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Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, a Shia Islamic scholar, sporting a turban.
A Sikh man wearing a Dastar turban.

A turban, is a kind of headwear based on cloth winding. Featuring many variations, it is worn as customary headwear, usually by men. Communities with prominent turban-wearing traditions can be found in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Near East, the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of the Swahili Coast. Turbans worn in South Asia are known as Pagri.

Wearing turbans is common among Sikhs, who refer to it as a Dastar. In certain other faith communities, the headgear also serves as a religious observance, including among Muslims, who regard turban-wearing as Sunnah Mu'akkadah (Confirmed Tradition).[1]

Additionally, turbans have often been worn by nobility, regardless of religious background. They are also sometimes donned to protect hair or as a headwrap for women following cancer treatments.


Illustration of Arab men in the fourth to sixth century, wearing turbans and keffiyeh (middle)

The turban is known as a very religious millinery hat. Though turbans have been around for thousands of years, the first mentioning of them was in the fourteenth century at the end of the Moorish rule in Spain. The Prophet Muhammad is believed to have worn a turban in white, the most holy colour. Many Muslim men choose to wear green, because it represents paradise, especially among followers of Sufism. In parts of North Africa, where blue is common, the shade of a turban can signify the tribe of the wearer. There have been over sixty-six types of Turbans. Hindus tend to reserve their turbans for ceremonies and significant occasions, whereas Sikh men wear them all the time. In Islamic countries, the headgear is regarded as Sunnah Mu'akkadah (Confirmed Tradition).

The origins of the turban is uncertain. Early Persians wore a conical cap encircled by bands of cloth, which historians have suggested was developed to become the modern turban, but other theories suggest it was first widely worn in Egypt. Sikh men commonly wear a peaked turban that serves for the purpose of covering their long hair, which in respect for God's creation is never cut. Devout Sikhs do not cut their beards either, so many instead twist them and tuck them up into their turbans. A style of turban called a phakeolis was also worn by soldiers of the Byzantine army.

Regional styles[edit]

Contemporary turbans come in many shapes, sizes, and colours. Middle Eastern, Central Asian, South Asian, Philippines (Sulu) and Sikh turban wearers usually wind it anew for each wearing, using long strips of cloth. The cloth is usually not longer than five meters. Some elaborate South Asian turbans may be permanently formed and sewn to a foundation. Turbans can be very large or quite modest depending upon region, culture, and religion.

Traditionally, turban has been the name of a type of headwear worn by women in Western countries. The wearing of such turbans by women in Western societies is less common than it was earlier in the 20th century. They are usually sewn to a foundation, so that they can be donned or removed easily.

North Africa[edit]

Tuareg Berbers, and some northern Berbers, Sahrawi, Songhai, Wodaabe, Fulani, and Hausa peoples of North and West Africa wear some varieties of turbans. Tuareg Berbers often veil the face to block dust. This Tuareg-Berber turban is known as a tagelmust.

Horn of Africa[edit]

Turbans are commonly worn by Muslim men in the Horn of Africa. The headwrap has a long presence in the region, where it was frequently sported by Sultans, Wazirs, and other artistocratic and court officials. Among these nobles are the Somali Sultans Mohamoud Ali Shire of the Warsangali Sultanate, Osman Mahamuud of the Majeerteen Sultanate, and Yusuf Ali Kenadid and Ali Yusuf Kenadid of the Sultanate of Hobyo. Prominent historical Islamic leaders in the region that are known to have worn turbans include Sheikh Abadir Umar Ar-Rida.

Swahili Coast[edit]

On the Swahili Coast, turbans were frequently worn by the ruling Omani Sultans of Zanzibar and their retinue.


Malik Ata Muhammad Khan, Nawab of Kot Fateh Khan (Pakistan) wearing a turban made from 6.4 metres (7.0 yards) of cloth

In Pakistan the turban is in widespread use, especially among the rural population. It is worn in different styles and colors across the country, varying by region, e.g. in the north of the country, black and white turbans are preferred. The turban most commonly found in Pakistan is white and crestless, and worn commonly in the Pashtun belt, while in rural Punjab and Sindh, it is mostly worn by elders or in rural areas. The turban is called either a Pagri, Pag or Lungee.


Afghan Lungee presentation

Turbans are part of the national dress in Afghanistan, they are used more widely than elsewhere in the Muslim world, and are worn in a wide range of styles and colors. In the country's southeast, turbans are wrapped loosely and largely, whereas in Kabul turbans tend to be smaller and tighter. In traditional Afghan society, a related piece of extra cloth called a patu serves practical purposes such as for wrapping oneself against the cold, to sit on, to tie up an animal or to carry water in the cap. Different ethnic groups in Afghanistan wear different lungees with different patterns, way of styling it, fabric, stripes, lengths and colouration. Some styles are, however, nationwide. The styles extend and overlap into western Pakistan.


A man with an Indian turban painted by Hugo Salmson

In India the turban is referred to as a pagri, meaning the headdress that is worn by men and is manually tied. There are several styles, specific to the wearer's region or religion, and they vary in shape, size and colour. For example, the Marathi pheta and the Sikh Dastar (see below). The pagri is a symbol of honour and respect everywhere it is worn; it is a common practice to honour important guests by offering them one to wear. Colours are often chosen to suit the occasion or circumstance: for example saffron, associated with valour, is worn during rallies; white, associated with peace, is worn by elders; and pink, associated with spring, is worn during that season or for marriage ceremonies.

During the British period the Muslim elites of South Asia, especially in western Punjab, used to wear a long pagri which was also a symbol of nobility, honour and respect. In the Muslim majority regions of Punjab and Sindh members of the land aristocracy always wore elaborate turbans known as the pagri. It was a part of the full formal dress that included the sherwani.


In Indonesia, there is a similar headdress worn in Java by men known as Blangkon. The Blangkon has its history from about 100 years ago in Indonesia and it influenced from Gujarati traders who worn the turban to Indonesia, so the Blangkon had its first generation by Gujarati traders who came to Indonesia about hundreds of years ago.


Kurdish people wear a turban which they call a amadani. The jamadani is worn in many different ways across Kurdistan depending on the style of the locality e.g. the Barzani Kurds are a tribe which wear the turban in a colour (red and white) and style which is typical of their clan. Mostly Kurdish turban consists of a length of striped cloth known as kolāḡī wound around a conical hat; the tassels that border the kolāḡī are allowed to hang down over the face. In modern times many Kurds use red and white Ghutra and roll them into turbans. They are called cemedanî (جه مه داني) in Kurdish.

United Kingdom[edit]

Camila Batmanghelidjh wearing a turban and matching robe

In the United Kingdom, turbans have been worn by men and women since the sixth century without ever becoming very common. Poet Alexander Pope is sometimes depicted wearing a turban.

Now that hats are infrequently worn, turbans too are relatively uncommon. They are worn primarily by women of West Indian descent, Karinas. Some women wear them to make a statement of individuality, such as the British social entrepreneur Camila Batmanghelidjh, who usually wears a colourful matching turban and robe.


In Greece, specifically the island of Crete, the men traditionally wear a turban known as a sariki. The headwrap's name is borrowed from sarık, the Turkish word for turban. Today, it may be more commonly known as a kritiko mandili (Cretan kerchief). It is not found commonly amongst the younger generation, but mostly worn by older men in remoter, mountainous villages. It is traditionally black, the color of mourning, but can also be found in white, for festive occasions such as weddings. It is very commonly found as a part of the standard Cretan costume worn by members of Greek dance groups.


Colombian politician Piedad Cordoba is known to wear turbans (or a similar headgear). Her use of turbans has made her so distinguishable to the point of having earned the nickname "the lady with the turban" in Colombian popular culture.

A variety of turbans are available as head covering options for women experiencing medical related hair loss due to treatments for cancer.[2]

In religion[edit]


A Christian mukurinu (singular form of akurinu) on the Swahili Coast wearing a turban.

In Kenya, the Akurinu, a Christian denomination, wear turbans as religious headgear. The official name of the denomination is The Kenya Foundation Of The Prophets Church or else Holy Ghost Church. Both men and women wear white turbans; children wear tunics.


Habib Umar bin Hafiz (left), a notable Sunni Muslim scholar from Yemen wearing a white turban.

The men of many Islamic cultures wear or wore a turban-style headdress, often in emulation of the Prophet Muhammad, who is believed to have worn a black or white turban.[3] In Islam, the turban is a Sunnah Mu'akkadah (Confirmed Tradition).[1][4][5][6][7] Head wraps that men wear are called several names and worn in different ways depending on the sect of Islam, region and culture. Examples include (Arabic: عمامة`emãmah) in Arabic, (Persian: دستار‎) in Persian.

In Shi'a Islam, a black head wrap around a small white cap is worn by descendants of Muhammad, and white turbans by other well-educated persons and scholars. In Sudan, large white headdresses connote high social status.[citation needed] Other sects of Muslims would wear a green head wrap around a small white cap or just the white cap alone.

In most countries of the Arabian peninsula, a plain or checkered scarf (called keffiyeh, ghutrah or shumagh), not usually described as a turban is often worn, though the Arabic Emamah tradition remains strong in Oman (see Sultan Qaboos of Oman), Sudan and some parts of the Arabian peninsula.

In Pakistan the cap is called a topi. Women of Islam do not wear turbans, as it is considered part of a man's dress, while women cover their head and wear some form of jilbab.


Members of the Bobo Shanti mansion of the Rastafari movement keep their hair and beards, mainly keeping their hair in dreadlocks, they have been wearing turbans over their dreadlocks protecting and keeping their dreadlocks clean, along with wearing robes since their founding in the 1950s,[8] being a small population it makes them more distinctive in appearance in Jamaica and elsewhere.[9]


Akali Turban Cotton over a wicker frame, Steel overlaid with gold. Lahore. Mid-19th century. "A tall conical turban provided convenient transportation for a number of sharp steel quoits - edged weapons hurled to lethal effect by the practised hand of the Akalis."
A Sikh man with a cellphone wearing a dastar
An Akali Singh wearing many Aad Chands in Amritsar and holding prayer beads

The Sikh turban, known as the Dastar or a Dumalla, the turban is used to show others they're they represent the embodiment of Sikh teachings, the love of the Guru and sigma to do good deeds,[10] the turban also protects Sikh's long unshorn hair and keep hair clean. The turban is mandatory for all members Khalsa (Baptized Sikhs) to wear. The Khalsa are the last active warrior religion. The Rajastani turban is also commonly called the pagari (In the West, many Sikhs who wear pagri are sometimes mistaken for Muslims or Arabs.[11]). The Sikhs have a long history of being warriors and are referred to as saint-soldiers since the 1600–1700s.

All Sikh Gurus since Guru Nanak have worn turbans. However, covering one's hair with a turban was made an official policy by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs. The main reasons to wear turban are to take care of the hair, promote equality, and preserve the Sikh identity. Sikh women may wear a turban if they wish.

Sikhs do not cut their hair, as a religious observance. The turban protects the hair and keeps it clean. As Sikhs only form 2% of India’s population, their turbans help identify them. When he institutionalized the turban as a part of the Sikh identity, Guru Gobind Singh said, "My Sikh will be recognized among millions."

Turbans were formerly associated with the upper class, and many men in the cultural elite still wear turbans. This distinction between the turban-wearing upper class (Sardars) and commoners promoted segregation and elitism. In order to eliminate the class system associated with turbans, Guru Gobind Singh Ji declared each and every Sikh a Sardar. He also rejected the class system by giving all Sikhs the last names Singh and Kaur.

The Dastar Bunga is the style of turban generally worn by Akali Singhs in battle. The "Chand Tora" is a metal symbol consisting of a crescent sword and a double edged sword, held in place at the front of the turban by a woven chainmail cord tied in a pattern within the turban to protect the head from slashing weapons. The purpose of the Tora is to keep the dastaar together. It goes over the bunga to protect it and protect the dasam dwar. Also used for keeping shastars together. In the past every Sikh man wore this type of turban, known as a Dumalla; it is still often worn in the Punjab.

The most common turban colors worn by Sikhs are blue, orange, white and black. Akali Nihang Sikhs decorate their turbans or Dumalla by wearing small weapons known as Shastars in them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Haddad, Sh. G. F. "The turban tradition in Islam". Living Islam. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Hats, turbans & caps - For cancer chemotherapy patients & hair loss". headcovers.com. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  3. ^ Rubin, Alyssa J. (15 October 2011). "Afghan Symbol of Identity Is Subject to Search". New York Times. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Inter Islam. "The turban, topee and kurta - in the light of Ahadith nad the practice of our pious predecessors". inter-islam.org. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  5. ^ http://www.shafifiqh.com/2011/07/03/wearing-a-turban/
  6. ^ "Islamic Dress and Head-dress for men". sunnah.org. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  7. ^ "SeekersGuidance - Can Anyone Wear a Turban? Are There Styles Specific for Scholars? – Answers". seekersguidance.org. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  9. ^ Bobo Shanti (Bobo Shanti Congress or Ethiopia Black International Congress)
  10. ^ Sidhu, Dawinder (2009). Civil Rights in Wartime: The Post-9/11 Sikh Experience. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 48. ISBN 9781409496915. 
  11. ^ Hoang, Lien. "Mistaken for Muslims, Sikhs hit by hate crimes" "msnbc.com", May 8, 2011

External links[edit]