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Hijab Symbol of Modesty

The term Hijab tends to be used as a catchall in the West for all Islamic head coverings, but is mainly used to mean a headscarf.

For Muslim women’s representation in media and popular culture, this is the most commonly used word. However, there is no uniform style for what hijabs look like or which are worn across the Muslim world. Hijabs come in many patterns, fabrics, colours, and styles.[1]

According to Britannica encyclopaedia, Hijab (Arabic:  “cover” or “barrier”) is garment worn by some Muslim women to cover their hair.[2] Another definition for Hijab is that it is a headscarf worn by Muslim women and it is the visible identifier of their Muslim identity.[3]

In modern usage, hijab generally refers to head coverings worn by Muslim women. Many Muslims believe it is obligatory for every female Muslim who has reached the age of puberty to wear a head covering. While such head coverings can come in many forms, Hijab often specifically refers to a cloth wrapped around the head, neck and chest, covering the hair and neck but leaving the face visible. The term Hijāb was originally used to denote a partition, a curtain, or was sometimes used for the Islamic rules of modesty.[4]

Hijab is a symbol of modesty and religious devotion

In its form most familiar to Westerners, a hijab is a head covering worn by women of the Muslim faith as a symbol of modesty and religious devotion.

The typical and most familiar Hijab is a scarf that covers most, if not all, of the hair. It also covers the neck and falls below the level of the shoulders to cover the upper chest area. It may also be long enough to drape over the shoulders and upper back and flow down past the elbows. The word hijab derives from the Arabic word ”Hajaba”, meaning ”to conceal” or ”hide.”

Customary usage of the Hijab varies depending upon the Muslim culture in which it’s used. In less strict societies, women and young girls past puberty wear the hijab when in public or when among men who are not directly related to them (father, brothers, nephews being the exception). In this usage, women might remove the hijab when at home among their immediate family.

Somewhat more strict Muslim societies prescribe the wearing of the Hijab even when among women who are non-Muslim. Wearing of the hijab is a sign of a woman’s willing submission to Sharia, or Islamic law and custom.[5]

Styles of Hijab

The most visible and controversial element of Islamic practice in the twenty first century is the practice of modesty or covering, known as Hijab (Cooke, 2007). The Arabic word “Hijab” simply means “covering” (Halrynjo & Jonker, 2016). Any piece of cloth, or a headscarf, or a long coat that covers the female body is recognized as Hijab in the dominant Muslim community (Ruby, 2006). The term Hijab traditionally refers to the headscarf in western society (Ghumman & Ryan, 2013).[6]


Hijab is the most common style, especially in the West. It is a square scarf that covers the head and neck, but leaves the face free.


The least common and most concealing is the burqa, which covers the whole face and body down to the feet, leaving just a mesh screen over the eyes. The term burka refers only to the types of body coverings worn in southern Central Asia. However, even within that geographic region, the styles of burkas and names for the article of clothing have varied over time. Indeed, burka is often used interchangeably with Chadari, but the Chadari is a slightly different garment that is primarily worn in Afghanistan. The use of the burka and its counterparts depends on religious interpretation, geographic location, civil law, or personal choice. The burqa can be found in Afghanistan; the niqab can be found in Saudi Arabia. It is also worn in other
countries, such as Yemen and southern Pakistan.[7]


A Niqāb or Niqaab also called a Ruband is a garment, usually black, that covers the face, worn by some Muslim women as a part of an interpretation of Hijab (i.e. “modest dress”). Muslim women who wear the Niqab do so in places where they may encounter non-mahram (un-related) men. Somewhat controversial in some parts of the world, the niqab is most often worn in its region of origin: the Arab countries of the Arabian Peninsula – Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, where it is common and considered as culturally belonging to the region, though not compulsory.[8]


Many women in Turkey and Europe wear the Khimar, which is a headscarf and the mildest variety of Hijab.[9] The Khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down further than other veils, generally to just above the waist. Khimars often cover the hair, neck, and shoulders completely, but leave the face clear. However, some Khimars go all the way down to the knees, as is popular for some Egyptian women. Historically, khimar refers to any article of clothing that promotes modesty, covering the chest and protecting her from the gaze of unrelated men.[10]


The Boshiya is similar to the Burka, but does not have even an opening for the eyes and instead fully covers the face. It consists of a large square of thin, cotton gauze material with ties at the top. It is fastened from the top of the forehead and shrouds the entire face as the cloth falls down.[11]


The Al-amira is a modern form of the khimar, and is found in many of the same places. It is (sometimes spelled Ameera) a two-piece veil made of a close-fitting cap, usually made from cotton or another lightweight material, and a tube-like scarf.[12]


The Shayla is a long, rectangular scarf, wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders. It is popular in the Persian Gulf. It is often used interchangeably with the word Hijab, but this specific term designates a garment that leaves the face uncovered, where Hijabs do not always imply that. There are a variety of fashions, colours, fabrics, and styles that constitute this fashion style.[13]


An Eşarp is a silk square scarf that is worn by women in Turkey. It is special for its material, but ranges in many different designs and colours.[14]


A Tudung (also spelt Tudong) is the most popular head covering for Muslim women in Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia and Brunei, the Tudong is worn for religious regions in accordance with Islam. Usually, there is no distinction between the tudung and Hijab as it covers the hair, ears, neck while leaving only the face exposed.[15]


A Chādor is an outer garment or open cloak worn by many women in the Persian-speaking countries of Iran, Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent Tajikistan, as well as in Shia communities in Iraq, Bahrain, and Qatif in Saudi Arabia in areas in public spaces or outdoors. A chador is a full-body-length semicircle of fabric that is open down the front. The garment is pulled over the head, and is held closed at the front by the wearer; the chador has no hand openings, buttons, or clasps. It may also be held closed by being tucked under the wearer’s arms[16].



[1] Jennifer Lundt, Veiling trends for Muslim Women. IstiZada, November 22, 2021.

[2] Encyclopedia Britannica.

[3] Seham Shwayli, The Hijab in the West: A Negotiation of Identity. Refugee Research Online.

[4] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, definition of hijab

[5] Hijab: Definition and Relation to Islam, Study.com

[6] Saiful Islam and Casey R. Stannard. Meanings of Hijab from the Wearers’ Perspective, 2020 proceedings, Louisiana State University, USA.

[7] Sara Slininger. Veiled Women: Hijab, Religion, and Cultural Practice. fall 2013.

[8] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, definition of niqāb

[9] Sara Slininger. Veiled Women: Hijab, Religion, and Cultural Practice. fall 2013.

[10] Jennifer Lundt, Veiling trends for Muslim Women. IstiZada, November 22, 2021.

[11] Jennifer Lundt, Veiling trends for Muslim Women. IstiZada, November 22, 2021.

[12] Sara Slininger. Veiled Women: Hijab, Religion, and Cultural Practice. fall 2013.

[13] Jennifer Lundt, Veiling trends for Muslim Women. IstiZada, November 22, 2021.

[14] Jennifer Lundt, Veiling trends for Muslim Women. IstiZada, November 22, 2021.

[15] Jennifer Lundt, Veiling trends for Muslim Women. IstiZada, November 22, 2021.

[16] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, definition of chādor

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