Tuesday, 22 January 2013

An interesting article from the Beeb

As I have been considering to start selling abayas and Islamic fashion items on this blog, I stumbled upon this really interesting article on BBC NEWS earlier...

Jazzing up the abaya

By Stephanie Hancock 
BBC News, Dubai
Hind (left) and Reem Beljafla pose with one of their designs
The Beljafla sisters have come under fire for some of their designs
Few images shout Middle East quite like the abaya - the long, black overgarment worn by millions of women across the Arab world.
The design has remained pretty much unchanged for centuries, but a crop of young new designers in the United Arab Emirates are now giving the traditional dress a modern-day makeover.
Nothing is off limits - designers are experimenting with bold colours, materials like lace and leather, and even add sequins, embroidery and daring slits to jazz up the often-uniform black robe.
Reem and Hind Beljafla began their abaya-design business, DAS Collection, 18 months ago after realising the market for high-end design for Muslim women in Dubai was woefully underserved.
Their abayas are very much haute-couture - everything is custom-made and prices start at $1,000 (£606).
 It [abaya] is not a tent that covers us all - we can still look pretty and elegant and sexy 
Badr al-Budoor, designer
The young sisters say that as long as a woman's form is still covered by the abaya, there is no harm in having a bit of fun with the design.
"It never loses its identity - the target is to cover the woman's body so there is no harm in playing with the fabrics," says 24-year-old Reem.
"We thought why can't we take our abayas and make something to suit the modern girl, but still keep that conservative style."
Big ambitions
The Beljafla sisters have come under fire for some of their pieces, especially ones which are made from transparent fabric, or show off the shoulders.
A piece from Badr Al Budoor's design collection
Badr al-Budoor is now taking her business online. Photo: Abaya Couture
But they insist their more racy designs are only supposed to be worn to ladies-only gatherings such as wedding parties.
They also say that an evening-wear abaya is not supposed to be worn for a trip to the mall during the daytime - much as one wouldn't wear a cocktail dress to the office.
The sisters have big ambitions.
They have already met famous US designers like Vera Wang, and believe the day is not far off that Western models will be seen sashaying down a catwalk in Paris or New York wearing one of their creations.
'Spreading the word'
Badr al-Budoor is another Emirati designer who is having fun transforming the age-old abaya by adding frills, polka dot print and giant bows to give her pieces a princess-like feel.
Interest in her unusual designs is so high that she is taking her business online to target an international audience.
Designer Rabia Z poses with some of her mannequins in a high street collection
Rabia Z now runs a fashion empire
She also hopes that, as she opens up to the overseas market, people might view traditional Islamic dress in a different light.
"The whole point of doing this online is to spread the word on the abaya and show people that it is a fashionable piece that we wear," says Ms Budoor, who recently launched her website AbayaCouture.com.
"It is not a tent that covers us all. We can still look pretty and elegant and sexy - just as covered and as traditional as we need to be."
Ms Budoor does not see a contradiction in creating "sexy" abayas.
"The definition of sexy here in Emirati society is very different to the West," she says.
"Sexy to us means elegant, modest and feminine. It's possible to look attractive without showing any skin at all."
'Modest yet modern'
It is not just Islamic dress that is being transformed.
Emirati designers have also started to take Western-style clothes like T-shirts, skirts and trousers and adapt them for Muslim customers.
 The potential for further growth is massive - it's still untapped, it's a niche market 
Rabia Z, designer
Rabia Z began designing when she started wearing the hijab, or a headscarf, a few years ago while living in the US.
"I realised there was nothing stylish for women like me to wear - something that is conservative but still stylish and fashionable," says Rabia, who is now one of the region's most successful designers.
"It was shocking that no-one seemed to care about us - there was absolutely nothing that catered to the needs of Muslim women."
Rabia started her business eight years ago and now runs a veritable fashion empire catering for everything from haute-couture to high street.
She plays with both fabric and cut to achieve her design mantra of "modern yet modest", and even stitches hijabs into hooded tracksuit tops so that women can exercise in comfort.
But Rabia does not only want to dress Arab women, and is targeting Muslims right across the world, including in the West and further afield.
She already has plans to tap Asian markets like China and Korea, as well as countries closer to home like Iran and Afghanistan.
"The potential for further growth is massive," she says confidently.
"It's still untapped, it's a niche market and the potential is just enormous."

Monday, 21 January 2013

Inspiring lives

Assalam Walaikum !

I don't know where you will be reading this from but as I am writing this, the snow has covered the London pavements with a thick blanket of white & soft fluff!
A child's' heaven! Snowmen, snow fights and snow angels are everywhere!!
While it is beautiful and a sign of God's greatness, SubhanAllah, the snow can be quite daunting for some, and for the elderly in particular.

Now, before I go on to talking about the inspiring sister I just met, I would like to invite you to think about the people you know, or you know of, that may live alone or in an isolated area and who could do with a helping hand in the adverse weather. This of course applies any time of the year, in any extreme weather. Call and see if they need any shopping done, check that their heaters (air-cons) are working or maybe just pop in for a chat.

So here's my story. For Muslimahs in South West London, there is a social network called SWMuslimah. It is mailing group really, were sisters can mass email information to all sisters in the South West of London.
It's really interesting to hear about conference and talks, things that are for sale, sisters asking for advice etc...

On Saturday night, one of the emails that came through was regarding an elderly revert sister, living very close to me, who was feeling slightly isolated because of the snow, and frightened after one of her neighbours passed away and was only found 2 weeks later.
Another sister had sent the email round to all of us asking if somebody could go and check on her while the weather was bad.

I immediately called the sister and arranged to go and visit her the next day.
I have to say, I was really really excited to go and meet this sister. I love meeting reverts, and I love meeting new people, and I love feeling helpful, but above everything else, I miss my grandparents.
With one of them living in Scotland and the others in France, I rarely get to see them in person and can only count on telephone conversations to check on them. So setting off to visiting this sister, only a year older than my own grandmother, made me feel like I was going to see my own grandma.
What really had got me in the email was the mention that her sons had cut off all ties with her since she had come into the deen. I couldn't even begin to imagine the sadness in her heart...

I was expecting to meet a fragile sister, who would need help with things around her house, but Mashallah, I was surprised to find a high spirited and smiley sister, and a double surprise to realise that I had met her more than once at Turning Point Academy!

My husband and I, (we went together) sat the whole afternoon with her, listening to story after story from her life. It was one of the most uplifting afternoons we'd had in a while.
This sister, despite her illnesses and her age, told us that she still volunteered, from home or in an office for various charities! Can you believe it Mashallah?

I was really inspired and in awe slightly for this sister who against all odds, has kept faith in her heart and a smile on her face, while reaching out to others all along.

As we were about to leave another sister called to say she was in the neighbourhood and was going to pop in.

When I checked on her today, she told me that she'd had an excellent day and that 3 more sisters had come that evening to visit her.

I hope that this story made you smile, Inshallah, and also made you think of one person you could turn too and help this winter!

Salam Walaikum sisters!!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Dawah in Islam

Assalam Walaikum sisters!

Since January started, Alhamdulillah, I have managed to keep my 5 a day!
5 prayers that is - not fruit- unfortunately, that still needs improvement.

I cannot believe it to be honest. 9 days in a row of praying 5 times a day, when I used to find it difficult to pray even just once a day, every day!

Subhannallah, it shows what you can achieve when you do things in the name of Allah.

The decision was mine to make, there was no pressure from my peers, from my sisters, from my parents- most definitely not from my parents in my case!- not from my husband or in laws.

No, I decided that this was the step I needed to take to please God.

Faith should be just that, a relationship between the individual and God. I find it really sad that, around the world, and throughout the ages, religion has been imposed on others.
As Muslims, we should learn what Dawah is, but we should also know to leave matters to Allah once we have done what is in our power to invite others into Islam.
Especially true when you talk to new Muslims or non-Muslims. A lot of us westerners do not like to be told what to do or what to believe in.

I believe I can invite people to Islam better by showing a kind and understanding character rather than by trying to endlessly convince them by lecturing them.

That of course is my personal opinion. What do you think sisters? Let me know if you think differently...