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Poverty of the mind

A critical look at the behavioural pattern of many Nigerians today portray us as a people living in a sympathetic present and a frightening future,…

A critical look at the behavioural pattern of many Nigerians today portray us as a people living in a sympathetic present and a frightening future, which in our opinion, is not only disjointed from our virtuous past but also alienated from the rich ethical values of the traditional African society. The 21st century Nigerian society appears to be a nation of human beings whose minds, due to gross lack of empathy, friendliness, compassion, courtesy, hospitality, kindness, sense of brotherhood and a deficient trust in God; have become so impoverished that their hearts profess nothing except hatred, wickedness, malice, unwillingness to help others and a graceless love for money.

What has become of the attitude of Nigerians towards fellow countrymen in adverse circumstances is very unbecoming. When, for instance, an accident occurs, a typical Nigerian would rather steal from the pockets of dead or injured victims (if he cares to stop at the scene) than to increase the victims chances of survival by helping them to access medical attention in the shortest possible time. Others would stop at the scene to assess how fatal the accident was and then fold their arms afterwards to discuss the cause of the accident, watching those who could have possibly survived (if promptly taken to hospital) to die in pains. This negative attitude of Nigerians also manifest when buildings collapse or are being gutted by fire or flooded with water. It is under such tragic situations that some “mischievous sympathizers” under the pretext of helping to evacuate belongings would be seen stealing from the property of the victims. What a heartless criminal act indeed! It is even more ethical if the fiendish thief involved is a uniform person whose schedule of duties requires him to ensure safety and security of the lives and property of citizens.

At best, people remain spectators in tragic situations where there is nothing to steal from. As human beings, it is possible for us at one time or the other to have benefited from the sacrifices and inconveniences suffered by others for our sake. Why then are we refusing to inconvenience ourselves for others? Let us remember that other people have as much right to happiness and the good things of this life as we do. Let us accept to bear (once in a while) one another’s burden by acts of helpfulness when the need arises. It requires little thought to realize that we have to depend on each other at every turn of our life.

Muslim relates on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (RA) who reports in the thirty-sixth hadith of Annawawi’s collection of forty traditions that the prophet (SAW) said, “whoever dispels from a believer some grief pertaining to this world, Allah would dispel from him some grief pertaining to the Day of Resurrection. Whoever makes things easy for someone in difficulties, Allah would make things easy for him both in this life and the next. Whoever shields a Muslim, Allah would shield him both in this life and the next. Allah is ready to aid any servant so long as the servant is ready to aid his brother”.

There is a lesson for us to learn here from one of the events of the voyage of prophet Musa (AS) who was in search of higher truth in company of Khidhr, his spiritual guide. They came upon a town and found a wall on the verge of collapse. Khidhr set it up straight even though Musa (AS) could not understand why Khidhr did such a favour to a people who refused them minimum hospitality. Khidhr who was granted blessed knowledge from God’s own presence later explained to Musa (AS) as contained in Qur’an 18:82 that beneath the falling wall was a treasure buried by a righteous man before his death for his two little children. Khidhr set the wall straight because Allah (SWT) desired that the two orphaned children should attain their age of full strength and get out their treasure. If the wall, which was in a ruinous state had fallen; the treasure would have been exposed and looted by selfish and churlish people. But, out of kindness, concern and divine guidance, Khidhr re-built the wall even though he was not in any way related by birth, marriage or fosterage to the owners of the treasure. The impolite behavior of the people towards them (Musa and Khidhr) did not dissuade Khidhr from showing kindness. Acts of benevolence should not be limited to only those we know. This is what every believer is expected to do in such a situation. Abu Hurayrah (RA) reports in the thirty-fifth hadith of Annawawi’s collection that the prophet said, “Do not envy one another; do not vie one another; do not hate one another…A Muslim is a brother to another Muslim. He does not oppress him nor does he forsake him nor deceive him nor despise him. Piety is here” and he pointed to his chest.

It is only those whose impoverished hearts are hardened against the remembrance of Allah and the celebration of his praises that turn their backs at those who need one form of help or the other. Just as there is spiritual progress for those who seek God, so there is more spiritual retrogression for those who close their hearts to God. Their hearts get impoverished and therefore hardened, and thus, allow less and less God’s grace to penetrate within. May Allah (SWT) enrich our minds with knowledge, wisdom, kindness, courtesy, hospitality, tolerance, contentment and God-fearing piety, amin.

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