Historical hejab


I found all these lovely historical pictures of Muslim women and kids-most date from the early 20th century althought a few are quiet recent. Two things struck me-one, how rich and varied their forms of hejab were and two-the similarity in cut of most of their outter attire! If you take a look, you’ll notice it too. They all seem to be wearing some form of a gigantic rectangle with some part tucked into their skirts of pants and then held in a similar fashion. I really wonder whether this is what the authentic, true “jilbab” looked like, the kin that the women of the Sahabah wore..?

Also a few weeks ago a came across a book written in 1923 by an American woman who had “lived in Persia” for 15 years and in it she descroibed the then current style of chador worn by Persian women. It was different than the current styles worn now. She mentioned that the chaodrs for prayer were indeed rounded at the hem and composed of 2 or more pieces of fabric stitched together and that they often asked her if they could use her sewing machine to make them. While the around the house and outside chadors were infact rectangular in nature and not rounded at the hem, that when they walked they tucked the edge into their skirt or shalvar and that the wealthier women wore ones of a very fine silk with multi-colored selvage on the edges which was kept on as decoration. Village woman  actually wore plaid chadors, they wove the material at home and each village or area had its own unique chador plaid design so in a crowded market you knew who was from which village.

Like this-Upper class Persian woman with their rubande thrown up. I can totally picture how the modern “trendy” Qajari chador came about-it really does look kind of similar!

onward we go…

1926, Palestine --- A Muslim girl in the streets of Palestine

1926, El-Bireh, Palestine --- A Muslim matron of El-Bireh sits on a stoop

Damascus, Syria

January 1923, Egypt

ca. 1880s-1970s, Egypt

2008 - 2010 , Cairo, Egypt --- Al azhar street and expressway

December 1979, Algiers, Algeria --- A woman wearing traditional dress in the Casbah of Algiers.

December 1979, Algiers, Algeria --- Women wear traditional dress in a hammam in the Casbah of Algiers.

2003, Morocco --- Berber Women in Grand Atlas Mountains

Ottoman women in a Turkish Harem

1917-1940, Caucasus Mountains, USSR

ca. 1950, Samarkand, USSR

late 19th century - early 20th century, Iran --- Harem Scene

June 1953, Woking, Surrey, England, UK

August 1977, Kensington Gardens, London, England, UK


Where we are today…

June 2008, Munich, Bavaria, Germany


14 thoughts on “Historical hejab

  1. Salam alaykum wa’rahmatullah wa’barakatuh sister

    These are lovely. Jazak Allah khairan for finding them and posting them. I love your posts, masha Allah.

    Fi aman Allah


  2. For some reason I developed an interest in how women kept things on their head before straight pins and safety pins. I think a lot of the prettiest aspects of hijabs of the past are the different kinds of ties and headbands women wore. That’s what I thought of when I saw these pictures and the white strip of fabric that seems to be tied across the front.

    The idea of chadors identifying what village a woman is from is also *very* interesting to me as someone who has long held an interest in the way hijab is tied up in global Muslim identity politics.

  3. Actually since a longer time I was really interested to find out how the ‘original jilbab’ looked like and I read LOTS about it, and from what I managed to find, the jilbab was an overgarment, sth that women wore on the top of their normal clothing, sth like modern overhead abaya or chador of floor length khimar, sth that covered them top to bottom, only face and hands uncovered. And all your pics definitely show women wearing an overgarment of some kind on the top of their regular clothing. Also, sheikhs Al Albani, Ibn Uthaimeen and a few others whose names I cannot remember wrote of jilbab as an ‘overgarment’ which Quran commanded Muslim women to wear when outside of their homes. I think the sister from ILoveHishma also wrote quite a lot about how ‘original jilbab’ probably looked like. It’s so interesting to see all these jilbabs from the past. My husband said his mother and grandmother and many many women from older generations in Algieria still wear this white garment which the pics from Algieria show.

    • I have a question about jilbab (if you or anyone else could answer it, Insha’Allah). If the “original jilbab” was akin to the modern day overhead abaya/chador/isdaal/floor-length khimar, is this the only “acceptable” form of jilbab? I personally wear a jilbab (or a long skirt/dress and jacket or sweater) with a shirt and pants underneath (so the jilbab or skirt/dress are technically overgarments) with a khimar that covers my chest; is this acceptable, or must I be wearing a single garment?

      • I think that the vast majority of scholars from all madhab would agree that an overgarment would be anything which covers the body curves and is long, this could be…a jilbab, abaya (shoulder), skirt and tunic-like what you wear or even like a baju kurung. Some might say that ONLY something going from shoulders to floor would constitute a “jilbab” and is the only accetable form, maybe others would say it has to flow from the head. But they would be a minority. I personally have never heard hardcore evidence that you have to wear an overhead type of garment to be considered islamically dressed, most jst say as long as your curves are covered, that what you have on-looks overgarment-like-ish, thats sufficient….even a long tunic with wide legged jeans would be fine as all is covered and has a jilbab-like appearance.

        If you feel that only jilbabs or shoulder abayaat are suitable for you, then work towards it, if you want to start to wear overheads…ditto…

  4. Masha’Allah this is a wonderful post. I agree with the sister above” You totally need to write a book”! I would surely buy it too.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful pictures. Since, as you know, I hate pinning anything, I’m also interested in covering that don’t need pins!

  6. In response to Anne: from what I know most scholars accept that jilbab can be made of more than 1 piece, as long as it remains an overgarment, so if you wear a skirt and jacket with your inner clothing (such as pants and a shirt) underneath, it still qualifies as jilbab. Plus of course a khimar/headcovering which covers also the chest. Al Albani wrote a very nice book about the requirements of jilbab, it’s title is ‘Hijaab of the muslim woman’, you can check it out, it’s a small book but really useful for learning what are the requirements. Allahu alim.

  7. Ah, last thing: the proof that it has to be an ‘overgarment’ is in the Quran. In one passage it is said that old women (past childbearing age, not expecting to marry), can cast off their ‘jilbabs’ but in such a way as not to reveal their ‘ornaments’/’adornments’ (which accord. to Ibn Kathir and other commentators means their ‘bodies’, e.g. necks, breasts, legs). If the ‘jilbab’ meant only any kind of loose, covering clothing, e.g. long skirt and tunic with nothing underneath except underwear, then after casting off the jilbab the woman would be basically naked, which of course sounds riddiculous as Allah would never command such a thing. So basically the old women are allowed to cast off their outergarments, and keep on the inner garments which should still cover all their awrah, e.g. a long house dress and a hijab or a tunic and loose trousers + a hijab etc. That’s the interpretation of all 4 madhabs, all agree that one of requirements of a jilbab is that it be an ‘overgarment’ in addition to it being loose, covering, not decorative as to attract attention and not resembling the dress of non-muslims.

  8. Again, OSH come out with amazing and rare flicks! BTW, i FINALLY have posted a fashion-in-Afghanistan post, it’s not THE post, in which i’ll use pictures from the streets, but it’s part one, an intro…thanks for the inspiration!

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