Importance of Hijab in Islam and what Aden Duale actually meant

Muslim women wearing hijab and a mask along Moi Avenue Nairobi on April 11, 2020. [ Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Defence CS Adan Duale stated at the International Quran Competition at Sir Ali Muslim Club: "The government will respect Muslim culture. We will make sure our girls wear hijab. If you have a problem with our girls and wives wearing hijab, you better leave this country because they will wear hijab".

Hijab is the Muslim dress code which governs the area or part of the body that must be covered with appropriate clothing while in public or in the presence of others. This code applies to both male and female. There are varying degrees of what part of the body can or cannot be exposed. Muslim women are expected to wear a loose dress that covers their heads, body and trails just below the ankle while in public.

The CS's words have been reported in sections of the media as: "Aden Duale to Kenyan Muslim women: Wear hijab in public or find another country to live".

It is not lost on any of us that the government is not responsible for enforcing any religious beliefs or practices. The CS was simply telling those who are unhappy with Muslim women wearing Hijab to go hang.

Hijab, like many other religious practices, is a matter of choice. Some Muslim women wear it while others don't. In Kenya, this does not even fall under Personal Law. There are some who claim the CS's remarks might motivate overzealous men to harass non-hijabis or women who do not wear the hijab. This clearly is taking the matter out of context.

What does Islam say about Hijab? Islam prescribes that once a girl attains puberty, she should not expose her body while in the presence of non-male relatives except her face and palms. Institutions that do not allow Muslim girls to wear Hijab therefore deny them their religious right.

The responsibility of teaching religious beliefs to children and nurturing them lies with parents. Once a child becomes an adult, parents are charged, through stewardship, to influence adherence to Islam since an adult is responsible for their actions in front of the Almighty.

If one comes across inappropriately dressed person, Sharia prescribes they lower their gaze. The concept of Hijab provides a religious identity while prescribing modesty far from objectifying our bodies.

The Quran says: "[Prophet], tell believing men to lower their glances and guard their private parts: That is purer for them. God is well aware of everything they do. And to tell believing women that they should lower their glances, guard their private parts, and not display their charms beyond what is acceptable to reveal; they should let their headscarves fall to cover their necklines and not reveal their charms except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, their brothers' sons, their sisters' sons, their womenfolk, their slaves, such men as attend them who have no sexual desire, or children who are not yet aware of women's nakedness; they should not stamp their feet so as to draw attention to any hidden charms. Believers, all of you, turn to God so that you may prosper."

Mr Jaafar is a member of Majlis Ulamaa at Jamia Mosque, Nairobi