Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari (1879-1951, Cairo), the last Deputy Sheikh al-Islam of the Ottoman Empire, explained in his article on Hijab al-Mar’ah (Women’s Hijab, meaning to cover her body completely with loose clothing, not the modern misconception of the hijab as a “head scarf”):
Because of those clear-cut texts (nusūs) [that is, the āyāt of the Qur’an and hadith] prescribing the covering of women, one finds the Muslim women in the East [of the Muslim lands] and in the West [of the Muslim lands] have been most dutiful in complying with the regulations of hijab since the earliest times in the lands of Hejaz and Yemen, and in the lands of Palestine and Shām [that is, Syria and Lebanon] and Aleppo, and the Two Iraqs [Iraq of the Arabs and Iraq of the non-Arabs which is present-day Iran], and the lands of the far Maghrib [Mauritania, Morocco, and Algeria] and the near Maghrib [Tunisia and Libya], and Upper Egypt and Sudan and the lands of Jabart [a territory between present-day Egypt and Sudan] and Zaila’ [a territory in present-day Sudan] and Zanjabar and the lands of Persia and Afghanistan and Sind and Hind; indeed until a short while ago even the lands on the coast of Egypt and the lands of Rumalli [the name of all the Ottoman possessions in Europe including Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and the Balkans] and Anatolia and the lands of Albania among those lands in which the women used to cover themselves completely; in fact, when the government tried to [take a census and] register the names of the women in Albania its citizens revolted.
Exalted is He beyond all defect and imperfection who changes things but Himself does not change! [This exclamation while affirming the incomparability of Allah Ta’ala also implies an expression of grief and dismay over the fall of those once noble and independent people into the dregs of blind and servile imitation.]
They are not few in Egypt who can remember how thoroughly the women in all of Egypt used to veil themselves before the time of Qasim Amin (d. 1326) , the great propagandist for the removal covering during the colonial occupation of Egypt.
A sense of honour (ghairah)  for women is a true symbol of Islam, and those who live in Muslim lands but lack this sense of honor became deprived of it only after becoming affiliated with nations that do not feel any [honour] for their women and do not feel there is anything wrong with letting their women appear with heads uncovered before other men in their own presence and in their full sight.
The great scholar and Ottoman statesman Ahmad Wafiq Basha was a quick-witted fellow and one never to be embarrassed for he was always ready with an answer. Before he became the prime minister in the beginning of the reign of Sultan Abd al-Hamid II, he held many diplomatic posts in the capitols of Europe. One time during an assembly in some capitol of Europe one of his diplomatic colleagues asked him:
“Why do the women in the east remain covered in their houses all their lives without ever mixing with men or attending their gatherings?”
The questioner was denouncing the inherited tradition in the East. Ahmad Wafiq Basha replied instantly,
“Because they do not wish to give birth to children from other than their husbands.”
His answer was like a dousing of cold water on the head of that questioner; he shut up reluctantly as if a rock were put down his throat.
May Allah, exalted is He, wake us from our slumber, and cause us to take pride in the glory of Islam and in the Islamic East, and may He keep us from becoming incorporated [culturally] in a nation other than our own, and may He guide us in the right way.
By: Ustadh Abdus Shakur Brooks