Along with my siblings, I was tutored about the basics of the Islamic faith by my father every day after the dawn prayers and devotions while growing up. I remember how studying the Kitab-al-Akhdaree, a fiqh (a religious jurisprudence) primer in adolescence, became not only a rite of passage but actually became a… trap.
The primer started in a stern and striking tone… auwalu maa yajibu alal mukallif – if you translate this phrase with its technical flavor intact you get something like, “first things first for he/she who is” of age”… age of accountability, that is.
My life and that of my two other brothers who were grouped in the same domestic cohort changed dramatically afterward… suddenly, we were accountable. I remember the morning after my 18th birthday, lazying in bed mid-morning, when a reality check started sinking in. It was quite distressing. I could now go to jail, I suddenly realised. That was what was up. That is what that meant. I was accountable and responsible for my actions and no longer have the free-pass of juvenile innocence. It was a colossal bummer. Hitherto, I was responsible for nothing and to no one. In fact, everyone else in my life was responsible for my needs. At 18, I was now responsible, I was to become accountable for my actions, attitudes, choices and behaviour.
You end up thinking – who is responsible for your life? If you’re a free person living in a free country, take a look in the mirror. That is what happened… auauwalu ma yajibu alal mukallif showed up as a city of angels but soon became a poisoned chalice. It meant you will be damned; you will be held responsible – whether morally or intellectually.
When I left home a few years later for school, I hatched a plan to go on a ‘Rumspringa’ type sojourn to experiment, form my own convictions with the strategic objective of affirming my faith as one of the jurisprudential requirements on Muslims who have attained the age of accountability. Those were the types of scenes I was going to face and handle and must give fair chance to all urges, whims and instincts so that when I arrive at a verdict at the end of the day it would be one with all legitimacy.
The foregoing may sound extraneous or tangential to the thesis of this piece but for some reason, it resonated as an absolutely relevant background. The thesis has to do with maturity – intellectual maturity to be specific. It bothers me a lot
I don’t know if this is politically incorrect, so if it is, I beg your pardon. I mean no offense. I just don’t understand why any Muslim, from an observant Muslim family who has been conditioned to this. My understanding of my faith is that it is not just about knowing what you were supposed to know as part of your spiritual life – but actually living that life.
According to Kitab-al-Akhdaree, the first thing required of any man or woman of accountable age is the authentication of his worldview, and the knowledge driving it.
The trigger is a conversation I had with a friend who has been afflicted with the trending Jappa syndrome over the weekend, and that is of course not the first instance I came into contact with that sentiment. It is that we are doomed as a people – that is as Sudanic Muslims and Nigerians. It is that Nigeria is dead and buried.
It is totally unnatural to believe this. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing will remain stagnant or sunken into rock-bottom. And no, leaders are NOT a reflection of society. Leaders lead because they are not just anyone. They are different. Better too. That is why they are leaders in the first place. But part of leadership is the capacity to successfully navigate your way into leadership positions. Theoretically, therefore, the people ruling us into ruin are NOT leaders. They are just people. The two are very different.
Leaders have to discover themselves first through self-leadership. That transforms them to act on what they want in life because it’s founded on responsibility. Albert Schweitzer once said that “man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will, his personal responsibility.” In other words, don’t blame your circumstances; take responsibility for yourself.
The problem is that our leaders are yet to figure out an effective way to navigate. We also are yet to figure out an effective way to identify and enthrone leaders. But there is a learning curve to this, no society is born with that capacity. They have to learn first.
So, the summary of what must change is to grow. However, the real growth occurs when we grow in our own chosen direction and that comes when we learn to put maturity ahead of sentimental instincts instead of ugly and bitter rationality.
Maturity is about taking responsibility for things that make you grow in your chosen direction. Seriousness is about taking responsibility for your intellectual maturity or lack thereof. That is what is up. That’s the first things first of life.