Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Not Every Muslimah Who Wears An Abaya is Arab

I was asked this question the other day by a Yemeni sister-Min Maghrebi?. It roughly means are you Moroccan/from Morocco? I replied no, I am American (La, Amreeki). She had a surprised look on her face like you are American yet you wear abaya and can speak Arabic? Alhamdulillah I've been blessed to have study Arabic from when I was very young til my teen years. I can't fully speak Arabic. I can understand way more than I can speak it and I can't understand certain dialects. From what some people tell me Yemeni Arabic is the hardest to understand. I had to get used to Khaleeji Arabic with -ich like kayf 7alaich? I learned fusha or proper Arabic if you can call it and every Arab country has their own dialect.
Anyway, I've been asked many times if I am either Moroccan or Egyptian. To myself I don't really look it. To give a bit of a background on my ethnicity, from my mother's side, both of her parents are from the South. My grandmother is half native American and African American. My grandfather is African American and ancestry is from West Africa. Also there is some Irish mixed in there. On the paternal side, my grandfather is 100% Native American, while my grandmother, well all I can tell you she is from Oklahoma. From that I just consider myself basically American with African roots.
I see that a lot of people, not only Arabs, would think a woman who wears an abaya is assumed from the Middle East or North Africa. They think she knows Arabic and her whole family is from there. I guess this more or less goes for the sisters who they can't really tell where they come from or look a little more "exotic" if I may say. When you tell them otherwise, some of them won't believe you like you are trying to hide that you are. From other experiences with people who are from Western countries who go to Arab countries, who aren't of Arab descent and dress like the locals, its hard for the locals to fathom that woman outside of that country, mainly in the US, Canada, wear abaya.
The abaya is considered to be something that is cultural to those of Middle East, so a lot of people wonder why a lot of Muslim women who aren't from that region wear it. The reason I wear an abaya, no I am not trying to Arab or anything like that, is because to me and many other sisters, it is the easiest option that fulfills the requirement of proper hijab. It is loose and covers the body without showing your adornements or the shape of your body. Honestly what modern form of dress really does that in this day and age of the skinny jeans and body hugging clothes. I'm not saying that a long shirt. tunic with a skirt aren't proper hijab, but my opinion is that of the abaya and Allah knows knows best.
As for the lesson, not every woman who wears an abaya is Arab or speaks Arabic nor does every Arab wear abaya (as is seemed to believe)-actually most of the Arabs that I know don't even wear hijab and are Muslim.


Anonymous said...

I agree the abaya is seen as cultural here in the Middle East. I get a lot of people asking me why I am wearing abaya like a "local girl"... It can be pretty annoying, but I just tell them I believe jilbab is fard and they give me a nod haha

Yasmin (Umm Zayd) said...

Amal-Yeah some just nod there head and then walk away like they aren't interested anymore since you aren't Arab. On the other hand, a lot of sisters are very welcoming towards me even if they don't speak much English.

Hijabis On Ranting Tour. said...

aww im an abayah wearing arab haha but i think you guys attract attention because you interest people, always find it amazing to see non arabs speaking arabic, etc and i do agree that Abayah is also for me a simple way to fulfill islamic requirements :)
salaams sis from naz