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KARACHI, Sept 7: “It is not just a dress. It is a symbol of modesty. Dressing modestly leads to modest thoughts, too. The abaya and hijab have a way of shaping morality in the lady who wears it,” says Sadia Ali, a customer at an abaya shop on Tariq Road.

The traditional burqa is passé. Compared with the abaya, the full-length embroidered dress originally from the Arab Gulf states, the burqa is rarely worn these days. “I think there must be one that belonged to my dadijan in that big dusty trunk lying at the back of our garage,” says Maria Sabahuddin. The girl herself wore emerald green hijab kept in place on the head with a pretty brooch over a jet-back abaya with sequins at the front opening and sleeve cuffs.

Shabana Usman, who runs an abaya shop in the basement of the Gold Mark shopping centre, on main Korangi Road, says that most of the cloaks and abayas in her shop have been imported from Dubai. Therefore they are expensive. “The simpler ones with scant embroidery or sequins cost Rs3,000, while the fancy ones cost Rs5,000 and over,” she says.

Her shop “is just a mini branch”. “Our main shop is in Dubai,” she adds.

Ms Usman counts some of the most popular abaya styles on her fingertips. “There is the farasha style, the Sudanese style,” she says. “The material used in abayas should have a nice fall such as jersey, georgette, etc.”

“The most popular colour for abayas is the very same for the old-style burqas — black. But we also sell off-white, beige, fawn colour, blue and grey abayas,” says Mohammad Amir, who besides having an outlet in the Gold Mark shopping centre, has the main shop in Dubai.

“It’s an Arab tradition, so we have links in the UAE,” the shopkeeper points out. The cheapest and simplest of abayas at Mr Amir’s shop are in the range of Rs1,000 to 1,500.

“But the expensive ones can start at Rs10,000 and go up to Rs50,000,” he says. “The most expensive ones are actually encrusted with zircon stones.

“Abaya tailors are also different from your regular shalwar-kameez suit tailors. Their cuts are very different.”

Rizwan Ansari, who stitches abayas, says: “I also have an embroidery side in my tailoring shop for doing the embroidered borders for the abayas.

“We stitch all kinds of abayas. We can even replicate the ones in the Arab catalogues brought to us by our customers. For the simpler ones, we charge Rs700 and the price can go up to Rs1,500. It can even go up further depending on what kind of embroidery work or sequins you want on the cloak.”

When asked about the difference between an abaya and a burqa, the tailor explains: “The burqa had a proper head covering with a veil but you can wear a scarf of your choice over an abaya for the hijab. Girls use pretty and colourful scarves. It’s more of a fashion statement now than a way of dressing modestly.

“Then like the burqa you always wear full clothes underneath the abaya as well. But ladies usually wore a proper kameez and shalwar underneath their burqas. It is not uncommon for young ladies to wear jeans and tunics underneath their abayas with sneakers, and the mothers copy their daughters,” he laughs.

“So the trend is changing. Also the burqa used to be a loose garment, whereas the abaya is fitted to the body shape. We are asked to put in more pleats by the ladies.”

Comments (45) Closed

khanm Sep 08, 2013 04:20pm

It is women basic right to look pretty

Aslam Sep 08, 2013 05:31pm

Abaya or Burqa its all in your heart how you choose to live your lives. Soon both will be abolished by Women Rights Movement.

Rabia Sep 08, 2013 05:36pm

'The abaya and hijab have a way of shaping morality '...and of making the wearer feel very very warm.

VINOD Sep 08, 2013 05:40pm

"The abaya and hijab have a way of shaping morality in the lady who wears it,

Mr. Haq Sep 08, 2013 06:30pm

The purpose of the Burqa and Abaya is to be modest but fancy shiny ones actually do the opposite. They attract the attention of men, which is forbidden. 50,000 rupees for an abaya? Are you just out of control. This garment is suppose to be for hayaa and sharam and to keep it simple. But everything opposite is happening here. Unfortunately, this is not the purpose of this garment. Now they are making it tighter fitting as well. Wow. Speechless.

Singh Sep 08, 2013 06:29pm

Lilia Katia Sep 08, 2013 06:41pm

Dubai is filled with women in beaufiful abayas. I design some myself although I don't wear them unless going mosque or somewhere. But they are beautiful and as long as they are modest, that's fine. Everyone loves to do fashion, to stay simple has become so hard.

Faysal Sep 08, 2013 06:57pm

It is just a product, and it has nothing to do with Islam or any other form of civilization. A product is a product if it is selling, hence keeping the economy on the move. But, how can we made such product which can be sell-able in the international market, and what can be those products.....?????

AK Sep 08, 2013 07:08pm

Our creator knows all about us and our minds. It is best for women to cover and men to keep their gaze low when they happen to face a non-mehram women.

All those who thinks that is wrong, so think of your mom, your sister and your daughters first and ask if you want them to be respected and looked pretty for other man without hijab or abaya or appropriate perda?

Tahira Sep 08, 2013 07:57pm

It is about time we demand that men obey the Islamic purdah for men. They should cast down their eyes if they see a woman walking on the footpath. If all men followed this, there will be no need for women to wear burqa, abaya or hijab. Women have done their part for over 1400 years, now let the men do so for the next 1400 years. Their purdah is very easy and not half as harsh as burqa or abaya. Please men, take up this challenge and show us that you are at least as good as the women at following Islamic injunctions.

Rashis Sultan Sep 08, 2013 08:26pm

Modest dress, modest minds, modest women and modest achievements. Progress is about being get go, taking risks and being immodest. Try it. It may help the nation progress faster.

Rashid Sep 08, 2013 09:00pm

We are throwing our traditions, lifestyle, culture, and values to the waste-bin piece-by-piece and replacing them with those of Arabs. We used to be one of the moderate nations in the world and now we think that their dress

O khan Sep 08, 2013 09:05pm

My wife wears a hijab, when she first started wearing it I was against it. Soon realised she has the right to wear what she likes.

KHAN Sep 08, 2013 09:14pm

I hope it becomes a fashion and we get rid of this Indian pajamas and sari.

Tiger Memon Sep 08, 2013 11:40pm

@khanm: Yes its a woman's basic right to look pretty but only in front of her husband and only for her husband and no one besides him.

Samina Sep 09, 2013 12:23am

Why Dawn is promoting hijab culture by quoting phrases such as 'abaya and hijab have a way of shaping morality'. what is the point of revealing latest fashions in hijab, the brands and prices other than promoting it. Lets all be clear than hijab is an Arab culture and it is infiltrating our society like plague. Can Dawn do a similar positive article about women who opt to be more liberal in their outfits.

Imran Sep 09, 2013 12:43am

Modesty is not superficial. Dressing with abaya or without does not change anyones thinking. All it does is suppress individual expression.

What happens when an abaya or burqa wearing daughter is married off to a man who may ask her to not wear it or vice versa. These matters of how one should dress should be personal without the moral tags.

Tell me if you see modesty in the women of UAE and Saudi Arabia. They are mostly clad in abayas and burqas in public but the extravagant clothing and jewelry under the covering is far from modesty. Its just a fa

amit nigam Sep 09, 2013 12:49am

@VINOD: You are absolutely right brother . How come dress and attire shape the morality of a person ?By the way , why such kinds of morality lessons are only applicable for women only ? Could some one tell me What kind of dress shape the morality in a man ? If at all morality can be shaped by something , then that is Education .

jar Sep 09, 2013 12:56am

@Aslam: then put your eyes also in your heart

TKhan Sep 09, 2013 01:14am

@khanm: After sitting an hour with a pretty women which definitely felt like a minute; I asked "would your Mom be angry for being late"? She said "I don't know about my Mom; but for sure My husband would"!

G.A. Sep 09, 2013 02:10am

What is so unIslamic about the Pakistani national dress that Pakistanis have to import this 'tent' from the sands of Arabia? Why promote Arab dresses when Pakistanis are do degraded at their airports? Serious identity crisis is all I can say.

cheema Sep 09, 2013 03:00am

So vinod,you would like women of your clan in bikinis,we don't mind go ahead

SS Sep 09, 2013 03:05am

At least these trendy abayas look million times better than those old fashioned black head to toe burqas.

rosh Sep 09, 2013 03:13am

@VINOD: Do you remember the moment you came out of your mother womb, if not, I have a solution or test to recall that moment for you if your mother is alive. Free service no charge whatsoever. Money back guaranteed.

true musim Sep 09, 2013 07:39am

Pakistani muslims better spend time on providing education to your kids, improving healthcare, not killing each other and foreigners with different beliefs, immunizing your children, building better schools, obeying the laws of your country, following a secular approach like the prophet, and not trying to follow the primitive arab traditions.You need your own Pakistani identity and need to be a proud Pakistani.

rukh Sep 09, 2013 08:24am

i have been wearing abaya 12 years ago even thought my mother and my two other sisters never wear in my university day when we girls waited for a bus for hrs some motorcyclist stared and hit girls on their back and then ran away it happened many time in front me and then i came to the conclusion many girls invites themselves such lusty people by showing herself in a way that their frustration get increases and they could not desist their evil intention short being in abaya i feel confident and relax whenever i go outside at lest i can protect my self from the lusy eyes

Zeeshan Majid Sep 09, 2013 08:48am

Hijab is never meant to serve the purpose of hiding women face which is not allowed to muslim women. Traditional burqa which can hide women face and in general whole body properly from top to bottom should be used if you are following your faith. Otherwise its just a fashion to wear tight fitted obaya / hijabs etc.

ssf Sep 09, 2013 09:27am

I think the hijab was started by women to hide their heir becuse it's quite a job to maintain nice looking long heir, why not cover them end of story.

ssf Sep 09, 2013 09:33am

Ms Hasan, Is burqua a fashion statement? You must be kidding!

illawarrior Sep 09, 2013 11:58am

Since when have burqas ever been in fashion?? Burqas are a complete denial of fashion.

illawarrior Sep 09, 2013 12:02pm

A woman who is forced to wear clothes she does not want to wear, becomes resentful and defiant.

illawarrior Sep 09, 2013 12:03pm

@khanm: It is also a woman's right to be comfortable, and to wear clothes that are appropriate to the climate. Everyone knows that black clothing is hotter .... is why Arab men wear white, whilst forcing their women to wear black.

S Bara Sep 09, 2013 01:20pm

@Rabia: Do mean very very hot.

Sarah Khaled Sep 09, 2013 01:55pm

I live in the middle east and I think they're a century behind when it comes to "trendy" abayas.

Muhammad Ashraf Sep 09, 2013 02:55pm

@khanm: Would you send your daughter or sister or mother to sit with someone for a minute, I mean for a hour, please

(we muslims and Islam does not allow this, and we have all the rights to practice our faith)

yasmeen Sep 09, 2013 05:41pm

The main idea behind burka, cloak, loose coat, plain covering, modest attire etc. is to seek general inattention and dis-interest from the public when one is out and about. Abayas have turned this idea on its head.

They are an outer garment that has been turned into an inner one. The Abaya ensemble tends to be body hugging with a 'notice my scarf' disposition. As the fitting design restricts the wearers stride, women tend to leave the lower half of the abaya unbuttoned and flappy; thereby, exposing the frequently not so modest outfit underneath.

ROHIT PANDEY Sep 09, 2013 08:44pm

@yasmeen: Women,instinctively like to make a statement about their good looks or charm.

They will find a way( as most human do,if they are denied something which they crave for) to bypass religious diktats or this case,they are shedding black,dour clothes for something colorful..this should be a subject for study in anthropology or ethology or ethnology!

ROHIT PANDEY Sep 09, 2013 08:46pm

@Singh: The Pakistani tradition would be very much the subcontinental,Indian one.

Partition placed an imperative on Pakistan to be "non India" and now,it has extended to women's dress being copied from Arabs!

Amber Sep 09, 2013 11:41pm

Islamic tradition is also supposed to have stressed simplicity in dressing and lifestyle. The interesting anthropological question that arises is why the idea of 'modesty' through the wearing of abaya and hijab given much importance in the Pakistani society today whilst the notion of simplicity so easily sidelined?

Ali K Sep 10, 2013 06:10am

Of course such dresses are meant to show modesty. It is not a secret anymore that today's modern dresses, especially women's dresses and attire, are meant to become sexually desirable.

Weirdity Sep 10, 2013 10:38am

This is what is called arabization. People who give up their culture and blindly follow the culture of a different wont survive as society. They will be pale imitations.

Nafji Fatina Sep 10, 2013 04:03pm

Burqa was not is not part of Islamic tariqha. How many Ladies in Punjab and Baluchistan wearing Burqa when Pakistan became independence. only chadeer big chadeer from head to toe. Read all ayat in Quran for women is it says any particular shape of Burqa. Burqa is creation by wahabi, which is not part of teaching of Islam. show any burqa in Africa, or middle east ( Gulf is not middle east) only chadeer. when women needs to go buy household things in market only wearing chadeer . Iran ,Iraq , Egypt , pal stein, Jordan, morocco , Algeria, most of African countries only chandeer. Please understand don't make burqa as Fakkar make it hijab means shram haya not colorful or black cloth.

gangadin Sep 10, 2013 04:48pm

Call it what you like and wear it the way it suits you but don't call it a religious requirement or something like that.

BCMC Sep 10, 2013 06:42pm

@rosh: I think you do remember because you always see your mom in that I right? And who is that lucky one who does this service for free

we r not you Sep 10, 2013 08:39pm

@true musim: our prophet was NOT secular!!!