By Salisu Yusuf
There’s an established cultural practice of female social exclusion in the Muslim North that’s partly patriarchal and partly a cultural construct fuelled by religious misinterpretation, especially on business transaction issues.
Many people wrongly and unfairly assume that women must not participate in business dealings because men cater for their needs. However, instances from Islamic history and established ahadith corroborate women’s active role in market-oriented activities, especially during the caliphate of Sayyid Umar bn Khattab (RA). I have a story to tell which will convince you that our women should, or even must, be allowed to transact.
A close, affluent friend of mine died two years ago. He left behind four wives, children and millions of naira. Fortunately or not, the deceased’s male relatives could not handle the proceeds of the orphans properly. And even if they could handle the wealth well, most people nowadays are morally lax in handling trusts, especially inheritance. Only a few handle it sincerely, while many others betray the trust given to them. So, the widows became carers and guardians; in other words, the bulk of wealth is handed over to them.
Those who had never transacted (only two out of the four) became businesswomen in their life. They are both fathering and mothering the young orphans. Although single parenting is a difficult task, the women brace up, take care of the children efficiently, conduct business aspects, get profits, provide daily bread, support the children’s education, and other basics such as clothing. I am deeply impressed by the women’s resolve to forget their differences, shun their rivalries, burry their wounds, pick up the pieces and continue to survive in the absence of the best husband and father.
Two years after their husband’s death, the entire house fares very well, managing to survive despite the harsh realities of the Nigerian socio-economic milieu. When last I visited the family, they told me of the difficulty in combining business dealings with parenting and guidance. One widow told me how lucky they were to learn to trade even before their husband’s death because he had numerously given them startups to learn to earn a living. She said if they had not been this fortunate – under a caring husband who had so much empathy and understanding, they would have been left in the cold, would have devoured the money and would have been left at the mercy of a hostile public as beggars.
Two years since their breadwinner’s death, the women turned men survive because they can hold their heads, transact, guard and guide the young orphans.
Salisu can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.