The hijab between the lawful and the lawless – Part II



In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent the Merciful
O Prophet! tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused…(Q33:59)

And it came to pass, Dear Brethren, that our sermon of last week elicited passionate responses from our compatriots. One of such responses is that from an anonymous reader who accused me of an indulgence in a farcical display of bigotry and inanity. Another one disagreed with the word ‘lawless’ which I made use of as a tool in my analyses of the issue of hijab in Osun. He was of the opinion that my analyses bordered on sentiments and an empty display of self-righteousness.

But I thought the arguments I pleaded in that sermon last week were clear enough. I thought it was self-evident that when an aggrieved party resorted to threat of violence instead of seeking redress for a perceived infringement in a court of law, there is no way we can describe such an infraction other than lawlessness. Remember the great legal icon, Gani Fawehimi. He it was who said it would be unlawful to be lawful in a lawless society. If this is true, I believe you would agree with me that it would be unlawful to be lawless in lawful society. I enjoin my traducers to ponder this dictum more closely.

Again since last Friday, there has been an improvement in the situation at hand in Osun State. An interested party in the hijab brouhaha has gone to the Appellate Court to seek an invalidation of the judgment of the High court. When I heard the news of the turn of events, I did some soliloquy; I said to myself: “Good! That is being lawful in a lawful society”. The Muslim Students demonstrated this in Lagos State last year when they proceeded to the Appellate Court to seek redress of a judgment of a High Court which had ruled that wearing of hijab is unlawful. Unlike the situation in Osun, Muslims in Lagos did not seek to ‘occupy’ Lagos; they did not accuse Governor Ambode of orchestrating a campaign to ‘Christianize’ Lagos. It was a case of “the lawful being lawful in a lawful” society.

But Nigerians need to be reminded of the circumstance of Muslim students in most government schools in the Southwest. This is a region where all schools are deemed by law to belong to government but are de facto still under the ‘spiritual’ supervision of their former ‘owners’. These are schools where morning assemblies are still being conducted in line with the dictates of a particular religion and for which strict adherence is demanded notwithstanding the provision of Section 38 of the Nigerian constitution. I remember that as a student in that Grammar School during the late 1980s, I had to go to school every day, not with my Quran but with my Songs of Praise. I remember I had to sing His Holy Name every morning; I chanted “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” more than I did Surat al-Fatihat! Brethren, schools which are still deemed to belong to ‘us’ not to the government in the Southwest usually get the best students from all admission exercises. A senior colleague on campus here told the story of how his choice to go to that school where pedagogy and theology are structured in line with the faith of his parents were frustrated just because he was one of those who scored high marks when the results of the entrance examinations were released. Up till today he has not ceased wondering how his name appeared not in the school of his choice but in the school of “their” choice.

While the above facts are incontrovertible, equally incontestable is the curious intervention of the fifth estate of the realm on the issue of hijab. In other words, the hijab issue has taken some columnists in the print media to previously uncharted waters. These are writers who now desire to ‘unveil’ the Veil’; these are writers who have become attracted to the ‘hijab’ the same way the West was fascinated by the so-called Orient during the medieval period.

While the Western fascination for the Orient ultimately led to what is known in cultural studies as Orientalism, it remains to be seen whether the non-Muslim’s ‘exploration’ of hijab would lead to another field that would be tagged ‘hijabism’. But I guess hijabism as a field of study is already here.

Perhaps we may even refer to it as ‘hijabology’. Its theoretical framework is hinged on the slippery intellectual postures of such American scholars like Karem Armstrong, Reza Ashan and Leila Ahmed. Karem and others hold that wearing of the hijab is not compulsory after all. To some arm-chair scholars of Islam, whatever the American says is the new gospel in town, Americans say hijab is not compulsory, so it is not compulsory! But we all know that the more American or Western you become, the more the possibility of the sacred becoming profane.

Thus, dear brethren! keep this in mind always: whatever a ‘scholar’ says in matters of Islam is nugatory insofar as the Quranic injunctions on same are unambiguous. If Saudi Arabia were to say the hijab is not compulsory on Muslim women today, such would be seen to be jejune and invalid insofar as the Quran remains unchanged and unchangeable.
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  • Nathaniel Msen Awuapila

    Prof. Afis Oladosu,
    Good morning sir.
    I reviewed your article in today’s Guardian – “The hijab between the lawful and the lawless – Part II”. Thank you for writing.
    I believe that difficult as it may be for persons in either religious inclinations to throw off suspicion when discussing religious issues, you are pursuing a just cause and you need to be heard to the end before raising an alarm. I have learned over the years that people’s responses to facts and issues are based more on their perceptions and attitudes than on the bare truth. I have also learned that this happens because people seem to perceive that perceptions and attitudes impact behaviour more than truth. Hmnn…
    On another note, sir, I have also observed that many people who were brought up in a religious environment where the parents or guardians felt that they “had to” DEFEND THEIR RELIGIOUS TRUTH AGAINST SPIRITUAL INVADERS tend to be defensive about their beliefs rather than interrogate to discover the greater truth behind the doctrine. Socrates of old always taught that people should seek to know the truth, and above all he would say: “Man, know thyself”. How many of us care about the truth today? Rather, we spend a life-time defending doctrine or our doctrine about the doctrine. In the end we scour around for scriptural verses that we believe can justify our claims. However, all known scriptures of various religions aver that God is not a liar. In my opinion, sir, believers should, therefore, seek the truth first. Doctrine is important, but often doctrines are culture- and time-sensitive. Eventually, time forces even the die hard doctrinaire to make necessary adjustments. Understanding and realising the power of doctrine and its inherent weaknesses is, therefore, important for all believers.
    So, thank you sir. Hopefully, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
    Nathaniel Msen Awuapila
    Secretary General SPSP

    • Taofeeq Yekinni

      At the end of the day. You seem to do exactly what you implicitly accused the Professor of guilty of! Your expression is truly a reflection of your bias. I guess you are smart enough to notice that.

      • Nathaniel Msen Awuapila

        I didn’t realise that what I wrote would be interpreted as “accusation”. But thank you for your observation, Yekinni.