A Muslimah: How is she different?

This piece was inspired by a lecture that was delivered by Sheikh Ismail Musa Menk (Mufti of Zimbabwe) in Bahrain on what makes a Muslimah different. I believe this discuss is crucial now more than ever because of the eroding morals among the Muslim Ummah. For this reason, I decided to add my voice to this discuss.

The role of a woman is at the heart of any culture. In my humble view, a woman is a special being created by Allah first and foremost to worship Him and also as a companion and best friend to the man (her husband). She tries her best at all times to make her impact felt both at home and in the society as a whole.

A Muslimah is special and unique in all ramifications. Among her peers, she is on a pedestal that is equal to none. There are certain aspects and principles that a Muslimah must hold on to very dearly as her way of life which will in return earn her the favour of her Creator. Those aspects include the following;

Her Obedience to the Creator: A practicing Muslim man loves to have practicing Muslim wife who knows that this life of this world is nothing but a test from her Lord; giving her an opportunity to come closer and closer to Him. She understands that this life is absolutely temporary and she knows that death can take her any minute or any moment. She is focus upon the pleasure of Allah (S.W.A) and not worthily materials. Her goal is to earn Jannah. She has restricted herself from desires of her inner self that go against the will of her creator. She is guided by what Allah said in the Glorious Quran that “But as for him who feared standing before his Lord and restricting from impure evil desires and lusts. Verily, Paradise will be his abode”- (Surah An- Naziyyat)

Her Modesty: Modesty is one of the most significant factors of a woman’s personality. It refers to a bad and uneasy feeling accompanied by embarrassment, caused by one’s fear of being exposed or censured for some unworthy or indecent conduct. A Muslimah feels shy to do anything that would displease her Lord in any aspect. She has modesty in her walk. She has modesty in her talk. She has modesty in her gaze that she does not look at what Allah has prohibited. Her modesty in her clothing is that, she does not reveal to others what Allah has forbidden for her to reveal. She doesn’t see the way she dresses as a sign of oppression but rather as a form of modesty. When she walks, she walks modestly without attracting others attention towards herself. A woman who has the knowledge of Allah’s commandment to preserve her modesty, submitting herself to the will of her creator even after having the desire to be praised for her beauty. Such Muslimah is rated high by good believing men.

Her Beauty: Allah (S.W.A) made a woman beautiful in the sight of men. It is just that some human beings are more attracted towards some others. It was reported in Sahih Al-Bukhari Aisha (R.A) said “I had the Prophet (PBUH) saying ‘Souls are like conscripted soldiers; those whom they recognize, they get along with and those whom they do not recognize, they will not get along with”. Al-Qurtubi said: “Although they are souls, they differ in different ways, so a person will feel an affinity with souls of one kind, and will get along with them because of the special quality that they have in common. So we notice that people of all types will get along with those with whom they share an affinity, and will keep away from those who are of other type. [This is just like the old saying goes, “Birds of the same feather flocks together”] For a believing man, a woman’s beauty is not how her nose looks or her eyes are or the colour of her skin. But rather it’s her modesty, virtuosity, fidelity, tranquility, and innocence which in turn make her beautiful. Also Allah makes people whom he loves, pleasing to others.

Her Purity: A Muslimah is always pure; her purity extends to virtually everything and anything. From the way she dresses, to the way she interacts with other people. She has the purity of the heart. In her heart, there is no jealousy, no malice, no envy, no hatred or any love of sin. She is focus at all times to purify her heart and mind. She also has purity of companionship – that is to say her friends are also pure people.

Her intellect/ playfulness: Intellect and playfulness are qualities of women highly liked by men. Every man likes an intelligent wife who can advise and supports him in day to day matters. Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (R.A) was the one of most beloved wives of the Prophet (PBUH). She supported Allah’s messenger at the very beginning of his Prophethood when Angel Jibril brought the first revelation to him. The Prophet always admired her and remembered her even long after her death. A playful wife is also a joy and pleasure to a man’s heart. She brings happiness and joy into the household. With her behaviors, she induces him to stay at home rather than somewhere else.

Her Truthfulness: Being truthful and honest is an essential quality of a believer. It was reported in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Muslim as narrated by Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (R.A) that “The messenger of Allah (PBUH) said ‘I urge you all to be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man will continue to be truthful and seek to speak the truth, until he is recorded with Allah as speaker of truth (As- Sadeeq). And beware of lying, it leads to immorality and immorality leads to hell; a man will continue to lie until he is recorded with Allah as a liar”. A person who is known to lie repeatedly loses his trust. And if that happens in case of a marital relationship, the whole relationship falls apart. A woman who is known to be a “Saddeeqah” certainly has a higher status in a Muslim man’s heart.

Her Obedience: Allah made a man i.e. her husband the maintainer and protector of the woman and enjoined upon her to obey him in all the matters that do not go against Qur’an and Sunnah. Allah (S.W.A) said “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means” (Surah An- Nisa: 34). The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said “The best of women is she who when you look at her, she pleases you, when you command her she obeys you, and when you are absent, she protects her honour and your property.” (At- Tabani Ibn Majah)

Her Patience: Patience is the characteristics that can never be praised enough. A woman who remains patient at the time of hardship and relies on the help and mercy of Allah is without a doubt a beloved servant of Allah (S.W.A). Allah says “And Allah loves As- sabirun (the patient)” (Surah Al- Imram: 146).

Good manners: A woman of good manners is a blessing from Allah. When she speaks, she speaks honourably. When she deals with others, she deals with them kindly. She is polite with elders, loving children and good to her fellow folks. According to Abdullah bin Amr, the Prophet said “The best of you are those who possess the best of manners” (Sahih Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

It’s no doubt that the aspects of an ideal Muslimah are many, which makes it practically impossible for me to capture it all. Others includes; her cooking, she is full of contentment, she creates an atmosphere of peace and tranquility around family, friend and society, she is tolerant and forgiving, she is strong in character and others too enormous to mention. Ideal Muslimah is a dream of every ideal Muslim man. I know none of us is perfect. Perfection is an attribute of Allah but we must at all times try our best to perfect our deeds in order to win the favour of Allah. May Allah guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom He has bestowed His Grace, not the way of those you have earned his anger.

A Legal Philosopher: Justice Chukwudifu Oputa—The Socrates of the Supreme Court

If you are a student of philosophy, you will no doubt have come across the name Socrates. He was one of the greatest minds of his generation. He was a Greek Philosopher whose thoughts and teachings have been of immense influenced to the legal profession. He taught Plato who as well taught Aristotle. That’s how I introduce my role model and mentor—The Honourable Justice Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa, A retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, a man who has been aptly described as the Socrates of the Supreme Court.

Justice Oputa who is also referred to as “The Oputa of Oguta” was born on 22nd of September 1924 in Oputa, in the present Imo State. His father was Chief Oputa Izukwu and his mother Madam Nnawetu Oputa. He had his early education in Sacred Heart School, Oguta and Christ the king College, Onitcha.

He then proceeded to Yaba Higher College, but due to the exigencies of the Second World War, was sent to the famous Achimota College in Ghana, then Gold Coast.  There he graduated with B.SC(Hon)Economics in1945.  After this, he came back to Nigeria and took up appointment with Calabari National College. He later moved to Lagos where he worked as an  ADO (Assistant District Officer). It was where he achieved a remarkable feat; he studied at home and obtained his BA (Hon) History at home.

Justice Oputa then proceeded to London where he got his LLB (Hon) and was called to bar in Gray’s Inn, in London. Upon his return to Nigeria, then Barrister Oputa went into brilliant and successful and private practice. Handling such celebrated cases and special inquiries as Oguta Chieftaincy dispute 1958/59, the Amanyanabo Dispute 1956/60 and many others.

In 1966, Justice Oputa was appointed a Judge of the High Court of the then Eastern Nigeria and he moved on to   become to first Chief Judge of Imo State ten years later. His days both as judge and later as Chief Judge were remarkable because many successes were achieved during his period on the High Court bench.

In 1984, he was elevated to the exalted position of the Honourable Justice of the Supreme Court. To many who knew Oputa during his days at State High Court said it was well deserved elevation. It did not take long before he stamped his fit in the Supreme Court as a man profoundly moved by classical literature, history, divinity, and philosophy and who judgments possessed the temerity that is in the preserve of genius.  No wonder that the then Chief Justice of Nigeria Late Justice Mohammed Bello himself an outstanding judicial figure himself nicknamed him “Cicero”.

The clarity that later became the hallmark of Oputa’s judicial career is revealed early in his handling of the concept and effect of Estoppel in Okafor v Onuigbo & Ors:

“Estoppel is a rule of evidence. It is no other than a bar to testimony. Its sole aim is either to place an obstacle in the way of a case which might otherwise succeed, or to remove an impediment out of the way of a case which might otherwise fail. To use the language of naval warfare, estoppel must always be either a mine layer or a mine sweeper… not being a rule of substantial law, it cannot therefore declare on immediate right or claim, although when property used it can gravely affect substantive rights.”    

Oputa’s judicial craft in dealing with the all too human tragedies that unfold when Marriages end in divorce court was well illustrated in the case of Okafor v Okafor as follows:

“Both parties claim the custody of this child…and both are very anxious to have the custody. If the parties to a marriage give enough thought to the problems a broken marriage may do and or pose to the issues (children) of that marriage and are prepared to swallow some of their pride and thus become less selfish, then there will definitely be a marked decrease in the divorce rate and its consequents broken homes. But experience has shown that parties show more interest in the custody of their children, a custody which should never have been in issue had the marriage survived”.

In another judgment, Oputa JSC (as he then was) reveals a judge ill at ease with legal technicality and very much on guard against lawyers whose only reason for going to court is to induce litigation fatigue in the other side instead of seeking remedies. He illustrates this in his decision in Okpara v Obi as follows:

“Rather than helping to narrow the issues to be contested at the trial, counsel nowadays, use pleadings to becloud the issues. The defendant’s pleading put the plaintiff to the “strictest proof” of every allegation of fact made in his statement of claim. That may be permissible but the party who wants proof of the obvious, or proof of what should have admitted, must be prepared to pay for such proof.”

In Adegoke Motors v Adesanya(1983) 3 NWLR (Pt 109) 250 @ 274-275, the revered Jurist alluded to the finality of the decisions of the Supreme Court when he said that:

“We are final not because we are infallible, rather we are infallible because we are final. Justices of this Court are human beings capable of erring. It will be short sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth.”

In the locus classicus of Garba v University of Maiduguri which deals with the issue of Right to fair hearing, Oputa said: “God has given you two ears. Hear both sides”

Of the many things that define a judge, five are arguably most important: Courage and conviction; listening; analysis and synthesis; the instinct for the right call; and communication in accessible reasoning and language. Many would have at least one of these; some have many if these but once in a while, there comes along a judge who combines all these characteristics and more in one package, enabling that judge to leave indelible impression on the landscape of jurisprudence.

 In my humble view, Justice Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa is one such judge. Even as he was proceeding on retirement in1989, it was quite clear that Justice Oputa still much more needed and still has much to offer.  Justice Oputa has published over 40 papers in lectures, conferences, and seminars. He continues to be given Federal Assignments ever after retirements. Most notably was The National Human Rights Violation Commission (Oputa Panel) which he chaired to ascertain or establish the causes, nature and extent of all gross violations of human rights in Nigeria between January 15, 1966 and May 28, 1999. As a young and inspiring member of this noble legal profession, Justice Oputa is one of my great inspirations. His life and voyage in this Profession is for all to study and emulate. To your lordship; I celebrate you and your sparkling achievements.