On Hijab

Hijab was clearly a pre-Islamic practice in Middle East, and had been in use since at least two thousand years before Islam. Though it’s debatable if its use was for moral reasons or for class distinctions or both. It is first mentioned in Assyrian law codes (1200 BC) for women to cover their heads when in public, though concubines were strictly prohibited from using it. (Similarly, in Islamic law concubines are prohibited from wearing hijab or niqab.) From pagan Mesopotamia, it spread into Persia and the rest, and was later adopted by monotheist Jews, Christians, and dualist Zoroastrians. (Zoroastrians came to believe hair to be impure, and they still cover their hair when praying.) A lot of what is now considered part of Islamic law and traditions had its origins in Bronze Age Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, and Hittite law codes from four thousand to two thousand years before Islam; like laws of mehr, rights of slaves, property for women, inheritance laws, death for blasphemy, prohibition of magic, etc. We only began to translate these languages during the 19th century, though thousands of Mesopotamian tablets still haven’t been translated. But these law codes have been translated, and are available in books and online for anyone to read.

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