Veiling and Muslim Women in African History since the Ottoman Empire


  • Habibat Oladosu-Uthman Department of History, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Mutiat Titilope Oladejo Department of History, University of Ibadan



Africa, veiling, women, culture, Ottoman


In Africa, the culture of veiling by Muslim women is profound. While Muslim societies vary across Africa, several forms of textile and art feature in the use of veil. It is particularly important to state that veiling is historical as it had been embedded as a Muslim culture since the evolution and spread of Islam in Africa. It is also true that the Islamic integration of African cultures is very much alive and visible. The story of veiling became prominent and was influenced by Ottoman rule and cross-cultural intergroup relations through the Trans Saharan trade routes. This paper focuses on the history of veil as a spiritual, artistic, political and economic factors in the identity making of Muslim women in Africa. The historical method is adopted to interrogate the complexities associated with veiling as a Muslim culture using photographic representations, books and journals. Photographic representations of women’s dress in the Ottoman empire gives way to understand how the dress styles diffuse into African societies.




Download data is not yet available.


Allman, Jean, ed. Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.

Amer, S. What is Veiling. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

Barlas, Asma. Believing Women in Islam, Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an. Austin: University of Texas, 2004.

Belsey, Catherine. Critical Practice. New York: Methuen, 1980.

Berktay, Fatmagül. ‘Looking from the “Other” Side: Is Cultural Relativism a Way Out?’ In Women’s Studies in the 1990’s: Doing Things Differently. Edited by Joanna de Groot and Mary Maynard. London: Macmillan, 1993.

Bullock, Katherine. Rethinking Muslim Women and Veil, Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes. London: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2003.

Dunbar, R. A. ‘Muslim Women in African History.’ In The History of Islam in Africa. Edited by Levtzion N. and Pouwells, R.L. Oxford: James Currey, 2010.

El Guindi, Fadwa. Veil: Modesty, Privacy and Resistance. Oxford; UK: Berg, 1999.

Elodie Apard, Transnational Islam: Circulation of Religious Ideas, Actors and Practices Between Niger and Nigeria, West African Politics and Society Series. Leiden: African Studies Centre, 2020.

Emerson, M.O. and D. Hartman. ‘The Rise of Religious Fundamentalism.’ Annual Review of Sociology 32 (2006): 127-144.

Faroqhi, Suraiya. Ottoman Cotton Textiles, 1500s to 1800: The Story of Success that Did Not Last. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

———. Artisans of Empire: Crafts and Crafts people under the Ottomans. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2009.

Imam, Ayesha, M. ‘Politics, Islam and Women in Kano, Northern Nigeria.’ In Identity Politics and Women: Cultural Assertions and Feminisms in International Perspectives. Edited by Valentine M. Moghadan. Boulder, Colo: West view, 1994.

Kaba, L. ‘Islam in West Africa: Radicalism and the New Ethic of disagreement, 1900-1960.’ In The History of Islam in Africa. Edited by B. Levtzion N. and Pouwells, R.L. Oxford: James Currey, 2010.

Levtzion, Nehemia and Randall L. Pouwells, The History of Islam in Africa. Oxford: James Currey, 2010.

Lutfi, Huda. ‘Manners and Customs of Fourteenth-Century Cairene Women: Female Anarchy versus Male Shar‘i Order in Muslim Prescriptive Treatises.’ In Women in Middle Eastern History: Shifting Boundaries in Sex and Gender. Edited by Nikki Keddie and Beth Baron. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991.

Mahdi, Hauwa. ‘The Hijab in Nigeria, The Woman’s Body and the Feminist Private/Public Discourse.’ Available at: ascleidenml /news/hijab-nigeria, 2008.

Mernissi, Fatima. Women’s Rebellion & Islamic Memory. London: Zed Books, 1996.

Moors, Annelies and E. Tarlo. ‘Introduction Muslim Fashions.’ Fashion Theory 11 no. 2/3 (2007): 133-42.

Najmabadi, Afsaneh. ‘Feminism in an Islamic Republic, “Years of Hardship, Years of Growth.’ In Islam, Gender, & Social Change. Edited by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and John L. Esposito. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1998.

Nolan, Erin Hyde. ‘You Are What You Wear: Ottoman Costume Portraits in the Elbsie-i Osmaniyye,’ Ars Orientalis 47 (2017): 178-209.

Ogunbiyi, I.A. ‘The Position of Muslim Women as Stated by Uthman Dan Fodio.’ Odu, A Journal of West African Studies 18 no.2 (1969): 43-60.

Patel, Nafisa. ‘Exploring South African Girlhoods: The Self-Identifications of Young Muslim Female learners in Post-apartheid South African High Schools.’ Journal for the Study of Religion 26, no. 1 (2013): 61-82.

Renne, Elisha. Veiling in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.

Sahar Amer. What is Veiling. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

Van Santen, Jose C.M. ‘“My ‘Veil’ Does Not Go With My Jeans”: Veiling, Fundamentalism, Education and Women’s Agency in Northern Cameroon,” Journal of the International African Institute 80 no. 2 (2010): 275-300.

Wadud, Amina. Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam. Oxford: One World, 2006.




How to Cite

Habibat Oladosu-Uthman, and Mutiat Titilope Oladejo. 2021. “Veiling and Muslim Women in African History since the Ottoman Empire”. ICR Journal 12 (2):314-30.