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A burqa ( ; also transliterated burkha, burka or burqua from burqu‘ ) is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions for the purpose of cloaking the entire body. It is worn over the usual daily clothing (often a long dress or a shalwar kameez) and removed when the woman returns to the sanctuary of the household (see purdah).

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 the face-veil (Arabic: niqāb). The word comes from the Arabic root /r/+/q/+/ʕ/ which means "to patch up" or "to sew up". 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 which covers the face below the eyes' region.

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

Origin of word

Taken from the Arabic word 'برقع' which exactly means face cover with eye openings. It does not mean the whole black dress.The black dress is called Abaya

History and Islamic culture

This type of dress has its origins with desert times long before Islam arrived. It had two functions. Firstly as a sand mask in windy conditions. This would be worn by men and women and is still common today. For women only the masking of the face and body was used when one group was being raided by another. These raids often involved the taking of women of child bearing age. With all women hidden behind a veil, and the home team fighting back, the chances of being taken were substantially reduced as the women of child bearing age could not be quickly distinguished from the very young and the old.

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 burqa is not specifically mentioned in the Quran.


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

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".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.

Afghanistan & North West Pakistan

Two women wearing Burqas.
The full Afghanmarker chadri covers the wearer's entire face except for a small region about the eyes, which is covered by a concealing net or grille. This type of covering is also common in North Western Pakistanmarker close to the Afghan border. It is frequently referred to as "Shuttlecock Burqa" in Pakistan to differentiate it from other Burqa styles and due to its resemblance with a badminton shuttlecock.

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. Burqa use in the remainder of Afghanistan is variable and is observed to be gradually declining in Kabulmarker. 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 Pakistan use of Burqa has declined over the time. Cities of Rawalpindimarker, Sargodhamarker, Multanmarker, Hyderabadmarker, Peshawarmarker and Quettamarker were overwhelmingly seen as cities of Burqa-clad women at the time of Independence. However burqa still persists in rural areas of North-West Frontier Province, some adjoining areas of Punjabmarker and Balochistanmarker. Smaller cities like Mianwalimarker in Punjab have exclusive burqa-observance as part of orthodox traditions.

Cultural dress controversy in Western Europe

Although cultural and not of Islamic teachings, face covering veils have become linked to Islam and its followers. Face-covering clothing has become a controversial political issue in Western Europe, and some intellectuals and political groups advocate prohibition, for various reasons.

This type of dress that covers the face of women is causing controversy in the United Kingdommarker (see main article at United Kingdom debate over veils). A senior member of the 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 furore followed. Some Muslim groups said that they understood his concerns, but others rejected them as prejudicial.

In France wearing the burqa has been banned in public schools since 2004, as the result of a law that prohibits students to wear any clearly visible religious symbols. This was followed on 22 June 2009, when the president of Francemarker, 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". The French National Assembly has appointed 32 lawmakers from right and left-wing parties on a six-month fact-finding mission to look at ways of restricting its use.

See also


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