I majored in Religion and Education in my college days and I have noticed one thing, if you don’t aspire to get to know something, that thing will have an advantage over you and you would always be at the losing end. Religions are beautiful and they come with various cultures. When you study religions unlike other courses in college, everyday in class becomes something to look forward to.
Every day you learn something totally different. You get exposed to certain things and you stop following religious leaders blindly. One day I was having a conversation with a friend and he said “Do you know your pastor can make you do something your parents would ask you to do and you would bluntly refuse?” I told him “No!” I told him nobody could make me do anything I wouldn’t do on request of my parents and the conversation died down and we parted ways.
On getting home, I did realise that what he said was the truth. I did realise that many-a-times all we do is fear the unknown. I did realise that I would be obeying the pastor because I felt he was a higher person than my parents were through anointing and God must have possibly told him to instruct me and if I ever disobeyed I would be incurring God’s wrath even if he was a fake pastor. (Now let us be sincere, we have all been in this situation consciously or unconsciously).
When you study religions, you start to understand people the more. You understand where they are coming from, I mean their point of view religious-wise. Frankly speaking I have seen Muslims embrace Christians as their brothers without trying to force a change in their faith and the same goes to Christians too. I have seen instances where Muslims went to worship at the Church and Christians at the Mosque and heaven did not fall, all that fell was love and brotherliness.
In college, every class I took, I knew there was definitely going to be a new story, story of a particular community, their religious ways, how their religion affected the outside world and how it brought people together. I started understanding why the Muslim sisters had to cover their hair and face. I loved the mystery, it was exciting. At first, I wasn’t all so comfortable with the outfit because all my life, I had been raised against liking the purdah and my mum would say then that they were ‘Ojuju Calabars’ (Scary people that come at you in the night/dark), but when I got to College and started getting knowledge about them, I felt alive, it didn’t excite me though because I don’t see me ever covering my head except in church but I loved how dedicated they were to it. They were very dedicated.
In my part 1 days, there was this beautiful Muslim lady, always on scarf though, but not totally covering up, she was a friend to my best friend and I, we loved her. Though a Muslim, she dressed attractively. The bag was always matching the clothes and shoes, in fact, she made us want to tie scarfs too. All of a sudden in part 3, we saw a Purdah in class, and I told my friend, “does OAU admit people in 300 level?” She was as confused as I was because we had never had a Purdah in class before, just reverends, theologians, traditionalists, Imams and the regular people.
After the class, the Purdah called my name and I almost went into a frenzy, like did she just call me? Does she know me? Where could she possibly know me from? While all that was in my head, a male course mate started laughing and told me it was Waliyat, and she had finally covered up.
I was hurt, my best friend was hurt too. How could she cover up all that fashion spirit? How could she let down the world like this? It felt to us, like she had embarked on a selfish journey, not thinking of how we were going to feel walking with a Purdah on campus, but ALAS! She didn’t care. She explained to us why it had to be done and we understood her perfectly.
Though we were never as close as before, and she no longer had the fashion spirit we loved about her, she never stopped carrying those bags people, the bags never stopped being designers and the shoes, classy!
Why did we understand her reason for becoming a Purdah? Because we were scholars, religious scholars not fanatics. We understood that there was a reason behind her covering up as regards her religion, so we didn’t discriminate her for it and we never stopped checking out those bags ;-).
Some other time too, we argued in class about God creating women and it became tough it almost turned into a fight. The lecturer happened to be a woman, and we got on this exciting topic about the creation story and all of a sudden we were onto Genesis 2:22, the part that spoke about God creating woman from the rib of the man and the argument began. Some guy looked at me and said “You’ll be forming ‘mamaz’, look at the Holy Bible now, it said you were created from my rib” and then he referred back to Genesis 2:18 and he called me “Omo Odo” in Yoruba language, which when translated to English means, ‘House-maid’.
Boy! I went furious. I told him I agreed that I was created from man’s rib but not his, because he was a woman. I told him what God meant in Genesis 2:18 was that He was going to create a friend, a supporter, companion to assist man in his activities that he may not be alone and not a subordinate or a slave.
He went all crazy on me, laughing hysterically, I began to wonder if he was losing it or just trying to get at me. This argument went on for an hour and half, even the lecturer was into it. She was a woman and she took the female side. Then a Professor came in, heard the different sides to our stories and said “According to research, Genesis 2:18 which says “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man be alone; I will make him an help meet for him”, actually means that God would create a friend, companion and support for man so he would not be alone”.
The class went as silent as a graveyard but my mind was not. Deep down in my mind I was smiling, I had won, I was the correct one, I was the genius.
The significance of that part of the write-up is to show you that right there, we got exposed. No pastor would tell me to lick my husband’s feet because I was made to be a subordinate. Fine I would respect him, because in my Holy Bible, my husband is the crown to my head that is what I read, he is my King and I would undoubtedly be his Queen and Queens don’t lick feet. (Because these days every small misbehaviour from the wife, the husband will say “You too will say you’re going to church o! This behaviour you’re exhibiting, is that what you’re reading from your bible? Didn’t you see the part where God said I would make for man a help mate? It is right there I would sit him down and lecture him because I didn’t spend four years plus ASUU strike, making it five years studying a course only for my best friend in the whole world and husband to be damaging what I read just to suit his own desires, that’s a no baby, try again).
Religion is fun! You learn about Buddhism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam, African Traditional Religion and the likes. It is exciting. I didn’t go to class a day without returning having learnt something new.
I learnt to understand why certain festivals were carried out and why. I learnt to respect sacrificial warnings e.g. The Oro that was recently carried out in Ile-Ife where people were told to stay indoors, I learnt to respect events like that not because I feared the danger behind it, not because I thought they just wanted to house-arrest people for no good reason, not because I thought they were going to be killing people or anything but because I had the knowledge of why they were doing it and why it had to be done to ensure the smooth running of the kingship in Ile-Ife.
I also understood that religious fanaticism wasn’t necessary. You don’t have to force people to practice your religion, it is everyman to what he believes in (for this my mum thinks I’m possessed that I’m supposed to be leading people to Christ since I’m a Christian. This I do not object to, I would lead them to Christ but I’m not a fanatic, I’m a scholar, scholars make people see reasons why they should do things, fanatics threaten people to).
Understanding religions promotes religious peace and societal stability. You won’t subject yourself to becoming a religious nuisance if you understood what religions are all about, instead you would promote peace. One of the basic problems we have in Nigeria right now is religious conflict. Muslims don’t buy into Christianity and Christians believe Muslims and African Traditionalists will all go to hell. Why don’t you just leave the judgements, mind your business, go to your Church or Mosque or Shrine and let peace reign? Why don’t you just practice your religion in peace? If you try to preach your religion to them and they refuse, leave them be.
Forcing people to practice a religion they are not into is like telling them it is illegal to be inside their own skin, it is dis-heartening, discomforting and unfair. Don’t shed blood because they have refused to practice your religion. If you don’t understand the knowledge of religious persuasion, get a college degree in Religion, get enlightened, maybe that way you would understand why it is necessary you understand individuals and their various religions and why it is important to the peace and growth including the stability of the Nation.
Let us get enlightened!