I drove to Zaria from Kano on Monday and I was pleased to see that that section of the new cross-country highway begun by the administration of Muhammadu Buhari was all but complete. The last time I drove on the same highway, there was a particularly gruesome accident – a head-on collision between two minibuses, and there were no survivors in the two vehicles. A third vehicle, a minivan, was involved, and of the 11 occupants, nine survived with varying degrees of injuries.
A few days later, it was a subject of discussion among my friends as the incident apparently made the rounds in social media and even the traditional media. And somehow, the discussion veered into the territory of that popular conservative Muslim doctrine of predestination–it was meant to happen, and could not have been avoided.
It was not about the negligence of the authorities who should have found a way to rein in the excess of drivers who have a burning need for speed, or the contractors who ought to have demarcated boundaries on the lanes both inbound and outbound traffic must share as work continued on the inbound lanes coming from Zaria.
Moments like these have caused serious clashes between what I thought of myself and what others think of me. I don’t think of myself as a fundamentalist even though my Muslim friends think I am one. I think of myself as a moderate or even secularist and my non-Muslim friends agree that I am just that. This being the case, and in spite of spirited efforts, I am not able to put a finger on why this is so. That I know of, I do not suffer from a bipolar disorder. That I know of, I am the same and act the same and think the same and talk the same and even look the same whether I am among fellow Muslims or brotherly non-Muslims.
But I digress. As I passed through the same bend I met death and agony a year or so ago this Monday in company of the friends who think I am a “Qur’an-thumper”, I passed by a crash site with a trailer carrying cattle and I think a cargo of onions. The trailer had somehow toppled over upon a Golf wagon and more than a dozen cattle were in the throes of death and in the process of being ritually slaughtered so that the meat could be considered Halal and permissible for consumption by Muslims.
There was a banner hanging from the rear bumper of the trailer which read, “Duniya Makaranta”. It was rather poetic.
This world is indeed a classroom. There was an accident around the same vicinity, and as far as I could see the same causal circumstances were strikingly the same. And this time, both the inbound and outbound lanes on that stretch of road are 100% complete. And the vehicle involved this time is inherently incapable of overspeeding even if only by virtue of the weight of the cargo it carried.
I lack the competence to decide whether the trailer was overloaded, and because I kept moving and did not stop for a look, I have no record of whether or not there were human casualties but from the looks of it, there must have been. I also cannot tell whether there was an engineering design flaw around that stretch which could be held responsible for recurrent crashes.
The prima facie assessment, and of course it has to be made clear that I have no competence as far as traffic science goes, was that this was an act of God.
Now, let’s be candid and truthful to ourselves. We are slipping away, and the reason, to me, is not the tragedy Islamic fundamentalists believe it is. For instance, Islamic theology is explicit on what we do in terms of devotion is really for our own good, not Allah’s.
I remember sometime back there was a cholera epidemic in Zamfara, and the then state governor, Governor Yari, was practically eaten alive because he insinuated that the state was at the receiving end of God’s wrath as a consequence of abandoning the dictates of God. I am one of the fans of the deposed emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, but I disagreed with him when he joined the lynch mob against Governor Yari.
We seem to have a disturbingly narrow, simplistic and insecure view of what Islam is and who God is. I will state here, that I have a profound belief that every calamity, every evil is a consequence of letting go of the Rope of Allah. Yes, as much as any community of Muslims everywhere on this earth, we are conscious of the demands of Islamic jurisprudence but not so much with Islamic metaphysics.
We know that the proximate cause of epidemics such as cholera is the subject of hygiene–or lack thereof. There are too many references in the scripture and prophetic tradition that hygiene is part and parcel of Islam. There is even a hadith saying that Allah is a pristine notion and he accepts nothing that is not in like terms. I once stopped attending a certain mosque because it was unbelievable that anyone would so much as pass through such a place much less expect anything from such a location to be acceptable to Allah, the most high.
We abandoned the Rope of Allah when we decided to limit ourselves to the devotional choreography, we called Sallah five times every day, fast for 29 days every Ramadan, read and memorize the Qur’an, go to Hajj too many times than can be counted but forgot to live like sane human beings instead of pigs. We abandoned the Rope of Allah when we decided to build grands mosques and forgot that Allah is the essence of justice–and if you think you can rob the public and then build a mosque to absolve yourself, you’re only fooling yourself.
Duniya Makaranta, says the Hausaman—meaning the world is a classroom. And as long you keep on learning and opening up your mind, you will one day find truth and the face of God. Islam is in a dire need for a holistic renaissance because we have long abandoned the Rope of Allah and that is the genesis of every problem we have as a community.
Indeed, the world is a classroom. Learn about Allah, learn about Islam, and not just political or jurisprudential Islam, but the actual Islam enshrined by God the most high, and as delivered by his messenger and you shall find redemption. Both here and the hereafter.
Allah yasa mu dace!