History of Muslim Women Veils

Muslim women veils are designed by following a mixture of scriptures and local customs of a given society. ‘Burqa’ (a specific dress to cover the entire body including face) is prominent in Afghanistan. ‘Niqab’ (a piece of sheet called ‘chaddar’ to cover the body and face) is common in Pakistan and India. ‘Jilbab’ is worn in many Eastern countries either with head scarves or without them. Whatever the mode of a Muslim women veil may be it is hotly debated issue in the West. The Muslim scholars, on the other hand, may disagree on the parts of body which should be covered but there is no disagreement that the men and women should wear dresses which communicate a sense of respect and modesty. There is no need to wear very costly or old traditional dresses but it is required that men and women should wear dresses close to commandments of God.

Muslim Women Veils; Past and Present

At the slavery times, free women used to wear head scarves to make them distinguished as noble women of the society. It was a sign of economic sustainability too, without doing any kind of work. However, the Muslim women started to wear veils much after the death of last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
To some scholars, God has asked Muhammad (PBUH) to instruct his wives and believing women to wear on ‘jilbab’ in a way which covers their body and ornaments. They may expose
parts of their body and ornaments to certain categories of people. However, they have to follow the code when go outside of their homes.
It is important to note that all Muslim women do not wear a veil to cover their faces. Some of them use head scarves as well as veils. However others dress with a head covering called ‘Khimar’.
Furthermore, a majority of Muslim scholars does not think that Muslim women should wear veils as a mandatory code of Islamic dress. Salafis on the other hand think that wives of Muhammad (PBUH) used to cover their faces from common people so the Muslim women at large should cover their faces. However, most of the scholars agree that the basic requirements for a Muslim woman to dress are that when in the presence of someone of the opposite sex (other than a close family member), she should cover her body, and walk and dress in a way which does not draw sexual attention to her. Some scholars go so far as to specify exactly which areas of the body must be covered. In some cases, this is everything save the eyes but most require everything save the face and hands to be covered. In nearly all Muslim cultures, young girls are not required to wear a ħijāb. There is not a single agreed age when a woman should begin wearing a ħijāb; however, in many Muslim countries, puberty is the dividing line.

Veils in Other Religions

Muslim women veils are criticized by many westerners as oppressive and against freedom of the women. However, not only Muslim women but many other women from different religions also wear veils or at least head scarves either for local customs or for religious matters. You can find women wearing head covers in Jewish temples. Hassidic Jewish women shave their heads upon marriage and wear wigs. Many Jewish sects consider that men and women should cover their heads as a sign of respect and modesty. Christian nuns wear dresses which are close to Muslim women traditional dresses.

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