What clothes should a Muslim wear?

Clothing in Islam - from headscarves to burqas

by Marion Vorbeck,

What do Muslim women wear?

Insight into different clothing of Islamic countries

In the Arab world, women appear in a wide variety of disguises, especially in public - which is confusing at first glance from a Western perspective. Depending on the country and region, city or province, the regulations are often interpreted differently - sometimes more and sometimes less liberally. In liberal Muslim countries, and especially in the metropolises, a loosely tied headscarf is often sufficient, the color and pattern of which can be freely chosen for fashionable clothing. At the same time, the wearer is expected to not appear too body-hugging and show as little skin as possible. In many countries, such as the Arabian Peninsula, different veils next to each other characterize the streetscape. The strictest regulations apply in Afghanistan and in parts of Pakistan: Here the female part of the population has to hide behind a full veil, a burqa that can no longer even see their eyes. Islamic scholars persistently argue about whether the Koran actually prescribes veiling or merely requires "chaste" clothing through which women are "recognized as believers and not molested". In the following we present some traditional clothes as they are worn in the Arab world.

This is a post from the Ladies-Rundschau 1-2.2017. In this issue you will find interesting articles on the subject of capes, pochos and throws, as well as portraits of the designers Khulood Thani and Josephine Gaede from Cape Mädchen.


(Image: Illustrations (11): SUNY ROTH)

The dupatta is widespread in South Asia. It is a long scarf that is loosely draped around the face and shoulders. The wearer can also combine matching long dresses or skirts.


The shaila is a rectangular, long veil in different colors, in which the whole face remains visible. The scarf is loosely wrapped around the head and held together on the front by placing one end lightly over the second shoulder. This type of concealment is often seen as a black version in the Gulf States.


The hijab headscarf is also one of the “looser” Muslim headgear, but unlike the shaila, it is tightly wrapped under the chin. This covers the hair, ears, neck and neckline. The hijab is the most widespread form of veiling among Muslim women and is used throughout the Islamic world, for example in Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Hijabs give Muslim women freedom of fashion because they are available in numerous colors and designs. A hijab can also be sewn in such a way that it can be draped into a niqab - so that only the eyes remain uncovered.


Unlike the hijab, the Al-Amira is a two-piece garment. A scarf is worn tightly around the head, a larger one is pulled loosely over it, underneath the entire face remains free. This covering resembles a short cape and headgear. Creativity excluded: nothing is looped or draped here. The Al-Amira is common in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq. In terms of design, it makes fashionable variations possible because it can be worn in different colors.


This coat-like veil can reach up to the waist - this way the entire upper body remains covered, except for the face. The chimar is combined with a niqab when the face is also to be hidden. The chimar is also worn in a wide variety of colors and patterns. This covering is longer than an Al-Amira; Since this coat-like veil falls loosely from the top of the head to the floor, the shoulder area can hardly be guessed. Here, too, women can choose between different colors.


The chador emerged as a result of the Islamic Revolution in Iran when women were required to wear veils. It is particularly widespread here as well as in the entire Islamic world, for example in Pakistan or Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula with Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iraq and Bahrain. This form of the full-body veil consists of a mostly black cloak-like garment that reaches down to the floor and covers the entire body of the woman including the head. A silhouette can hardly be seen here either; the face usually remains free. A length of fabric is worked into the chador, which gives hold and serves to safely hide the hairline. Translated, chador means "tent". It is usually held together from the inside by the woman's hands. Sometimes a second, smaller veil is worn underneath.


The black niqab goes back to an ancient tradition: It is borrowed from Bedouin culture on the Arabian Peninsula, where it is still worn today. In Saudi Arabia and Yemen, for example, the vast majority of women wear this face veil, but also in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Pakistan and in North African countries. Even in pre-Islamic times, women and men used cloths to protect themselves against wind, sand and solar radiation. These were made from Nischpuric cotton and gave the garment its name, which today are also made of silk or synthetic fibers. The face veil niqab is often confused with the burqa. In contrast to the burqa, however, the niqab leaves a slit for the eyes. In the lush version, jewelry is attached to the headband above the eyes. If his wearer wants to eat or drink, she lifts the veil and takes what is desired under him. The niqab is often combined with a floor-length black robe, usually a chador or an abaya, that covers the arms and legs.


This face veil is semi-transparent and is also worn with a chador or abaya. It is widespread on the Arabian Peninsula.


This most extreme form of veiling for women is widespread in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan: the most discussed, mostly blue full-body veil completely covers women from head to toe. You can't even see the eyes of its wearer. A band-like reinforcement around the top of the head prevents the fabric and the fine-meshed grid or net, which is incorporated at eye level, from slipping. Because only the wearer is given a narrow perspective to the outside.


Visually, the abaya looks like a mixture of floor-length dress and coat. In Saudi Arabia, wearing this waistless dress in public is considered the minimum of veiling; In the Emirates too, black is often chosen as the basic color. The abaya extends from the neck to the tips of the feet. Muslim fashion designers now offer the abaya in numerous variants: in different colors, in butterfly cuts, sometimes even subtly tailored or with prints.


A modern piece of clothing. The burkini - composed of the words burqa and bikini - is supposed to enable women to bathe even as devout Muslim women. What is meant is a two-piece swimsuit that covers the entire body and is offered in a variety of designs. Burkini wearers' faces, hands and feet are usually left uncovered.