Faith And The Faithful

It’s a few minutes after two on a bright Sunday afternoon in the first week of December in Osi, a town in the Kwara state of Nigeria. A huge middle-aged man struggles relentlessly for freedom as three hefty men restrain him and slowly pilot him towards Aro’s shrine which also doubles as his asylum. This has been a common scene whenever relatives and friends of neurological disorder patients come from far and near to seek remedy. Yet children, as well as adults, are never too bored to willingly miss out on any act of the drama. As Abdullahi, who has never had a similar experience, looks on with mixed feeling of pity and pleasure, wonders how the frail medicine man will be able to handle this strong patient. Just then, however, the old man shouted, “What’s his name?” “Bayo,” the three men chorused. “Leave him,” the herbalist said as he faces Bayo and commands him to calm down and put him hands together for the shackles. To Abdullahi’s utmost surprise, Bayo complies without a fight. The above scene occupied Abdullahi’s mind as he returned home and he could not stop marvelling at the old man’s magical power. “Miracle!” He kept on saying until Asr prayer time when he had to go for his Arabic lesson which lasted till Magrib time. After the prayer, he decided to wait for Ishai. Just apparently brooding, as against the “after prayer ten-minute tradition of Quranic recitation” the Imam recommended for all his students that had successfully completed learning the reading of the Holy Quran. Abdullahi had been one of the best students ever in honouring the tradition since he did ‘Walimah” over a year ago. The Imam noticed the boy’s reticence during the lesson and now became more worried as to what could have been the matter with him. Besides, it’s unusual for children of his age to spend so much time alone in the mosque without a reason. “Abdullahi,” the Imam called him after the Ishai prayer, “is anything the matter with you? You were never yourself during the lesson. And the way you’ve kept to yourself ever after makes me worry.” “Thanks, sir. I witnessed a miracle today. The likes of which I have only heard you speak of when telling us the stories of the prophets.” He narrated his experience of the day, concluding with the statement, “Perhaps the old man too is a prophet.” “My son, what you saw was not a miracle, it’s a magic. Miracle is supernatural and divine while magic is illusory and evil. Muslims don’t practise magic, and miracle is the prerogative of the prophets. The herbalist is a magician, and no prophet ever practised magic.” The ten-year old boy thanked his teacher and went home, much more confused than ever before. As he lay on his bed at night, seconds ran into minutes, and minutes into hours. Yet he kept on wondering why miracle could not have been among the things the faithful inherited from the prophets; and how distressed people who patronized what was said to be evil could have their hope restored so miraculously. At exactly 1:15 a.m. Monsur, shrieked, stretched, squelched, and slumped before anybody could hold him. By the time Abdullahi got to his seven-year old brother’s bed, Granny was already there, observing the lifeless body as if diagnosing the phenomenon. She had always been there for them as much as she had ever been for their parents. “Alhaja,” Abdullahi called in tears, “let’s take this boy to Aro. I believe he would surely be able to revive him.” To his greatest surprise, Granny remained unperturbed but apparently gazed beyond the body on the floor. His parents soon joined. The father ran back to his room for his car key which seemed to take him an age to find. The mother had already joined her son in weeping profusely without anybody to console them. And just as the father returned with the car key, Granny reached for the body on the floor and said, “La ilaha illa Allahu Muhamadur Rasulullahi sollalau alaei wasalam,” There was a little movement in the body. She moved backed and continued gazing fixedly on the body for about half a minute that seemed to have lasted for ages. Then, she repeated the words again and bingo, the body came back to life! “Miracle!” Abdullahi shouted hysterically. How could just the commonest statement in Islam, meaning, “There is not deity worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger” be used to revive the comatose boy? “This is a miracle,” he repeated as he joined his parents to hug his brother. Granny too smiled in to register her own happiness as she said “Alhamdulillahi, Allahu Akbir”. The new thought that now occupied his mind was how Granny who could not read the Holy Qur’an could perform such a miracle while he who was often referred to as ‘Baby sheikh’ in the house could not even imagine it. Well, the truth is that Iman (faith) is the pivot of Ibadah. Without faith, worship is of no essence. The extent of faith in Allah and in His words determines the level of purity of Ibadah. And the purity of Ibadah determines the power of faith. These are some of the lessons Abdullahi learnt in this second experience within a period of less than half a day. And thence, he decided to take note of every act of Granny as to know what could have enhanced her faith to such an enviable level; and as Allah would have it, he soon realised the day’s experience was just a tip of the iceberg. Oh, it’s almost time for Subh prayer; and after that, I’ll have to prepare for work. Some other time, I hope to continue with the next episode of Abdullahi’s findings in his search for true faith recipe. Till then, Assalamun Alaekum Waramotullahi Wabarakatuh.

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