hijab (/hɪˈɑːb, hɪˈæb, ˈhɪ.æb, hɛˈɑːb/;[1][2][3][4] Arabic: حجاب‎, romanizedḥijāb, pronounced [ħɪˈdʒaːb] in common English usage) is a religious veil worn by many Muslim women in the presence of any male outside of their immediate family, which usually covers the hair, head and chest. The term can refer to any hair, head, face, or body covering worn by Muslim women that conforms to Islamic standards of modesty. Another interpretation can also refer to the seclusion of women from men in the public sphere, whereas a metaphysical dimension, may refer to "the veil which separates man, or the world, from God".[5]

For some believers of the Quran, Hadith and other classical Arabic texts, the term khimār (Arabic: خِمار‎) was used to denote a headscarf, and ḥijāb was used to denote a partition, a curtain, or was used generally for the Islamic rules of modesty and dress for females.[6][7][8][9]

In its traditionalist form, the hijab is worn by Muslim women to maintain modesty and privacy from unrelated males. According to the Encyclopedia of Islam and Muslim World, modesty concerns both men's and women's "gaze, gait, garments, and genitalia".[10] The Qur'an instructs Muslim women and men to dress modestly.[11] Some Islamic legal systems define this type of modest clothing as covering everything except the face and hands up to the wrists.[5][12] These guidelines are found in texts of hadith and fiqh developed after the revelation of the Qur'an but, according to some, are derived from the verses (ayahs) referencing hijab in the Qur'an.[10] Some believe that the Qur'an itself does not mandate that women need to wear a hijab.[13][14]

In the verses of the Qur'an, the term hijab refers to a curtain separating visitors to Muhammad's main house from his wives' residential lodgings. This interpretation has led some to claim that the mandate of the Qur'an to wear hijab applied only to the wives of Muhammad, and not to entirety of women.[15][16]

Wearing Hijab in public is not required by law in Saudi Arabia.[17][18][19][20][21] It is required by law in Afghanistan, Iran and the Indonesian province of Aceh.[22] Other countries, both in Europe and in the Muslim world, have passed laws banning some or all types of hijab in public or in certain types of locales. Women in different parts of the world have also experienced unofficial pressure to wear or not wear a hijab.