Diversity – Women Clothing

As promised I will now tell you something about clothing: one of my favorite and, if you ask me, most interesting subjects we have discussed in class. Everytime we came across this, a lively debate was started on how clothing influence the morale and behavior of the people wearing it. I will first give you some examples of typical clothes worn (mostly) in the Middle East and later on a guestblog will be posted about this. Let’s start with clothing for women, a matter heavily critisised in the UK, France, The Netherlands and other (mostly western) countries.

When talking about the reason, if you like, why women cover their hair or more of their bodies, people often refer to the Qu´ran and its rules. There are indeed two surahs that adress this:

Surah an-Nur, verse 31, reads:

And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their headcoverings (khimars) to cover their bosoms, and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments. And turn in repentance to God together, O you the faithful, in order that you are successful.

And Surah al-Ahzab, verse 59, reads:

O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their outergarments (jilbabs) close around them; that is better that they will be recognized and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiving, Gentle.

These texts have been interpreted differently throughout history and the way women dress are different from country to country. The covering of women also occurs in various Hadiths. The primary reason to cover a woman’s body is to avoid a man’s lust. These forms of covering are used mostly:

  • A headscarf, a hijaab. The word hijab/hijaab can also be used when talking about modesty  or covering in general. Therefore it may be clearer to speak of a headscarf here. Awrah is the term that is being used when talking about the parts of the body that women should cover when in prayer or in public. There are a lot of different opinions about this. Should women cover all up when in front of another muslima? And when in front of a non-muslima? Surely there is a lot of room for debate here. Below you can see how what this looks like (of course there are different ways of wearing it) and in what countries it is prevalent (click on it to see a larger image)

Source: Wikipedia

  • A niqab as shown below is another way of covering the women’s body. It is not worn in all the Arab world, but it occurs mostly in the Arab countries of the Arabian Peninsula, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain and it is also worn in countries with a large muslim population such as Israel and Egypt. People often use the term niqab when they are talking about a burqa (see below) or the other way around. However there is a difference: a niqab does cover the face, whilst a burqa doesn’t. Sometimes, women wear handgloves as well to cover their hands. This again is a subject of discussion amongst scholars of Islam and jurists. The term niqab is used in several Hadiths. An example:

”The woman is to bring down her Jilbāb from over her head and [then place it] upon her face.” (Bukhari:6:60:282)

  • As said,the burqa is another form of islamic clothing. Here, the eyes are also covered, as you can see below. This type of hijab is being worn a lot in Afghanistan.

So, this was an introduction to clothing in the Arab world. More about this soon. Salam!

One Response to “Diversity – Women Clothing”
  1. The pictures are excellent examples and help with the understanding!

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