How Life Confined to a Burka Harms the Health of Muslim Women

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest [by concealing their private parts], and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their [face-concealing] veils over their bosoms [as well], and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigor [due to their being castrated eunuch slaves], or children who know naught of women’s nakedness.  And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment.  And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.”  —Koran 24:31


Observing Hijab

The Koran commands that women cover their bodies from head to toe, hiding from display everything that is not “apparent.”  This is known as “observing hijab.”

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Health Problems

Muslim women are cursed with health problems, as a result of having to observe hijab—or cover up, according to the rules of Sharia Law.  This body-covering can be anything from a head covering to a full-on burka that conceals the entire body (except for the eyes).

At a minimum, the head, neck, and bosom must be covered throughout the Islamic world; and in many places the wearing of the veil is mandatory, rather than merely preferred.  This extreme dress for women—which is not required to the same extent for men—takes a serious toll on the health of Muslim women.


Vitamin D Deficiency

The most immediate health concern for Muslim women, due to observing hijab, has to do with Vitamin D deficiency.  Women who cover up entirely do not get enough Vitamin D, since they do not receive enough exposure to UV light, and generally become chronically deficient in Vitamin D as a result, because Vitamin D does not occur naturally in most food sources.


Brittle & Malformed Bones

In the human body, Vitamin D regulates calcium in the blood and aids in the creation of strong bones.  Brittle and malformed bones are the result of insufficient absorption of Vitamin D.  This is known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.  Without enough D, it becomes difficult for the bodies of Muslim women to ward off fractures and, eventually, osteoporosis.


Heart Disease, Breast Cancer, & More

Cardiovascular disease is also abetted by lack of Vitamin D, as are Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Women with insufficient Vitamin D are also at higher risk for Breast Cancer and other deadly cancers.


Effects of D-Deficiency on Children

Babies born to Vitamin-D-deficient women are also put at risk with regard to health, having an increased chance of being born with seizure disorders.  D-deficient girls who observe hijab also tend to suffer stunted growth, never reaching their full height.


Vitamin D Deficiency Is Widespread in Islam

Burka WomenSerious Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the Islamic world.  According to a study called Vitamin D Deficiency in Saudi Arabs, carried out on 139 blood donors, “data illustrate a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency between Saudi Arabs and the importance of screening for vitamin D deficiency (irrespective of PTH level).  We hypothesize that the reported vitamin D deficiency in the studied group of Saudi Arabs may reflect a possible inadequacy of the current level of vitamin D fortification of food products.”  (Read more here.)  Of course, the solution prescribed according to Sharia Law, cannot be more sun exposure, due to the requirement that women observe hijab, so a problem with “vitamin D fortification of food products” is blamed.  It is ironic that Vitamin D deficiency could be such a major health issue for women in what is perhaps the sunniest place on earth.


Concerns of Muslim Migration to Northern Climes

Concerns also arise when dark-skinned Muslim women move to countries with less sunlight than their countries of origin provide.  Already challenged by their burkas in sunny regions, their problems only worsen when they must move to more northern climes, such as Sweden or Canada.  People with darker skin pigmentation need twenty to thirty times the sun exposure of their lighter-skinned counterparts.  In the United Kingdom, cases of rickets were seen only rarely until the recent upsurge in the growth of Muslim populations there.



Wearing of the burka discourages exercise, both on a psychological level as well as in practical terms of being able to move freely.  It is also true that obesity issues are likely to go unnoticed longer, making them difficult to address in a timely manner.  And, in the West, gyms are typically co-ed, making it difficult for Islamic women, who must cover up around men, to find a place to work out.  Of course, the style of dress makes physical activity prohibitive for many popular styles of exercise.  So, about 70% of Muslim women have an obesity problem, as a result of their Islamic dress code.  (Read more here.)


Inadequate Solutions

The truth is that dietary supplements alone are not a satisfactory solution to the problem of not getting enough exposure to the sun.  Yet many Muslim women, lacking backyards, have no way to receive Vitamin D in the privacy of their own home environments.  Inside the home, window glass blocks out most of the helpful UV-B rays that deliver the proper sunlight for Vitamin D absorption to occur.


Forever Trapped

The problem in Islam is that, since Muhammad was the “final prophet” of Allah, he was, therefore, also the final reformer of Islam.  Nothing can be changed in Islam, after Muhammad, or it is no longer Islam.  This means that the rules for observing hijab can never be changed.  Thus, the ideology of Islam will always pose ongoing health risks to Muslim women.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

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