The Nature of the Abaya
How did men succeed in convincing women to transform the free personality that Allah endowed them with into enslaved characters wearing an abaya? The process was not simply a mental one. It was a combination of emotional factors which were cleverly exploited. Men used women’s weaknesses to make women believe that an important part of the male-female relationship was the man loving the weak and submissive elements of a woman’s nature. He then named these elements respect, honor and correct behavior. These do not exist objectively but can only be explained according to the individual man’s desire and will — in other words, a totally subjective conception.
What is strange is that women accepted the idea and were soon submitting themselves to the prison of the garment, the walking slowly, the looking only straight ahead — just to fulfill, it seems, what men imagined the abaya to be all about.
Women’s imaginations, however, seem to have gone to work to create new and more complicated garments which would confine her more than ever before. The old abaya was a simple, on-the-shoulder garment, open on both sides; nowadays women wear abayas which rest on their heads, making them look like large walking crows. As for other abayas, they occupy the wearer with keeping them wrapped around the shoulders, the head and the face so that the woman can’t move without worrying that one or more of the bits will fall and she will stand revealed.
This business of abayas is really of a piece with the Shoura Council’s banning physical education in girls’ schools. Women taking exercise or having physical education does not fit with “the abaya culture.” The abaya confines; exercise does the opposite. There would have to be some new male-oriented explanation to justify how girls could play games and enjoy sports. Who knows? There might yet be a new spiritual sport to emphasize the great gift given to women in the abaya in which they use only their eyes and fingers!
Many explanations and interpretations of the abaya seem to be part of a strange phenomenon in which women enjoy being deprived of their free will.
More than a few women are apparently happy wearing the abaya and burdening men with all that the garment suggests and evokes.