Abaya and the Experience of Alienation

By Maria Khanam

I want to throw light on the way we wear abaya or whatever people call it hijab or Naqab (loose black robe from head to toe). For society, it is either a piece of cloth or cover of head/hairs. It depends the way you think, give vision to others and then adapting yourself too. Here, my interest is not to emphasise my views in the light of Qur’an or Hadith because  there has already been written a lot regarding this.

My aim is not to criticise or disgrace others’ views but only to throw some light on my personal views regarding the Abaya or Hijab. People stereotype women wearing abaya.

People usually think that the reason behind me wearing abaya is my father who is religious or respectable figure in Muslim community. On behalf of this categorisation they put my identity under religio cultural agenda. This further questions and stereotype the upbringing of Muslim girls.

People around me even thought that since my childhood, my parents must have created such an orthodox religious atmosphere for me and my sister due to which we were buried within four walls. I really want to give answers to all such queries that I have faced.

Yes, firstly I was brought up in an Islamic atmosphere, I feel good enough about it and find myself lucky too. Do you know why? My parents gave English education to us, even though we are girls (without considering the foolish comments ad advises of people in society). My neighbours and relatives had given suggestions to my parents to consider Madrasa education for us. He had chosen different path for us being a Muslim because he wants us to understand current scenario as well as Islamic understanding.

Secondly, I wore my abaya when I was in 9th standard, heard a lot of Hadith regarding this, saw my mother wearing it, I felt secure and under its positive influence I adopted it. My father was successful in convincing me. Yes, he did so as a father. It did not come to me forcibly. I respect him, felt happy at that time and wore it. At times I told my friends about the beauty of abaya and its modesty which doesn’t mean that I was trying to force them to follow the same thing. It doesn’t mean I have become “jihadi” or one who propagates religious agenda forcibly, I feel delighted while sharing my knowledge to others and people eagerly want to know as well. For example if you are member of LGBT (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender) community or have some views about lifestyle and acquired a place in society then you would surely want to share your ideas by organisations, whether the person next to you follow or not is a secondary thing.

I have the option either to cover my face or not. I was in 9th standard and I had chosen to cover my face as well because I felt comfortable with it. The concept for me at this young age was not as important because I wasn’t mature. Wherever I felt a need, I removed it. The parents only give vision of what is wrong and what is right just like any Hindu family or any other family. Their parents too tell them what Bhagvad Gita recited or any holy text wherever their beliefs lie because they are parents. Now it depends on children either they understand or reject it. I handled Abaya with carelessness because I was unaware and ignored various aspects. I was unaware of becoming societal blot just because of this abaya. My parents tried to explain things but I wasn’t ready to listen them. In my college days, my senior who wasn’t in the same branch but most of the time he shared his Islamic knowledge in respect to Islam and society, just because he wants to share his information in front of others but trust me I was in complete ignorance and hardly tried to understand things. Then, one day I was in introspection and it hit me up, my eyes filled with tears, having guilt of doing wrong things. For the first time I read the translation of Qur’an. The girl born in Muslim family did not even read its translation and was criticised by others for having Muslim identity.

Now I want to ask all of you, why are we judged on behalf of abaya and why do we face different perceptions by society even when they don’t know anything. Why are they highlighting all these issues on media or using as political agenda against one community to other, its really shameful not for me but for all. One thing I want to make clear is that if we are wearing it by force then in our college we can remove it but we don’t do this. Do you know why? We feel protected especially in the society where we are living. The concept of abaya spiritually comes only when you want and follow it by heart.

Abaya may seem a religious symbol of Muslims but Hindus have it too. The system of purdah had major role in Hinduism. Women in Hindu society also cover their face by the veil of saree because sort of beliefs are attached to it. It exists but entirely not followed. Muslims never criticise them because we are aware of the knowledge of differences in beliefs. Then why society is incapable to cope us within it.

Muslim girls are considered Alien, while visiting malls or any public place just because of abaya. It is the main reason due to which our girls thought to remove it just to cope up with society and trust me society is complicated, unable to understand us. I was going through this alienation and now want to say that, just be yourself and accept the fact of this society and stay happy within it because society doesn’t have enough guts to accept us completely, being different from others should be our aim for wearing abaya, not to feel shame but proud to have it.

I’m happy enough to become an alien and thank God you all have assumptions about aliens and now your dreams are becoming true just because of us (abaya girls). I feel delight, love to enjoy things which never affects my identity. I have fun, enjoy rain, can run fast towards stall of ice cream in abaya, others might laugh but I am happy for being a reason of their laughter. In my whole journey I understood one thing that I love the way I am.


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