The Black Abaya – A Symbol of Confidence, Self-Respect and Modesty

By Lebiska

The black abaya dress is deep rooted in Islamic culture and history. It has been seen as a token of confidence, self-respect and modesty. Even before Islam, women would wear it to keep warm in the colder seasons as well as to keep cool in the warmer seasons. Infact, the black abaya dress was worn as a means of shielding oneself from the harsh desert terrain. It provided protection from the heat of the scorching sun and that of the burning sand.

However, one may ask, how is that so when black is known to absorb and retain heat? Well according to a study by Shkolnik et al. (1980) titled Why do Bedouins wear black robes in hot deserts? They state –

“The amount of heat gained by a Bedouin exposed to the hot desert is the same whether he wears a black or a white robe. The additional heat absorbed by the black robe was lost before it reached the skin.”

Marc Abrahams (2012) commenting on these findings states that –

“Bedouins’ robes, the scientists noted, are worn loose. Inside, the cooling happens by convection – either through a bellows action, as the robes flow in the wind, or by a chimney sort of effect, as air rises between robe and skin. Thus, it was conclusively demonstrated that, at least for Bedouin robes, black is as cool as any other colour”.

The black abaya dress isn’t see through. Therefore, if the bright sun or another light were to shine on it, it wouldn’t reveal the womans figure and curves. Thus, safeguarding the women’s dignity and modesty at all times.

Some say that wearing black projects a sense of elegance, sophistication, and prestige. Some link black with protection, concealment, restriction and mystery. Additionally, it is believed to psychologically engender confidence and inconspicuous emotions simultaneously.

Also, according to muslims, a believing woman is worth more than precious pearls and diamonds and she should protect and care for herself accordingly.

Muslim women should observe and follow the guidelines of modesty in the public domain, and in front of any males outside of the immediate family (those they can theoretically marry). In chapter Nur verse 31, Allah orders the women to “guard their modesty” and then refers to that which they are required to guard as “adornments”. Allah the Mighty and the Majestic says –

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, and guard their modesty and not expose their adornment…”

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