Daily Trust (Abuja)

1 March 2013

Nigeria: Hijab and Freedom of Worship

Hijab Khimaar or Jilbaab are outer garments worn by Muslims women as compulsory for covering their nakedness from being seen by non relative men who Islam barred them from gazing at the women's nakedness.

All parts of a woman's body, in Islam are considered as nakedness and must be covered except her face and her palms.

In the Qur'an, Allah directed the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to direct Muslim women not to display their beauty and they should always cover their heads with veils.

"O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons...that they should be known and not molested." [Chapter 33, verse 59]

Allah has emphasized in many verses of the holy Qur'an the important of hijab for women. In the following verses Allah said.

"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do." Q24: 30

"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss." Q24:30

Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad is quoted to have said "...If the woman reaches the age of puberty, no part of her body should be seen but this --- and he pointed to his face and hands." (Abu Dawud)

From these and other numerous references, the vast majority of Muslim scholars and jurists, past and present, have determined the minimum requirements for Muslim women's dress:

1) Clothing must cover the entire body, with the exception of the face and the palms.

2) The attire should not be forming fitting, sheer or so eye-catching as to attract undue attention or reveal the shape of the body.

3) It must not be for show-off.

The scholars of Islam said Allah would not order mankind to do something except that it will be of benefit for them.

As in the second verse quoted above, hijab prevents women from being molested by men. Findings have shown that most of the rape cases took place because of the revealing dresses worn by the molested women.

No doubt, in lslam, a woman who covers her body with hijab is portrayed as a responsible woman who commands respects from the society. The opposite is the case for half dressed women.

Muslim women, who wear the Islamic dress, work and study without problems or constraints and they perform very well in their places of work and schools. So, wearing of hijab has nothing to do with low productivity or failing an exam.

Hijab is worn as obedience to Allah and it is not true that it is usually forced on them as Muslim women know full well that it is a command of the Almighty which must not be discarded by them.

This probably was the reason why Muslims parents, especially in South west recently called on their various governors to allow their female children to wear hijab in the schools.

Muslim parents in the South-west under the umbrella of the Joint Muslims' Action Forum (JOMAF) called on governors Raji Fashola of Lagos, Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo, Segun Mimiko of Ondo, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun to allow female Muslim to don hijab in schools.

This call we can say is in order considering the stated verses and hadiths about the important of hijab among Muslims women.

Chief Missioner, Ansar-ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Abdurrahman Ahmad urged governments to respect rights of female Muslims by allowing them to use hijab in schools as well as at places of work.

"The continuous demand of this right by the Muslims should not be seen as act of militancy because we have been civil enough in going about it and we never close the chapter of dialogue to achieve this purpose," he said.

Hijab for a Muslim woman is part of her religion and the constitution guarantees every citizen the right to worship, in as much as there is freedom of religion.

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