What Is a Pakistani Hijab?

Laura Metz

The term Pakistani hijab refers to a variety of traditional headscarves worn by many Muslim women. Also called a veil, headscarf, or covering, it is intended to promote modesty and avoid calling attention to a woman’s body. There is no specific Pakistani hijab; instead, different styles are available not only throughout Pakistan but also in many areas around the world.

Pakistani hijab refers to headscarves worn by Muslim women.
Pakistani hijab refers to headscarves worn by Muslim women.

Traditionally a Pakistani hijab is expected to cover all of a woman’s hair as well as her ears, neck, and chest. To prevent any stray hairs from being seen, the hair must be put up carefully; then, the hijab is pinned on firmly so that it will not slide off. Some women, particularly those in Western countries, choose to wear the hijab loosely, actually showing some of their hair.

Rules about the hijab can be derived from the Koran.
Rules about the hijab can be derived from the Koran.

Many different fabrics can be used to make a Pakistani hijab, depending on local customs, occasion, weather, and personal preference. Light materials are better for warm climates, while silk may be used for a special occasion such as a wedding. Less traditional women may use highly decorated, embroidered, or sheer fabric; however, since the hair is still visible underneath a sheer hijab, some Muslims are offended by them and transparent material is very rare.

Personal preference typically decides the color of a Pakistani hijab. Since the purpose of this head covering is to avoid calling attention to the female body, most Muslim women avoid bright colors and patterns. Thus, black and dark blue are the most common colors for a Pakistani hijab.

A traditional Muslim woman is expected to wear the covering at all times, except around other women, young children, or male family members. The majority of Muslims believe their holy book, the Koran, directs that grown women should cover everything but their faces and hands while in public. As a result, many Muslim girls begin wearing the hijab shortly before puberty.

The word hijab can also refer to proper Islamic dress in general. Loose fitting clothing is required for both men and women. For a woman, this typically means a long, loose robe such as the abaya or the jilbab or a long skirt and long sleeved shirt in addition to a headscarf.

Many countries have made laws either requiring or banning the hijab in certain situations. For example, since 1979 Iran has required women to wear a head covering in public. On the other hand, in 2004 France banned students in public schools from wearing explicitly religious symbols or clothing, including the hijab. In 2011, Pakistan had no specific law about it, but most Pakistani women wore a covering of some sort anyway.

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