcome male advances and objectifying leers.

And yet to some, the burqa is a badge of honour and solidarity in a world that is plagued with negative opinions about Islam, arguing that if the burqa is to be banned, it would only instigate more women to put it on. The burqa according to these women helps them get closer to God, it is more of a spiritual thing than anything else.

What Is the Purpose of the Burqa?

The burqa and niqab, which is two of the most concealing Islamic garments, have been the subject of much controversy and debate around the world. This has resulted in its complete ban in some countries while many others are considering banning or limiting its use. There has been a lot of arguments against the wearing of the burqa, stating that they are non-Islamic, oppressive, backward, and anti-social.

The Qur’an calls for all people to dress modestly. The Islamic text that supports Islamic dresses is in the Quran 33:59;

“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, as well as all believing women, that they should draw over themselves some of their outer garments [when in public], this will be more conducive to their being recognised as decent women and not molested”

Aside from the most obvious religious reasons, which helps them to get closer to God. Another purpose for the use of the burqa is that it acts as a guide for the woman, freeing her from unwelcome male advances and objectifying leers. And to some others, it is for cultural or environmental purpose.

Is Niqab a Religious Requirement?

The question of if wearing the niqab is a religious requirement has been the topic of much-heated debates both among Muslims and between Muslims and the society in general. The basic fact is that the Quran does not mandate women to cover their faces. Of course, women and men are instructed to dress modestly, but there are no clear laws where women are asked to cover their faces. In fact, women during the time of the Prophet were allowed to work with their faces open. The pages of the Quran make no mention of the burka, or any other variety of dress that is now associated with Islam, including the hijab or veil.

Another thing that is worthy of note is that during Hajj, which is the Muslim’s most sacred pilgrimage, women are not allowed to cover their faces. Rather, they are instructed to leave their faces open. If wearing the niqab was a religious requirement, then visits to Muslim’s most holy places would have necessitated them to maintain such apparel.

Majority of Muslims regard the face-covering veil as a mark of separation which portrays a fanatical side of Islam. This opinion is held by Muslims not only in the West but also in Islamic countries, too. The insistence to put on veil or niqab as a requirement seems to be the handiwork of select, stubborn community members. By such insistence, they invariably reinforce a wrong perception of Islam while causing unnecessary tension between the government, the Muslim community and the society in general.

Where Are Burqas Banned?

Among all Islamic clothing, the most controversial is the burqa. A burqa is a form of dressing which involves covering the whole body as well as the face with a veil mesh, such that even the eyes are not visible. Several countries around the world have kicked against the burqa, resulting in a partial or complete ban. Below are some of the most notable of these countries;

1. France: France is the first European country to ban the burqa in public. This ban took effect in April 2011 with President Nicolas Sarkozy stating that they were not welcomed in France. Women who break the ban could face a fine of up to 150 euro and subject to instructions in citizenship. Also, anyone who forces a woman to cover her face risk a 30,000 euro fine.

2. Belgium: Belgium followed closely in France’s footsteps by introducing its own ban on the burqa in 2011. The ban outlaws any clothing which hides people’s faces in public. Any woman found breaking the ban could face jail time of up to seven days or would have to pay a fine of 1378 euro.

3. Netherlands: Things are somewhat different in the Netherlands, where there is a partial ban on the full veil. This means that women cannot cover their faces in schools, hospital and on public transport. The burqa is banned only in specific situations where it is necessary for people to be seen or for security reasons.

4. Chad: Following two suicide bomb attacks in June of 2015, there has been a complete ban of full veil in Chad. The Prime Minister; Kazeube Pahimi Deubet described it as camouflage stating that burqa seen on sale would be burnt. Women who wear them could be arrested and sentenced to jail.

5. Cameroon: Cameroon equally followed in Chad’s footsteps following a series of suicide bombings by people wearing veils.

6. Spain: Several parts of Catalonia have laws which ban the wearing of the burqa and niqab. Quite surprisingly, in 2013, the Spain Supreme Court overturned the ban in some parts stating that it limits religious freedom. But regardless of this, some other parts have carried on, due in part to the 2014 European Court of Human Rights ruling which states that banning the veil doesn’t constitute any breach of human rights.

7. Niger: Due to several attacks by Boko Haram, the veil was banned in Diffa, one of the worst-hit regions in the country. The president further went on to suggest that the hijab could also be banned.

8. Switzerland: This is the latest country to pass a ban on full-face veil, although this restriction only stands in the Tessin region. The law came into effect on July 1, 2016, and since then anyone caught wearing the veil could face fines of up 9200 Euros.

What Is the Best Fabric for Abaya?

Abayas are one of the most popular and fashionable Islamic garments available. Not only do they confer beauty and glamour on the wearer they also help to make her modest by concealing sensitive curves of the body. Abayas can be made from virtually any type of material, the most popular materials used for its production include; crepe, silk, cotton, jersey fabric, and satin.

There are no exact best fabrics for abaya, the material used will depend largely on the location and prevailing weather condition. In warmer climates, materials such as cotton, linen, and viscose are preferred while in cooler parts of the world, denim or some other thicker material is used. The manner of usage also determines the type of fabric that would be used. Abayas made for important occasions such as weddings, parties, etc will be made from silk, georgettes or nidha, while those that can be used for around the house can be made from jersey fabrics.

Crepe is one of the most popular fabrics used for the production of abaya, they can be thick and heavy which can be used during winter, or light and thin which can be used during summer. If one fabric must be chosen for abaya, then it would be nidha crepe.

Can You Wear a Burqa in a Passport Photo in the UK?

No, a woman is expected to show her face in a passport photo. This is so as to prove her identity. A typical photo is expected to be taken with nothing covering the outline of the eyes, nose or mouth. The process of taking the photo can actually be done very discreetly. The woman is typically led to a special room or special screen where she can have her photo taken. This way, her face is still hidden from the general public but it is revealed only for security or official purpose.

Some scholars even opined that it is recommended or mandated for the woman to show her face if it is for legal purposes. They explain that if a woman becomes a witness, then she must show her face for the proceeding. Similarly, when it comes to passport, photo or other documents, you are a witness for yourself, therefore, you must show your face.

There have been several cases, for example in the United States, where fully veiled women have petitioned the court for the right to wear a face veil in their driver’s license photo. In every one of these cases these claims have been denied, and the court has maintained that the brief removal of the veil for an identity photograph did not violate religious rights or human rights.

What Is the Meaning of Burkini?

Designed by Lebanese Australian Aheda Zanetti, the burkini is a type of swimsuit for women. The swimsuit is registered under the company name Ahiida and it covers the entire body leaving only the face, feet and hands. Although it is a full-body outfit, it is yet light enough to enable swimming with ease. The design idea for the burkini is adopted from the Quran which admonishes Muslim women to dress modestly and cover sensitive parts of their bodies. The burkini is made of swimsuit material as against neoprene, and it has a built-in hood.

Controversy erupted in August 2009, when a woman wearing a burkini was prevented from swimming in a public pool. Although there has been a lot of issues relating to the Islamic garment prior to this time, the refusal of the woman from swimming in the pool was due to the long-standing law which requires swimwear in place of street clothing in public pools. This is due to hygienic reasons.

The burkini is a merger of burqa and bikini. Some of the other styles of Islamic swimwear includes a veilkini and mycozzie suit. Currently, wearing of burkini on public beaches and sea in France is banned as the country insist that religion is meant to be separate from other parts of life in public.

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