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Muslim women are required in Islam to cover themselves whenever they are outside of their homes or in the presence of non-
mahrem men. This provides many benefits to the Muslim woman herself as well as to the society as a whole. Allah willing, I plan on discussing many of these benefits in future articles. This article, however, will simply describe the physical requirements of hijab. My hope is that it will serve as a reference for Muslim women as well as a basic introduction to hijab for non-Muslims.

The word hijab is derived from the Arabic root hajaba, which means to hide from view or to conceal. Many people use it to refer to the headscarf which Muslim women wear , but hijab is much more than a headscarf: it is an entire way of dressing, behaving and believing. It is acceptable to name the scarf hijab so long as it does not lead to the wrong impression that a headscarf is the only requirement of true hijab. After all, anyone can wear a headscarf (gypsies, fashion models, etc.), but it takes much more than that to fufill the conditions of Islamic dress.

1. Proper hijab (concealment for the Muslim woman) dictates that the entire body must be covered, although the face and hands may be exposed. Some women choose to cover themselves further by means of a face veil and gloves, and this is perfectly fine.

2. The clothing must be long and loose-fitting so that the shape of the woman is not outlined in her garments. The preferred coverings include the jelbab and the abaya which are floor-length cloaks which come in various types of fabric and may be worn over a woman's regular house clothing. Pants are unacceptable unless they are worn underneath the outer garments.

3. Garments should not be transparent as to reveal the color of a woman's skin or to expose the hair or body in any way. With regards to the headscarf, it must cover all of the hair and be long enough to cover the woman's ears, neck and chest. Women should take care to ensure that the scarf is securely fastened, usually with pins, and that her hair is arranged so that it will not slip out of her scarf.

4. Colors and styles should be as plain as possible so that unnecessary attention is not drawn to the woman. In addition, the clothing should not be excessively rich and fancy in order to gain admiration nor excessively poor and ragged in order to gain sympathy. Modesty is the main goal.

5. Jewelry must not be displayed, and it is especially important that it does not make noise as a woman walks (an ankle-bracelet with bells, for example). Women in pre-Islamic Arabia used to wear such bracelets and stamp their feet in the markets in order to entice and attract men.

6. The dress should not resemble the garments of men, nor should it imitate the dress of non-Muslims.

7. Make-up (unless it is completely covered by a face-veil) and perfume are strictly prohibited for Muslim women when outdoors or in the presence of non-mahrem men.

8. A Muslim woman who wears hijab should also strive to make her actions consistent with her dress with regards to Islamic guidelines for speech, manners and behavior.

Originally published at Suite101.com. Reprinted with permission.

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