Why Muslim Women Observe Purdah?

Purdah or veil is a age old practice which is prevalent among many cultures. It is especially prevalent among the Muslim communities throughout the world.

Purdah has been a matter of debate among most scholars. Some people see it as a restriction put upon women while others view it as a necessary practice which should be followed according to the codes and conducts of the religion.

Why Muslim Women Observe Purdah?

But what is the actual truth behind the veil? What is the real reason behind the purdah? Read on to find out.

Although purdah is usually associated with Islam, evidences suggest that the system has been in practice before the pre-Islamic time. Veiling of women was a common practice among the Druze and Jewish communities as well. Burqa was in existence much before the advent of Islam in the Babylonian, Persian and Byzantine empires where the upper class women were secluded behind the veil. Historians believe that the system was later adopted by the Muslims as the Arab empire expanded.

Take a look at some important facts about the Purdah and why it is important for Muslim women to observe the veil.

The Law
The law of Hijaab requires that the whole female body including the face should be completely covered. If a woman has to step out of the house then she should cover her face and body with a cloth in which the shape of the body is not exposed. The eyes should be covered with a net so that it is not a cause for attraction either. The garment should be plain and should not attract any kind of unnecessary attention.

Reasons Behind The Purdah
Purdah is viewed as a symbol of honour, respect and dignity. It is seen as a practice that allows women to be judged by their inner beauty and not physical beauty. Some scholars are of the belief that initially the Purdah was designed to protect women from harassment. But later it became a mandatory practice among the people to keep women under the veil.

Controversial Beliefs
Critics have always viewed Purdah as an oppressive practice which is followed to subjugate women. However the believers of Islam look at it as a positive practice which actually liberates women. It is a mark of respect. By covering themselves, women can no longer be seen as sex objects that can be dominated. It enhances the status of women by commanding that they enjoy the same social status as men. Purdah is a way to make men see and respect the woman for her intellect, personality and qualities.

Purdah In Hinduism
A different form of Purdah exists among the Hindu women in form of Ghoonghat. The saree is drawn over the face when the woman is in presence of older adults of the family. It is also seen as a mark of respect for the elders. However the practice of Ghoonghat is slowly disappearing in Hinduism.

In modern times, Muslim women view Purdah as a symbol of protection and freedom of mobility. Hence, this can no longer be viewed as a subjugating practice. It is an empowerment tool that gives women the confidence to access the public places for education and economic independence.

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