A niqab or niqāb (; Arabic: نِقاب niqāb, "[face] veil"; also called a ruband) is a garment of clothing that covers the face, worn by a small minority of Muslim women as a part of a particular interpretation of hijab ("modesty"). According to the majority of Muslim scholars and Islamic schools of thought, the niqab is not a requirement of Islam; however a minority of Muslim scholars assert that the niqab is required, especially in the Hanbali Muslim faith tradition. Those Muslim women who observe the niqab, wear it in public areas and in front of non-mahram (non-related) men.
The face veil pre-dates Islam, and had been used by certain Arabian pre-Islamic cultures. Culturally, it is "a custom imported from Najd, a region in Saudi Arabia and the power base of its Salafi fundamentalist form of Islam. Within Muslim countries it is very contested and considered fringe."Today, the niqab is most often worn in its region of origin: the Arab countries of the Arabian Peninsula — Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. However, even in these countries, the niqab is neither a universal cultural custom nor is it culturally compulsory. In other parts of the Muslim world outside of the Arabian Peninsula, where the niqab has slowly spread to a much smaller extent, it is regarded warily by Sunni and non-Sunni Muslims alike "as a symbol of encroaching fundamentalism." Nevertheless, the niqab is worn by a small minority of Muslims in not only Muslim-majority regions such as Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Palestinian territories, and Southern Iran, but also among a minority of Muslims in regions where Muslims are themselves a minority, like India and Europe.
The terms niqab and burqa are often conflated; a niqab covers the face while leaving the eyes uncovered, while a burqa covers the entire body from the top of the head to the ground, with only a mesh screen allowing the wearer to see in front of her.
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