For many, it was surprising. The Asantehene isn’t a Muslim. So, they wonder why he would wear a cloth bearing Arabic inscriptions, specifically the name of Allãh.
The cloth is named “hye; wɔnhye”, which loosely translates to “burn; it won’t burn”. It’s a traditional cloth worn only by the Asantehene and the Nsumankwahene, the King’s chief Medical Adviser.
Muslims and Asantes have enjoyed a cordial relationship for centuries. Birthed through trading activities, the relationship dates back to the 17th century. The two groups have since coexisted peacefully.
When Kumasi became the capital of Ashanti and housed a large population of Muslims, the Muslim migrants earned a seat at the palace — a clerical position and also provided religious services to the Asantehene and the Kingdom.
Eventually, the Muslim migrants got incorporated into the Ashanti political entity.
And because some of them bore qualities that could help in the running of the kingdom, the Asantehene often sought their advice on matters bordering on commerce and statecraft. Descendants of the migrant Muslims would later become known as Asante Nkramo.
This inter-ethnic relationship begot some Islamic influence on Ashanti tradition and culture.
The Kingdom chose from among the Muslim an Imam referred to as Ohene Kramo, whose office exist till date in the Kingdom, according to a story published on The Kingdom of Asante Facebook page.
In the Asante culture, clothes are not always ordinary fabric used only for purposes of covering one’s body. Some are symbolic and are worn to make statements, often about self, spiritual wellbeing, status in society, among others.
The “hye; wɔnhye” is no exception.
In black “ink”, with Arabic inscriptions bearing the name of Allãh printed all over the cloth, the “hye; wɔnhye” is believed to offer some spiritual protection to the wearer of it, in this case the Asantehene.
It is instructive to know that the “hye; wɔnhye” is made by the Ohene Kramo, the Asantehene’s personal Imam. After the cloth is made, the Nsumankwahene takes delivery of it and present to the Asantehene.
The cloth is said to be worn on secret occasion such Bosombrafoɔ da, Atanofoɔ da and some other such occasions.