Hijab vs. Burqa

This question is just for my own curiosity:

Who decides if a Muslim woman has to wear a hijab vs. khimar vs. chador vs. niqab vs. burqa? Does the woman get to choose or is it cultural (some countries have one and the state/imams/govt. get to choose)?

And if all good Muslims are supposed to be casting down their eyes in modesty, why are these coverings necessary? Why don’t men have to be equally modest and covered from head to toe?

Please no Muslim bashing. :slight_smile:

Thank you.

Yes, men and women are both supposed to lower their gaze in modesty. And they are also supposed to cover their bodies (different restrictions for men and women though.)

The reason Muslim women, for instance, will cover is because they are commanded to in the Qur’an. Right after being told to lower their gaze… Why accept one command and not the other?

A lion you might see on a safari can run around but anyone can come by and watch. Muslim women don’t consider their bodies to be the property of anyone, that they be allowed to appreciate it without her permission. And they cover because God has told them to. Besides, what if a man decides not to lower her gaze–should he be allowed to see her because he doesn’t want to follow God’s command?

Now, you also asked about:

hijab vs. khimar vs. chador vs. niqab vs. burqa

These different words have different connotations in different contexts. What is prescribed in Islam is for a woman to cover her body in loose clothing which ought to obscure her shape. The exclusion is her face and hands, in general opinion. This is more or less the “bare minimum.”

The common way to describe dressing like that is with the word “hijab” which implies clothing that is full-coverage (including the head) and loose and not transparent. That is the meaning of hijab.

But, many people also use the word “hijab” to describe the headscarf exclusively. That is a common understanding these days, for girls to call their headscarves “hijabs.”

The word “khimar” is the word you see in the Qur’an actually, and specifically refers to a headcovering. In fact, it’s what many people mean when they say “hijab,” as in the Qur’an the women are told to take their headcovers and to cover their chests. So “khimar” is a headcover.

A “chador” is more like a cloak even, what they wear in Iran. This is wear you start to see different “styles” of covering in different parts of the world. Women are told in the Qur’an to wear an outer garment (why I said loose clothing that obscures the shape above), and a “chador” covers the head and body so it fits that requirement.

Now, “niqab” is what you see women in like Saudi Arabia wearing–in Riyadh I think women have to wear it actually. And there are some scholars in Islam who have the opinion that women need to cover their face (and even hands) in addition to everything else. And the “niqab” is a face-veil. There are many ways of wearing a face veil, but one way is with the black outer dress (jilbab, it’s called), a black headscarf, and a black piece of cloth tied around the face to cover it. There are other kinds of “niqab” but mostly it just means covering the face. Some people who wear chador might wear niqab as well.

The “burqa” is what you see in Afghanistan (and maybe other parts of South/Central Asia), part of the cultural dress there. It’s a way for women to follow these commands of covering their bodies in loose clothing. The “burqa” is worn on top of regular clothes covers the face as well with a screen through which the woman can see. It became mandated for all women to dress this way when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

So there’s a tradition in Islam of wearing loose clothes and covering the body, sometimes even covering the face. It’s just accomplished in different ways in different parts of the world, with different styles of dress.

I hope that answers at least part of your question.

Yes, thank you Sister Amy.

Also, do you know or have you heard, is wearing a burqa really uncomfortable in the heat? I just picture these poor women sweating to death in 90 degree heat having to wear all of that! But, maybe it’s a breathable fabic :shrug: or maybe they don’t go anywhere in the summer so they don’t have to wear it. :smiley:

You know, if it’s going to be 120 F outside, it doesn’t really matter what you’re wearing, you’re going to be hot.

I’ve never worn a burqa before, so I can’t really say much about it to answer your question.

I cover in 90F degree heat here–wearing loose clothes that are breathable really isn’t that bad.

I just thought of this: Can Muslim women go swimming? (If they have a segregated pool?) What kind of bathing suit would be acceptable? - although if the pool was for women only I suppose it wouldn’t matter. But then, can a Muslim family even have a swimming pool in their yard - what if the neighbors see them in bathing suits? :shrug:

(Thank you for answering my “silly” questions! :slight_smile: )

Apparently they have their bourkini now, which looks like this


Very cute if you like that look, but wouldn’t that be REALLY heavy in water - again I guess it depends on the fabric. (Or maybe the flotation device comes with it for that reason? :smiley: )

In high school, to test our swimming ability, we had to swim 50 metres with clothes on, and although i am a competent swimmer, after swimming the 50 metres with clothes on, i couldnt swim more than that (and mind you, i can swim 1500metres).
So yeah, it would be hard to swim in none the less.
And, just say they dive into the pool off a diving board, just say the dress part gets caught over their head, it would frighten the poor girl as well…
Maybe there is a floatation device in the head area? :shrug:

In the Eastern Province of KSA, the women wear an abaya. This is always black. It is a garment cut and sewn in such a manner as to completely disguise whatever shape the person is underneath. The abaya has two veils attached for face coverings. Both veils are used when going out in public while only one in the home and there are men not from the family present. (such as when serving her husband’s guests). Underneath, at least traditionally, there were 7 layers of clothing, from bloomers to the outer dress. I know because I used to have a complete outfit that was made for me. Yes, it was incredibly hot. In addition, summertime in KSA is not 90 degrees. That is spring. It was normally around 112 - 118 on the coast and 118-120 or more in the desert. With one veil down, breathing was restricted. With both down, it was downright stuffy, plus had the added effect of keeping breath heat inside the garment, sort of like when you pull your covers over your face and breath under the blankets.

Many KSA women also suffer from poor eyesight as a result of years of trying to see through two layers of veils heavy enough to hide the face. They are as hard to see out of as to see into. On the plus side, I reckon their incidence of skin cancer is just about nil.

I didn’t have to wear my abaya when I went out but I did wear long sleeved, very loose, flowing Arab dresses when I went into town. Covering the skin from the sun, while still allowing air to circulate is actually cooler than exposing the skin.

Things have changed a lot since I was last there and many many shops now have air conditioning. No shops had air-conditioning when I lived there. Now, the only time they are exposed to the heat is in-between shops. Plus, they have an equivalent of a ‘siesta’ time in the afternoon when the heat is the worst. After the sun goes down, the shops re-open. The abaya is not nearly as uncomfortable then.

As for the original OP question, I think it is cultural which version women choose to wear. In Afghanistan, they favour the burqa, while in KSA, the abaya and the niqab. It also varied between Eastern Province or the West (Makkah, Jeddah, Taif). In the west of KSA, the veils were more of a mask with eye-holes so vision wasn’t impaired as badly. Iran favours the chador.

Thank you, Linda Marie! That was very informative and interesting. :slight_smile: Since you were there, did the women ever complain about wearing that much covering? I suppose they wouldn’t around strangers. I just wonder if they wear these out of fear/oppression or if they really like it. :confused: I would imagine getting little girls to have to do that would be tough, especially when they see their brother doesn’t have to wear that. :shrug: I wonder if there are arguments - I can picture it: Mooooooommmmmm! How come I have to wear this?!! It’s hottttttt! How come (insert name here -sorry I couldn’t come up with one:p ) doesn’t have to? I don’t wannnnnnnnna wear it.:smiley:

(No offense to anyone intended!!! :slight_smile: )

Back then at least, girls did not have to go into purdah until they reached marriageable age so little girls did not wear them.

Little girls in Arabia were taught to be obedient from birth. Moreover, they viewed donning the abaya as a ‘coming of age’, leaving their childhood behind since they are women now. They knew that when they reached marriageable age, they would have to wear it, just like their mothers and that their brothers would not so they would not ask why Ahmed didn’t have to wear one. It is female-only dress. (Although, they are finding now that terrorists are wearing them to allow them freedom of movement. They can’t be recognised. You can also hide just about anything underneath one and a woman in an abaya is pretty near sacrosanct, especially if accompanied by a man. It is starting to cause them some very real security headaches.)

Just about the time I left, some women were starting to try to come out of purdah or at least relax it a little, like removing the veils from the abaya (hair and body still covered, but face visible), so I guess some women didn’t much care for them. Some of these had acid thrown in their faces for daring to be so brazen, letting their naked faces hang out for all to see. That put paid to that idea.

We were always told that there was nothing in Islam that said their faces had to be covered or that they had to wear an abaya, only that they needed to dress modestly. We were told that the abaya was adopted (and the male escort required) under the Ottoman occupation to protect the women from being raped by the Ottoman soldiers. No one, however, wanted their wives or daughters to be the first to remove it.

There are swimming classes for Muslim women at a local aquatic center, here. Some volunteers from the community raised enough money to install blinds around the pool so that the area can become private for women there. I don’t go to those classes, but when I swim I usually wear an outfit that covers everything just like that “burkini” above, though I don’t have one of those. (I have an improved suit that cost me about $30, vs. that burkini which is over $100.)

Muslim women here don’t segregate themselves with special blinds installed in the public pools. They wear normal bikinis just as any other non-Muslim female. Some older women (usually in their 40’s) would prefer to wear a full costume to cover themselves. I would expect American Muslim women be just as free to wear bikinis as well. :shrug:

I would never. If I am going to cover my body in public as a general rule, even covering my hair, why would I wear a bikini into a pool? Defeats the point of covering.

I mean the older Muslim women here wear one piece swimming costumes as opposed to the two piece suits (I don’t know much about swimming costumes, only describing what i see :p). Either way, their arms, thighs and heads are still uncovered. It doesn’t make them a lesser of a Muslimah in my opinion or less chaste.

I thought American Muslim Women converts should be less conservative (dress wise) than their M.E counterparts? Pardon me for this ignorant assumption, because i have only seen this on TV.

Some members have already explained the differences, however here is how they look like:

*- Hijab:

**- Niqab & Burqa:


*- Khimar & Chador:


I live in London where there are a lot of Muslims. The ones at my gym where normal costumes. I have also been to Egypt twice. In Dahab (Sinai) the Muslim women go in the sea fully clothed - in Hurghada (African side) they wear costumes. My ex is Algerian Muslim and when I told him about the Dahab Muslims he was shocked and said in his whole life (43 years) he had never seen that before.

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