Kenya’s Chief Kadhi Ahmed Muhdhar says he will walk out with his head held high even as his tenure comes to an end this year.
Muhdhar, the first Chief Kadhi under the 2010 Constitution, says despite the controversy surrounding the sighting of the moon – which marks the beginning and end of the holy month of Ramadhan, he does not regret standing up for his principles and beliefs.
The Chief Kadhi turns 60 this year and is expected to retire by November.
“I relied on the moon as sighted in East Africa. That is what I have done in the period I have been in office. I am happy with my work,” said Sheikh Muhdhar.
The sighting of the moon has become a controversial and trying topic for Muslim leaders and followers.
The problem is usually sparked by differences of opinion among the faithful, with some like Sheikh Muhdhar relying on local sighting while others determine the beginning and end of Ramadhan by the sighting of the moon anywhere in the world.
Athough, Muslim scholars argue that the faith allows both, Sheikh Muhdhar has had to contend with the differences during his 11 years stint as Chief Kadhi.
“As Muslims in Kenya, our unity has always been our strength. This occurs only once a year but can be frustrating and devastating. I have, however, learnt to be strong and prayed for unity,” he said.
Muhdhar has also had to deal with critics who insist the position of the Chief Kadhi is by design the preserve of Muslims from the Coast.
However, Muhdhar denies the sentiments, explaining that he underwent a rigorous interview that saw him compete with many others before finally getting the job.
“Before the Constitution was promulgated in August 2010, Chief Kadhis were handpicked or appointed. The process these days involves advertising the position. Only people with the right qualifications can be Chief Kadhi,”he charged.
He added that the 2010 Constitution paved the way for the appointment of Kadhis for different regions.
“The position can be taken by a person from any part of the country. You do not have to be from the Coast,” he said.
Sheikh Muhdhar said 15 kadhi positions were advertised recently and urged those with qualifications to apply.
“The Chief Kadhi position will also be advertised when I retire. People need to apply instead of waiting to say it is reserved for particular regions, clans or ethnic communities,” he said.
The Chief Kadhi further added that regional kadhis are from many ethnic communities, and that Northeastern region has produced the highest number of kadhis since pre-2010 Constitution.
“Chances are that my successor will come from the region. The Deputy Chief Kadhi is from Northeastern Kenya. They got the jobs because of their qualifications. Kenyans need not be misled on this matter,” said Muhdhar.
He said it is his wish to see his successor picked form Mt Kenya, Western, Nyanza, Eastern or any other region.