A Burqa is an outer garment worn by women in Islamic societies for the purpose of concealing their bodies and/or face. It is mostly worn when a woman leaves her home and she has to wear it until she is back in her home.
Where is a Burqa worn?
Burqa is worn throughout Middle Eastern nations and the Muslim nations around the world. Many liberal or democratic governments are not so strict about wearing the Burqa. One such famous example is Turkey, where secular ideas prevail and give people the freedom to choose if they want to wear a Burqa. Meanwhile, in stricter nations, women are told to wear the Burqa and failure to do so can result in beatings, harassment or other worse punishments.
Who wears a Burqa?
Obviously a woman wears a Burqa but more specifically, conservative practicing Muslims wear it. Girls are not supposed to wear a burqa until she hits puberty but this notion is not practiced as girl as young as six are made to wear the Burqa to get them used to wearing it. There have also been instances where men wore the Burqa to escape from the police or to hide their identities from the authorities. One such famous incident occurred at the Red Mosque siege in Pakistan.
What are the different styles of the Burqa or names?
Burqa falls under the category of Hijab. This is a Arabic word which means to veil or cover and refers to a women’s head and body covering gear. In Saudi Arabia, women a loose robe called abaya and a face veil called niqab while in nations like Tunisia or Turkey, Muslim women tend to wear only a headscarf. In Iran, they take a step further and the “fashion police” mandate all women to wear loose clothing – preferably black or a while robe – when going out and women are also supposed to wear either a full face veil or scarf. If the dress code is not followed, it results in punishment. In order to accommodate to the modern word, Islamic teachers allow women to wear a “Burqini.” A Burqini is a swimsuit for women and it covers the entire body. The only exposed parts are the feet, fingers and the face. Chador is also a full body cover for women. One of the extremes of Burqa is the Afghan Burqa, which was enforced by Taliban. This burqa covers the entire body in a loose clothing and even the face (including eyes) are covered with only a grille for the women to look through.
What does Quran say about the Burqa?
First of all, it depends on which Islamic scholar you ask. They are all in disagreement as to what extend Quran advocates this. However, the Quran does urge men and women to dress and behave modestly in society. The Quran does not specifically mention the Burqa or tells women to wear such extremely confining clothes. The Ulema or the Scholars do agree that the Quran says women should not wear extremely revealing clothes. Modern day muslims base their authority regarding the Burqa on the Hadith or collected traditions of life in the days of Muhammad the prophet. But a noteworthy objection is that Hadith describes 7th century Arabian life, which should not be imposed on modern day Muslims world wide. Muslim communities also argue that women are to dress modestly but should not be forced or punished to wear a Burqa. This is why many Muslim communities have different preferences regarding the application of the Burqa.
The West and Burqa
The issue of Burqa has been a source of problems for western nations. Some call it Islamophobia but the real reason is the issue of security. This is why France banned all forms of religious clothing and articles in the schools throughout the nation. Netherlands also banned the wearing of face-covering Burqa. There have been instances in USA where Muslim women wanted to get her drivers license but refused to take off her Burqa (face veil). This generates a problem because identification of a person becomes troublesome especially when the person is wearing clothing to cover their faces. As mentioned earlier, there have been instances of terrorists and criminals wearing the Burqa to hide from the police and authorities so a security issue is generated. Women’s rights groups, both Islamic and secular, have also begun to actively fight what they see as the subjugation of women. Within the Muslim community, conservatives and Islamic feminists have used Islamic doctrine as the basis for discussion of women’s rights, drawing on the Qur’an, the Hadithand the lives of prominent women in the early period of Muslim history as evidence. Muslim Bengali writer Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain criticized the hijab and the Burqa in her utopian fantasy Sultana’s Dream. Iranian-American novelist Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, Marjane Satrapi, author of the graphic novel Persepolis, and Parvin Darabi who has authored Rage Against the Veil are some of the famous opponents of compulsory veiling. So far, Turkey and Tunisia are the only Muslim countries where the law prohibits the wearing of hijab in government buildings, schools, and universities. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the only countries that enforce the dress code strictly with severe punishments through the religious police.
The Future of Burqa?
There are both the opponents and the supporters of Burqa out there but many Muslims are starting to agree that such enforced dress code is not necessary. Unlike historical times, many nations have begun to lessen their enforcement of the Burqa. Women are also no longer required to wear the Burqa (only some Muslim nations) even though they are encouraged to wear modest clothes such as a headscarf (most of Islamic states). Liberal Muslims and women’s rights groups are advocating for the compulsory enforcement of the Burqa to be stopped so a women (and girls) are given the choice to decide if they want to wear the Burqa or not. Currently, this issue or topic is hotly contested by the Islamic scholars, Muslim Communities and the Western nations. However, as Islam moves into the modern age, one can only speculate as to what the future of Burqa will truly be.