What Are the Pros and Cons of Wearing a Niqab?

Lainie Petersen

The decision to cover all or part of one's face is a controversial one, even within Islam. For many women, wearing a niqab, or a face veil, is a matter of religious obligation as well as personal choice. For these women, it demonstrates respect for their religion and their community and ensures a significant degree of privacy when in public. On the other hand, the niqab can present difficulties for women, as it can block a woman's vision, may contribute to a woman's becoming very hot in warm weather, and can make it difficult for her to eat in public. Other considerations include a restriction on a woman's ability to interact with others as well as laws in some countries that prohibit the wearing of a face veil or that require special security procedures for women who choose to cover their faces in public.

Women wearing the niqab may experience criticism and scrutiny when wearing the garment in public.
Women wearing the niqab may experience criticism and scrutiny when wearing the garment in public.

While many Islamic scholars agree that wearing a niqab is not mandated, there are scholars who take a very conservative approach and insist that face veiling is either mandatory or highly advisable. Women who are very concerned about preserving their modesty may feel more comfortable veiling their faces when in the presence of men to whom they are not closely related. In some communities, wearing a niqab may be expected of women, and wearing the face veil can prevent social censure.

A woman wearing a niqab.
A woman wearing a niqab.

There are, however, some challenges involved in wearing a niqab. Some types of face veils cover only the bottom half of the face; others may cover the full face and include only slits for eyes. For some women, this can result in impaired vision, which can present a safety hazard, particularly when crossing a busy street.If a woman chooses to eat at a restaurant, she may find it awkward to be continually pushing her veil aside while eating. In some cases, niqabs are designed so they can easily be lifted over the top of the head if a woman needs to see more clearly or wants to eat unimpeded.

Some countries have prohibitions against wearing face veils either in public or in certain contexts, such as schools. In addition, a woman who is wearing a niqab may come under scrutiny when passing security checkpoints, as it is often necessary for security officers to see a person's face before permitting her passage. Women who are considering wearing a niqab may wish to carefully consider their life and work responsibilities before making the decision to wear the veil on a regular basis.

The Qu'ran bids women to cover their beauty, possibly with a nigab.
The Qu'ran bids women to cover their beauty, possibly with a nigab.

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