I have been wearing the headscarf since 2005 when I was 15. Later, around in 2007, I learned more about the Islamic dress code for women and realized that an abaya was an essential garment. But it wasn't until 2010 that I actually started wearing one. It took me three years to prepare myself for I knew wearing an abaya is no easy task. Some of the issues that I had resolve before following my religious ambitions were...
1. I Will Have to Wear it EVERYWHERE!Once a woman dons an abaya, she endorses it in totality. Hence, whenever she steps out of her house, the abaya accompanies her. However, there are times when a woman might be tempted to take off her abaya just because of the glamor around her, such as in weddings and parties.
Bringing myself to the resolution of wearing an abaya everywhere, including weddings and parties, was a tough decision but I think it was worth the while Alhamdulillah.
2. Breaking the News - Anticipating Heart AttacksMy parents and relatives have significantly contributed to my life. Hence, they have expectations from me in return. Since no girl in my family is a hijabi, breaking the news to them that I will be wearing a boring black abaya to weddings was an upheaval task. I was apprehensive that they would reject my plan outright or make negative remarks.
But fortunately, my mother supported me. Even though she doesn't wear an abaya herself, she thinks that I have made the right decision. As for my father, having lived in the Middle East for around three decades, he is culturally attuned to the outfit and the only problem he has is the 'plainness' of my abayas.
3. Carrying it in the Professional WorldI also wondered how my abaya will affect my profession. I believed that my impression before my college professors, interviewers, colleagues at my workplace would be radically altered because of my abaya. And this was yet another challenge that I had to prepare myself for.
4. The HeatDuring summers Karachi can get really hot and that's when men loosen their ties and undo their buttons while women resort to wearing lighter fabrics. But if one is in an abaya, there isn't much choice. You can't wear a fabric as light as 'lawn', you can't take your headscarf off or do things that let air touch your skin. Although, most of the places I go to on a routine basis have airconditioning, there are times when I do feel terribly hot and I knew this would happen before donning the abaya. And it was another hurdle that I had to brace myself for.
5. My Personal Commitment versus My TemptationsBeing a woman, I have never been too fashion forward, but I haven't been behind the times either. Like other women, I know the therapeutic effect of dressing up. Just by wearing a certain color can entirely change one's mood. And the joy of wearing new clothes to college or wearing a certain outfit that you know is going to turn heads can be an uplifting experience. Committing yourself to an abaya means saying good-bye to fashion in public. It means that you have to shift to a completely different alternative universe when it comes to dressing.
This has the potential to create a desperate desire in a hijabi woman to wear what non-hijabis do in the public, to feel joy of people praising them for their styling sense and beauty. And many actually give in to this temptation by unraveling themselves at weddings and other events they consider 'important'. This was the part that I had to mentally prepare myself for most before donning an abaya.
For a long time, I had been gathering courage and faith to execute what I had been wanting to do for so long. But it was a video I watched that finally pushed me to practice what I preached to myself.
It was an interview of Shabina Begum. Shabina is citizen of UK who sacrificed two years of her education fighting for her right to wear an abaya at school. She thought it was more important to practice her religion than anything else. MashaAllah, her family supporter her in her cause and she fought a legal battle with her school for letting her wear an abaya. Watching this video, I thought - there is a Muslimah, in a non-Muslim country, sacrificing so much just so that she can practice Islam. While here I am, with these minor challenges not doing what I should have right when I reached puberty.
Hence, finally in March 2010, at the age of 20 I started wearing an abaya to every place I went. It has been a very fulfilling journey since then alhamdulillah.