The abaya "cloak" (colloquially and more commonly, Arabic: عباية ʿabāyah , especially in Literary Arabic: عباءة ʿabāʾah ; plural عبايات ʿabāyāt , عباءات ʿabāʾāt ), sometimes also called an aba, is a simple, loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress, worn by some women in parts of the Muslim world including in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Traditional abayat are black and may be either a large square of fabric draped from the shoulders or head or a long caftan. The abaya covers the whole body except the face, feet, and hands. It can be worn with the niqāb, a face veil covering all but the eyes. Some women choose to wear long black gloves, so their hands are covered as well. The Indonesian and Malaysian women's traditional dress kebaya gets its name from the abaya.
The rationale behind the abaya is dealt with at greater length in the article Niqab.
Often the Quranic quote, "O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, to cover themselves with a loose garment. They will thus be recognised and no harm will come to them" Qur'an 33:59 (Translated by Ahmed Ali)] is given as the argument for wearing the abaya.
The abaya is most common in countries with large Muslim populations, as the entire body, except for the face and hands, is considered awrah: that which should be concealed in public from males unrelated by blood or marriage.
Outside the few Arab states and Saudi Arabia, in nations with large Muslim populations, such as Indonesia and Pakistan many in those countries do wear it.
In Saudi Arabia, they require women to cover in public. In Iran, a similar covering is worn, known as a chador, although this does not cover the face. In South Asia, an equivalent garment is the burqa.
Abayat are known by various names but serve the same purpose, which is to cover. Contemporary models are usually caftans, cut from light, flowing fabrics like crepe, georgette, and chiffon. Other known abaya styles are front open and front closed abaya. Styles differ from region to region: some abayat have embroidery on black fabric while others are brightly coloured and have different forms of artwork across them.