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Hijab, Niqab, Burhka: Here's the Difference Between Kinds of Islamic Clothing Hijab, Niqab and Burkha

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between hijab, niqab, and burqa? No doubt they are all part of Islam's code of dressing for women to uphold a level of modesty.

Hijab, Niqab, Burhka: Heres the Difference Between Kinds of Islamic Clothing Hijab, Niqab and Burkha

Sentinel Digital Desk

NEW DELHI: Recently the Hijab controversy has gained a lot of moment in Karnataka after girl students were barred from entering the school premises with their Hijab.

On the other hand, social media has been afire with discussion around the hijab row and it was clear that many of us do not know the differences among different kinds of Islamic clothing like the Hijab, Niqab or the Burkha.

Why do some Muslim women wear burkas?

The Koran calls for both men and women to 'cover and be modest'. As with many other religious scriptures, the reference to dress is open to interpretation and has been shaped by centuries of cultures in different nations.

"The Koran does not explicitly say you have to cover yourself in this manner," said Raihan Ismail is a lecturer in Middle East Politics and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University.

"Some scholars argue that it is a religious obligation, particularly the more conservative factions within the Muslim world. There are many variations and interpretations."

Dr Ismail is a Muslim and has been wearing her hijab since she was a child.

"I'm so comfortable wearing it that I can't imagine myself without it. I wear it for cultural reasons, but there are many women who wear it for religious reasons."

Here are a few kinds of coverings worn by Muslim women around the world.


The burka is worn by Muslim women in Central Asia and is a long, voluminous outer garment that covers the entire body, with a grille covering the face.It has been worn by Pashtun women in Afghanistan and West Pakistan since pre-Islamic times when it was considered a symbol of respect and stature in society.


The niqab is a veil that covers the face and is usually black. Women often pair it with a headscarf and an abaya, or another style of the loose robe that covers their bodies. The way this veil is worn varies from region to region, but there are two main styles.

The 'full niqab' is common in the Gulf states, and covers the face and head entirely, with a place cut out for eyes.

The 'half niqab' includes a veil that covers the lower half of the face up to the bridge of the nose, leaving the eyes and forehead clear. This style is often worn in South Asia and North Africa.


The al-amira is a two-piece veil that usually doesn't cover the face. It includes a tight cap and a tube-like scarf worn over it, which also covers the neck. It's predominantly worn in Southeast Asia.


The Shayla is a long, rectangular scarf wrapped around the head, worn by women in the Gulf states. A Shayla can be worn with an abaya or other clothing, depending on preference, and the cloth is available in a variety of fabrics and colours.

It is no different from the standard hijab but, in the Gulf, 'Shayla' is the specific term for a headscarf that leaves the face uncovered, while the concept of 'hijab' is the act of dressing modestly for religious purposes.


The khimar looks similar to the al-amira and is essentially a veil with a hole cut out for the face. The garment covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely.

There are a variety of lengths for the khimar; while it commonly hangs down to the waist, some women prefer longer lengths that may reach the knees. It is popular among Egyptian women.


The chador has been worn by women in Iran (as well as some other countries – particularly those with large Shia populations) for centuries. It is a shawl-like fabric that is draped over the head and around the body completely. The chador is not fastened with pins or tucked in, but simply wrapped around the body or held shut with hands at all times. Black varieties are usually worn in public, but colourful versions can be seen at home or at the mosque.


The battoulah is a mask that is usually made out of a very thick fabric such as leather. It is usually black and, at a first glance, almost appears to be made out of metal because of its slightly shiny texture. It usually covers the face from the eyebrows to just below the nose, with a slit for the eyes.

The battoulah is worn by Arab women from the Gulf and some parts of Iran and is worn with some version of an abaya and a hijab to cover the head and the body.

Also Read: Here's Everything You Need To Know About Karnataka Hijab Row

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