Writing Competition 2022: Walking Naked

Q logo.jpg

Article by: Editor

Publication date:

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Written by Rehema Zuberi (ResH)

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment…

(Qur’an 24:31)

The hands of men have been laid on me. Their voices have called out to me in hisses as if I am a snake. In the instances they sent out their greetings and I did not answer, they blasted out insults to crush my psyche. When they were within touching distance, they stretched out their hands to grope the parts of my body calling out to them, simply because I am of a different make. My reaction to all these was expected to be calm, a smile in return for the harassment as if they were doing me a favour. Better yet, take the criminal hand and shake it in appreciation. 

I did not wake up one day and decide to stop wearing the hijab. It took months of trying on baggy jeans and loose-fitting tees with long-sleeved jackets and shirts to cover my arms to maintain my modesty in the face of Islam. This was after an incident in the middle of Nairobi CBD where no one ever comes to assist.

I was draped in my hijab; dark buibui to cover the length of my body, a headscarf to hide my hair from prying eyes, and socks to shield my ankles from arousing any desires in podophilics. My face and hands were the lone parts of my body barely even visible. And yet, on that street, I was spanked. My punisher proceeded to walk right past me as if he had done the most natural thing in the world.

While I was still rooted in my steps, trying very hard to take in my shock and not to scream, the man staggered his way ahead of me to land his hands on yet another woman’s behind!

I watched her turn around equally horrified but at the same time, unable to do anything as he wobbled away. By form, the male species has been created to tackle more strength than ourselves. I wanted to walk up to her and apologise for what she had been subjected to. I wanted to explain that I too had been grossly disrespected, just a few seconds before her. The misfortune, I wanted to point out, had nothing to do with any of our modes of dressing. All it took was the entitlement he had to our bodies, in clothes. 

The worst bit about being human is the onlookers. Fellow pedestrians, who like the police system, have learnt to mind their business because they don’t want to intervene in “homely” affairs. The guards manning shops with their marungu but not bothering to treat harassment as the robbery of dignity. Everyone for himself, and God above for all of us.

We could blame it on the drink, now that I was dressed according to the moral standards and no one can come lashing with the, “What were you wearing?” to justify that the man was on the right. I, on the other hand, provoked his actions with my presentation.

Before Valentine’s Day, a year after the Coronavirus pandemic struck the world, I walked to the salon to get my hair coloured a bright purple. I walked out into the world with the screaming hue, my shoulders showing and my cleavage teasing. For the first time in the two decades marking my life, there was no covering on my head.

Inside, I was beating myself up for abandoning the religion I have known all my life which dictates that hair is part and parcel of my nakedness. Outside, I was exerting the confidence only those bold enough to dye their hair in unconventional colours can muster. All the while, I was counting the number of times angels were cursing me for every strand of hair that was being seen by the lingering eyes of my non-mahram.

In a hadith, The Prophet (Pbuh) mentions, 

….Their women will be dressed, yet naked; on their heads will be like the humps of lean camels; do curse them, for they are truly cursed.

I still get comments from people who refuse to see me in my new light. “Why did you stop wearing the hijab?” “Are you no longer a Muslim?” “How do you expect to secure a God-fearing husband when you are displaying all your beauty to other men?”

To them, I giggle. There are no words I could conjure that would make them understand that I am trying to break free of the expectations of a religion that was beating me down. I want to feel the wind in my hair. I want the sun to worship my skin with its rays directly. I want to do my nails in colourful paints with finishes of glitter. I want to walk in tall heels threatening to break my foot support while hurting my knees. I want the world to be my runway and I, its top model. I want to dare to be seen for I have lived in the invisibility cloak, my hijab. 

My headlines after they attack will probably read, “She used to be a good Muslim girl until she changed and started ‘asking’ for it.”


  • Buibui: a long gown, especially black, worn by Muslim women
  • Marungu: The Swahili word for clubs/impact weapons
  • Mahram: a member of one’s family who you are not allowed to marry such as your brother, father, grandfather, etc.


Rehema Zuberi (ResH) is a girl existing in the physical realm of books. She is fond of words but will rarely be heard voicing a bunch equalling what she consumes. When not writing, reading, dancing or exploring the outdoors, ResH enjoys comedies without background laughter.