HISTORY OF THE HAMMAM
The Hammam is an ancient and time honored institution with roots in Roman and Arab cultures dating back to 600 AD. As the Roman Empire retreated, the hot baths were left behind. However, not until Mohammed passionately recommended the hot sweat baths to his followers did the Islamic Hammam flourish. At that point in history Arabs were not washing often and certainly not with hot water. However, Mohammed felt that the Hammam was beneficial to one’s health, it provided for mental relaxation, helped with muscle, joint aches and pains, most importantly it enhanced fertility. He directed his followers to use the Hammam in order to increase the numbers of Islamic faith and to improve their health. Soon Hammams were spreading across the Middle East and North Africa. Often they were located adjacent to mosques and became ingrained in the washing and purification that was required before prayer.
When Mohammad first advocated the use of the Hammam for religious and recreational purposes, women were forbidden. But as hygienic benefits became apparent, “The Word” was reinterpreted and women were permitted after an illness or after they had given birth. Eventually, Arab men begrudgingly opened the pleasures of the Hammam to women who, before then, had virtually no other opportunity to socialize with anyone outside the home. It wasn’t long before the “Privilege” became a “Right”.
The Hammam became such an important part in the lives of Muslim women that if a husband were to deny his wife her visits to the Hammam, she had grounds for divorce. Mothers found the opportunity to inspectprospective brides for their sons in the Hammam, where no physical flaws or social faults could escape being noticed. The lives of women were enhanced and celebrated in the Hammam. Special Hammam before wedding or after birth of a child were historically important and remain so until this day.
Over the centuries Hammam was transformed from places to wash into an indispensable part of daily social life. They functioned as places of entertainment in a closed society where Islamic rules governed social life. During Victorian Era England, Hammam was introduced and soon flourished. At the height of popularity there were more than 600 million in the United Kingdom. Today Hammam is enjoyed by million of people through the Islamic world and beyond. You can find Hammams in major European cities, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, Indianapolis and now Abuja & Lagos Nigeria.