Many have been unaware that over the years, while the “Call to Bar” ceremony has been a source of immense joy to many lawyers and their relatives, it has been a mixture of emotions for conscious Muslim sisters who don the hijab, with sorrow often overshadowing the joy of success.
However, Firdaous’ decision to not just cry and cry but also refused to be stripped nude has brought the issue to the front burner of public discourse.
As with many issues of this nature, there has been a mix of reactions from the public. Many, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, are in support of Firdaous’ action and have called for justice – meaning that she be called to bar, and the practice of asking Muslim sisters to remove their hijab be stopped!
However, many people of different faiths have also raised several questions begging for answers, some well-intentioned, others malicious.
Thus, I wish to answer those questions that I have come across. In doing this, I want to make just one plea to my readers – please put away all your affiliations and appellations momentarily as you peruse these lines. We may disagree on a lot of things, we may be different in a number of ways, but there is one thing that is common to every one of us – humanity!
For the rest of the time that you would be reading this piece, kindly just be human first, before anything else. Thank you!
❓❓ What is the hijab? Is the hijab compulsory?
📚 Answer : Nearly all societies and cultures, both past and present, have had implicitly-known or explicitly-stated minimum dress codes for both its men and women. With these written or unwritten codes in the collective consciousness of a society, wearing anything less is considered “indecent exposure” which is a moral or legal offence. This minimum dress code has often changed with time and place. Islam, like traditional Judaism and Christianity, requires its adherents to observe a minimum dress code in accordance with some of the universal guidelines from its religious sources – the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The Qur’an 33:59 and 24: 30-31 prescribe the minimum acceptable dress code for believing women known popularly known as the ‘hijab’ but which can also be referred to as ‘jilbab’ or ‘khimar’.
Allah made the hijab COMPULSORY for all Muslim women because when Allah revealed the injunction to wear hijab, it was addressed to every Muslim woman: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women,…” (Qur’an 33:59)
❓❓ Some Muslim women don’t wear the hijab at all, does that mean that they are not good Muslims?
📚 Answer: The reason some Muslim women don’t wear hijab is the same reason some Muslims don’t pray, and the same reason some Muslims still engage in prohibitions like alcohol consumption, fornication and adultery, gambling etc.
Based on my observation, any reason that any Muslim would have for neglecting what has been made compulsory or indulging in what has been made prohibited, falls in the following 4 categories:
Ignorance – Some Muslims are either completely ignorant or simply misinformed about some of these injunctions or prohibitions. For instance, some think that wearing hijab is only compulsory for married Muslim women and not for spinsters. Others think as long as their hair is covered, even if it is with as handkerchief, they have fulfilled the hijab. Others believe that the injunction of hijab is meant for a particular region (Arabs only), for a particular time (in the early days of Islam), or for a particular set of people (wives and daughters of the Prophet only). As a result of these misconceptions, many Muslim women do not wear the hijab. This does not however mean that they are excused from the obligation of the hijab, as ‘seeking knowledge (of the religion and other beneficial matters) is compulsory for both male and female Muslims.
Self-Desire – While some Muslim may claim ignorance, the reality is that many know the injunctions and prohibitions, they just choose not to obey. Some feel that they are still young, and would start wearing hijab and praying later in life. Others have been influenced by peer pressure and ‘what the society would say’ that they find it difficult to abide by these injunctions.
Constraints – Some Muslim women know the correct teachings, so they are not ignorant; they also wish to obey these injunctions, so they are not following their self-desires; yet, they do not wear the proper hijab because they are ‘constrained’. Some are constrained because their parents do not allow them, while others are constrained by professional regulations and other obstacles beyond their control. These women are easily recognizable as different from the 1st and 2nd category because they usually make efforts to dress as modestly as possible in line with the ‘constraint’ they have, while finding every means possible to remove the ‘constraint’ completely so that they can wear their proper hijab as legislated by Allah.
Human Nature– Lastly, some Muslim women want to wear the hijab, but are not finding it easy due to environmental and other factors. Wearing hijab in a disapproving society takes a great deal of internal strength, and the company of those who are appreciative of its many benefits. Hence, you may find someone wear hijab tomorrow, but remove it when she attends a party. It takes patience and prayers to follow the injunctions of Allah in such a society as ours.
Please note that I am not judging or condemning Muslim women who do not wear hijab, I am only advancing some of the reasons that they do not. Allah knows best why a particular person does not wear a hijab, and whether this is due to weakness in faith or otherwise. The role of fellow Muslims is not to condemn but to try and advise and enjoin guidance where we can, “with wisdom and goodly exhortation” (Qur‟an 16:125).
❓❓ Other Muslim sisters have been removing theirs for decades, and many still removed their hijab that day. Is she more pious than they are?
📚 Answer : Many Muslim sisters have been removing their hijabs for years now because of the circumstances they found themselves. They have made several attempts at correcting this anomaly, but it has not yielded the desired result. But somebody felt that rather than just crying her eyes out, she would do something about it, and she remained steadfast. Firdaous is not the first person to do such, as she has predecessors in the first set of companions.
The first set of Muslims had to hide their faith because of the persecution from the polytheist. As a result, the Qur’an could not be recited in public. The few companions then continued to recite in hushed tones in the confines of their haven, even though in their heart they wanted to proclaim the message of Allah to their fellow country-men. But one day, Abdullah bin Mas’ud could not take it anymore, and he dared to recite the Qur’an openly at the Ka’bah. He was battered, but he didn’t waver.
Firdaous has sacrificed by remaining steadfast on not removing her hijab, thereby bringing to the fore, what many of these sisters have in their hearts.
Piety is in the heart, and no one can say that someone is more pious than another except the Almighty. Allah said, “…And do not ascribe piety (or purity) to yourselves. He (Allah) knows best him who fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him.” (Qur’an 53:32)
❓❓ Can’t she just compromise?
📚 Answer: There are at about eight conditions that the hijab should fulfill before it can be considered proper hijab, according to Muslim scholars. Ideally, at minimum, the hijab should loose, opaque (not transparent), and completely cover the hair, neck and bossom.
The ‘hijab’ that Firdaous and other Muslim sisters want to wear for the Call to Bar ceremony is already a huge compromise as it does not even completely fulfil the requirements of the Islamic hijab!
In an ideal situation, these sisters would not tuck the hijab into their clothing (as they are tucking it into the collarette) because the hijab is meant to cover their garments, not to be tucked into it!
In an ideal situation, these sisters would not wear a hijab that is tight fitting, showing the shape of their neck and other body parts!
But because this is not an ideal situation, they decide to manage this hijab, as a form of lesser evil, but they are being prevented from using even that! Also, compromising for the said few will mean they can compromise for the rest of their professional careers as they appear in court the way they appear for call. It’s presently unallowed to appear before a judge in hijab except for very few tolerant jugdges, so the agitation is also for them to be able to practise their profession in compliance with their conscience.
Asking Firdaous to remove the hijab she is currently wearing is not asking her to compromise, it is asking her to be nude, because she has compromised enough already – over-compromised even!
❓❓ Is it not just for less than two hours?
📚 Answer : At this juncture, I would like you to imagine this. For Mr. X to appear in public, he would wear his singlet and boxers, then his shirt and trousers along with other accessories. Miss Y usually wears her pant and bra, and then a gown, or skirt and blouse, or trousers and a tank top. Anything she feels comfortable in. Now, they both have to attend a two hour ceremony where they would remove the shirt and trousers or gown at the entrance and remain in the singlet and boxers or pants and bra for two hours in public glare. Both males and females are in the hall, and people are even taking pictures which would thereafter be posted on social media, remain on some people’s phone, and even be printed and saved by some for many years, even after they have put on their clothes. How do you think Mr. X and Miss Y would feel?
Imagine yourself suddenly being forced to remove your clothes and remain in your underwear amongst your colleagues at the office for 2 hours, after you have always come dressed to the office for the past 6 years. How do you feel during those long, harrowing 2 hours? How do you feel meeting your colleagues afterwards, even when you are now clothed?
Let’s be human, it’s not about the duration, it’s just simply unfair!
❓❓ If we allow the hijab, would we allow other religious apparels too (in sutana, barefooted, traditional regalia)? Won’t we ridicule the respected profession?
📚 Answer : As much as I know, at least in Nigeria, only Muslim women who wear hijab, and Catholic nuns who wear the habit appear in it every time they are seen in public! For other religious apparels, such as the ‘sutana’ or ‘aso adura’ worn by some Christian denominations, or the regalia worn by Osun, Sango, Egungun or other traditional regalia; they are worn only when needed for their religious programmes!
You can’t see someone going to the office in her ‘sutana’ for instance, but a lady may change into her sutana at the office if she is attending a church programme after leaving the office.
A Muslim woman who wears the hijab, however, appears in it every day of her life that she is seen in public. It is not a special wear for worship only, but the expected normal day-to-day wear.
As such, the argument that others would want to wear their religious apparel to the Call to Bar ceremony if Muslim women are allowed to wear the hijab is invalid, as their religious dictates does not make it obligatory for them to appear in such apparel every time they appear in public.
Therefore, I would like to implore us all to put sentiments aside and collectively call for Firdaous to be called to bar, and this tradition to be permanently proscribed. Remember that ‘justice for one is justice for all’. It is Firdaous and Muslim sisters today, we don’t know whose turn it would be tomorrow!