Hijab and Nigeria’s contemporary realities

IN the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
All glorifications are for Allah, the Creator of all beings, Who has fashioned each creature according to its needs. While aquatic inhabitants have been endowed with fins and scales for their survival, Allah has provided the wild carnivores with furs and canines necessary to adapt to their unique environment. It is this Allah Who “has, indeed, sent down to you (human beings) clothing to cover your shame and for beauty.” (Q7 vs 26)

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Discussions on hijab have occupied conspicuous spaces on media platforms in recent times, owing largely to happenings on the Nigerian landscape. From the classroom to the office, from the professional circles to the courtrooms, and even from worship centres to family circles, the debate has been but far from pleasant.

For a nation bound by common resolve for peaceful coexistence, the words of our Creator suffice in this avoidable situation we have found ourselves. “Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due, and when you judge between people, judge with justice.” (Q4 vs 58). This is because the hijab issue has lingered mainly out of injustice and failure to discharge trust. For the avoidance of doubt, misinformation, non-acceptance of reality and breach of trust would have to give way for us to move forward as a nation.

The misinformation

On the hijab issue, Nigerians have been largely starved of facts or misinformed, and the worst culprit is the media. As a repository of information, the media has not been able to produce facts upon which positive decisions would be premised. At the height of the discussion, a top-rated Nigerian news medium asked if “it is the dressing that defines the spirituality and moral life of students.” What a conclusion! Where, then, is the place of research and investigation in evidence gathering? It is the responsibility of the media to gather facts and present such as a useful guide for decision making.

A disturbing trend is the heavy reliance on the internet as a source of evidence. Religions have their sources and these are the authentic links to the interpretation of their practices. Islam is founded on a well-documented divine legislation, which has been expounded by an equally preserved lifetimeof prophet Muhammad. Furthermore, the Islamic library is swelled daily with volumes of research materials by walking encyclopedias on the interpretations of the Islamic code of life. Why, then, have we left the basic for the sentiment?

The realities

Change is a constant phenomenon of life. The human race has evolved over time, in relation to his consciousness for self, environment and issues surrounding his existence. That the Nigerian nation has also been dynamic along ages is a fact that must be acknowledged by all those who yearn for a harmonious collaboration among all the citizens. In a multi-religious setting such as ours, rights are better guaranteed in a manner that would not infringe upon those of others. In the quest for the hijab right, all avenues that would entrench peaceful coexistence need to be exploited to the maximum.

On the other hand, change in consciousness and knowledge are parts of the process that defines human evolution. Frequent discussions on hijab, or other issues of life, as against what obtains in the past, should be seen as part of our development as a nation. A Muslim girl’s consciousness to don the hijab now should not open her to condemnation, ridicule and disgust. The onus is on her to justify such action.

The Nigerian entity is not an anarchy. Our collective existence is being defined by a framework. Rights would only subsist within the context of the constitution of a community. This is what guarantees mutual understanding and respect and eliminates suspicion. This is what obtains in various parts of the world with even advanced level of civilization. Rather than exploring this path, discussions on hijab in the Nigerian context have dwelt more on opinions guided by sentiments.

The breach of trust

“When trusts are neglected, then await the hour (last day)… and when positions of authority are given to people who are not qualified for them, then await the hour .” Above are some of the words of Prophet Muhammad on the fragile place of trust, especially by those saddled with authority. As the discussion on hijab rages, the breach of the trust of truth reposed in people of authority by their subjects is definitely a clog in the wheel of our progress. On this issue, many leaders have distorted or concealed facts that would have rightly guided their subjects, in order to win sympathy for their stand. This is not a hallmark of a community which desires harmony or growth.

The way forward

It is time to tell ourselves the truth. It is time to seek and get correct information on hijab because it is our right to know and appreciate what defines the people with whom we live and share many features as citizens of a nation.

It is also time for us to seek, learn and apply the ingredients of harmonious relationship in a multi-faith society. Moreover, growth and development, and, indeed, civilization are characterized by evolution and dynamism. As a nation, we have to embrace contemporary realities as signs of advancement. Demand for and against hijab, or other issues not yet debated are a test of our civilization as a people and the way we tackle them explains the level we are in a new global family.

Finally, for those saddled with leadership, our ability to stand firm for the truth is a major quality that distinguishes us from the rest. We should not be deceived into taking alternative route to success. If we do, our group or community would only be trying to halt a moving train; we would be left behind and our relevance in a larger community would have be seriously affected.

Adesina is the Imam of Ash-Shamsiyah Mosque, Kubwa, Abuja.

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