The concept of why and how Muslim women dressed has changed from ancient times to the modern era. Many people believe that the idea of veiling women originated from Islam but this concept predates Islam. In ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Persians, Indians, and Assyrians, this belief was practiced. The Assyrians were one of the first to practice veiling. It was commonly associated with the elite class while it was forbidden for the lower class worker such as servants and prostitutes to veil. If they were caught in head covering then they were punished for it. Early Muslims accepted the regional tradition of veiling women as Islam began to spread across the Arabian Peninsula but similar to the Assyrians, it was only for the wealthy and elite women.
However, in the second-century veiling became a common practice for urban women in the Islam world. But it was uncommon for rural and nomadic women to be veiled. They would often be unveiled and were permitted to go outside. However, around the tenth century during the Middle Age, it became a common standard for women to be veiled. In countries like Egypt, laws were passed that forced women to veil and restricted women's actions. In the 1800’s reformers, seeing how women in the west were dressed, began to speak against protective clothing. They felt that veils limited women’s education and kept them away from public events. Like the reformers, many countries believed that unveiling women would allow them to assist national progress.
Women were encouraged to unveil in order to become a symbol of the nation and those who resisted were insulted. Nationalist male leaders began to support and encourage women to appear unveiled in public. Around 1910, educated women in Turkey started to leave their homes with only wearing hijab and leaving back the veils. In the 1930’s Reza Shah Pahlavi, the monarch of Iran banned veiling. Many women did not feel free, instead, they felt scared to go outside veiled. They feared that the police would harass and tear off their veil if they were to step outside. But as time passed, the revival of the veil and other modest clothes took place.
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A new form of clothes and dress were not accepted by Muslim women, even in Turkey which was one of the countries that pushed for social reforms. Many Muslim women started to dress more modestly inorder to tell the world what religion they were and what they believed. Other women wore veils to resist western culture. There was a surge of nationalism that rejected western style and values. Another reason to wear hijab was to resist modernization. Many believed that accepting modern ideology meant rejecting Islam and old traditions so they kept wearing hijab and veils. Additionally, the Iran Revolution from 1978 to 1779, increased the number of women in the veil increased because those who were unveiled were insulted and mocked.
They were penalized if there were in public without protective dress. In the 1970’s many countries like Iran, protested against schools and universities’ mandatory dress code of western clothes. In the modern day, women have remained in modest clothes. However many women organizations have tried to fight against imposed dress codes. But there are other groups of women that promote dress codes because of a strict interpretation of the Quran. Today, many Muslim girls and women wear veils and hijabs to protect themselves from sexual assault, but there are also Muslim women that do not wear veils because they want to decide for themselves what to wear.
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