Childhood revolves around innocence and a strange perception of the essence of existence. Childhood could also be a period of guilt, especially if the morality conveyed by religion isn’t inculcated.
I grew up with the peaceful constitution of Islam, which to this day remains the cardinals of my existence. I lived Islam, spoke Islam, slept Islam, and woke Islam. All around me— in the northern city of Minna with its sizable population of Christians—was Islam.
Islam teaches the submission to the commands of the Supreme Being—Allah—carried in the Koran and Hadith.
My parents broke my childish resistance to the acceptance of moral virtues, to the attendance of Koranic schools, to deference of my elders, to the perpetuation of good deeds— all so I would have a shade in paradise when I depart this world. And the thought of purgatory alone, preached by our mullahs, turned us, the children, into passionate adherents of godly acts.
In that time of childhood, we saw the followers of other faiths as infidels or unwise believers in God; a look that they, too, cast on us. As a child, I would flaunt my religion with a saint’s innate pride, narrating the exemplary life
of Prophet Muhammad to my Christian friends. In such moments we debated the supremacy of our Prophets, estimating their influences on humanity with childish vehemence, often exaggerating our respective stories to gain the upper hand.
Our fervent adherence to religion waned as we grew older, perhaps diluted by the secularism of the modern world. Many of my friends—Muslims and Christians—who had lost the “fright of hereafter” or had loosened the strings of parental supervision, grew weak in the practise of their religion. A number of them stepped into the fort of agnosticism, many driven to this by the charlatan displays of some of those on the frontlines of our religions.
In truth, the reasons to question the faith of our childhood were many: our rising awareness of the history of the Negro race, with its trials and tribulations; the discovery that our religions were forced on our forebears by “white” colonialists; the realisation that there were doses of white supremacy fallacies in the construction of these religions, and so on. A number of my friends, in recognition of their raped heritage, opened their arms and hearts to traditional African religion.
But my years of whingeing over the rape of black Africa by the non-African preachers of God, Allah, Jesus, Muhammad, etc., had failed to throw me into the lake of atheism. My dread: if I rebelled against my faith, what then would guide my life? I am human, fragile—without the shield of my submission to the will of Allah, I could be easily tempted into immoralities. I am human, and could be thrown onto a path of spiritual destruction if I chose to be the “god” of my life. The thought of Allah, I realised, tethered me to morality.
It is true that international politics has interfered with the purity of religion. The shameful hues of tyranny, rivalry, racism, nationalism, and even egotism have turned the universality of religion into an expired pill—this divine pill that ought to cure the lunacy that despoils the happy constitution of the world. Politics has blinded us, has caused us to repel the Koran as an Arabic doctrine,
the Bible because it was authored by many, the Torah as an outdated text of the Jews, the Bahgavad Ghita as inconsequential scribbling. Political, cultural and racial mischief asked us to see Islam as lore of the Arabs, Christianity as the stolen tradition of the Jews, or Hinduism as a practice of primitive Indians—and so also the rain of repulsion demolishes other faiths across the world.
Now, as an adult, I’ve long broken that deceit that paints other religions as inauthentic lore, or promotes Islam in superlatives charged by the politics of racial or provincial superiority. But many out there—brainwashed and misled, uneducated and poor—have embraced fanaticism in the name of religion. Islam could be a religion of war. Christianity, too, could be a religion of war. This we know all too well in Nigeria. These religions could be martial when marshalled by fanatics that know no colour of fundamentalism. The best path to co-existence is never to ‘beckon’ the war in peace.
Maturity awakened me to the knowledge that I am a Muslim because of my parents, and that my friend Joe is a Christian because of his parents. I accept that my friend and I could have been born into different faiths. This ‘blasphemous’ realisation has prodded me to search for a connecting strand between our humanities. It has led me, ultimately, to define our many religions as ‘tributaries of oneness”. Oneness, yes; because the God of the Ibo
is the same as the Allah of the Fulani. In spite of all our differences, God is Allah.
Written by Gimbah Kakandah
Part 1 of the RE’LOAD 2 JOS feature first published in 2010