If there is any mullah, imam or islamic scholar who thinks that fashion happens by chance and so believes that by merely condemning fashion that falls outside of what is deemed acceptable even by most liberal Islamic standards, I dare such a leader to rethink his/her formula and approach. For such won’t work out the miracle they expect; and it may not matter how much prayers we say regarding that!
The way forward for a Sharia-compliant outfits does not solely rests with imams, mullahs and scholars who think and believe that they have all the answers when it comes to what Muslims wear, women especially. The answers to decent sutra (clothing) aren’t in condemnation on mimbars. For, if you tell people that a type of water is contaminated and so does not meet the best possible standard for drinking, your advice will be thrown back at you unless you point to, (and when not available) provide potable water, the thirst-stricken people will drink whatever there is and make a fool of your counselling.
The answer is in the imams and mullahs working with professionals in many fields in textiles, fashion, designing, commercialising and even modelling.
The outfit we traditionally call HIJAB may go to the market, farm, shop and many other places however, in the form we know it, cannot get to the formal offices. We have made so much productive campaign about sending the girl child to school. And from the few countable numbers in the early nineties and at the turn of the century, the number of Muslim young women vying for some of the basic and advance degrees across universities in Ghana and outside have risen astronomically. In the decades ahead of us, Muslim women in Ghana in careers such as engineering, medicine, international business & commerce, law, teaching, aeronautics journalism, infotech, sports, et cetera are going to be so numerous that when you ask a centenary like the Chief Imam Nuhu Sharubutu about the transition, he would find no appropriate words to describe the phenomenon.
Are we saying that this proud, professional Muslim woman who is looking forward to becoming the most important employee of ABSA-Global, MTN-Global, Microsoft-Africa, to mention but a few loses her right to be attractively attired while decent at the same time?
We need to reinvent the traditional hijab. We need to remake it such that our women, in both formal and non formal sectors, are decently attired but equally pretty and not shabby. We need to start grooming a local breed of fashion and designers who will design for this new class of women and stick the reinvented hijab in the Pentagon, in the Office of the President, in the high offices of the Ministry of Finance, Foreign Affairs, in consulting rooms and dispensaries, in the cockpits of some of the most prestigious airplanes, in international chambers of commerce and finally, in the homes of their husbands.
Imams and mullahs need to admit that on a number of matters, they are clueless and that the guys with the right clues may not be the ones they like or those whose strict sectarian views appeal to them but in the spirit of islamic progress, all need to make sacrifices. Unless we move away from the culture of quickly declaring this and that outfit to be un-Islamic and therefore haram and yet providing little or no working substitute, the young women who will otherwise make us proud and possibly put our names on the New York and London Stock exchanges and become associates in some of the global law firms will wrap themselves in attires that will kill our pride in them.
Unless we do this, and unless this is done immediately, the Ayisha, Amina, Munira and Khadija, whom i have had the privilege of meeting in some of the world class business schools, when they are ready for the jobmarket, might not let the hijab thing stand in the way of their careers. And while we might seem right when we condemn them in their tight dresses, beyond the condemnation, when all the dust settles, we might find some reason to take part of the blame as parents, leaders and opinion leaders for not doing enough to prepare for these crop of young women.
The writer is Mahmud-Mohammed Afimfiwey. He is a policy planning officer, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. You can contact him via his email, afimfiwey@.