Clapping with Both Hands
Thank you all so much, I have definitely enjoyed today's presentation and
learned so much from all of the speakers who have spoken. I always like to give credit to
NASFAT for helping me to memorise Suratul-Mulk. When I lived in Nigeria many years ago,
I used to go to NASFAT gatherings on Sundays in Alausa then. Every Sunday they would read
Suratul-Mulk and before I knew what was happening, I knew it by heart. So, this is an
organisation that's very dear to my heart.
I want to start by telling you a story. Something happened to me April 8, 2018, my husband
and I, who is also the co-owner of our farm in America, were going to sign a leased agreement
a land lease agreement with a couple who owned 23 acres. This couple, they are white, and you
know, we've been talking to them on the phone and they finally were going to let us lease their
land. When we got there, the woman stepped forward and took charge of the entire
conversation. She was the one telling us okay this is what you can do, this is what you cannot
do this is where you should sign and the husband was just quiet, he didn't say a thing. At some
point she said “well, I need to also sign this not just my husband because if he dies, I need to
know what my rights are or my obligations.
When we left there, my husband and I were just laughing. We were like “what! She said if he
dies” and in Nigeria it'll be like oh so you're trying to kill me. First of all, she won't be the one
taking the lead in terms of having that discussion in Nigeria. In most places in Nigeria at the
same time even if she took the lead, she wouldn't be talking about well I'm also going to sign
because in case he dies. Many of us with our cultural baggage and what we confuse to be
religious baggage think “oh my God she's trying to kill him and trying to, you know amass all
this wealth”. My husband and I were making fun of that situation. Something said to me that
you know that's not a Nigerian thing that is some cultural baggage that we as Nigerian Muslims
should know that is not even the way of Islam. We should understand that Islam as a religion
has given women an elevated status. So when this topic was chosen for me to speak, I said “let
me give some examples of how Islam has elevated the status of women” and the first thing I
want to say is that Islam tells women that we must be boss ladies, serious boss ladies, as in
getting that money.
For those of us who are Yoruba and grew up in Lagos, you know those women in the
Mashalashi area in Lagos that were selling lace and gold and commanding money, that's who
we are. What is my proof for saying that this is who we are? The Prophet Muhammad (SAW),
his job before he became a prophet was to work for somebody. He had an employer, who was
the employer? It was Khadijah. So, the very first Muslim happens to be our example of who a
boss lady is, who a woman is. In Islam, not only did she have a job that could employ him, she
also was able to fund his mission. If we want to build a nation, we need boss ladies and we
need men who are not afraid to allow those boss ladies to shine, because not only as my
‘oyinbo’ landlord and landlady showed us that women can and should step forward on behalf
of their families, the Prophet Muhammad also showed us in the way he related with his own
wife. So every time people tell me oh you should be in the background you should not do this
you should not do that, I say “what is your precedence?” because my precedence is from
Khadijah the ultimate boss lady and her husband who said it was okay.
Another thing that we must be is emotional support system. We cannot build a nation without
individual family units being supportive spaces. Our men have to know that when they come
home, when they're at home either as husbands, as brothers, as fathers, they have a support
system and you as a woman are that support system. Again, where is my proof from? It's from
Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet (SAW), when he first got the very first sign of prophethood
that he did not even know what this was, who did he go to? Who did he run to from the cave?
He didn't go to his best friend, he didn't go to some other man in the market square, he didn't
go to the beer parlor, he didn't go to where men hang out at the best of really newspapers, he
went home to his wife. As a man, he didn't think oh this is such big deal that I shouldn't be
talking to a woman about it. No, that's not what he did, he went home to that woman who was
his rock, his support. And at the time when the Prophet Mohammad (SAW) was not sure if the
person who was appearing to him was Angel Jibril or if he was the devil, who did he tell? He
told Khadija and then after doing some things and saying sit on this knee, sit on this knee sit
on my laps, she said to him “your character is good, you're a truthful person, you're a good
person, Allah will not forsake you”, even took him to her uncle.
Let's think about that in Nigerian context today. Imagine you as a man, many men who are on
this call, something happens to you at work that you're not sure about, the first people you call
may be your boys. But the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has showed us that the first person that
he called, that he picked up the phone, the literal phone in those days to call was his wife, his
support system. But you know I don't want to just lay the blame of not calling your wife on the
men now because I know there's a lot of blame to go around there. Let's talk about the women;
are you the one that can be called? Are you the one that when your husband says, “you know
this is where I think I should go vision wise”, are you really there? Or you say “abeg, please
just leave that one”, “what are you saying?” who? You ke? There's going to be no prophet after
the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), but there will be mission that Allah will send your husband
to execute. If he then trusts you with that mission, if he trusts you with that errand, are you
pooing all over it or are you ready to stand there as a support system like our mother Khadija
(may Allah be pleased with her) did. That is a question that I want you to ask yourself.
Now, even if it's not a wife-husband relationship, let's talk about father-daughter. I always say
this, if you've been to any of my events, I say the whole time that a woman needs only two
men; the father who teaches her how to use the wings that Allah created her with already, we
were born with those wings as women, that's why women can multitask forever and ever, and
the partner who doesn't try to click those wings. And I dare say that because of our cultural
baggage and what a lot of our men confuse as religion which today I'm hoping that in this next
15 minutes I'm going to tell you that it's not our religion.
A lot of men have become wing
clippers, the father will have talked to the woman, or well some good fathers have taught their
daughters how to use their wings and then you go and marry this man who tries to clip it
because he's trying to compete, compete for what? Allah has already given each person their
sustainers, given each person their job, why are you competing?
I always tell people, I don't compare men and women because until a man can come and get
pregnant for nine months, have a baby and breastfeed the baby naturally then we can talk about
comparison. Until I see a snake or even a dog and I don't run away instead I call my husband
and say, “hey hey”. I saw a mouse one day in my house, I called my husband to come back
from the farm to come and catch the mouse. We all have our different roles, but those roles
must clap, must support, our family units must be supported first.
Another thing about cultural baggage that I won't talk about is a very common Nigerian thing
and you know, forgive me I’m Yoruba so, I'm not sure if this is the same thing in other parts
of Nigeria but i know it's a Yoruba thing. People when they think about inheritance, their heirs,
they're thinking about a boy. If your wife has a baby and the baby is a girl child, you don't think
you have an heir yet. Who will carry my child, my name, you already think “oh my God, a
girl? What am I going to do with the girl? So, I want to go to the Sunnah, and I want to go to
the Qur’an. The first place I wanted to go is that the Prophet Muhammad had only one surviving
child and that child was a girl. I think Allah did this on purpose for all of us, for all of us who
would wake up and say, “oh all I have are girls”, they say Mama Abigail. So therefore, the man
should go find another place where he can get a boy. That's not our deen, that's not our deen
because the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) left one child and that child was female.
The second thing is, also from the Prophet Muhammad's (SAW) life; Aisha, remains the source
of so many Islamic laws today. As soon as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) died, this was a
major reference point and remains a major reference point, a woman again. Then third let's talk
about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Two things that I like to talk about in her time; when her
mother the woman from the Imran tribe got pregnant, she was thinking that that child was going
to be a boy, she was going to make that child a Rabbi in the Jewish temple. Then she had the
child and then she said “oh my God I've had a girl” because at that time women were not
allowed to be, you know Rabbis. But Allah says in the Qur’an that He knows what she had,
Allah who knew that from this girl that she had there was going to be a whole movement, a
whole revelation. Another reason I love to refer to the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus is
that, it was her and the way that Allah was relating with her and she was releasing with Allah
that made Zakariya, an old man with a barren wife dare to ask Allah for a child. This man was
already past his prime, his wife was already proven to be barren, but because he saw Mary the
mother of Jesus and how Allah was relating with her and she was relating with him and saw
miracles happening; getting fresh dates in the place where there should be no dates, he had the
audacity to ask Allah for a child.
Another person that I want us to go to is Musa, Mufti Menk
talked about this a little bit. He got a job because he helped with it, many of us will keep on
missing our breakthrough in life, why? Because we just look at the women and we just, you
know, Yoruba people will say “a foju pa won re”. I don't know how to say that in English, but
you know, you just ignore them, you just ignore the woman like she's not even there.
I come to nigeria a lot and I go to some places and people will just look through you. And
they're like “this one!” Not only do they look through you because you're a woman, then we
look through people because they're not married. I want to say that now, the women that Musa
(ASW) helped at the watering hall, they weren't married. They got him a job. One of them
married him and then also helped to foster his mission.
Let's not, men now, I'm talking to the
men, let's be very mindful how we look at our daughters, let's be very mindful how we look at
female colleagues, let's be very mindful how we look at female females in our lives period.
Another thing that women have done, another nation that was built, I want to say that the nation
of Israel was built by women, how? Asia, the wife of the wicked Firaoun was the reason was
the one Allah used to raise Musa such that not only did he stay alive because she took him, she
also was able to, you know when you live in the house of your enemy, modern day spy, he was
also able to be in that house where he was able to then liberate the children of Israel. This is
how women who were blessed, who were mentioned at the time of the Prophet Muhammad
(SAW) has been blessed were treated. This is the role that they played in their communities.
Let's talk about participation in politics now. I was very happy when Mufti Menk was talking
about politics. Let's talk about persuasion and politics. I want to start with Umm Nuseyba bin
Kaha, during the battle of Uhud, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “everywhere I turned in
that battle, I saw Nuseyba”, everywhere he turned “she was protecting me, everywhere.” This
was, I dare say one of the first generals.
There were men in that battle, but she was there
protecting the mission, protecting the nation, protecting what today we are now very proud of.
Allah used her. So, now even if we're not even talking about fighting wars, let's talk about you
know right now Nigeria at 60 we're in a battle for the soul of our nation, we're in a battle for
progress, we're in a battle to lead the third world into the first world world. In that battle where
are the women? Where are the women? One of my friends told me last week she said, “I would
like to run for office in Nigeria”, I said “please don't run for office in Nigeria”, why? Because
there's just so much violence and there's just so much, people would offer you all kinds of lewd
things, even people who are supposedly Muslims. I took part in one of the, when Nigeria was
transitioning to democracy. In one of the years, I would not say which year but I flew to Nigeria
with my own money to try to help and I wrote a paper that I wanted to copy what we have as
teachers for America, in Nigeria to help unemployed youth and one man who I thought was
going to help me pass this on to the new government actually told me that if I didn't date him,
he wouldn't pass my paper. I said, “well then forget it”, but this is what we're doing when
women want to be our own stay by Nigeria to be the ones to be defending, they're offering
them to be unfaithful to their spouses. We are offering them zina, we're offering them violence.
This is not what should be and us as women as well, where are we? Where are we when a
company is being built? Where are we when a local government is being built? Where are we
when it comes to speaking the truth? We need to step up some more, because this is what our
own ancestors did.
I also want to talk about, there was a lady when the Muslims were migrating from Mecca to
Medina this woman her name is Asma, she was one of the migrants and she said she asked the
wives of the Prophet. She said that “are the women even mentioned in the Qur’an in any way?”
and people were like no I don't think they’re mentioned. She went to the Prophet Muhammad
(SAW) and asked, “why is that men are mentioned when it comes to righteousness, men are
mentioned when it comes to this and that men are mentioned when it comes to, you know all
of the good things with Islam, where are the women?” Why are the women so short-changed?
She said, “the women haven't been mentioned in righteousness the same as men and the women
are just hopeless and short-changed”. The Prophet (SAW) did not answer, he waited for
inspiration and Suratul-Ahzab, Qur’an chapter 33 ayah 35 was revealed, “for men and women
who have surrendered their will to God, for men and women who believe, for men and women
who are devout, for men and women who are honest” and so on and so forth. That ayah is my
own proof that Allah sees women as the other half of the hand that can clap, because Allah has
said that He has promised, what He promised at the end of that ayah that He has prepared
forgiveness and a great reward is for men and women not just men alone.
So, in conclusion I'd like to say that for us to build our nation, we have to shatter some of the
myths that we've grown up with, we have to remove some of the biases that we have, some of
us don't even know we have these biases. I want to speak straight into the camera and speak to
the men right now; some of us don't know that we've been raised with this cultural baggage,
some of us think that oh I'm weak if I allow my daughter to shine, I'm weak if I allow my wife
to shine. I want to tell you that that's not Islam, Islam allows women to step up, to speak up
and to act up and I hope that the men who are the dominant party in a lot of things that we're
doing right now in Nigeria would understand that you don't shine because your wife is dull, no.
If you allow your wife to shine to do what God has sent her to do, even you shine. May Allah
grant us forgiveness, may Allah grant us a nation that we can be proud of, may Allah build
Nigeria for us and may Allah grant us men and women who are righteous, who believe and
who make Nigeria a better place. As-salam alaykum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.
- Temitope Fajingbesi-Balogun, NASFAT Youth Global Seminar - 2020