Lafif Lakhdar

The only way to understand living religions is through a comparison with dead religions such as Babylonian or Egyptian religion, which are the womb that spawned the monotheistic religions through a process of cultural cross-fertilization. The proponents of the hijāb fondly believe that its source is the Revelation.

But the fact remains that its real source is history, and despite this the Revelation (in which the collective and individual’s unconscious plays a decisive role) is also a product of individual and collective history. The Islamic hijāb essentially corresponds to the pagan Assyrian hijāb. Gamal al-Bannā’ states in his work Al-Hijāb:

Veiled women in pagan Palmyra

Assyrian law has detailed, specific regulations on women’s hijāb concerning which women are to wear it and which are not. The hijāb was obligatory for the wives of all noblemen, and also for all their ladies’ accompanying maidservants. It was also obligatory for sacred songstresses following marriage. But as regards slaves and prostitutes, it was forbidden for them to wear the veil. Any of these women apprehended wearing a hijāb without authority to do so was subjected to the punishment of flaying or tarring or amputation of her ears (Laws, no. 183). Gerda Lerner[1] presents a detailed analysis of these laws demonstrating that the hijāb was employed not merely to distinguish the upper classes, but had a basic function of differentiating between (respectable) women and those available to the general populace. That is, the use of the hijāb played a role in classifying women according to their sexual activity. The wearing of it indicated to men the distinctive rank of women under male protection, as opposed to other women that were commonly available.[2]

The Assyrian hijāb was passed onto Judaism:

A man had the ability to divorce his wife if she rebelled against the dictates of Jewish Law, such as by walking before people with her head exposed or holding conversation with people of a different class.[3]

Al-Suyūtī’s commentary on the Qur’ānic verse of the hijāb is similar, and is in virtual concordance with the views of the pagan law dating from 12c BC, a commentary that is therefore 19 centuries old. To verse 59 of the Sūra al-Ahzāb:

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them. That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed ...

al-Suyūtī gives the following interpretation:

By hijāb is meant that the people may distinguish the freeborn woman. [The Caliph] ‘Umar did not call for slave-girls to veil themselves and said: the veil is for freeborn women, so that they not be molested ... ‘Umar once saw a slave-girl veiled and he struck her with his staff, saying “throw off that veil, do not attempt to pass yourself off as a freeborn woman!”... A slave-girl was handled [disrespectfully by other men] and God forbade that freeborn women should be likened to slaves.[4]

There is no doubt that the Islamic hijāb is pagan

Just as was the case in Assyria 19 centuries prior to the Qur’ān. The hijāb was forbidden to prostitutes and slave-girls as the Assyrian code said, and they were punished for wearing it just as ‘Umar punished the slave-girl he saw wearing a veil! There is therefore no doubt that the Islamic hijāb is pagan. The hoped-for school of enlightenment should state this to its male and female students so as to enlighten them on the psychological, sociological and historical hijāb, and also explain to them that the Qur’ānic verse And stay in your houses[5] does not apply to the Prophet’s women. Dr. Muhammad ‘Ammāra writes that:

the evidence for this is that the Prophet’s womenfolk did not keep to their houses or avoid leaving them after the revelation of this verse, for they used to go out to fulfil their needs both during the life of the Prophet and following his death. Aisha went out to fight at the famous Battle of the Camel ... and the hadīth concur that the Prophet’s wives and the Muslims’ womenfolk accompanied the Prophet to the battlefield ... and that this also remained the case after the revelation of the verse of the hijāb.[6]

Babylonian women: unveiled and unvalued

If the verse of the hijāb did not apply to the Prophet’s womenfolk during his lifetime or after his death how can an intelligent man – unless affected by some insane jealousness that his wife might associate with another man – demand that after 15 centuries from the time of the revelation of the verse of the hijāb Muslim women should make this impossible application of it to half a billion of them, particularly those that work for a living?

You who are responsible for education, make your schools discuss what has been kept back in silence, or you will pay the price for this silence with a decline in stability, security and growth and with rising chaos and bloodshed. A word of advice: write over your school and university gates the interpretation of Gamāl al-Bannā’:

Islam did not impose the hijāb upon women, it was the scholars who imposed the hijāb upon Islam.

However, it should be said that women themselves are not innocent of their enemies’ criminality. Indeed, they are often complicit in it. Why should this be so? It is because, as the sociologist Pierre Bordieu puts it, ‘she has ingested the viewpoint of her torturer through symbolic violence.’[7]

Historical & cultural conditions have become blurred ..they are now the product ‘of God’ or ‘nature’ or ‘biology'

The specific historical and cultural conditions under which men imposed their restrictions upon women have become blurred so that they are now the product ‘of God’ or ‘nature’ or ‘biology.’ This makes it easier for women to ingest them and submit themselves blindly to them. And not just the women, but children, slaves and the ignorant ... these generally ingest the view of their torturers under the influence of education. For instance, did not the majority of women in 1956 reject the Code of Personal Status[8] which liberated them from slavery to a medieval law code that was hostile to them, one which men wrote to apply to women? Did not slaves in 1863 reject the freedom that Abraham Lincoln offered them? Did not slaves in Saudi Arabia reject King Faisal’s ransom of them in 1963? Did not the account of the Torah criticise the Jews of the Exodus for their pining for the meat pots of Egypt?[9]

In Muslim lands, indoctrination and brainwashing with religious fantasies today is what is primarily responsible for the point zero psychological slavery that makes women acquiesce to the view of her enemy that runs:

It is the right of the husband over his wife that were his nostrils to drip blood, pus or purulence, she is to lick it up with her tongue to obey this right. If one were to command anyone to bow down to anyone else, it should be to a woman to bow down to her husband (A hadīth[10]).

This is in addition to the whole heap of other misogynistic hadīth such as:

Prayer is annulled if a black dog or a woman passes in front of one.

That’s right – in the eyes of God a white dog is superior to a woman! Or take that other hadīth:

Seek their opinion, and oppose it ...

which the misogynists interpret as meaning that since Satan speaks through their tongues the husband is required to consult his wife for one purpose alone: to do the opposite of what she says – seek her opinion in everything but do the opposite of what she tells you in everything. The reason? Sadism –  to make her feel that in the eyes of you, or of God or His Prophet, she is nothing.

Awaiting enlightenment on the psychological, sociological and historical hijāb

Sublime. But perhaps all these misogynistic hadīth are likely invented, since there are no equivalents to them in the Qur’ān. Yet the religious delirium of the enemies of womankind nevertheless considers them to be of decisive proof and soundness!

So demolish them with the human sciences and religious phenomenology and summon the core of the Islamic left, or of the right, to refute them in terms of religion itself. This is the price one must pay for the liberation of women from their self-ingested slavery. Four factors at least might be helpful in weakening the hostility to womankind in its prevailing primitive form:

Some tidings of recognition of the need for sexual freedom in the fight against misogyny have been appearing in Islamic lands, with the annulment in 2006 of the penalty for adultery from the Turkish Constitution. Why do the supporters of women, and women themselves, in Tunis not make the demand in the media or through demonstrations before the Constituent Assembly, that the new Tunisian constitution emulate the Turkish Islamic constitution by cancelling the penalties for sexual relations between consenting adults, as well as repealing the death penalty and recognizing a Muslim’s right to change his faith, as stipulated in the Turkish constitution? I would wager that, with the exception of the misogynistic Iranian direction being taken by the Nahda Party, its intelligent members (particularly the supporters of the Turkish Islamic experiment) might well come together in solidarity, or at least sympathise with these demands, as demands that correspond to the principle of the universal religion of human rights.


Read Part 1 of this article


[1] Professor emerita of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a visiting scholar at Duke University; author of The Creation of Patriarchy.

[2] G. Al-Bannā’, The Hijāb, Ch1. Section 3: The hijāb as a historical legacy.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Al-Suyūtī, الدر المنثور في التفسير المأثور pp.413-6.

[5] [Qur’ān, XXXIII, 32-3]: O ye wives of the Prophet! Ye are not like any other women. If ye keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft of speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire (to you), but utter customary speech. And stay in your houses.

[6] Dr. M. ‘Ammāra, ابواالاعلى المودودي و الصحوة الإسلامية  Dār al-Wahda, p.394.

[7] Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) saw symbolic violence as a tool wielded by those who possessed symbolic capital (e.g., prestige, honour, attention). This symbolic capital is amassed through social and cultural inculcation and are therefore viewed by the victim as legitimate and justified. (Ed.)

[8] The Code of Personal Status was promulgated on 13 August 1956 as a set of family laws that reduced gender inequality in Tunisia. It profoundly altered family law and the legal status of women, changing regulations on marriage, divorce, alimony, custody, adoption, and to a lesser extent inheritance, and leaving few, if any, aspects of family life untouched. The best known and most daring reforms concerned polygamy and the unilateral right of the husband to end the marriage at will. (Ed.)

[9] [Exodus XVI, 3]: And the people of Israel said to them: “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

[10] Hadīth 1390, classed as a hadīth marfūʽ, that is, a hadīth of particularly high authority in that it was reported directly from one of the Prophet’s Companions in the form: ‘I heard the Messenger of God say ...’. (Ed.) See Glossary ‘Hadīth’.