History of the Veil. Part One: Veil in the Ancient World

By: Alexandra Kinias

Painting of Nineveh Women by: Paul Batou

With the passionate cries for wearing the veil,  the controversy it is causing in the West and since it only shrouds the bodies, heads and faces of Muslim women, it left no shred of doubt that it is an Islamic dress code. And how can one dare argue that when clerics, based on their interpretations of the holy scripts, left everything else behind and are condensing their efforts to preach, direct and scare Muslim women to comply with it after reaching puberty. However, researchers who have tracked the history of veil proved that it was not introduced by Islam.   But as  it became today the symbol of the most zealous fanatical regimes, Islam is wrongly blamed for that. The status of the women in Afghanistan also confirms that Islam practiced segregation and seclusion of women,   even though these practices were common in several ancient civilizations that existed in lands far away from Arabia, thousands of years prior to the rise of Islam: The Sumerian, Assyria, Babylonian and Persian.

Excavations at the site of the ancient city of Nineveh uncovered the glories of the Assyrian civilization that flourished in the lands of Mesopotamia several millenniums BC.  Among the treasures  found  were the famous tablets of Nineveh that enabled  archeologists to unravel the mysteries of this civilization. These tablets that are currently exhibited in the London museum  described in details the lives of the people, the history, culture, sciences, literature, and religion of this civilization.

In Assyria, the status of women was deplorable.  Assyrian men were harsh, violent, and cruel people to their enemies and their women. With the conquests of the neighboring lands, Assyria was flooded with enormous numbers of slaves. The males were used for labor work, while the females were used as concubines and domestic slaves.

To be able to distinguish between their free honorable women from the slaves or concubines,  laws were issued. Respectable women were forced to wear the veil while those who were considered unrespectable were forced to go with their heads uncovered. Thus veil became an exclusive symbol of respect; a privilege that slaves, prostitutes and concubines were denied off.

And with their homes flooded with slaves to run their errands, free women had no reason to roam the streets and mingle with concubines, slaves and prostitutes. And hence, women seclusion was born.

The law for veiling the women was documented on one of the tablets that also stated the punishment for those who broke the veil code:

“If the wives of a man, or the daughters of a man go out into the street, their heads are to be veiled. The prostitute is not to be veiled. Maidservants are not to veil themselves. Veiled harlots and maidservants shall have their garments seized and 50 blows inflicted on them and bitumen poured on their heads.”

Modern Iranian women, especially the ones  opposing the Islamic revolution and the enforcement of the veil, are pointing fingers at the Arabs and  blaming them for introducing the veil and seclusion into the Persian society, even though historical evidence proves that it is the other way around.

In 539 BC, the Persians conquered Mesopotamia and it became part of the Persian state. The veil and the seclusion of women were among the social habits that the Persians adopted from the Assyrians and maintained over the years. In ancient Persia, women of noble families became also secluded and had to be covered when they went out in public.

And with the Persian conquests, the veil  spread to  neighboring Kingdoms and nations . It was introduced to the Levant region – currently known as Syria and Lebanon – and north of Arabia.

Arabs who were separated from these surrounding civilizations by sand dunes and vast uninhibited deserts were not introduced to the veil until the seventh century AD when they conquered the Persian lands.

Stay tuned for Part Two: Life in  Pre-Islamic Arabia

15 Comments

Filed under History of Veil

15 responses to “History of the Veil. Part One: Veil in the Ancient World

  1. Pingback: Veiling: A Different Take On Pagan Womanhood | PANTHEON

  2. in my country scarves on the head of females was a religious law when entering a catholic church. this was ireland when the church was equal to government. not any more. a church is just another commodity making rules affiliated with its dominence over the populase. no church in the world has a right to dominate its parishoners. it is equal to a dictatorship and the world has had enough of dictatorships. nowadays in ireland the choice is up to the individual if she wants to wear a scarf. the same should apply with the veil. leave religion out of the equasion because religion is not a law; its a choice.

  3. Pingback: Is veil an Islamic requirement or not? | Alexandra Kinias

  4. Bell

    This informatiom is ALL incorrect. Assyrians were not cruel, harsh or violent people. They treated their women with respect, were quite romantic & heavily into their poety. See tablets collected in Ashurbanipals library (first ever library). They attacked nations who would attack them of course, never hurt people when occupied land, they actually taught them the Assyrian way of life. Women wearing a veil came way before the Assyrians, women would wear a veil in public to show others they were taken, similar to wearing a wedding ring in today’s day. It wasn’t to suppress them or stop men from impure thoughts or temptations ( which is the reason why Muslim women wear them).

  5. Nida Mukhtar

    Asalaamoalikum Alexandra Kinias!
    You wrote, “Arabs who were separated from these surrounding civilizations by sand dunes and vast uninhibited deserts were not introduced to the veil until the seventh century AD when they conquered the Persian lands” SHOCKING!!!!! The prophet Muhammad’peace be upon him’ introduced veil in Arabia not the PERSIANS….On the contrary persians accepted Islam. Please don’t misguide people because if you read the history how could you are not aware of this OPEN REALITY or else you know NOTHING about the history” Thanks, Nida

  6. Nida Mukhtar

    Asalaamoalikum!
    Are you habitual of saying that you stand by your post:)
    It means you are not ready to acept the truth. Well its your life your article…
    Dear Alexandra Kinias unlike you I STAND BY THE TRUTH AND ONLY THE TRUTH!!!!!
    I can’t enforce you but could you please tell your audience where did you read it and how much that information is authentic:)

    You wrote, “Maybe you should do some more historical research yourself” If your readers have to do all the research work then why you took efforts to write this article:) I keep studying all the time therefore I read your article to gain some information but now I think you should increase your knowledge by reading the true facts and figures at the time of the advent of the Prophet Hazrat Muhammad(peace be upon him). He gave clear teaching regarding the veil,before Islam reached the territories of Persia.

    I am a student of history and comparative religions. I give respect to all religions and respect their founders.I have not come across such a big self made lie. Do you have any HISTORICAL PROOF. You can give it with the Persian history in which the Persians say that the Arabs followed them. IN CASE ‘YES’ then KEEPPPPPPP STANDING BY YOUR ARTICLE :) & share it with me also …

    BUTTT IF IN CASE ‘NO’ then I can proove it, that i am right.
    Have your say!
    Peace
    Nida Mukhtar

    • alquraniyoon

      YOU ARE WRONG, IGNORANT AND ARROGANT! Indeed you are the one panicking in denial like an average Muslim who’s in typical shock whenever the truth appears. These are FACTS which were collectively gathered, existing within our world’s historical evidence, based on every expert’s research. Theologians, archaeologists and even the so called Islamic scholars ‘ulama / clerics’.

      The ancient civilizations have existed and established thousands of years before ISLAM came in the early 7 AD.

      HISTORY RECORDED:

      CIVILIZATIONS: ANCIENT EMPIRES OF THE ISRAELITE TRIBES PRIOR TO THE ISLAMIC EMPIRE:

      Phoenicia (Beirut, Lubnan) 1200 BC–539 BC – ‘Before Christ’
      Mesopotamia, Babylon (Babel, Iraq) 1894 BC (King Nimrod / Namrud)
      Assyria 911–608 BC (Pagan worshipers of the demon BAAL)
      Neo-Babylonian Chaldean 605 BC (Worshipers of the demoness ISHTAR)
      Persia (Iran) 539 BC (K.Nebuchadnezzar) [Emergence of Prophets]
      Hellenistic Greek (Rome) 331 BC (K. Darius III)
      7 AD = Interregnum of Judaism-Catholicism-Christianity
      13th Century = Caliphate Empire (Islam)

      The Pagan Arabs used to worship the three goddesses named Al Manat, Uzza and Lat as part of the ritualistic 360 degrees of Pagan Arabian mythological deities prior to Muhammad’s prophethood in the early 13th century).

      Now take a CLOSER look at THAT historical record based on what was discovered (meticulously & rigorously) by the historians, not you! You are neither a historian or academically recognized in any of the theological / historical / anthropological disciplines nor do you possess a valid credential to argue in this socio-science-philosophy field which clearly does not belong to you. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO DISPUTE OR ARGUE WITH HISTORY BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO AUTHENTIC KNOWLEDGE OTHER THAN WHAT WAS TAUGHT FROM CHILDHOOD WITHIN YOUR ISLAMIC DENOMINATION! BUKHARI HADITH DO NOT REPRESENT THE ENTIRE MONOTHEISTIC RELIGION BECAUSE HE HIMSELF WAS BORN 400 YEARS AFTER THE PROPET’S DEATH! THE COMPILATION OF HADITH 40 WAS INDEED MAN MADE.

      IN ARABIAN GULF COUNTRIES, ONLY SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN, IRAQ AND YEMEN AR KNOWN TO OPPRESS WOMEN BECAUSE THEY HOLD DEAR TO THE SECTARIAN PERPECTIVES OF THESE 4 KNOWN ULAMA / CLERIC FIGURES IN ‘THE MUSLIM WORLD’. IMAM BUKHARI, SHAFIE, HAMBALI, GHAZALI AND SO MUCH MORE IDOLS WORSHIPED BOTH IN BOOKS AND IN THE MASJID! THE MOSQUES HAVE BEEN USED AS A PLACE TO INFILTRATE AND POISON YOUNG MUSLIMS TO BECOME A FUTURE WIFE BEATER, WOMEN HATER AND OPPRESSOR, THAT’S WHAT BUKHARI’S TEACHING IS ALL ABOUT.

      NOW YOU CAN SHOVE ALL YOUR ‘BUKHARI KNOWLEDGE’ THAT YOU’RE SO FUCKING PROUD OF AND OPEN YOUR MIND WIDE TO DISCOVER MORE POSSIBILITIES AND GOD INTENDED YOU TO THINK BASED ON YOUR COGNITIVE LOGICS AND NOT YOUR CORRUPT SOUL!

      BUKHARI WAS AN ANTI WOMEN BASTARD WHO HAVE BEEN POISONING THE MUSLIM MINDS FOR ALMOST A 1000 YEARS!

      THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FROM PERSIANS ZOROASTRIAN CONVERTS. BUKHARI WAS A PERSIAN WHO CONVERTED INTO ISLAM AND BECAME AN IMAM. NEED I LIST DOWN ALL OF THE NONE MUSLIM IMAMS THAT CONVERTED INTO ISLAM AFTER YEARS OF INHABITING THE SATANIC PAGANISM OF THESE MAN MADE RELIGIONS: ZOROASTRIAN ARYAN KURDISH ARMENIAN PERSIAN, GREEK ROMAN ITALIAN CATHOLICISM, JUDEO-NAZARENE – JEWISH JUDAISM, JEWISH CHRISTIANITY, [PHILOSOPHICAL AGNOSTICISM] HINDUISM, BUDDHISM AND THE REST OF THE CORRUPT SATANISM BRANCHES.

      WHEN ISLAM EMERGED, THE AHLUL KITAB WAS EVIL ENOUGH TO DIVIDE / SEPARATE THE ONE TRUE MONOTHEISTIC RELIGION INTO FOUR MAZHABS [SUNNI, SYIAH, WAHHABI, SALAFI]
      AND IT GAVE BIRTH TO MANY AFTERWARDS.

      WHY? = HUMAN CONJECTURES / HUMAN ERRORS !

      HUNDREDS OR THOUSANDS OF MAN MADE RELIGIONS WERE THERE LONG BEFORE ISLAM.

      THE VEIL TRADITION STARTED LONG BEFORE ISLAM CAME!

      THE PERSIANS ROYALTY DID INVENT THE VEIL FOR NOBLE WOMEN!

      JEWISH WOMEN WORE THE VEILS TO INDICATE A STATUS SYMBOL OF DECENCY AND MODESTY AND TO SEPARATE THEMSELVES FROM WHORES!

      WHEN ISLAM (ABRAHAMIC ISMAEL & ISHAK) CAME INTO EXISTENCE IN AFRICA & ARABIAN GULFS, NONE OF THE WOMEN HAD THEIR VEILS ON! BUKHARI WAS BORN 400 YEARS LATER, HOW DID HE KNOW? RASULLULLAH WAS BORN AFTER JESUS WAS BORN, JESUS HIMSELF HAS NEVER TAUGHT THE CHRISTIAN (JEWISH OCCUPIED) WOMEN TO VEIL THEMSELVES (HAIR) UNTIL THE ROMANS (HELLENISTIC ALEXANDRIAN) CAME WITH THEIR WHITE GARMENTS DURING THE BATTLE OF GREEK-ACHAEMENID.

      EVEN IN ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA & BABYLONIAN EMPIRE, THE NOBLE WOMEN HAVE BEEN COVERING THEMSELVES WITH VEILS TO INDICATE AN AWARENESS TO THE PEOPLE , THAT WOMEN IN REGNANT STATUS DO NOT MIX OR SOCIALIZE WITH THE COMMONERS. THE VEILED WOMEN WERE RECOGNIZED AS ROYALTY OR THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS.

      WHEN THE ENGLISH INVASION CAME AND EUROPE WERE IN POWER, THE VATICAN STATE OF CATHOLICISM HOLINESS
      STAND IN DOMINANT (BEFORE IT WAS SEPARATED FROM THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND BY HENRY 8TH), THE CATHOLIC QUEEN AND NOBILITY HAD THEIR HEADS COVERED! IT WAS THE FUCKING CHURCH WHO CALLED WOMEN SLUTS IN OLDER DAYS AND REGARDED THEM AS SECONDARY / LESSER BEINGS CREATED OUT OF ADAM’S RIB. FUCK THAT LIES!

      THE QURAN, GOD SAID OTHERWISE. IN AL BAQARAH & AL ALAQ GOD MENTIONED THAT MANKIND ARE CREATED IN PAIRS (MEN & WOMEN) THAT ADAM AND EVE WAS CREATED AT THE SAME TIME AND WE THE CHILDREN, WILL GENETICALLY FOLLOW ACCORDING TO HIS METHOD OF CREATION, SPERM, BLOOD CLOT AND EARTH SOIL!

      SO FUCK BUKHARI AGAIN FOR PLAGIARING BIBLE TEACHINGS AND INCORPORATED THEM INTO THE ISLAMIC FIQH!

      EVEN TASAWWUF WAS NOT ORIGINATED FROM ISLAM!
      SUFISM WAS FROM THE MAJUSI ZOROASTRIAN, PERSIAN. AGAIN! THE BLOODY PERSIAN CONVERTS!

      IN ANCIENT DAYS THE VEILS WERE NOT A RELIGIOUS SYMBOL BUT MERELY TO PERCEIVE FEMININE VALUES AND TO SALUTE THE EMPIRICAL STATUS OF NOBLE OR ROYAL FAMILIES!

      THE VEIL HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ISLAM BUT CULTURALLY ADOPTED INTO THE ‘AQEEDAH’ SECTION!

      FURTHERMORE, MEN IN ISLAM ADDRESSED THE WOMEN AS ‘AURAT’, IT CAME FROM HINDI/PERSIAN ‘AWRAH’ WHICH MEANS ‘DEFECT, FLAW, IMPERFECTION’ AND THE ARABS CONFORMED WITH THE TITLE. HOW CAN A MAN CALL A WOMEN ‘BLEMISH’ OR ‘RETARD’?

      A BEAUTY IS NOT A RETARDED THING.

      CALLING A WOMAN ‘AURAT’ OR ‘IMPERFECTION’ INDICATES HOW GENDER, SEXUALLY BIASED THE ARABIC/ PAKISTAN MEN CAN BE TOWARDS WOMAN. NO WONDER WHY YOU GET SO MANY BEATINGS INSTEAD OF BEING SHUNNED AND ADMONISHED.

      LOL. IT’S BEEN THOUSANDS OF YEARS NOW. HOW CAN WE CHANGE THE PRIMITIVE BELIEFS OF THESE FUCKED UP AHLUL SUNNAH SYIAH WAHHABI SALAFI NAZARI LUCIFERIAN AZAZELITES JESUS TRINITY WORSHIPERS TO GET THEMSELVES BACK INTO THE ORIGINAL ROUTE OF THE QURAN?

      GOOD LUCK.

      AND, HAVE A BLISSFUL MOMENT SERVING YOUR HUSBAND THE DOMINANT EGOCENTRIC ALPHA MALE WHO WORSHIPS AND LOVE BUKHARI MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD.

    • alquraniyoon

      Hadith was a work of PLAGIARISM. A by-product of the previous Abrahamic faith (Judaism) and Christendom (Christianity).

      Adopted teachings from the Judaism-Christianity Old Testament
      scriptures into the Sunnah/Hadith. The Prophet did not originate his ‘memoirs or riwayat’ but Bukhari and other Imams did. Wicked!

      It was later implemented in the Islamic denomination (Sunni dominants)
      called School of Fiqh, Aqeedah, Fardhu Ain and Tareqat Tasawuf (Theosophy).

      These were all Judeo-infiltrated philosophies.

      Islam’s Al Quran was neglected as a secondary guidance because the Muslims were taught to believe 100% in the ‘Sunnah Rasool’
      instead of relying their faith to the Al Quran.

      They read the Quran in Arabic but understands NOTHING!

      Not even the Arabs read the whole 114 Surahs of the Quran.

      Wonder how can a Persian tounge (Farsi) Bukhari was able to comprehend with the Quran and worst, he modified the contents according to his own free will.

      Think about this!

  7. Danial

    As an Iranian I agree with you on base of pointing fingers at Arabs and blaming them for woman’s veiling and many other things that truly have risen from our own culture(like the religious low system that we have right now is very similar to Sassanids) but the pre-Islamic veiling in Iran is little different than later Islamic one since most of documents, books and other stuff got destroyed in arabs invasion we rely on roman and greek and roman documents as base so they are few . we have some notes for Persian noble women not commoners that wear veils. we don’t know that if it had a religious Zoroastrian rule like covering what part of body and stuff or not and i doubt that they completely adopted from assyrians they are some indian touch in pre islamic veiling too. I read a theory somewhere i don’t recall right now that the veiling system got in eastern Rome probably from Persia and later adopted by arabs from byzantine(if you look at it that way it makes much better sense because veiling become religiously in rome for women) worth mentioning veiling is different in each moslem dynasties from another it had it’s rise and fall until it’s worst period in ghajar dynasty.
    anyway all of this are theories and really it doesn’t matter who start it important is Islam should follow christianity and make it’s own Renaissance. .
    sorry for bad English and thx for the hard work:)

  8. American Girl

    I guess she did her homework hahahaha thanks for the info

  9. Luna

    Ok so now we know that it wasn’t islam that introduced the veil. And we know that wearing of veil was introduced in historic times so then why do they still practice it? Why did islam adapt this practice?

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