The concept of hijab and Khimar is not very new and goes back many years. In fact, the concept of hijab is very ancient and although not always called as hijab but the concept of women covering their bodies in some way or the other in Islam dates back to the 6th Century when the religion was first introduced and started spreading. Both hijab and Khimar are ways in which women are encouraged to cover their bodies although they have slight differences in the parts they cover and the way they are to be worn.
By definition, hijab is merely a veil worn by women and in most cases the primary reason is to cover the head and the chest. Muslim women are required to wear a hijab after the age of puberty throughout their lives and must ensure that they have it worn when adult males are present (this addresses those males who are outside their immediate families; not those who are part of the family and belong to the same household). Moreover, any head, chest or body covering that a woman might wear can be referred to as hijab as long as it conforms in some way to a certain standard of modest intent. As opposed to this the word meaning of Khimar is quite different. The use of Khimar is usually with another thing where the Khimar is the possession. A particular thing’s Khimar is anything that covers it. Recently, the use of this word has almost always been in the context of covering the body. Any piece of cloth that is used in some way or the other to cover the head is referred to as Khimar. What makes it different to a Hijab is that although hijab is covering the body in general, Khimar is something that particularly covers the head. Some groups however go on further to describe it as something that covers the head, forehead and the neck. Note that none of hijab or Khimar covers the face.
The word hijab is also used to refer to the seclusion of women from outside males, and at the same time it may be used to embody a metaphysical dimension. The Arabic word Al-Hijab means the veil that separates man or the entire world from God. Khimar however does not have any such religious meaning and usually meant the cloth (used to cover the head) but due to its frequent use as a veil, later got to mean a form of veil only.
In order to explain in a more practical way so that the reader can perceive the look of a hijab and a Khimar, it is important to give details about them. A hijab is more like a head scarf that is secured around the head and covers the neck, hair and the whole of the head and the hair. It is usually not so long and just reaches the shoulders. A Khimar, however is only meant to cover the head and therefore may not be long enough to reach the neck or shoulders. This is not always true; in recent times there has been a total change in the way a Khimar is used. Nowadays, a Khimar refers to a very long piece of cloth that drapes all the way from the head to the elbows or hands. In fact, in a lot of cases, it extends to the knees or even feet. The length depends on what the user prefers.
Summary of differences expressed in points
- Hijab refers to a veil that women in Islam use, it is used to cover the head and the chest, a Khimar is anything that covers; usually the covering of the head is what Khimar is used for, a Khimar can also cover the temples and neck
- Hijab has some religious connotation-it embodies a metaphysical dimension; no such connotation of Khimar which simply means a cloth (used to cover the head)
- Hijab is like a head scarf, covers the neck, reaches the shoulders; Khimar of various types, the initial ones were only to cover the head, recent ones can be very long, can cover the hands and elbows as well as knees and feet