The Hijab, The Veil And The Pictures of Mrs. Aisha Ahmad (I)
By : Aliyu Dahiru Aliyu
I have followed with keen interest, the recent battle between two camps of moral police, “misogynists” as they call them, who criticised the pictures of scarfless bareheaded Mrs. Aisha Ahmad, a new appointed deputy governor of CBN, without veil covering her head, and that of freedom fighters, “western puppets” as they label them. Many bloggers and “e-ntellectuals” dropped their views on the tables of social media with various reactions, either supporting her choice not cover her head from the liberalists/secularists side or criticising her stance as a daughter of Islam from the Islamic northern Nigeria from the side of fundamentalists. Mine will be different as an Islamic thinker who is watching from another angle with an eagle eye. Mine will not stop on Aisha alone but will go further to the history and jurisprudence of hijab and veil so as to clear the hazy mist in the air.
It is necessary to look at things realistically. Prophet Muhammad and the success of his enterprise only won as a result of constant attention to reality and its tensions. Our society is turning to be more like the jahili period of Arabs before the advent of Islam. People are turning quickly to calling names and at times using swords and other weapons to settle problems instead of using intellectual engagements. Muhammad was renowned for his ability to absorb tensions and remain calm as a public man with experience in the art of dealing with people. One thing I would like to say is, Muhammad would not use draconian decisions and harsh reactions, as we use today in the north, for a minor case to calling the likes of Aisha a disgrace to the Islamic Ummah! Prophet is the most wisest man ever in history.
Many books on women, hijab and the veil are in circulation among Muslims today. With free PDFs from various websites of “those concerned for the future of women in Islam” on the internet. One will not conduct a herculean task to download many volumes supporting misogyny and covering it with false traditions. With a data bundle of less 100 naira (0.3 dollar) one can download “Kitab Ahkam Al-nisa” (Statutory Provisions Concerning Women) by ultra-conservative Ibn Aljawzi. Some chapters in the book include : “The Benefits for the Women Who Opts for the Household”, “Evidence Proving that It Is Better for a Woman Not to See Men” and “Advise Women Againts Going Out”. With these kinds of titles and subtitles, people could vividly see how participation of women in public prayers were stopped by those who fear women.
You can’t stop a person who reads the likes of Ibn Taimiyya, Ibn Aljawziy and other ultra-conservatives by advocating freedom that he thinks you borrow from the West to demolish Islam and Islamic scholars. Our ignorant friend may thinks that he is defending Islam while he is demolishing it within. The best way to help our ignorant friends is to drag them to an intellectual engagement so that they may know those “pious predecessors” were representing their opinions not Islam as a religion. Ibn Taimiyya in his “Fatwas Concerning Women” (extracted from his voluminous monumental Majmu’ul Fatawa Alkubra) had one chapter detailing “the necessity to veil the face and the hands during prayer”! Not only a piece of cloth to cover her hair but a burqa is needed for a prayer!
For the greatest misogynist in Islamic history, the Nobel Misogyny Prize goes to the Muhammad Hassan Alqannuji for his “Husnl Uswa” where with knowledge of sexology and women psychology covered with weak and fabricated traditions showed “women’s great sexual appetite” (p. 52) and “everything that was reported to us about women’s inability to reason, their lack of ability in all matters concerning religion” (p. 365) and he finally calculated “the number of women among the population of hell” (p. 331). The culture of misogyny is deeply rooted in the ideology of our ignorant friends who think feminism is about europanising Islamic state of northern Nigeria.
This and many more, make us to look back into the history from its beginnings to investigate the meaning of “hijab and veil” and how it evolved through the interpretations in the centuries that followed. As an Islamic thinker, I’m not defending the side of “moral police” or “western puppet”. Mine is to go into the genesis of the problem to see why are we here? Why do we see things through our limited prism of subjectivity? Why Islam is seen as a religion against women? What hijab and veil mean in the year 5 of Hejira? How can we relate it to the case of the scarfless and bareheaded pictures of Mrs. Aisha Ahmad? This is just an introduction.
To be continued…