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A burqa (Arabic pronunciation: [ˈbʊrqɑʕ]; also transliterated burkha, burka or burqua from Arabic: برقعburqu' or burqa' ) is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic religion to cover their bodies in public places. The burqa is usually understood to be the woman's loose body-covering (Arabic: jilbāb), plus the head-covering (Arabic: ḥijāb, taking the most usual meaning), plus[citation needed] the face-veil (Arabic: niqāb).



burqa is arabisized word of pardeh or purdah ([pərd̪aː]), a Persian word meaning "curtain" in persian language , perdah or pardeh is generaly refered to all kind of curtain specially a kind of curtain that is covering all haf part of ladies from head to brist

A speculative and unattested etymology connects b-r-q-ʿ with the Arabic root r-q-ʿ, which means "to patch up" or "to sew up". The objection to this etymology is that it assumes a pattern b-f-ʿ-l that adds b- to a root f-ʿ-l. The face-veil portion is usually a rectangular piece of semi-transparent cloth whose top side is sewn to corresponding portion of the head-scarf, so that the veil hangs down loose from the scarf, and it can be turned up if the woman wishes to reveal her face (otherwise the whole face would be covered). In other cases, the niqāb part can be a side-attached cloth that covers the face below the eyes' region.

The face-veil portion is also called purdah ([pərd̪aː]), a Persian word meaning "curtain"


The Arabic word 'برقع' refers to a face cover with eye openings. It does not mean the whole black dress called the abaya.

An 1842 Lithography work by James Rattray showing a Persian (Qizilbash) woman in Afghanistan with a burqa next to her.

There is evidence that this type of dress was worn by some Arab and Persian women long before Islam. For example, the Roman African Christian Tertullian, writing in Chapter 17 of The Veiling of Virgins around 200 AD, praises the modesty of those "pagan women of Arabia" who "not only cover their head, but their whole face...preferring to enjoy half the light with one eye rather than prostituting their whole face."[1] Strabo, writing in the first century AD, also refers to covering the face as a practice of some Persian women (Geography 11.13. 9–10).

Many Muslims believe that the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, and the collected traditions of the life of Muhammed, or hadith, require both men and women to dress and behave modestly in public. However, this requirement, called hijab, has been interpreted in many different ways by Islamic scholars (ulema) and Muslim communities (see Women and Islam).

The Quran has been translated as stating:

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

Qur'an Surah/Chapter Al-Ahzab Ayah/Verse 59

Another verse in the Quran is translated as:

"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 (jaybs), 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 Allah together, O you the faithful, in order that you are successful"

Qur'an Sura Nur Chapter: The Light. Verse 31

A fatwa, written by Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid on the Saudi Arabian website Islam QA, states:

The correct view as indicated by the evidence is that the woman's face is 'awrah which must be covered. It is the most tempting part of her body, because what people look at most is the face, so the face is the greatest 'awrah of a woman.[2]

The fatwa also states when it is prohibited to wear the veil:

In the Sunnah there are many ahaadeeth, such as: the Prophet said: "The woman in ihraam is forbidden to veil her face (wear niqaab) or to wear the burqa'." This indicates that when women were not in ihraam, women used to cover their faces[2]

Depictions of Burqas In Art

Venetian renaissance artist Gentile Bellini depicts them in the painting, St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria (1504-1507). In it, in his depiction of a crowd attired in Ottoman Turkish dress he also includes what appear to be a number of heavily hooded and veiled seated women.


In the Muslim world, preventing women from being seen by men is closely linked to the concept of Namus.[3][4]

Namus is an ethical category, a virtue, in Middle Eastern Muslim patriarchal character. It is a strongly gender-specific category of relations within a family described in terms of honor, attention, respect/respectability, and modesty. The term is often translated as "honor".[3][4]

Burqas around the world

Central and Southern Asia


Two Afghan women wearing chadris.

The full Afghan chadri covers the wearer's entire face except for a small region about the eyes, which is covered by a concealing net or grille.[5]

Before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, the chadri was infrequently worn in cities. While they were in power, the Taliban treatment of women required the wearing of a chadri in public. Officially, it is not required under the present Afghan regime, but local warlords still enforce it in southern Afghanistan. Chadri use in the remainder of Afghanistan is variable and is observed to be gradually declining in Kabul. Due to political instability in these areas, women who might not otherwise be inclined to wear the chadri must do so as a matter of personal safety.


In India, the burqa (Hindi: बुरक़ा, Urdu: بُرقع) is common in many areas,[6] such as old Delhi, for example.[7] In the locale of Nizamuddin Basti, the obligation of a woman to wear a burqa is dependent on her age.[8] Young, unmarried women or young, married women in their first years of marriage are required to wear the burqa.[8] However, after this the husband usually decides if his wife should continue to wear a burqa.[8]


In Pakistan, the use of the burqa has greatly declined over time. The cities of Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Multan, Hyderabad, Peshawar and Quetta were overwhelmingly seen as cities of burqa-clad women at the time of Independence (1947). However, burqa use, to some extent, persists in rural areas of the Northwest Frontier Province and some adjoining areas of Punjab and Balochistan. Smaller cities like Mianwali in Punjab which have a majority Pashtun population have burqa-observances as part of orthodox traditions. These traditions are independent of religion, and women from minorities such as Christian and Hindu women also observe them. However, the burqa observances remain localized and most women who observe burqa within these areas, do not do so when and if they travel out of the area. There the burqa is a symbol of wealth and honor[citation needed] as well as a tradition instead of a religious symbol. The burqas worn are either the chadri version, or a local cloak-like garment with a veil stitched on top. Traditionally, women from the rural areas did not wear burqas, since they were prohibited from working in the fields or outside with men.

Middle East


Some years ago, a group of Haredi Jews in Jerusalem began donning the Burqa as a symbol of piety. The garment is now worn by hundreds, one woman explaining: "I follow these rules of modesty to save men from themselves. A man who sees a woman's body parts is sexually aroused, and this might cause him to commit sin. Even if he doesn't actually sin physically, his impure thoughts are sin in themselves."[9] However, apparently at the insistence of some of their husbands, a leading rabbinical authority issued an edict declaring burka-wearing a sexual fetish, that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.[10] "There is a real danger that by exaggerating, you are doing the opposite of what is intended [resulting in] severe transgressions in sexual matters,” explains Shlomo Pappenheim, a member of the rabbinical authority.

According to The Jerusalem Post, a Member of the Knesset is intending to put forward a bill to "prohibit the wearing of a full-body and face covering for women. [The] bill would not differentiate between Muslims and Jews.[11]" Elsewhere, Miriam Shaviv writes that "at least 100" Jewish women have taken to wearing the veil. This followed its adoption by Bruria Keren, who was "considered a holy woman" by these women. Shaviv, who considers Keren to be "mentally ill", continues:

Nobody forced them; however, she clearly convinced these gullible and needy women that the ideal for a woman was not to be seen in public (and not even to be heard – she used to stop talking for days on end). Negating themselves, she was telling them, making themselves invisible, was the height of frumkeit, while in fact it has no basis whatsoever in halachah.[12]


Woman in a niqab in Aleppo, Syria.

The burqa is not allowed to be worn in Syrian schools and universities by either students, teachers or staff.[13]


A woman in a niqab in England.

Face-covering clothing has become a political issue in Western Europe, and some intellectuals and political groups advocate prohibition, for various reasons.

United Kingdom

This outfit is causing debate in the United Kingdom. A senior member of the previous government, Jack Straw, asked Muslim women from his constituency to remove any veils covering their faces during face-to-face meetings with him. He explained to the media that this was a request, not a demand, and that he made sure that a woman staffer remained in the room during the meeting. A media furor followed. Some Muslim groups said that they understood his concerns, but others rejected them as prejudicial.[14] A poll in 2011 indicated that 66 percent of British people supported banning the burqa in all public places.[15] However, a ban on burqas has been ruled out by the current Conservative-Liberal government and previous Labour government,[16] but the UK Independence Party[17] suggested it.


Wearing the burqa has not been allowed in French public schools since 2004 when it was judged to be a religious symbol like the Christian cross. This ruling was the application of an established 1905 law that prohibits students and staff from wearing any clearly visible religious symbols. The law relates to the time where the secular French state took over control of most schools from the Catholic Church. It does not apply to private or religious schools. This was followed on 22 June 2009, when the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, said that burqas are "not welcome" in France, commenting that "In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity".[18] The French National Assembly appointed 32 lawmakers from right- and left-wing parties to a six-month fact-finding mission to look at ways of restricting its use.[19] On 26 January 2010, the commission reported that access to public services and public transport should be barred to those wearing the burqa. On Tuesday July 13, 2010 the Assembly overwhelmingly approved a bill banning burqas and niqabs.[20]

On 14 September 2010, the French Senate overwhelmingly approved a ban on burqas in public, with the law becoming effective beginning on 11 April 2011. When the measure was sent in May to the parliament they said "Given the damage it produces on those rules which allow the life in community, ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes, this practice, even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place".[21][22]

The ban is officially called, 'the bill to forbid concealing one's face in public.' It

refers neither to Islam nor to veils. Officials insist the law against face-covering is not discriminatory because it would apply to everyone, not just Muslims. Yet they cite a host of exceptions, including motorcycle helmets, or masks for health reasons, fencing, skiing or carnivals.[23]

Elsewhere in Europe

On 29 April 2010, the lower house of parliament in Belgium passed a bill banning any clothing that would obscure the identity of the wearer in places like parks and in the street. The proposal was passed nem con and now goes to the Senate. BBC News estimates that "Only around 30 women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of around half a million."[24]

In Italy, by an anti-terrorism Law passed in 1975, it is forbidden to wear any dress that hides the face of a person. In May 2010, it was reported that a Tunisian woman was fined €500 for this offence.[25]



In 2010, Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi called for the burqa to be banned in his country, branding it "un-Australian". The ban did not go ahead but debate about the burqa continues.[26][27]

In 2011, Carnita Matthews of Sydney was sentenced to six months jail for making a false statement accusing a police officer of attempting to forcibly lift her burqa.[28] The officer pulled her over for a random breath test and then ticketed her for failing to properly display a P-plate. She then submitted a signed false complaint to a police station while wearing a burqa. Islamist activists protested in support of Matthews.[29] Judge Clive Jeffreys overturned the conviction in June 2011, citing what he thought were differences between the signature on her license and that on the complaint. Forensic handwriting examiners, who Jeffreys did not consult, said that differences between signatures were to be expected.[30] She then proceeded to seek legal costs.[28] On July 4th 2011, NSW became the first Australian state to pass laws allowing police to demand that burqa's (and other head gear such as motorcycle helmets) be removed when asking for identification.

Health effects

Enveloping outer garments, such as the burqa, are believed to cause or worsen medical conditions in some individuals.[31] In particular, they contribute to a predisposition for hypovitaminosis D, which can lead to rickets or osteoporosis and may increase the risk of seizures in infants born to affected mothers.[32][33][34][35][36]

Close-up of part of the traditional Bandari burqa costume of southern Iran.

See also


  1. ^ Tertullian's Latin reads: "Iudicabunt nos Arabiae ethnicae feminae ethnicae quae non caput, sed faciem quoque ita totam tegunt, ut oculo liberato contentae sint dimidiam frui lucem quam totam faciem prostituere."
  2. ^ a b Al-Munajjid, Sheikh Muhammed Salih. "Do women have to wear niqaab?". Islam QA. http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/21134. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Werner Schiffauer, "Die Gewalt der Ehre. Erklärungen zu einem deutsch-türkischen Sexualkonflikt." ("The Force of the Honour"), Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main, 1983. ISBN 3-518-37394-3.
  4. ^ a b Dilek Cindoglu, "Virginity tests and artificial virginity in modern Turkish medicine", pp. 215–228, in Women and sexuality in Muslim societies, P. Ýlkkaracan (Ed.), Women for Women's Human Rights, Istanbul, 2000.
  5. ^ Malhotra, Jyothi (July 26, 2009). "An election in Afghanistan". Business Standard. http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/jyoti-malhotra-an-election-in-afghanistan/364928/. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  6. ^ Jain, Simmi (09 July 2011). Encyclopaedia of Indian Women Through the Ages: Modern India. Kalpaz Publications. http://books.google.com/books?id=JbCKTfEmppsC&pg=PA267&dq=burqa+india&hl=en&ei=BNsXTqXpDZOasAPd7tTxDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CFYQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q&f=false. "The wearing of Burqa was not seen in the rural areas although the majority observed complete purdah whereas in the old Delhi area from where the urban data was collected, ' Burqa ' clad women were quite frequently seen in the markets and other places, as also women without a Burqa." 
  7. ^ a b c Weigl, Constanze (09 July 2011). Reproductive Health Behavior and Decision-Making of Muslim Women. LIT Verlag Münster. http://books.google.com/books?id=ZHHtWL7VK14C&pg=PA78&dq=burqa+india&hl=en&ei=hd0XTs-3L5S6sAPP7rjZDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CD4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=burqa%20india&f=false. "The obligation of a woman to wear a burqa is dependent on her age, as Moazam, one of my key informants, explained to me; a woman with gown-up children has not necessarily to wear a burqa. Young, unmarried women or young, married women in their first years of marriage, however, are obliged to wear it. In this situation a husband usually decides if his wife should continue to wear a burqa after marriage or not. In Nizamuddin Basti girls usually started to wear a burqa when they were around 16 years old and became fecund." 
  8. ^ http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Controversy-in-Israel-over-burqa-wearing-ultra-Orthodox-Jews-20726.html
  9. ^ Blomfield, Adrian (30 July 2010). "Israeli rabbis clamp down on burka". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/7919501/Israeli-rabbis-clamp-down-on-burka.html. 
  10. ^ The Jerusalem Post. 26 April 2010. [1]. Retrieved 16 Feb 2011.
  11. ^ Shaviv, Miriam (28 April 2010). "Should Israel Ban the Burka?". The Jewish Chronicle. http://www.thejc.com/blogpost/should-israel-ban-burka. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  12. ^ The Associated Press (20 July 2010). "Burqa ban arrives in Syrian state universities". Hürriyet Daily News. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=syria-bans-full-islamic-face-veils-at-universities-2010-07-20. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "'Remove full veils' urges Straw". BBC News. October 6, 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5411954.stm. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Two thirds Brits want burqa ban". YouGov. April 14, 2011. http://today.yougov.co.uk/life/two-thirds-brits-want-burqa-ban. Retrieved April 16, 2011. 
  15. ^ MacLellan, Kylie (July 17, 2010). "Britain should not seek burqa ban: government". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66G1U520100717. 
  16. ^ Allen, Peter (September 15, 2010). "France's Senate backs National Assembly and bans women from wearing the burka in public". Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1312016/Frances-Senate-bans-women-wearing-burka-public.html. 
  17. ^ Foreign, Our (June 22, 2009). "Nicolas Sarkozy: burqa not welcome in France". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/5603070/Nicolas-Sarkozy-burqa-not-welcome-in-France.html. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  18. ^ "France sets up burka commission". BBC News. June 23, 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8114590.stm. Retrieved April 27, 2010. 
  19. ^ Doland, Angela (July 13, 2010). "France Burqa Ban: French Parliament Approves Ban on Face Veils". The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/13/france-burqa-ban-french-p_n_644433.html. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  20. ^ French Senate Approves Burqa Ban (CNN)
  21. ^ CNN – French Senate approves burqa ban
  22. ^ Doland, Angela (July 13, 2010). "France Burqa Ban: French Parliament Approves Ban on Face Veils". The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/13/france-burqa-ban-french-p_n_644433.html. Retrieved Feb 10 2011. 
  23. ^ "Belgian lawmakers pass burka ban". BBC News. April 30, 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8652861.stm. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  24. ^ The Telegraph, 4 May 2010. Muslim woman fined £430 for wearing burka in Italy http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/7676367/Muslim-woman-fined-430-for-wearing-burka-in-Italy.html. Accessed 16 Feb 2011.
  25. ^ Thinly veiled discrimination? Australian Times. October, 2010. http://www.australiantimes.co.uk/community/Burqa-bans--thinly-veiled-discrimination
  26. ^ http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/burqua-ruling-must-be-made-by-sa-speaker-lyn-breuer/story-e6frea6u-1225944811804
  27. ^ a b http://www.news.com.au/national/burqa-wearing-woman-carnita-matthews-to-seek-costs/story-e6frfkvr-1226080347298
  28. ^ http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/we-need-to-stop-islams-ugly-voice/story-e6frfhqf-1226080251177
  29. ^ http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-nsw/new-twist-in-carnita-matthews-burqa-case/story-e6freuzi-1226085143698
  30. ^ Dubitsky, Stephanie. "The Health Care Crisis Facing Women Under Taliban Rule in Afghanistan". Washington College of Law. American University. http://www.wcl.american.edu/hrbrief/v6i2/taliban.htm. Retrieved 2010-09-15. "Furthermore, the mandatory act of wearing burqas itself causes health risks. They are so heavy and enveloping that they restrict women's activities by making it difficult for them to move. The simple act of walking outside becomes hazardous because the mesh opening severely restricts women's field of vision and they are unable to see their path clearly. In addition, burqas are linked to hearing loss, skin problems, headaches, cardiac disorder, asthma, and also can contribute to mental health problems." 
  31. ^ Stuijt, Adriana (2009-05-08). "Women could endanger their health by wearing burqas". Digital Journal. http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/272307. Retrieved 2010-09-15. ""In Ireland, which is experiencing a large influx of muslim immigrants at the moment, women wearing the burqa, doctors are warning, 'are at increased risk of pelvic fractures during childbirth because of vitamin D deficiency due to a lack of sunlight. "And babies born to women with vitamin D deficiency are also more prone to seizures in their first week of life," according to Dr Miriam Casey, expert in Medicine for the Elderly at the Osteoporosis Unit in St James's hospital in Dublin. The burqa – an all-enveloping outer garment, does not allow enough sunlight through to give women sufficient vitamin D, she warns." 
  32. ^ Douglas, David (2007-06-25). "Middle Eastern women may have vitamin D deficiency". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSHAR56610220070625. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  33. ^ Bandgar, TR; NS Shah. "Vitamin D and Hip Fractures: Indian Scenario". Journal of the Association of Physicians of India 58 (September 2010). http://www.japi.org/september_2010/article_01.html. Retrieved 2010-09-15. "Social and religious customs that require people to wear concealing clothing, veiling and traditional attire, such as the Burqa", salvar kameez" and sari significantly prevents sun exposure." 
  34. ^ Keim, Brandon (2007-06-26). "Could Dressing Conservatively Make Muslim Women Sick?". Wired. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/06/could-burkas-ma/. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  35. ^ Mishal, AA (2001). "Effects of Different Dress Styles on Vitamin D Levels in Healthy Young Jordanian Women.". Osteoporosis International (Springer London) 12 (11): 931–935. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11804019. Retrieved 2011-06-01. "The prevalence of hypovitaminosis D was 62.3% in the study groups as a whole. Dress styles covering the whole body(Burqa), totally or nearly totally, have adverse effects on 25(OH)D levels and may produce a state of secondary hyperparathyroidism on the long run. Although Jordan enjoys plenty of sunshine, these data are suggestive of widespread hypovitaminosis D in Jordan." 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • burqa — [bʉr′kə] n. 〚< Urdu burḳaʿ < Ar burḳuʿ〛 a long, loose outer garment that covers the entire body with only a small opening for the eyes, worn outside the home by women in some Muslim countries * * * …   Universalium

  • burqa — /ar. ˈburka/ s. m. o f. inv. manto CFR. velo, chador …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • burqa — [bʉr′kə] n. [< Urdu burḳaʿ < Ar burḳuʿ] a long, loose outer garment that covers the entire body with only a small opening for the eyes, worn outside the home by women in some Muslim countries …   English World dictionary

  • Burqa — Cet article concerne l habillage de certaines femmes musulmanes. Pour le manteau traditionnel originaire du Caucase, voir bourka …   Wikipédia en Français

  • burqa — UK [ˈbɜː(r)kə] / US [ˈbɜrkə] noun [countable] Word forms burqa : singular burqa plural burqas another spelling of burka …   English dictionary

  • burqa — noun a loose garment (usually with veiled holes for the eyes) worn by Muslim women especially in India and Pakistan the Taliban forced all women to wear the burqa • Syn: ↑burka • Hypernyms: ↑garment * * * burqa var. burka n.1 and n …   Useful english dictionary

  • Burqa — Die Burka (eigentlich Burqa, aus arabisch ‏برقعة‎; in Pakistan auch als Barqa) ist ein Kleidungsstück, das von muslimischen Frauen in Afghanistan und teilweise in Pakistan und Indien getragen wird und der vollständigen Verschleierung des Körpers… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • burqa — [[t]bɜ͟ː(r)kə[/t]] burqas also burka N COUNT A burqa is a long garment that covers the head and body and is traditionally worn by women in Islamic countries …   English dictionary

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