Thoughts Lead To Appreciation
As a teenager, I was very impressed by African-American history and undertook an immense research into this. It led me to the anti-slavery movement, to the civil rights era, to Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It On The Mountain”, etc. I even wrote a school assignment titled Race, Racism and The Mass Media which did not go down well with my white teachers.
There was a movie on the autobiography of Malcolm X, a Spike Lee-directed movie, starring Denzel Washington as Malcolm X and Angela Basset as Dr Betty Shabbaz, Malcolm X’s wife.
I bought the book the Autobiography Of Malcolm X compiled by the eminent author Alex Haley and watched the movie at the cinema along with my younger siblings. I feel so nostalgic to remember this episode in my life.
The autobiography had some content on Islam and I was curious to know more and had a discussion with a couple of friends, both of whom were Muslims and Africans. One, a girl said, “Islam oppresses women”.
I heard that quite a bit from almost every Muslim girl I came across in the first few days after I became a Muslim. AlHamduliLlah, my ears do not function properly; they have a 99% dysfunction! This feature – my independence in thought and actions – is equally very valuable these days in my opposition to Muslim women and their “hell of a life”.
The other a boy said “The Qur’an remains the only Revelation that has retained its original form”. That did it for me. I promptly bought a copy of the translation of the Qur’an by A J Arberry, and studied it back-to-back, page-by-page. By the time I reached the last Ayah (Verse) I believed! AlHamduliLlah.
That was the commencement of my cruise to Allah, two decades ago at the age of 16.
Prior to this my sole exposure to Islam was as a preteen, through openly-identifiable Muslims; to Hausa-Fulani street beggars and their counterparts from Chad who lined the railroad leading to the market in my city in the East of the Nigeria, to coup plotters-turned Heads of State and to a noble statesman.
The statesman I held in esteem – I vividly recall the shock on my mum’s countenance after asking me whom she should vote for and my response was “NPN” – the coup plotters in indifference and the beggars in empathy implicit and expressed through the little money I could squeeze from the shopping budget. Ironically, my six years in Sokoto, a Hausa-Fulani domain has been a real pain in the Niqab. Well, the beggar is now the land owner.
Naturally, there were some portions of the Qur’an that had the greatest impact on me. To be precise, these were three distinct aspects of the Qur’an that dealt with male-female interactions.
The first to hit me was: “Men have a degree above women”. My instant reception of that was, “NOOOOOO!” Until that moment, I considered the male gender grossly inferior to me, after all I out-scored them in everything, in academics, in intellect and even in soccer, yes SOCCER! The second was polygamy.
In my conversations with Allah in those early days, I eventually conceded the first. “All right!” I said, for I understood the difference in gender roles was not comprehensive in all aspects of life. I could still give the male gender a good run for their money. Academic excellence and superiority in worship were among parts of life not affected by this Ayah.
The second was not binding on the man and hence not binding on me. A man is free to marry another spouse, but he will have to let me move on first.