hijab image

1.5 The Hijab and the Sari

A Brief History of the Hijab and the Sari

Veiling was invented thousands of years ago. It became very common, if not always required, for Muslim women within a few generations of Muhammad. Wearing the veil became hotly contentious in the late 19th century. So much so, that at one point commentators thought it was dying out, but in fact the opposite has happened. Growing numbers of women wear the hijab, for a variety of religious, cultural, and political reasons.

The sari is so ancient that its origin is murky, but it too is at least 2000 years old. Dozens of draping styles and countless fabrics and patterns have been used in different regions around India and elsewhere in southern Asia, but the 20th century saw many of those differences retreat in the face of the ever popular nivi style. Today the sari is still widely worn, though Indian women also wear other traditional and Western clothing styles.

Women mentioned in this episode include Cleopatra, Draupadi, Jnanadanandini Devi, and Indira Gandhi.

Selected Sources:

I used so many sources for this episode that it is difficult to pick just one, but for the hijab segment, I’m going to go with Leila Ahmed’s Women and Gender in Islam.

Dawud’s hadith on the veil can be read here.

And for the sari segment, I’ll go with Mululika Banerjee’s The Sari.

The quote from the Mahabharata, and indeed the rest of that extremely long epic, can be read here.

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The featured image is by Ramadhan Notonegoro from Pixabay.


  1. I had no idea these clothing items were so nuanced. Thanks for breaking through my Western ceilings.


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