Muslim Women's Clothing in Medieval Times
A variety of garments were worn by Muslim women in ancient times. We can learn about historic Islamic dress through observation of paintings and a study of ancient texts. These images are for historical references only and not intended to offer an opinion on the appropriateness or permissibility of these dresses from a religious standpoint.
Arab Dress 4th to 6th Century
The History of Costume, by Braun & Schneider, 1861-1880
Andalusian Dress from Muslim Spain
The entertainer playing the oud (a lute) is wearing a turban. The Magribi (North African) queen has her head covered with a crown but the female attendants' heads are uncovered. In the back row there are two male servants. This is part of the love story of Bayad and Riyad. Bayad sings in front of the noble lady and her male & companions.
Hadith Bayad wa Riyad; Maghreb; 13th century; Vatican, Bibliotheque Apostolique; Ms. Ar 368, fol. 10r.
A veiled Berber woman in Andalusia (Muslim Spain) playing chess with another woman.
Image from The Book of Chess, Dice, and Board Games by Alfonso X El Sabio, dated 1283.
Persian Women's Dress
A Persian woman with pants covered with a robe and head and face covering.
From "Rustam saves Bizhan from the well" in Shah-nama (Firdawsi's 'Book of Kings') by Ali b. Husayni Bahmani, Shiraz, 1330.
Turkish women were veiled and separated from the men in this mosque scene. Topkapi collection Shaykh Baha'al-Din Veled preaching in Balkh Jami' al-Siyar, 1600. Hazine.
The renowned Muslim explorer Ibn Batutta visited Turkey in the 14th century and noted that the women did not veil themselves: "A remarkable thing which I saw in this country was the respect shown to women by the Turks, for they hold a more dignified position than the men. I saw also the wives of the merchants and common [men]. [Their faces are] visible for the Turkish women do not veil themselves. Sometimes a woman will be accompanied by her husband and anyone seeing him would take him for one of her servants." [Gibb, p. 415 - 416]
In Mali, West Africa, Ibn Battuta observed: "Their women are of surpassing beauty and are shown more respect than the men. These people are Muslims, punctilious (very exact, never late) in observing the hours of prayer, studying the books of law, and memorizing the Qur'an. Yet their women show no bashfulness before men and do not veil themselves, though they are assiduous (worked hard) in attending prayers. Any man who wishes to marry one of them may do so but they do not travel with their husbands, and even if one desired to do so her family would not allow her to go." [Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, p. 300.]
Indian Mughal Dress
Part I - Islamic Clothing Guidelines
Part 1 of this article talks about Islamic clothing and related guidelines.