My name is Folashade Josiah (née Sule Odu). I am a princess from the Fidipote Ruling House of Ijebu Ode, Nigeria. I was born into a Muslim family and went to a Muslim school where I learnt about Islam and how to recite the Holy Quran in Arabic.
At the age of 27 years I met Alfred Josiah who was from a Christian family. We met in northern Nigeria in a city called Katsina. He was with some of his friends talking in the street, when he saw me passing, followed me and began talking to me. Despite our religious differences, we got to know each other, became friends and fell in love.
I discussed this with my family, as well as our wish to marry. However, my father’s older brother, my uncle, who was head of the family at that time, was clear that this should not happen. He said that love alone was not enough to unite people, but that our religion should also be the same.
In those days, it was not possible to marry without our family’s consent. Therefore, I begged my father to talk to his brother, and after several months he agreed to do so. In the end our families consented to the marriage and we were married according to Muslim rites. We did this because it is the tradition in my country that the family of the bride decides on wedding arrangements. Therefore, we were married according to the Islamic tradition.
In Nigeria, Christians and Muslims do marry, but there can be challenges. My uncle believed that when religion unites people the relationship is stronger and lasts longer because husband and wife can pray together.
After marrying, our love deepened and God gave us a beautiful daughter who we named Oluwatosin, meaning “God is worthy to be served”. My husband and I loved each other and had many things in common, but when it came to religion and prayer we were in a different world entirely. From a religious point of view, there was no unity.
I started to wonder whether there was a religion that could unite us, not only in love, but also in faith and prayer. I had never heard of such a religion. One day I discussed this with my husband and he laughed. He expressed his view that there is nothing like that in this world, or at least not in our part of the world. In Nigeria we only have Christianity and Islam, and the traditional religion, but the majority of people here are Christians and Muslims.
One day, after dawn prayers, I started praying to God about this. I asked God if there was a religion that could unite my husband and I, imploring Him that even if it is not in our country, I would like to know about it. After the third day of prayers, something happened. I don’t know what to call this, a miracle or divine intervention. I have seen a lot of God’s interventions in my life, but this one was so amazingly fast. God answered my prayers quickly.
I was at my shop in Katsina, when a young man called Mutalib Saka came and said that he would like to see me, as he wanted to discuss something. As a business woman I replied that if it was about money he could come, but that if it was not about money, then I didn’t want to hear. He replied, “It’s about something better than money: it’s about something that will change your life forever.” I remember thinking “What can change someone’s life apart from money?” Anyway, as he had insisted, I asked him to come to see me before 4pm, so that we would have enough time to talk.
When Mutalib arrived, he said, “It’s about a religion called the Baha’i Faith”, which he began to tell me about. He explained that this religion teaches unity and that it has the potential to unite all peoples and religions of the world. I was in shock. Mutalib saw my reaction and asked if something was wrong. I replied “Yes and no”, because I didn’t know that God could answer my prayers so quickly. My first question to him was: “Can a Christian and a Muslim join this religion?” He replied: “Yes”. After that, I hardly heard the rest of what he said. I was just thinking about God, about how mighty He is, and that He can hear everything that is in our hearts.
When my husband returned from work that day I told him everything. He replied that he had heard about the Baha’i Faith many years ago, while listening to a programme on the radio which featured Baha’is singing at the Baha’i temple in Germany. The programme discussed the Baha’i new year, which takes place in March. He remembered wondering how people can celebrate new year in March, when we celebrate ours on 1st January. He added that they were singing like angels from heaven.
Mutalib came to our house to discuss the Baha’i Faith with us, as I had requested. He talked with my husband for a long time and my husband asked him many questions. For my part, I only had two questions – “Do we have Baha’is in Nigeria?” He replied “Yes” and “How do I become a Baha’i?” Mutalib explained that I would need to fill in a declaration card to register as a Baha’i. He gave me some books and pamphlets about the Faith, which I read that night until midnight. It was at midnight that I made up my mind to become a Baha’i.
Mutalib also gave me a Baha’i prayer book. It was a small book and I had already gone through all the prayers. At midnight, I spoke to God again, not knowing which prayer to use to touch my husband’s heart. I decided to just talk to God directly. Mutalib also told me about the Bab and Baha’u’llah, saying that I can pray to Baha’u’llah for anything I wanted.
That midnight was the first time I mentioned the name of Baha’u’llah. I said “Baha’u’llah I have not yet declared as a Baha’i, but I will do so tomorrow inshaAllah (God willing). Baha’u’llah, please can you help me change my husband’s heart. I have already talked to God, so now I am asking You. Please allow my husband to like the Faith, so that the two of us can be united as Baha’is.”
The following day I went to look for Mutalib to ask him for the declaration card. Mutalib was very happy. That day, when my husband returned, I told him that I am now a Baha’i. He asked: “So fast?” and I told him that I didn’t need to wait because this is what I’ve been looking for. He didn’t say anything for some time and my heart started throbbing as if it were going to break in two. I then asked him: “What about you?” He said: “I don’t know, I will think about it.”
From that moment on, I started continuously calling on God and Baha’u’llah for help. My husband noticed and asked whether something was wrong with me. I replied: “No, I am only praying to God and Baha’u’llah to make you become a Baha’i.” He asked: “You are even calling on Baha’u’llah?” I said: “I am now a Baha’i, so I can call on Baha’u’llah any time.” He just smiled.
The following day my husband said I should tell Mutalib that he would like to see him, as he would like to ask some more questions. After this meeting, my husband decided to declare his faith as a Baha’i. So my husband declared three days after me.
When my husband said that he would think about it, those three days were the longest days of my life. When he told me he had declared, I jumped for joy, I couldn’t believe it. I also danced and danced and danced, even though there was no music. I was filled with so much joy.
This is how my husband and I became Baha’is and from then on our lives truly changed for the better. I have become a happy person and my family is also happy and united, both physically and spiritually. My daughter later declared as a Baha’i and married into a Baha’i family, which gives me abundant joy. We also have two adopted sons who have declared as Baha’is.
Since this time, I have served the Baha’i community of Nigeria in a number of different ways. I was elected to serve as a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly, I was appointed an Auxiliary Board Member for the north of Nigeria, I served on the Regional Baha’i Council and I am now a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Nigeria. I also represented Nigeria at the Baha’i World Centre in Israel during the international convention in 2018.
My life is full of joy because God answered my prayers and granted me my heart’s desire.
As a Baha’i I believe that we are all created by, pray to and serve the same God. In the words of Baha’u’llah:
There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God.1
The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.2
So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.3