As I walk down the street and I can feel what you’re thinking when you see me. “Who is she? Where does she come from? Is it someone I know? Does her abaya hug her curves? Does it swallow her whole? What about her hair? Can I see stray strands peeking through? Does she pray on time? Does she respond to men’s cat calls and suggestive whistles? Is she married or single? It looks the same as all other abayas so she must be like all other women. She probably gossips, causes fitna, and has nothing of value to contribute to progress. She is just another object to appease my carnal pleasures. She is just another person for me to pass judgement on. The next fashion trend could be all she ever talks about. Who knows with these Muslim Swahili ladies? Can they even think for themselves?”
And what I’m thinking then is this: I am wearing the abaya because I want to. I did it for Allah. I did not wear it to appease any man.
I wish for once you could see me as I see myself – as just another person. I love the colour green, and sipping tea, and reading books. I love sitting in libraries. I am a lover of humanity. I want to listen to stories and to travel and to learn new things. I want to write a book and live on a farm. No, I am not working on seducing another man. I am working on creating a more God-conscious me.
I am a daughter, a wife, and mother. I am a community volunteer. I work hard and contribute to my family and to society. I am just like the next person who wants to get head in life and take the occasional holiday break. I am all these things and more; a woman wearing the abaya is just one piece of the puzzle that I am.
I long to be a colorful bird, to take to the open skies and sing my own song. You can’t ignore my abaya when you see me, and you let it tell my story. Please see beyond my outer garments. Look at the person I am and let me tell you my story.