Ask Ali: Should abayas be attracting attention and explaining wudu

Ladies nowadays judge other ladies from the abaya, the way it’s worn, the brand and how she carries herself. Before, in the region, an abaya was an abaya: plain-cut black cloth.

Dear Ali: I have been seeing many Emirati women wearing different type of abayas and some of them are almost like dresses and not abayas. What are your thoughts on that? JY, Abu Dhabi

Dear JY: What a classic question. In the past five years, fashion has had a huge influence on the life that many of the new generation are living now, so it’s obvious that there will be different ways of looking at this situation.

In general, ladies nowadays judge other ladies from the abaya, the way it’s worn, the brand and how she carries herself. Before, in the region, an abaya was an abaya: plain-cut black cloth, although there are various Khaleeji ways of wearing the abaya.

Today, women add to the abaya with pleats, cuts, colours ... It’s endless.

Every time that I go out in the city, shopping malls or wherever, especially in our own country, I feel that each abaya is screaming out loud to be noticed by how unique it looks.

Abayas are meant to be plain, not to grab attention. The minute that you say that it’s beautiful, it means that you’ve defeated the purpose of it. I know that it sounds very weird, but this is the truth that many of us today don’t feel comfortable facing.

Because of the open society that we welcome, which I believe is natural, we should adapt to what’s more comfortable for everyone.

Some will see the abaya as conservative yet fashionable. Others will not accept that, but will never come across as being against it, and others will be looked upon as outdated for not embracing its evolution.

Just like how our country is growing so fast in a very short period of time, our sisters have decided to rocket themselves and their abayas into the fashion scene. By the way, this also applies to attempts at making the kandura fashionable.

One reminder: some of my own sisters defend not wearing proper clothes under the abaya because they will be covered anyway, but this is not right, since in the first place, a woman is meant to conceal, so even under the abaya, you’re meant to dress properly.

My advice to all abaya fans is that people do judge you based on your abaya, as it’s your business card. However, just like a book, you can’t solely judge a girl by her cover.

Dear Ali: I feel that in Islamic culture, the laws are a bit demanding when it comes to praying, with each person having to do “wudu” (ablution) and wear new clothes and perfume and so on. Do you agree? KI, Dubai

Dear KI: Let me start by saying, whenever you decide on going to an interview or meeting your partner or your boss, don’t you do your best to look good? Take a shower, for example, look healthy, smell good, behave well? The logical answer would be “of course”. Then, imagine if you are going to meet God.

Muslims wash before prayer to symbolise the spiritual cleansing and purity in readiness to go before God. They do this by washing their hands, mouth, throat, nose, ears, arms up to the elbow and feet. This is similar to those in other faiths: the Catholic blessed with Holy water or the Jew who takes a schvitz (traditional bath) before the Sabbath. All of these are to serve the one and only purpose of being in a state of purity and clean from the inside and outside.

The religion is not demanding at all, but it adds value to how we should act and be when dealing with God as much as people. Being clean is great, as is staying healthy and being able to refresh yourself with water all the time.

The Quran says: “For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.”

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.

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Published: May 15, 2014 04:00 AM

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