What Is a Jilbab?

Dan Harkins

Many Muslim women wear the jilbab to conform with the Qur'anic strictures of female concealment in public places. It is a slightly less concealing uniform than the standard black hijab, a garment that has become infamous for many women's rights groups across the globe. The jilbab is like the hijab, or burqa, in that it covers the entire body from the neck down, leaving just the feet and hands exposed. This garment, however, is available in several colors and does not obscure the face like the hijab, which allows only a tiny slit for the eyes.

Dress standards are enforced within the Iranian borders.
Dress standards are enforced within the Iranian borders.

The jilbab can even be found in more form-fitting styles than the hijab, which falls in a straight line from the shoulders, with no taper at the waist or down the arms. Some "jalabib," which is the plural form of the word, have a hood attached; however, these will only cover the head and neck. Though these less-conservative coats are usually made in a uniform color, some designers have added ribbing in a complementary shade. They can be found in a range of colors and fabrics — a diversity that is lacking for hijab coats.

Many Muslim women wear jibabs in order to conform to what the Qur'an states about female concealment in public places.
Many Muslim women wear jibabs in order to conform to what the Qur'an states about female concealment in public places.

The hijab is mostly worn by Muslim's Shiite women, a more conservative sect of the Middle Eastern religion. Sunni Muslim women, by contrast, are more likely to be seen wearing the jilbab, which is typically worn in concert with a scarf of varying patterns. The wearer of the latter garment will cover the head and neck with the scarf, but leave the face fully exposed.

Some countries like Afghanistan, Iran or Saudi Arabia will have more concentrated Shiite populations, where the hijab will be the standard female attire. Other countries like Jordan, Egypt or Morocco will have more women who wear the jilbab. The style and even the color of jilbab may be regionally specific or chosen by family elders for all women in a particular home to wear.

Less controversy apparently exists over the use of the jilbab as there is over the burqa, which veils a woman's face and identity in a much more drastic manner. A range of jilbab styles walk the line between what is required by the Qur'an and what is needed for comfort. This piece of clothing comes in varieties for work and sport, in cotton and corduroy as well as in fine fabrics like silk or wool for a night out on the town.

A jilbab is designed to cover the entire body except for the hands, face, and feet.
A jilbab is designed to cover the entire body except for the hands, face, and feet.

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Discussion Comments


I just happened to come across this page and as a Muslim girl, I'd just like to clarify a few possible misunderstandings.

Hijab is a term that not only refers to clothing, but also to the way a person carries themselves (with modesty). Hijab isn't only for women; men have hijab too but in a different form (ex. Growing a beard, lowering their gaze, etc).

That being said, many people think of the clothing aspect of hijab. To wear hijab (for woman) means to wear clothing that is not tight fitting or see-through and that covers a woman’s body with the exception of her face, hands and feet. For example, if a woman wears a headscarf but wears tight or revealing clothes, that's not hijab.

However, hijab in an English speaking context refers to the headscarf. A Burka refers to the garment worn by woman in Afghanistan. The Jilbab refers to the long dresslike garment that some Muslim women wear (usually black). The facial covering (the one with slits for the eyes) is called a Niqab. It's not considered compulsory, but some women choose to wear it and there are many styles/versions, such as some that are tied in the back, some are attached to the hijab, some just cover everything below the eyes while others cover below and above the eyes.

Wearing hijab isn't required in front of Mahrams but is required in front of non-Mahrams. It is also not necessary in front of the same gender (however, even in cases where it's not necessary, people are supposed to be generally modest, but things like the jilbab and the headscarf aren't necessary.)

Thanks for taking the time out to read this post! I hope I made it a bit more clear for those who were still confused on certain things.


Jilbab is a cover for our muslimah.


I was not aware that Muslim women had different garments that they wore for work, sports and going out for an entertaining night.

I can see how important it would be that they not wear the hijab or traditional jilbab to work in any kind of factory where there are machines. It would be a huge safety factor. Also wearing something that is cool would make it much more comfortable.

Sports would be a real challenge if Islamic women wore their hibab and jilbab to play sports. I don't know what these alternate clothes look like.

Then, I'm thinking there are special dressy jilbab that they wear for special occasions.


Like the article mentions, jilbabs are often the same style and colors for all the females of a family. I'm not sure in what countries this is the tradition.

I have also seen a family of females at an airport, who were all wearing the exact same color of hijab. They were a beautiful shade of lavender and had slits for the eyes.

Most Islam women that I see dress in a jilbab.Most of these garments seem to have been altered quite a bit from the original jilbab.The scarves, modest dress or shirt look very nice.


@ddljohn-- I don't consider those colorful ones "jilbab" because jilbab is not supposed to be colorful or bright. It is not supposed to grab attention or make body parts visible, as we need to cover and hide them in Islam.

The jilbab I know of is generally black and is meant to cover the lower part of the body. The hijab covers the top part of the body, so they are two different things. Jilbab is also meant to be worn over your regular clothing, it is more like a coat than anything else.

I don't know why so many different things are being categorized as jilbab. These are not the true Islamic jilbab that we are required to wear.


Actually in Arabic, jilbab means "long, loose garment." So technically any clothing which is long and loose could be considered jilbab. But it is used to refer to the head and body covering garments for women specifically.

A similar word is also in the Muslim holy book- the Quran. The word is "jalabib" which means "women who believe" or "believing women." I think jilbab has been taken from this word since it is a garment meant for Muslim women.


I think that both hijab and jilbab have been changing and resembling one another. When I was in the Middles East last year, I saw more conservative hijabs that cover the body, as well as hijabs just for the face.

Similarly, jilbab which I think has historically been a full dress is also being used just for the face now. I personally don't wear a hijab or jilbab, but if I did, I would opt for the jilbab because the designs and colors which are available are gorgeous. I also like that jilbab is longer than a hijab, it seems more modest to me.

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