You’ve seen it and heard about it, now it’s time to join Hijabi Bhabhi answering the question: What is hijab? So, first thing’s first, hijab is actually an Arabic word which literally means veil or partition. In Arabic it looks like this: “حجاب” and its correct English transliteration is this: ḥijāb. Above all, and most commonly, hijab refers to the veil worn by Muslim women. However, although most Muslims consider the wearing of hijab to be obligatory, styles differ across countries and cultures. In another sense, hijab can also be translated as a partition or separation. For example, the veil of partition which exists between God and mankind.

Modesty in Islam

In Islam, the concept of hijab is closely related to notions of female modesty (or ḥayā in Arabic). According to the Muslim holy scripture, the Quran, women are expressly instructed to dress modestly. The following excerpt shows this most clearly:

“…they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their head covering over their breasts and not display their beauty except to their husband, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women…” (Quran 24:31)

Thus, as is clear from the excerpt, Muslim women must wear the hijab and dress modestly around unrelated males. Essentially, this means most men and especially applies to public places.

Hijab, Niqab or Burqa?

Interpretations on what constitutes proper hijab differ among various schools of thought in Islam. While some Muslim women wear just a headscarf, others wear full face veils with full length full body coverings. Furthermore, while some may wear only black and avoid colours, others’ hijab can be quite colourful.

Hijab – a term which refers to the concept of Islamic modest dressing. It can also refer to just a headscarf.

Niqab – this refers to the full-face veil which offers a small slit for the wearer to see through. It is worn by a minority of Muslims, particularly in countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen and Oman.

Burqa – this refers to a full body covering which extends from the head to the feet. It is distinguished by a mesh screen for the wearer to see through and is commonly worn in Afghanistan.