Hijab, Niqab and Burka FAQ

Hijab, Niqab and Burka FAQ

Jschrader: “What are the differences, both in how they look and beliefs associated with them…”

There’s 3 categories of Islamic female head coverings that all other styles fall into. The “hijab” is a simple veil covering the head and shoulders. The “niqab” is the facial veil and is usually accompanied with an ample black dress. The “burka” is the tent-like outfit most typically seen in Afghanistan where even the eyes are covered by a screen. The majority opinion among Muslims world-wide is that the niqab and burka are not required. Many believe it actually has no basis in the scripture at all. However, some stricter sects (notably Wahabists) believe it is required. This is why the niqab/burka is so common in places like Saudi and Afghanistan which are notoriously dominated by stricter sects. I have some friends that wear the niqab out of spiritual choice, and while I disagree with it, I respect their opinion and right to wear it.

bl1ndman: “Why does the religion require you to wear one?”

Islam is actually a pretty deep religion that is not only a set of beliefs, but a philosophy and way of life. (Think Jedi Code). It preaches many values, a big one being modesty and humbleness. Flaunting one’s assets, riches and beauty excessively is considered a sign of weak faith since our life is all about attaining spiritual, not material fulfillment. This is why Islam prescribes a modest attire for both men and women as well as a set of proper conduct in the public sphere. We consider the body to be a tool for the soul and therefore not the defining trait of a person. Sexuality is one aspect of who we are; an aspect we keep for the private sphere. In public, both sexes are supposed to dress in non-revealing clothes but women also cover their hair, neck and bosom as they’re considered part of our feminine charm.

FluffEza: “Hey, I see in these pics you have many different colours, Is it allowed? Cause I always only see black ones”

Boy oh boy, you should see my hijab drawer, it’ like Disney threw up in there. Just because we believe in dressing modestly doesn’t mean we have to look boring or drab. Most Muslim women take great pleasure in styling and matching their scarves with their outfits. Some more conservative Muslims would rather dress more plainly and that’s fine too. To each their own :-) Hijab is ultimately just a piece of fabric, so they come in so many materials. My personal favourites are cotton and linen because they are the most breathable and easy to style.

kittihello: “Would it be offensive for someone to wear it, not muslim, to raise awareness and understand the related challenges

HallonTaton: “Don’t you think it can be viewed as a little hypocritical to wear it and use (sometimes lots of) make up?”

Many Muslims do feel that way, yes. The philosophy of hijab (for men and women) is to keep our appearance simple and humble in public. When one goes out of their way to be extravagant by accessorizing, wearing tight or revealing clothes and lots of make-up, it kind of defeats that purpose. That being said, wearing hijab is a spiritual act and journey and it’s also open to so many different interpretations. It’s all relative, really.People are at different stages of that journey and that’s OK. No judgement.

relpmeraggy: “Do you enjoy wearing one?” upvotemagic: “Is it comfortable?”

Honestly, it totally depends on how I feel and where I am in my spiritual journey. Sometimes you just get tired of being stared at or treated differently and it would be easier to just take it off and blend in. I went through a phase in high school where I came very close to taking it off because I wasn’t even practicing at the time and just wasn’t feeling it. Other times, I’m on a spiritual high and actually feel proud about being different and representing my values. I really believe in the philosophy of hijab and that gets me through the tough times. As for comfort, I’ve been wearing it for years, so at this point it’s as second nature to me as wearing pants or a cardigan before heading out. They’re generally comfortable if wrapped properly and made from the right material (cotton, cotton, cotton!) (Photo: Nizaad Photography)

Are women forced into wearing it?

Thank you so much everyone for being so receptive and asking thought provoking questions. If I get more questions, I’ll do part 3!! ___________________ It is an unfortunate truth that, in some parts of the World, women don’t have much of a choice regarding wearing or not wearing hijab. Another issue is social pressure where, even if a woman doesn’t face any real threat from not wearing the hijab, she may still face psychological torment from her entourage. Both of these situations are appalling and not in accordance to the spirit of Islam, they are also not the general rule. For every woman forced into wearing hijab, there are countless who are free in their choice. Since the (male and female) hijab is an outward form of worship, it’s easier to pick on. Some shallow Muslims love to judge and pick on each other for appearances. Even Muslim men fall victim to this. It’s unhealthy, but it unfortunately seems like human nature to debase others in order to make oneself feel better! That being said, in every religion there are groups who take scripture out of context to control and intimidate people to act in ways that THEY see fit. That is not OK. Nowhere in Islamic scripture is there an earthly punishment prescribed for not adhering to the hijab.

Do you have to wear it at home?What do you wear at home?

The hijab is reserved for the public sphere, so there’s no real limitation to what I can wear or not wear in my own home. Booty shorts, t-shirts, birthday suit – it’s all good man (although some Muslims do believe one shouldn’t walk around naked the house for no reason). That being said, it also depends on WHO is in my home! If my dad is coming over, uh yea no I’m not going to prance around in my undies! The only two circumstances I wear hijab in the home is #1. To pray my 5 daily prayers or #2. If we have male guests over who I’m not related to by blood. Also, us Muslim women love to host girl-only parties where we totally have fun dressing up, doing our hair and make-up and dance to the latest tunes. It happens a lot, especially at weddings!

What happens if I see your hair?

Nothing. Different women react differently to having been “exposed”. Some will be unreasonably dramatic about it, while some won’t give two craps. I couldn’t tell you why a woman would be particularly upset.. Honestly, if it’s an accident, it’s an accident and no one is responsible for accidents. It got seen without my hijab by strange men many times, it happens. Someone walks in on you while you’re changing, you open the door for the delivery guy because you didn’t look through peep-hole first, wind blows my skirt up, whatever. I just don’t make a big deal about it because it would just make the situation really awkward. I just make a mental note to use the peep-hole next time!

If Islam’s about being modest, what’ up with Dubai?

Like with practically every belief (and even political) system, there’s theory, and then there’s practice… Jesus was a great figure, yet how many Christians fail at following his most basic preachings? The Westboro Baptist Church is a prime example of people who claim they follow a faith, but act completely against its most basic teachings or love, acceptance… Similarily, many Muslims completely fail at embodying the spirit of Islam and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) such as the values of humility, humbleness and giving to the poor. People in the Gulf are blessed with lots of money. Many of them use their money for good and give towards charities. But there are also those who spend very extravagantly on unnecessary things – something most people with money probably do, unfortunately.

Should I wear it in certain situations out of respect?

Honestly, it really depends. Muslims are all individuals with different views, and there’s 1.7 billion of us, so you can never please everyone! What wouldn’t offend me might offend another Muslim and vice versa. As a general rule, I guess it’s expected to wear it to holy sites as a sign of respect. Other than that, I don’t see the need to. I would never expect a non Muslim friend or relative to wear one for my sake etc. That being said, some Muslims might find it flattering or cute that you’re wearing one (looks, she’s trying to be like us awww) Just be sincere and go with your guts given the circumstance. In some parts of the world, it’s unfortunately just safer to wear one if you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.

How do you tie it?!?

Honestly, there are SO many different ways. From super simple to super complicated and stylish. Women will choose different styles depending on occasion, outfit, comfort and even just face shape! Some styles look better with a square jaw, others with a more oval face etc. When I’m super lazy in the winter, I’ll just wear a knitted hat over my hair with a matching knitted scarf around my neck for short errands, lol. If you’re curious to see, there are countless hijab tutorial channels on Youtube. Just look it up!

Does it get really hot wearing hijab?

Really hot weather sucks no matter what you’re wearing. Dry heat is much easier to deal with in hijab than humid heat. After all, look at what people wear in the hottest driest places on Earth…it’s hijab! The layers actually protect them from the sun’s heat and harmful rays. As for the humid heat, yea it sucks. In the summer, I tend to wear flowy sundresses or skirts that can pick up a nice breeze and my hijab is always wrapped loosely and from a breathable fabric like linen or cotton.

What do you wear for swimming?

NOTE: Even in front of other women, Muslim women are supposed to be covered from belly button to the knee cap. (Same goes for Muslim men in front of other men) In a woman only or private environment, I wear knee length swim shorts over either a 1 piece suit or bikini top. If swimming at a public pool or beach, I have to observe regular hijab which means all but face, feet and hands are covered. Muslim designers have come out with modest swim suit designs (pictured above) that are made from water friendly material. Pretty spiffy, eh?

How do you feel about ppls who say you’re oppressed?

I feel sorry for anyone who is so narrow-minded that they can’t accept that someone would possibly want to live differently than them. That being said, I don’t blame people who are concerned because there are women who are forced or pressured into hijab. In the end, how can you tell an oppressed Muslim woman from a free one? To which I ask, how can we ever truly tell the difference between any oppressed woman and a free one? Walking down the street, you may bump into several women from all backgrounds who are abused and oppressed in their private life, and you wouldn’t even know it. The solution is not to focus on Muslim women only, but to campaign for women’s freedoms everywhere all the time in all countries no matter how they look or dress. The key word is choice, and when you claim a woman is brainwashed into a choice, you are dis-empowering, insulting an patronizing her, whether it’s a woman choosing to practice hijab, or a woman choosing to work at a strip club.

Do kids have to wear it?

Like all other religious commandments in Islam, practicing hijab doesn’t become required until one hits puberty. Then why do we see pre-pubescent girls in hijab? All little girls like to copy mama and play grown up, no matter what background they’re from. When a little girl sees all the grown-up women in pretty scarves, she may want to wear it too. They’ll usually wear it at special occasions, saturday school or at the mosque but won’t really wear it day to day. Some girls get really attached to them and do wear them all the time, even sometimes against their parent’s wishes! Most Muslim parents let their daughters choose when to start wearing hijab. Countless girls hit puberty and are still not ready. As the girl ages and gets closer to her 20’s, the social expectation to wear it may become more tangible but many girls grow up deciding never to start wearing it at all.

Is the aim of hijab to control men’s desires?


What are your thoughts?