What Is Full Hijab?

Micah MacBride

The word hijab in Arabic literally means “covering” or “veil,” but in a religious sense, it refers to the Islamic tradition of women wearing conservative clothing and some form of head covering. The tradition comes a story that tells of the Prophet Mohammad pointing to his hands and face, saying that those parts of a woman were the only ones that should be shown in public. The majority of Islamic schools of thought interpret this tradition to mean that a woman wearing full hijab should wear clothing over everything but her hands, including a headscarf around her neck, hair and sides of her face.

Two women wearing burqas.
Two women wearing burqas.

In areas where Muslims observe more conservative versions of Islam, the prevailing opinion of what constitutes full hijab can be more inclusive of which parts of the body should be covered. In some areas, women are expected to wear — in addition to full clothing and a headscarf — gloves and a veil that covers their face below the eyes. The most conservative schools of Islamic thought consider full hijab to cover the woman entirely except for an open strip in front of the eyes. In some cases, even this strip consists of mesh that allows the woman to see through it but obscures her eyes.

Full hijab refers to the conservative covering worn by Islamic women.
Full hijab refers to the conservative covering worn by Islamic women.

The articles of clothing that Muslim women wear as hijab can be plain, such as solid black burqas or plain white headscarfs, but they also can be colorful and ornately decorated. Some burqas feature intricate embroidery with a variety of threads, and women can buy headscarves from name-brand designers that are well known for their secular clothing. Whether the clothing that Muslim women wear for hijab is plain depends on the woman's personal tastes and her strand of Islam's interpretation of what modesty — which hijab is supposed to embody — requires of a woman's appearance.

A general consensus throughout most Islamic schools of thought do have some basic requirements of the fabric that women use for full hijab. It should not be so sheer as to reveal what it is covering, and it should not be form-fitting. The clothing also should not be excessively eye-catching.

Many women who wear full hijab say that the practice does not degrade women. According to them, wearing full hijab protects them from being objectified by men based on their physical appearance. Other people insist that full hijab is a way for men to degrade and control women.

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