Difference Between Abaya and Burqa

Abaya vs Burqa

Under the traditions of Islam, in some Muslim countries, women need to cover their bodies and face with an outer garment called burqua. Of late there has been uproar in some western European countries like France and UK over the use of a garment to cover the face because of crimes committed by men wearing such garments. There is another similar outer garment worn by women in many Islamic countries called Abaya that confuses those not well versed with the nomenclature. There are many similarities between an abaya and a burqa that make people feel that the two garments are one and the same. Many even talk of abaya and burqa in the same breath as if they are synonymous. This article attempts to highlight the differences between an abaya and a burqa for the benefit of the readers.


Abaya is a cloak like garment that is worn by women in Arabic countries and some other Muslim countries. In some places, it covers the entire body of the woman wearing it except the hair and face, but in most of the countries ruled by fundamentalist Islam, an abaya covers everything from hair to face and also the rest of the body of a woman. In fact, an abaya has a face veil and a scarf that covers everything except the eyes of the woman who wears this cloak like garment. In Saudi Arabia, abaya is a common outer garment that has a face veil and a scarf. It has to be worn in such a manner so as not make any part of the body of the woman visible, not even a millimeter of her ankle as otherwise the woman incurs the wrath of the so called moral police in these countries.


Burqa is a one piece outer garment worn by Muslim woman in South Asian countries as part of the Islamic tradition that requires women to keep their bodies covered when moving out of their homes. The garment is normally up to the neck of the wearer though there is a face veil part attached with the garment, to cover the entire face of the woman. However, women can lift their veils to reveal their face while talking if they so desire. Muslims believe that wearing a niqab is according to the Holy Quran that asks men and women to wear dresses that are modest and also to behave in a modest manner when in public. According to an interpretation of Quran, the face of a woman must remain covered as it happens to be her most tempting part that has been labeled as awrah. Though awrah is weakness according to Islam, it has been interpreted as nakedness by English scholars, and they say that the face of the woman should not be naked in public.

What is the difference between Abaya and Burqa?

• Both burqa, as well as abaya, serve the same purpose of covering the awrah or modesty of women in Islam though abaya is a two piece cloak whereas burqa is a single piece outer garment.

• Abaya is a word used commonly in Saudi Arabia and other fundamentalist Muslim countries, whereas burqa is a word more common in South Asian countries.

• Abaya is to be worn by women, to cover their entire body including hands and face to cover their awrah. It is referred to as a burqa in South Asia.