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.
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.
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.