Basic Religiouswear for the Male Muslim

The Islamic meaning of the word hijāb actually means “modesty.” Though only women wear the Hijabs, modesty is not a gendered concept. Both men and women have the responsibility to retain their modesty by preventing physical attraction from the opposite sex. Since men and women have different physical attributes that attract the opposite sex, there are differing rules of modesty. Both sexes must lower their eyes when encountering someone of the opposite sex. Men must be covered from the shoulders to the knees, while women must cover everything except the hands, feet, and face. And with respect to ‘modesty’, The Prophet Mohammad said ‘No one will enter paradise who has the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance.’ And a companion (Ibn Umar) asked ‘What if one of us likes to have beautiful clothing, and beautiful shoes, is this arrogance?’ And the answer was “No.” and that “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty.”

There are many blogs detailing the traditional clothing for Muslim women. This makes sense, as women’s bodies have always been a source of communal obsession. However, that is  a hefty topic for another post. Instead,I thought I would explore male dress expectations. Not all Muslims adhear to these kinds of dress.

The Basics:

 Thawb— an ankle-length garment with long sleeves, similar to a robe. The thawb has alternate spellings (thoub and thobe), as well as alternate names (khameez or dishdashah). Wearing the thawb expresses equality and it is also perfectly suited to the hot climate.


Bisht— a long white, brown or black cloak trimmed in gold that is worn over the thawb. It is also known as a mishlah.bisht

Keffiyeh— a traditional headdress of the Middle East, made of a square cloth, folded and wrapped into various styles around the head. There are many local variations of the keffiyeh. Some wearers wrap the keffiyeh into a turban, while others wear it loosely draped around the back and shoulders. It is usually made of white cotton (popular in the Gulf states); however, there are also checkered pattern in red (usually associated with Jordan) or black (usually associated with the Levant – Israel, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Egypt, and Syria). The keffiyeh is commonly found in arid climates to provide protection from the sun, as well as for occasional use in protecting the mouth and eyes from blowing dust and sand. The keffiyeh has various spellings (kaffiyah, keffiya, kaffiya, or kufiya), as well as alternate names (shmagh/shemagh, ghutra, or hatta)166025_3570659657707_1497377829_n

Tagiyah— a skullcap sometimes worn under the keffiyeh to keep it from slipping.

Agal— a thick, doubled, black cord that holds the keffiyeh in place. Some men may choose not to wear the agal. This item originated as a “camel hobble” used to whip camels in the legs as an obedience tool. It was additionally used as an impromptu “parking brake” for the camel, which was slipped over a front knee to prevent the camel Created by the Center for South Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1from running off when no stable or tie-off was available. In modern times, this item has become decorative in nature and no longer serves this functional purpose.

Please note there are differing styles depending on the community. For instance, Saudi Tagiyah is more round whereas Omani is rather angular.


5 thoughts on “Basic Religiouswear for the Male Muslim

  1. I really enjoyed this post! It’s so true that more often than not, we discuss attire associated with Muslim women because women’s bodies are more highly sexualized in our culture. However, it’s important to recognize the differences between Muslim male clothing and Western clothing as well. I find it interesting that pants are not a part of the traditional dress, as American men would riot in the streets if they were made to wear what could be perceived as a “dress.” My question is, do they wear all of these items at once? I know the fabric is light which makes it better for the hot weather, but it seems like having all of those layers would be extra uncomfortable in the heat.

  2. I find it a beautiful thing that Muslims take on modest behaviors because it shows a form of selflessness. Also the mens wear for male muslims looks very comfy. Thats a plus! It’s interesting how our western society looks at this wardrobe and finds it strange because it makes total sense! Especially for how hot this region is. I’m glad you decided to take the approach of focusing on male muslims rather than female because it is often overlooked. Interesting post!

  3. This is such an interesting post. Often times we forget that men have to comply with dress codes not just women. I think it is such a respectable way to be modest and promote these positive behaviors.

  4. I’m really happy you wrote on this topic! As we were doing our community outreach project, my section was based on culture and food so I talked briefly on the hijaab and the idea of modesty in the Islamic religion. One dominant stereotype is that Westerners who are unadvised often believe that the hijaab is something that women wear because a man is controlling them or that they are not allowed to truly express themselves, which isn’t the case. It is interesting to read about what Muslim men wear and I think it is something that most people look past because they automatically think of hijaabs when they think of differing dress.

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