Mohammed Alarafe, a prominent Muslim scholar in Saudi Arabia, issued the advice on the abaya, a loose fitting robe which covers the whole body except the face, feet and hands. It is mainly worn in countries with large Muslim populations and can vary in style and colour.
On Sunday Alarafe posted on Twitter: “O daughter: Don’t buy any abaya that has any decorations. No embellishment, no slits, no openings. Please, daughter, don’t show any makeup, and don’t wear makeup like in Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic) era.”
Many women responded sarcastically to the cleric’s guidance on acceptable attire by sharing pictures of their abayas and asking Alarafe for approval. One woman posted a picture of her clothes and asked: “What do you think of my abaya, sheikh? Next time, I will buy a colourful, embroidered one with slits. I will try to buy an abaya that even people in the pre-Islamic era did not wear.”
The abaya is gaining prominence in the growing Muslim fashion industry with appearances on international catwalks and in magazines. Many shops including Harrods have also stocked abayas for their customers as designers seek to make the garment global.