Twenty-nine-year-old Josephine Oziomachukwu Nworie now Aisha Suleiman converted to Islam five years ago and got married to a Hausa man in Bauchi State. In this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, she speaks about her conversion and the challenges that come with it.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Aisha Suleiman formerly known as Josephine Oziomachukwu Nworie. I was born and brought up in Azare, Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State.
How has it been since you converted to Islam?
Life has not been easy at all considering the fact that I converted to Islam five years ago. I have been tested by Almighty Allah with some challenges during this period but Alhamdullilah. I am now a graduate but I am yet to get a job despite trying different organizations and bodies but my husband is trying his best to take care of us.
My main challenge is with my family, especially parents, who have rejected me insisting that they can only support me if I will return to Christianity. They consider my conversion to Islam as a taboo because we are Igbos from Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State.
My mother was secretary of the women’s wing in her Church and when I converted to Islam, she was removed from the position because they say her daughter committed a taboo. She sees my action as an insult, aimed at tarnishing her image. So, life has not been easy for me since then.
What inspired you to convert to Islam?
Honestly, there are many things that inspired me but I’ll trace it back to my secondary school days. My friends and everything I did revolved around the Hausa people and that influenced my mindset to emulate their culture. I remember then I used to apply lalle and when I get home from school, my mother will beat me, but that did not stop me from applying it.
In fact, I adapted almost all their ways of life because I was born and brought up in Azare; had my nursery, primary and secondary schools there with my siblings. If I speak Hausa, you will think I am Hausa by tribe and equally if I speak my dialect, you would never know I speak another language.
Have you visited your parents since your conversion to Islam?
Yes. If I am here in Bauchi, I feel lonely, especially without my parents. But since I know marriage is a union, one has to build his/her own family but my case is different considering my issue. I have left their religion, everything and it is now a different phase of life for me because when I go there (Azare), I find it difficult relating with my parents because my mum hates seeing me in Hijab. She shouts and quarrells with me and there’s no way I can go there without Hijab since I am Muslim and a married woman.
During the time of Salat, especially the Subhi (early morning) prayer, I find it difficult, so, I sometimes perform it before the time because in the process of coming out with the kettle from the room, she might come out and she would start quarrelling with me. I will go back inside the room and will not come out again.
So, if I think of visiting them to spend a week, I would not spend more than a day before I would think of coming back. I prefer coming back and staying in my house no matter the situation instead of staying there.
I always want to visit them but it has never been a good experience. Whenever I go there and come back, I always beg Allah for forgiveness because I would not pray on time and when I am praying there, I am always scared. I can’t do anything that has to do with hijab, kettle or mat to pray and other challenges.
So, it has not been easy for me and I just decided to stay here. When I call my mother on the phone sometimes, she would not pick my calls and anytime she calls, she would be raining curses that what I did to her, my children will do it to me.
What is your educational background?
I am a graduate of Biochemistry from Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic Bauchi where I obtained a Diploma in Science Laboratory Technology and HND in Biochemistry from the same institution before I did my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
Have you applied for jobs sinceyour graduation?
Yes, I applied for jobs in different schools but I have not been successful and I am still hopeful of getting one Insha Allah, and I take it as Allah’s wish because everything is time. Even if I am still a Christian, if it is His Will that I am not going to work for now, there is nothing I can do. I am not alone in this, there are many other graduates out there also looking for jobs. I take it as my own fate and I don’t blame any religion or tribe or any factor on hindering me from getting a job. For now, I just take it as the will of God.
What is your major challenge now?
My major challenge is getting a job or capital to start a small business of my own to help myself and my family because I have learnt some skills and trading in the past but I don’t have capital for now. I know if I have money to do something, I believe I will change the negative challenges with my parents as there’s a Hausa proverb that say “Yaba kyauta tukwici.” I know I can do so many things for my parents just to get back their joy and happiness that l lost for so many years.
My main ambition is to have a stable job and I will keep visiting my mother and always give her something no matter how little. Today I will go, tomorrow I will go, I know one day she will smile at me, at least I will feel that joy because I am also a mother. I will see that smile that I have not seen for a very long time. I want to make my mother happy because right now, she doesn’t count me among her children. She says I am of no use to her, that she trained me in school but she did that for the Hausas because they’re the ones enjoying it. I want to prove to her that it is not true.
You are married, is your husband not taking care of you?
Alhamdullilah, I am married and Allah has blessed us with three children and I believe my husband is trying his best because he provides the basic necessities for the family. He specializes in POP decoration but recently developed an eye problem when a chemical got into his eyes while on duty. The problem is gradually affecting the family.
What I want is either to get a job or for people to support me with capital to start a business that will make me economically stable.
Do you have any regret for your actions given the challenges you are facing?
No, no regrets at all but as human beings, when you are alone, you remember some things that will make your Iman (faith) to be touched and that is what I believe, but I have no regrets.