Refuting The Claim That ‘nigeria Is A Secular State’ And The Hijab’s Position In Islam

By Imam Murtadha Gusau

In The Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

Alhamdulillah, indeed, all praise is due to Allah. We praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from our soul’s evils and our wrong doings. He whom Allah guides, no one can misguide; and he whom He misguides, no one can guide.

I bear witness that there is no (true) god except Allah – alone without a partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad (saw) is His Servant and Messenger.

“O you, who believe! Revere Allah the right reverence, and do not die except as Muslim”. (Al-Imran, 3:102)

O people! Revere your lord who has created you from a single soul, created from it its mate, and dispersed from both of them many men and women. Revere Allah, through whom you demand things from one another and (cherish the ties of) the wombs, indeed Allah is ever watchful over you.” (An-Nisa, 4:1)

“O you, who believe! Revere Allah and say just words. He will then rectify your deeds and forgive your sins. He who obeys Allah and His Messenger have certainly achieved a great victory”. (Al-Ahzaab, 33:70-71)

To Proceed:

Indeed, the best speech is Allah (swt)’s Book and the best guidance is Muhammad (saw)’s guidance. The worst affairs (of religion) are those innovated (by people), for every such innovation is an act of misguidance leading to the fire.

O Servants of Allah! O fellow Nigerians!! O people!!!

Be fearful of Allah/GOD and repent to Him in order to be successful. Indeed successful is the one who fears Allah, and takes provisions from his life for the Hereafter.

Dear Nigerians! Know that, the conflict between truth and falsehood is a definite one which was decreed by Allah to be eternal; this conflict is between the good people and the bad ones, the truth and falsehood and guidance and misguidance.

This conflict is not a new phenomenon; rather it is an ongoing chain of events which has existed throughout the history of mankind. This conflict represents the uprising of good against evil, regardless of the shape it takes, the numbers of people who participated and the amount of military hardware that is used. Indeed this conflict is ever-present regardless of the banner which the evil people and the enemies of peace raise or fight under.

This conflict has its roots as far back as mankind has existed, as we have been informed about in the Qur’an, as reminders, lessons and admonitions.

Fellow Nigerians,

An Ikeja High Court in Lagos state on Friday October 17, 2014 upheld the ban on the wearing of Hijab (Muslim Headscarves) in public primary and secondary schools.

Fellow Nigerians,

Lagos state government under the Administration of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola banned using of Hijab in Government Schools in Lagos… INNA LILLAHI WA INNA ILAIHI RAAJI’UUN!!!

Fellow Nigerians,

Know that, Governor Fashola is a Muslim, and he support the ban of Hijab in Lagos state public schools, the thing that even the Nigerian Constitutions allowed, because it (the Constitution) gave everybody the right to practice his religion (i.e. freedom of religion, thought and worship). No matter what the enemies of peace do in this our beloved country Nigeria, wallahi they cannot off the light which Almighty Allah preserve for us. And everybody should know that Islam, our religion, has its rules and regulations that guide us as Muslims, therefore, please; enough is enough with all these injustices against us please. We want to live peacefully with anybody in Nigeria.

As claimed by the judge who dismissed the use of Hijab in Lagos public school on the ground that section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution made Nigeria a Secular state and that government must maintain neutrality at all times and therefore had a duty to preserve the secular nature of the institutions concerned. It is a pity that the whole Judge, just because she wanted to manipute justice in favours of some people denied Lagos state Muslims their fundamental human right. What a judge who doesn’t know what a Secular is?

The dictionary defines secular as “not connected with spiritual or religious matters”. Also Wikipedia says, “A secular state is the one that supports neither religion nor irreligion”. As we all know, the Nigerian state recognizes and supports Christianity and Islam. Because of that it sponsors people on religious matters like pilgrimage; in Nigeria there are religious houses in state houses; the Nigerian government also declare public holidays to mark religious festivals; as a matter of fact, the phrase “Secular State” is not even used anywhere in the Nigerian Constitution. In the light of all these, how could a Judge base her judgment on secularity of Nigeria when we all know that it (Nigeria) is a multi-religious state?

Fellow Nigerians,

Let me tell you the bitter truth. Even one of the fathers and founders of Secularism and the man who used the term “Secularism” for the first time in about 1846-1851, in person of George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1907) a British secularist, co-operator, and newspaper editor, doesn’t have the right and power to stop the Nigerian Muslim girls and women from using it (Hijab) talk less of one Justice Grace Modupe Onyeabor who dismissed the suit on behalf of the Lagos state Government.

Fellow Nigerians,

Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution provides:

“The Government of the Federation or a State shall not adopt any religion as state’s Religion.”

It is in the light of this Constitutional provision that some people say – Nigeria is a secular state. As a matter of fact, even the phrase “Secular State” is not used anywhere in the constitution. Worse still, there is no any reported Nigerian case so far where section 10 of the constitution (“the secular section”) has been given judicial interpretation.

With this, I am calling on Lagos state government under the distinguished leadership of Honourable Babatunde Raji Fashola to fear Allah and know that, no one should expect that they will take away Muslim’s freedom for free. The way they chose to live; a simple way of their own. How could somebody say that Lagos state Muslims are going the wrong way? And that allowing the freedom of religion for Muslims would affect faithful of other religions? What kind Judgment is this for God sake? Know that, Lagos State Muslims, Nigeria is their country, and they are Muslims who want to live according to the teaching of their religion. Therefore I called on you please, give them their freedom.

Secularism should mean respect for all religions and the non-religions alike in the public sphere. Robbing someone off his/her religious rights in the name of secularism is ridiculous and totally bad. As for my fellow Muslims Brothers and Sisters, we should take this judgment as just a test of our faith. We would remain clam and pursue all legal options available to us. If in a country that expressly states in its constitution that everyone has fundamental rights to practice his or her religion, we have court that threw the constitution to shreds then we have witnessed Jungle Justice.

As we all know, Lagos State was among the blessed states where a person with different religions coexists peacefully, so don’t allow that peaceful coexistence to be lost and disappear. Don’t plunge, throw, or put the state into dangerous religious crises (God forbid) by denying others (Muslims) their God-giving rights.

I also want you to always remember the historic and famous saying of Sir Fredrick Douglas from Washington DC in 1886, who said that:

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails and where anyone class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

May Allah guides and protect us ameen.

Fellow Nigerians,

Hijab for the purpose of my today’s sermon (Khutbah) means head cover and wrapping worn by Muslim women. The broader meaning of hijab is cover, wrap, drape, woman’s veil, partition, barrier etc. The subject of hijab for Muslim women in itself is not a matter of controversy whether the country is Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, America, Britain, France, Australia or Nigeria etc., whether the women cover head and face or head only. We are concerned here with the minimum head cover.

The current revival of Islam, particularly among young people has led to certain problems in the wearing of hijab in the West and in some so called secular countries or secular Muslim countries and also in Nigeria. The following scenarios can be observed:

*In the West

There is some controversy at educational institutions, work places, offices and factories on the wearing of hijab by Muslim women – refer to the case of the French where Muslim girls were prevented from wearing hijabs/niqabs (face covers). And the case of Lagos state Nigeria, where some students have been beaten, disgraced, harassed and molested because they wear Hijab to school. The case of two female nurses who were recently sacked – in part because they wore the hijab – is still also fresh in our memory.    There is also tension in some Muslim homes in Europe, America and Africa on the issue of hijab. The grown up daughters, consistent with current Islamic revival, has started wearing hijab against the wishes of their parents. In some cases you see mummy does not wear hijab but the daughter does!

*In Muslim and the so Called Secular Countries

The revival of Islam had led many women particularly younger and educated women in countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, America, Europe and Morocco into wearing hijab. Some countries are discouraging this trend through secular media, others have gone as far as to ban it by the force of law – at least from government offices, schools, and public areas, (like what we are witnessing and  is happening now in some Nigerian states, especially Lagos state).

The media in the West has turned its propaganda machine to label this revival to wear hijab as ‘Islamic fundamentalism’.

Nowhere Islam has described the wearing of hijab as an act of fundamentalism. Islam has no concept of fundamentalism as propagated by the West and hijab is not a part of it. Hijab is part of an obligatory and compulsory requirement made on Muslim women and girls by an overall Divine Commandment towards guarding their modesty and chastity. One interpretation of what constitutes modesty of dress is long skirt, loose coat and head scarf.

This is minimum requirement. The other is full covering including the face. Modesty in dress in public has profound social, cultural and spiritual significance. It is one of the basic injunctions of Islam on the principle that prevention is better than cure, especially in areas of moral decay of society. Many Qur’anic injunctions are on this basis and with this objective in mind. They have been further supplemented by the Prophet’s Sunnah. It is also one of the reasons among others for the Muslim’s claim that if Islamic principles are applied, many evils of modern societies such as Aids, alcoholism, ruin through gambling, mental disease and discontent, breakdown of family life and sexual perversion can be substantially reduced and in some cases eliminated.

Fellow Nigerians,

Why has Islam made wearing of hijab by Muslim women compulsory while some of the present day Christian society accepts women’s nakedness as a matter of routine? Is the God of Muslims backward? Such questions do perplex and confuses many minds. What follows is an attempt from my humble self to provide some answers:

Fellow Nigerians,

  • Many societies in the past have observed standards of decent conduct in segregating women. They took steps to protect the virtue and honour of their women folk through proper clothing. They also prevented irregular meeting and mixing of sexes.
  • Most Christian women of the past wore some form of hijab. Religious and other paintings of the past show women including the Virgin Mary Alaihas-Salaam (i.e. may the peace and mercy of Allah be upon her) wearing some form of head cover. Women can still be seen wearing head cover in the rural areas of Eastern Europe.
  • Over the centuries, the catholic and other churches have been dispensing new rules, chopping and changing others to suit the vagaries of taste, time and fashion. The church is man – controlled with ever changing man-made rules. With the separation of church from government and rapid decline in morality these rules became more and more lax to deal with moral and social problems of Christians in particular and mankind in general. There is nothing old fashioned about basic morality and decency. Such values are everlasting.
  • Islamic rules on all basic issues, particularly social and moral issues, are Divine rules. Unlike human wisdom, Divine wisdom does not change from time, place to place by its very definition. The basic laws, Commandments and rules given to Muhammad (saw) fourteen hundred and thirty five years ago (1435 A.H.) were applicable till the end of the world.

The wearing of hijab by Muslim women is one of these basic laws confirmed by a broad Divine Commandment requiring modesty of dress, ornament and proper behavior from them to protect their chastity and dignity.

The original Command is as follows:

Allah (swt) says:

“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way). That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is ever oft-forgiving, most merciful.” (Al-Ahzab 33:59)

A further and general Commandment giving Divine guidance on the subject of modesty in dress and required behavior is given in the Qur’an in the following verse:

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their father or their husbands fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” (An-Nur 24:31)

Also in the Hadith, narrated Aisha (R.A) that: “May Allah bestow His mercy on the early emigrant women, when Allah revealed: “and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks, and bosoms)” – they tore their Murut (a woolen dress, or a waist-binding cloth or an apron, etc.) and covered their heads and faces with those torn murut.”

Also narrated Safiyyah bint Shaibah that: “Aisha used to say; when the verse; “and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks, and bosoms)” (v. 24:31) was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their heads and faces with those cut pieces of cloth.” (Al-Bukhari)

Fellow Nigerians,

It is clear from the above verses and the ahaadith that the wearing of hijab is essential if Muslim women are to comply with the requirements of the above verses and ahaadith. Only then can a Muslim woman reflect the modesty of her dress. It is a preventive measure to check the moral decay of society, to prevent adultery, fornication and other social ills of society. Hijab also gives inner and outer dignity to women. Even some peaceful non-Muslims in the West and in many places of the world respect women with hijab. Such a woman in hijab can carry out all her duties and responsibilities as a student, as an officer or manual worker or as a professional with dignity and authority whether she is in East, West or anywhere. It also provides a special and distinctive cultural identity to Muslim women of which they should be proud.

In Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries, women cover both their faces and hand. But it is perfectly proper and within Islamic rules not to cover faces and hands. Islam is not a religion of hardship or rigidity since the purpose of hijab is to protect modesty and chastity not to make it difficult for Muslim women to follow their professions or vocations (and know that if the face was covered it is good).

Fellow Nigerians, My respected people,

Islam attaches a great deal of importance to marriage, children, motherhood and family life. It nevertheless gives complete freedom to women to get higher education, and acquire professional qualifications and training. The only rules to follow here and those lay down by Islam which set standards and boundaries of decency, morality and duty. Hijab is one such boundary.

Servants of Allah,

Wallahi there is no shame in Muslim women wearing hijab in any country, in any place, at any time. The true shame is on Muslim women who do not wear hijab. Muslim women who ignore the religious, cultural and modesty rules of their religion and adopt the fashionable and immodest ways of the West, and unchaste people, at the end they are neither accepted by the West nor respected by Muslims or chaste and responsible non-Muslims.

Muslim Women’s Dress in summary:

(1)       The common guidelines on dress should be taken note of.

(2)       A woman’s dress must conform to several requirements simultaneously, namely:

  • It must cover and conceal the whole of her body except the face and hands.
  • The garments should not be so thin or transparent as to reveal her body.
  • The main garment must be ‘flowing’ one, that is, the woman must avoid tight or clinging clothes which exaggerate or show her figure, or any part of it, such as breasts, legs or arms.
  • Muslim women, in order to safeguard their cultural identity, are discouraged from imitating the dress of unchaste non-Muslim women.
  • In order to maintain their feminine identity women are forbidden to imitate men in dress.
  • It is necessary to avoid clothes that attract the attention of others.
  • Wearing perfume on cloths either outdoors or when meeting strangers indoors should be avoided.

(3)       A Muslim woman’s dress consists of three pieces: a shift, a veil and a cloak.

(a)   Shift: a garment covering the whole body except head, face and hands. It must be long enough so that the woman’s feet are entirely covered. The shift should cover the whole body. Therefore, to limit it to the knees and cover the legs with long stockings is not allowed. The sleeves of the shift should not be wide.

(b)    Veil: the head-dress is a covering to protect and conceal the woman’s head and neck. It cannot be of fine net but may be made of any other material. It also cannot be of transparent material unless the folds make it opaque.

(c)    Cloak: a garment to enwrap the body rests on the top of the head and the shoulders. This helps to conceal the size of the woman’s head and shoulders.

Women’s Shoes:

(1)       Shoes designed or made to be used by men may not be used by women, and vice versa.

(2)       New shoes should be bought as often as needed, if the buyer is financially able, provided that this is done without extravagance and that the purpose of doing so is not arrogance.

(3)       Shoes should be kept tidy and clean, though they should not receive excessive attention.

(4)       The right shoes should be put on first, and when taking them off, the left one first, mentioning God’s name in both cases.

(5)       When putting on shoes, they should be checked to ensure that no harmful insect has hidden in them during the night or while they have not been in use.

(6)       When taking off shoes, they should be placed where they are not likely to disturb others through any unpleasant odour.

Fellow Nigerians,

For your information, the following are the list of Countries with standing bans on the Hijab or Niqabs (Burqas) as reported by the International Business Times and Channel Islam International. And for your surprise, the listing includes two Muslim countries.

  1. France
  2. Belgium
  3. Italy
  4. Italian speaking Region of Switzerland
  5. Denmark
  6. Syria
  7. Turkey
  8. Australia is now on the way. Although Alhamdulillah, the GOOD NEWS reaching us according to BBC Report on Monday October 20, is that, Australia reverses and lifts the ruling of full-face Islamic Veils accessing parliament.

Finally, My respected people, Fellow Nigerians,

I will close my today’s Sermon by reminding you on some of the saying of wisdom as follows:


May Allah (swt) continue to help and assist Nigeria and Nigerians in all their good and righteous endeavours ameen. I am wishing all my beloved Muslim listeners and readers happy and successful New Islamic Hijri year, 1436 A.H. I sincerely wish you many happy and prosperous returns.

This Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today (Jumu’ah) Dhul-Hijjah 30, 1435 A.H. (October 24, 2014) by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi Uvete Central Mosque, Okene, Kogi State Nigeria. He can be reached via 08038289761 for corrections and advice, because your feedback will insha-Allah help us to improve our khutbahs (sermons). Please let us have your useful and meaningful comment and suggestions by writing to [email protected]

Jazakumullah Khairan!