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American Niqab

Updated on February 12, 2015

Uncommon Muslim Women Choose American Niqab

Niqab, the covering of the face, (in addition to already wearing "hijab", which means dressing modestly by covering the body in a style of loose clothing) is a choice for some muslim women. In one sense it appeals to me --- completely removing me from any obligation to present neat hair or a pretty scarf or hat coverup, and negating any need to coordinate clothing.

Niqab has a real purpose, and that is dual: to thoroughly cover a woman's body and her face, keeping her strictly modest, protected from others' eyes; and to remind her to focus on piety. A young white American convert once told me she dresses like any modern American mother in her 20s, but when she goes out to mow the lawn she puts on niqab. She said people stare and point at her in her urban neighborhood, but she just chuckles inside, knowing how differently they would look at her, if they saw her jeans and t-shirt underneath the gown.

Adherents ensure that their headcovering covers the head and shoulders. Their garment has long sleeves and long dress, coat, or loose pants, is considered as required or optional, depending on the Muslim woman's particular interpretation of modesty.

Although it is common for the general public to consider that it is Islam alone that requires women (and men) to dress modestly, and to act modestly, that would be a mistake.

The covering of the entire female body, perhaps with a face veil, was part of Christian practice since the first centuries of Christianity, according to Tertullian, the respected Christian apologist who coined the term "Trinity."

Tertullian was also the first to write descriptions of God as being "three Persons, one Substance." Pictures of "the Virgin Mary" always show her clothed in long loose layers of dress, always veiled to cover her hair.

If she were to walk on earth today is there any reason to believe that she would be scantily dressed? Would she show her arms? Her cleavage? Her knees? More than likely she would be completely covered in modest dress, with her hair under a scarf.

Today those who are not familiar with Islam or with Muslims identify the modest face-veiling with what has been taught through so much of the media - the misconception that there is something to fear from women who cover their bodies in fabric in the style of Niqab.

In my twelve years as a Muslim every woman I have met who wears Niqab has been gentle, intelligent, and friendly to me. They wear the garments in modesty and humility.

Niqab involves the wearing of a long-sleeved long dress, a long veil that covers the shoulders, arms and hair, and a face veil. Scholars are not of one voice concerning whether or not they consider this mode of dress to be required, but along with the clothing is an associated modesty in behavior.

Unfortunately the Burqa (an all-in-one that flows from the top of the head, over the arms and on to cover the feet) and Niqab and every negative connotation of black and blue have been linked with atrocities caused by the Taliban, and worse.

These garments worn by women who wish to observe the requirement of their religion in the most modest fashion, are just that --- they are pieces of cloth, sewn together so as to cover the body loosely, and to allow the women to interact in public without compromising their beliefs.

Just as women of other religions are allowed, in society, to expose most of their bodies without emanating fear, so should women who fully cover their bodies be allowed the same respect and freedom to choose their mode of dress.

Some Muslim women wear Niqab because of a desire to observe a very high level of modesty, where all of their physical beauty, with the exception of the eyes, is not viewable. In that fashion it is easier for the character to be the prominent feature to present to the world.

Niqab takes a variety of styles and colors, but is most often seen in black. In countries where women choose their own style of dress, many choose Niqab, but most, like myself, do not.

photo credit: babasteve/2

The Canadian Muslim Describes Her Style

Other Religious Women Also Wear Veils - and even with the veil they cover their bodies

When I was a young Catholic woman all women covered their heads with loose scarves or lace head coverings when we went to a church. This was a very important item of clothing.

The first "mantilla" that I received, after my adult Baptism into the Catholic Church, was a gift from my sponsor in the education class at my husband's local church. She gave me some literature and the lace head cover. We discontinued wearing the head covers after the changes from the Second Vatican Council filtered down into our diocese.

In 2011 we tend to think of Muslims being the "only" people who fully (with exception of hands/face/feet or combination) cover themselves, but some orders of Catholic Nuns continue to wear their (habit) hijab style of clothing to this day.

Orthodox Jewish Women's Dress

Orthodox Jewish women cover their body and hair (sometimes using wigs, or falls).

photo This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Mormons Observe Modest Dress

Mormons are directed to wear modest clothing, although their hair need not be covered. Amish and Mennonite religious communities also stress modest dress for their members.

photo credit:Amish Modesty

Covered Muslim Women Walk in Dignity

In America we see enough women's bodies revealed to wonder "what are they thinking?"

Is it purely insecurity that causes a woman to display enough of her body - cleavage, bare legs, tank tops that cut out over the sides of their breasts, nipples prominent under knit tops and clothes tight as if they were painted on - that she might entice the men who see her?

Why, now, is it so strange and challenging when Muslim women choose to dress in modest clothing. Really - niqab (full cover, including most of the face) and hijab (long loose clothing, with face and hands visible) - is so much like the blessed Lady of Christianity (and of Islam) was dressed.

The Virgin Mary dressed in hijab to show modesty, and her actions were in sync with her dress. Christians the world over bow their heads in respect, sometimes at a statue that reflects the nature of the Blessed Virgin, and sometimes at photographic images, and other times just at the mention of her name.

However, when a contemporary Muslim woman dresses in a similar fashion they are often met with jeers, scornful looks, thrown items and threatening moves.

We Muslims revere Mary and we do follow her style of dress and action, because we seek to live modestly. We see our bodies as rightfully belonging to ourselves (and our husbands), and not the property of people who might leer at a scantily clothed woman's body, on the street. So, even if we do not wear niqab, we Muslims are normally fully clothed in loose style clothing.

My choice to wear long clothing, mostly Western style clothing, is simply a matter of faith, my choice, and my respect for God. I do not wear niqab, but I respect the rights of those who do. I believe the most important concern here, is why must the focus be on a woman's style of dress, and not on her intellect and her character!

Historical View of Muslim Women Themselves

The first to combine the study of representation, gender theory, and Muslim women from a historical and geographical perspective, this book examines where women have represented themselves in art, architecture, and the written word in the Muslim world. The authors explore the gendering and implicit power relations present in the positioning of subject and object in the visual field and look specifically at occasions when women publicly adopted the stance of the viewer, speaker, writer, or patron.

Women Strolling in Traditional Niqab

If you live in a homogenous neighborhood, work in a homogeneous office setting, and shop where everyone still looks like you, it may be a challenge to see people who are outwardly different from the norm. However, acquaintance with niqabi neighbors, co-workers, and shop owners can assuage your apprehensions.

It's natural, though unhealthy, to fear "the other!" It's also very sad, when we might be indignant if the shoe were on the other foot. Please read on. Photo by Agência Brasil, public Brazilian news agency,

Veiling Represented in Contemporary Art

The power of the veil to affect people's behaviors cannot be underestimated. When a woman appears under veiled clothing - out of modesty - others just can't let her be. Artists use this contradiction as a tool to waken society.

The Institute of International Visual Arts in London's exhibit on the veil in contemporary society presents visual artists' and writers' work on this topic. "No single item of clothing has had greater influence on Western images of Middle Eastern and North African women than the veil. The fascination of Western writers, artists, and photographers with the veil reflects the voyeuristic nature of our interest in what is strange and "other."Veil, which accompanies an exhibition organized by the Institute of International Visual Arts in London, explores the representation of the veil in contemporary visual arts.

Providing a context for the commissioned essays are a number of classical historical texts crossing religions, cultures, genders, and ages -- from Greek myths to articles published in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Some of the contemporary artists and scholars write autobiographically about the meaning of the veil in their lives.

Others take a more political approach, discussing, for example, how the events of September 11 changed the use and reception of veil imagery throughout the world. Still others take a historical approach, examining how nineteenth-century technological developments in travel and photography led to photographic depictions of both the veiled and unveiled body in relation to landscape.

A number of essays look at the art historical precedents for the current interest in artwork addressing the veil, while others examine how codes of modesty and gender segregation have affected the making and viewing of films in postrevolutionary Iran.

The essays are by Jananne Al-Ani, David A. Bailey, Alison Donnell, Ghazel, Salah Hassan, Reina Lewis, Hamid Naficy, Zineb Sedira, and Gilane Tawadros. The artists represented include Faisal Abdu'Allah, Kourosh Adim, Ghada Amer, Jananne Al-Ani, Farah Bajull, Samta Benyahia, Ga봡n de Cl鲡mbault, Marc Garanger, Shadafarin Ghadirian, Group AES, Emily Jacir, Ramesh Kalkur, Shirin Neshat, Harold Offeh, Gillo Pontecorvo, Zineb Sedira, Mitra Tabrizian, and Elin Strand."

Niqab or Burqa - a Simple Difference

This graphic is from>

Evidence of Niqab

The Veil - Evidence of Niqab
The Veil - Evidence of Niqab

Women have worn the face veil for centuries, but recently many people in the public sphere find this practice to be challenging. Not only those who generally oppose Isam keep many misconceptions regarding face veiling alive, but also some prominent media figures, and some religious organizations, and public figures, continue the controversy.

This is an exploration of muslim foundations, to present clarification about the wearing of niqab as a religious act.


For Answers to Enigmatic Questions on Islam - go to the Qur'an

I took a neighbor to one of our local masjid's (mosque is arabic for masjid, the muslim house of prayer) Iftar programs for an Interfaith group. Iftar is the breaking of the daily Ramadan fast. My neighbor friend was fortunate to hear captivating speakers dispel myths, stereotypes and predjudices that are flying around the land, promoted by misinformed media.

Muslims commission from God (Allah, the one God) is not to force people to convert to the religion; it is simply to present the facts of the religion and from there, people can make their own choices, but at least they are informed.

The Arabic Qur'an (the only part of the Book that is the Qur'an is the part in Arabic, because it has not changed over the centuries), with English translation was offered to those who wanted to read it in the privacy of their homes. My friend came away with a respect for the information she gathered - from real Muslims who presented from their foundations of belief, and an eagerness to read the Book.

A Convert Decides to Wear Niqab

YouTube moniker, isamsb, presents her personal journey to Islam in a video with more than 2.3 million views. She wanted to know what was in the Book (the Qur'an) that could make people want to memorize it.

She witnessed a friend take the time from her student life to find a "place to pray." She was impressed by the graciousness of her Muslim friend's family. As a young single mother, she was attracted to a way of life with direction and purpose, rather than continuing her previous lifestyle of doing whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Her investigations led her to the path of Islam, and eventually to the choice of wearing niqab.

The Cambridge Companion to the Qur'ān (Cambridge Companions to Religion)
The Cambridge Companion to the Qur'ān (Cambridge Companions to Religion)

Designed for the English speaking population, an introduction to the Qur'an, indispensable for students and scholars.


Books for Contemporary Students of Islam

Islam: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles)
Islam: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles)

From its earliest days to our current times, Armstrong details the lifespan of Islam in clear and easy language.


Gifts by Halal Tees

"halal" logos on mugs & gift items - many styles & colors

I am a convert to Islam, and I am a visual artist. I designed these images for dawwa use.

They make great gifts for special occasions. Eid, Graduation, New Job, Promotion, Shahadah, new neighbor, friendly co-worker, Qur'an memorization.

Papier Picks Gifts for Muslims

The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life
The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life

Ingrid Mattson explains the Qur'an with scholarly grace.


This is a section for displays of respect. One need not agree about the practice, but our expressions denote the degree to which we actually do respect those who differ from us.

Does this answer your veiling questions? - do you have respectful questions?

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    • Melissa Orourke profile image

      Melissa Orourke 

      3 years ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

      That's funny. I am glad you have been spoken to, and have had the chance to answer questions!

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      Melissa, I found that when I wore a large square scarf pinned in the front with two equal length points were the times when I would be mistaken for a nun. I actually enjoyed those encounters.

    • Melissa Orourke profile image

      Melissa Orourke 

      3 years ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

      Good for you! They must not be well educated in the way of cultural dress to mistake you though! I worked for the airlines, so that's an education in itself! It's a diverse crowd!

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      I have been mistaken for being a nun more than once. It happened in a church and in an elevator and on the sidewalks, with various receptions of my reply: "I'm Muslim." Some people are very welcoming, some apologetic, some freeze into a mask of fear. Whatever they do, I behave naturally and speak in my Western voice and show them I'm open to talk, if they wish.

    • Melissa Orourke profile image

      Melissa Orourke 

      3 years ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

      Thank you for sharing. I am in the process of writing, "Should I wear a Veil at Mass?" I will be submit it within the next couple of days.

      We all are on a journey, and knowing about each others customs and celebrating what we have in common, is always a good thing! Thank you again.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Ecking: I thank you for your thoughtful comment. We really are more alike, than different.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I liked how there were examples of women in other religions that wear veils. I cannot wrap my head around why people think this is oppressive to women. Smh, I think the hijab (or a niqab) are beautiful.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @LisaDH: lisadh, thank you for your astute comments. It is a sad commentary on parts of society that denigrate religious people who choose to dress very modestly. If only they knew what a tremendous sense of freedom there is in dressing sedately. I sincerely appreciate the feedback.

    • LisaDH profile image


      5 years ago

      This is a wonderfully informative page. You've done a beautiful job showing how a niqab really isn't that different than other religious garments Americans are more accustomed to seeing. It's terrible that people can be so narrow-minded to judge others on the clothes they wear simply because we don't understand or respect their religious devotion. In the US, I think Muslim women and Sikh men are particularly singled out for discrimination based on clothing. Thank you for educating many people with this page.

    • Nadooa profile image


      5 years ago

      I really loved your lens I was planning on writing on the same topic but I must be honest I will not be able to do it as beautifully as you have! I linked to your lens one my lens about Women In Islam.

      Again great job, will surely be reading your other work :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I just realized through this lens that you are Muslim :) You might enjoy reading my articles at my site The Desert Boutique :) Very nice work on this lens! Delicate subject delicately handled! Blessed!

    • ShineRita profile image


      6 years ago

      Really nice lens. Its full of great information.

    • writerkath profile image


      6 years ago

      You did a beautiful job presenting this information - I couldn't tear myself away! I learned a great deal about veiling. When I look at a Burka, in particular, I do wonder about the wearer's comfort. It seems that I would feel overheated in one. I guess, though, that if you wear a Burka or a Niqab, it would be simply a matter of getting used to it. I feel the same way when I look at nuns wearing their habits.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Very interesting information.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for this information! :) Blessed!

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Great information about the differences in types of tradtional religious clothing and veils. I especially appreciated knowing the difference between a Niqab and a Burqa.


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