A guide to Niqab-Part 1


Different Styles of Niqab

By Umm Abdullah

niqab2As someone who has been wearing niqab on and off for about 10 years (and has worn it full time for a few years now); I often get asked about the different styles of niqab out there, fabric choices; where you can buy the best quality ones and so on. So I thought I’d write a guide to Niqab generally, InshaAllaah. I realised early on its impossible to cover this topic with a short piece; so I have broken it into parts InshaAllaah.

Firstly let’s look at the different styles of niqab available. Back when I first because Muslim in 1997, you could only really get one style of niqab. Now there are so many on the market; some with fancy names, it can be difficult to figure out which one is most suitable for you. Here is a rundown of some of the most commonly available niqab styles out there.

niqab02Half niqab/Elastic backed niqab-This is the simplest style of niqab available. It consists of a rectangle of fabric with ties or a loop of elastic attached. The ties or elastic go behind your head; and the fabric rests on your nose. This style of niqab has some advantages; it is great for those who wear glasses, it is very easy to eat under it or discreetly flip it up or pull it down if a situation calls for it, it’s good for driving (some sisters find they lose some peripheral vision with other styles); and it tends to come in a wide array of colours; sometimes with matching khimars available. Also unlike other styles of niqab it works best worn inside the khimar. It has several ‘cons’ though, if the back of your head is rounded you’ll find it won’t stay put; and because the only thing holding the niqab up is the ties or elastic, you have to have it quite firmly against your face which can be uncomfortable. I do have some of this type of niqab usually in a set with a khimar but I tend to only wear them if I am going out to somewhere I am going to take my niqab off anyway; otherwise I find it uncomfortable and impractical.

niqabHeadband niqab-Most niqabs from the gulf and Egypt are ‘headband’ style; that is they have a band of fabric that goes around the head; above the eyes and the part covering the face is attached to this band. Some have a string between the eyes; some don’t. There are many variations on this style; many different types of fastenings, and they come in a wide range of fabrics. I would avoid the styles that fasten with snaps; it is incredibly rare that the snaps fit your head properly and you’ll find it is either too tight or too loose and cannot be adjusted. Don’t be fooled by those niqabs that has snaps and ties made out of satin ribbon; where the ribbon is sewed onto the niqab is too far from the edges to tie it properly if for some reason you cannot use the snaps, and is really more for decorative purposes. Velcro is convenient; but can snag other fabrics and it can also lose its ‘stickiness’ or even wear out, meaning you can no longer fasten the niqab. The best fastening in my humble opinion is a tie fastening, either the headband is made extra long so the ends can be tied at the back; or small ties are added to the headband. The best type is that where the ties are as wide as the headband itself.

Most headband niqabs have to be worn outside of the khimar or headcovering you are wearing. The only exceptions to this are some styles of cape khimar and overhead abaya that are made quite ‘open’ at the neck as opposed to fitted around the face; then most styles of headband niqab can be worn inside these. There are some very wide styles of headband niqab though that simply do not fit properly under anything; this means they do not ‘work’ at all with some overgarments; particularly the very wide traditional overhead abayas as there is just too much fabric which then bunches up under the niqab and it doesn’t look or feel particularly comfortable. Bear this in mind if it’s the type of overgarment you wear.

In purely practical terms, the ideal length for a headband niqab is about 15” from the eyes down. Anything shorter than that tends to get blown up into your face by the wind; also it can tend to look odd and ‘ninja-ish’. You can also get very long niqabs; even floor length but they are not really practical; it’s impossible to eat or drink under them and the sheer weight of the fabric means you have to fasten them more tightly than can ever be comfortable. If you’re looking for something long with lots of fabric, it is better if the extra fabric is in the eyeveils and not in the part that is covering the face.

You can get headband niqabs in a simple style; without eyeveils but I prefer the ones with them even though I don’t tend to cover my eyes. Why? Well it seems the ones with eyeveils seem to stay on better; the eyeveil seems to act as an anchor; whereas the ones with just a headband, you may find the headband creeps up or down during wear, showing your eyebrows or your nose! I only wear the ones without an eyeveil in similar situations to when I’d wear a half niqab, or if I am wearing a Yemeni khimar (more on those later)..

Avoid those styles where the eyeveil is very narrow and the same length or shorter as the layer that covers your face; it looks ridiculous and you will find if you want to wear the eyeveil back it simply won’t stay put. Multiple eyeveils can tend to look bulky; the only use they have is if you do cover your eyes but want to have that anchor of a layer being flipped back as well. Usually it is nigh on impossible to see through two or more layers of fabric so they serve no practical purpose when it comes to covering the eyes.

niqabiMany niqabs particularly those from Egypt come with a string between the eyes. I personally prefer the type of niqab without the string between the eyes, I think the string can look a bit too exotic and strange in the west and it tends to accentuate your eyes in an inappropriate way. Also with the string the hole for your eyes is fixed; it cannot be adjusted, which is a pain if the eyehole is too narrow or too wide as it is. Alhamdulillaah though most styles with a string; the string can be removed without damaging the niqab and this is exactly what I do when I buy them.

Other styles of Niqab; Most niqabs come in one of the two above styles; although there are variations. A ‘diamond niqab’ is one where the top eyeveil is very large and cut in a diamond shape. A ‘butterfly’ niqab is one where the top eyeveil is similar to the diamond style but the cut is more rounded; sometimes with a frilly serged edge.

khimar_yemenA Yemeni khimar is a cape khimar and niqab rolled into one; the good quality ones are made of the same fabrics as fine quality niqabs; and it is made with several layers; usually its the top two layers that act as eyeveils or screens. Unless you cover your eyes ordinarily you may find the eyeveils serve a purely decorative purpose; and you do usually need to wear another half or full niqab underneath. There are various styles of burqa from the Indian subcontinent and neighbouring countries that work in a similar way, however most of them are highly impractical or uncomfortable; or just not really available in the west. Finally a ‘Pak Chador’ is a large scarf or shawl; usually semi-circular in design with a half niqab attached to one side; this is then pulled across the face and tucked in or pinned. These are a real ‘love em or hate em’ thing; some sisters I know it is the only style of niqab they can wear; others just cannot stand them. I am personally in the ‘cannot stand them’ camp when it comes to Pak Chadors; over time I have come to realise that anything where the niqab is attached does not stay on particularly well overall.


20 thoughts on “A guide to Niqab-Part 1

  1. Mashallah! Thank you sister for posting this article it was very interesting and informative.

  2. First time here..MashaAllah a very nice blog..that was a very interesting and informative post about niqabs..waiting to read more in this series..keep up the good work sis:)

  3. Thank you for posting this series. I have sisters always asking me about this subject. I loved the first pic in your posting as that is how I prefer to wear it and it looks nice. I’m not sure if there is any other delicate way to address this but…the head piece as a cap/headband niqab I have seen drape very poorly and when the fabric is in the back of the head either droops to one side giving the appearance as “turkey look” or something a bit more odd. Do you have any solutions or suggestions?

    Thank you.

  4. I love the strap on Saudi style flip ones with a soft headband in a nice poly chiffon (these are comfy and practical). but I love the string niqabs because the help stop the niqab from slipping up into my eyes the way the non-string ones do, but I agree, it totally depends on your face shape. I find elastic niqab uncomfortable but I wear them because the colours they come in match my clothes:D but I also like boushiya and gashwa but they scare people in the west.

  5. As sallam alikum ou ramatAllah wa barakatu.BismillAh….
    Jazik Allah bi rair orti for your article.I’m also wearing niqab since my mother’s death ,and it’s very very difficult in France .I ‘m wondering if it was a good idea to wear it on….Most of the sisters here are wearing it for time to time for exemple to go the masjid because people whipsaw you want to beat you.I’m not getting used to the nastiness of people.I don’t leave my house ,I have stop my studies.I have a nervous break down.I would like to put it off ,but I have the feeling to betray Allah,I know it’s ridiculous.I’m becoming more and more withdrawn.Sorry for my english ,I ‘m French!
    Peace be upon rasoûl Allah .As sallam alikum.

    • (Google translated version into French is below)

      wa alaikum as salaam

      Thats unfortunate to hear, also I dont really have much advice for you as I personally don’t wear Niqab. My long time friend Umm Abdullah is the one who wrote those posts.
      I’m not a scholar but I can tell you that the various scholars of Islam say different things about the niqab, some say it is fard (required), some say it is mustahabb (a good act for extra baraka) and some say it’s forbidden if you dont live in a majority Muslim society. I think you need to examine why you are wearing Niqab and whether you believe it is Fard or just a good “extra” you should strive for. If you believe it’s fard then regardless of how much stress it’s giving you and problems obviously you can’t stop wearing it, even sisters who has breathing problems have to wear it if they think it’s fard, sisters who dont think it’s fard but is mustahabb, obviously can take it off or not wear it if it gives them a lot of problems. If you follow the scholars that say Niqab is haraam outside of a Muslim country, then you can’t even wear it and would need to move elsewhere to wear it.

      From a personal, non-religious viewpoint-my own opinion, I don’t think you should be wearing Niqab if you are having panic attacks, health problems and severe problems with people. The whole PURPOSE of hijab and modest dress is to enable you to be active in society by working, going to school, shopping, etc. It’s purpose is to keep away people who are not decent. It seems like this form of hijab, which as I see it is not fard is essentially restricting you from going outside and being a part of society.

      What you choose to do is your own choice, you could alo try to tone it down and wear light colors or less “foreign” looking styles like a tunic/skirt and a square scarf and a half-style niqab, that might make people more receptive.

      In the end, it’s your choice, but I really think you need to study more about why you are wearing Niqab.
      en’shallah things get easier soon!!!


      (Google version traduite en français est ci-dessous)

      Asalaamu alaikum wr wb

      Thats malheureux à entendre, aussi je ne vraiment avoir beaucoup de conseils pour vous personnellement, comme je ne portent pas de niqab. Mon ami de longue date Umm Abdullah est celui qui a écrit ces postes.
      Je ne suis pas un érudit, mais je peux vous dire que les différents spécialistes de l’islam dit des choses différentes sur le niqab, certains disent qu’il est fard (obligatoire), certains disent qu’il est mustahabb (une bonne loi pour plus de baraka) et certains disent que c’est si vous n’avez pas interdit de vivre dans une société majoritairement musulmane. Je pense que vous avez besoin d’examiner les raisons pour lesquelles vous portez niqab, et si vous croyez qu’il est Fard ou juste un bon “extra”, vous devriez tendre. Si vous pensez que c’est fard puis quel que c’est le stress et les problèmes qui vous donne de toute évidence vous ne pouvez pas le porter, même soeurs qui ont des problèmes respiratoires doivent porter si elle pense que c’est fard, des soeurs qui ne pense pas du fard, mais il est mustahabb , de toute évidence, peut le retirer ou de ne pas le porter si elle leur donne un lot de problèmes. Si vous suivez les chercheurs qui disent niqab est haraam l’extérieur d’un pays musulman, alors vous ne pouvez même pas le porter et auraient besoin d’aller ailleurs à le porter.

      D’un point de vue personnel, non point de vue religieux, mon opinion , je ne pense pas que vous devez porter niqab si vous avez des attaques de panique, les problèmes de santé et de graves problèmes avec les gens. Le but de hijab et modeste robe est de vous permettre d’être actif dans la société par le travail, aller à l’école, shopping, etc Son but est d’éloigner les gens qui ne sont pas décents. Il semble que cette forme de voile, qui, comme moi, il n’est pas fard est essentiellement limitant vous d’aller dehors et être une partie de la société.

      Qu’est-ce que vous choisissez de faire, c’est votre choix, vous pouvez alo essayer de l’atténuer et de porter les couleurs de lumière ou moins “étranger” à la recherche de styles, comme une tunique / jupe et un foulard carré et un demi-style niqab, qui pourraient rendre les gens plus réceptifs.

      En fin de compte, c’est votre choix, mais je crois vraiment que vous avez besoin d’étudier les raisons pour lesquelles vous portez niqab.
      en’shallah les choses plus faciles bientôt!

  6. Al Laylat Couture; that look can occur with niqabs if the eyeveil is very narrow or short, if the eyeveil is nice and wide; preferably wide enough to come around to the back of the head on both sides when worn down; and very long; preferably longer than the layer against the face; then it drapes a lot more elegantly. You also need the good quality; fine; but substantial fabrics; anything thin and cheap; or too thick just won’t drape well. I do pin the eyeveil of some of them on top of my head with a straight pin if it won’t stay put; and with the longer eyeveils; particularly the curved ones (‘butterfly’ style) sometimes I fold it back on itself and bring the frilly edge forward again pver the forehead, and pin it like that.

  7. I wear the Yemeni one, the only problem is that I get weird looks because I am not in Yemen anymore. I might need to change my style! Cool blog.

  8. salamalaykoum,I love the 1rst picture, what kind of jilbab is that? It doesn’t “stick” to the head.
    Sorry I am french..
    I wouldlike tosew a niqab like in the thirst picture,could you help me andanswer me via my mailbox?
    Thanks a lot,Zakakallahou khayran.
    Salamalykoum wa rahmatoullahi wa barakatouh.

    • salaams, its just a regular overhead abaya but many niqab wearing women here in KSA wrap their shaylah so one edge is thrown up over the head and shades the eyes and then worn this under their overhead abaya, if you go back a few pages (2-3 months) I have a post showing how to achieve this hijab style.

  9. Hello,
    I too have a question though I’m not shure if this is the place to post it. I am a non-Muslim well… part-time headscarf wearer. Recently I got a khimar (?) form Iran and sometimes I wear it because it’s extremely convenient,confortable and keeps men at distance. My questions is that I’m not shure if I’m ewaring it right… On the top part of the hole for the face it has an extra(?) triangular fabric and I’m not shure what to do with it? I usually just tuck it under the khimar etiher the whole of it, or tuck and pin it so that it covers my forehead. Maybe you or someone who actually wears one on a daily basis can help me what exactly am I supposed to do with it? I really like it because I don’t have to pin and wrap it (I’m not particulary fond of the idea of a bunch of straight pins around my head…)…

    Thank you in advance!


  10. Yes! That’s it. Thank you very much. I wasnát shure I was able to explain it correctly, but thankfully you managed. Hopefully now I will be able to do it correctly. Thank you again.

  11. Alhamdulillah! Your blog has helped me sooooo much in my niqab experience! I read this post and the subsequent one before I started to veil and masha’Allah your naseeha has influenced me very much. Jazik Allahu Khairun for this post!!

Comments are closed.