I was born into a Muslim home.
My father, the Muslim from a long line of hajj performing faithfuls left all the desirable women in musulumi land and got married to my mum, the Christian from a line of Jerusalem visiting pilgrims, who left all eligible Christians of good standing to marry a Muslim.
Father became the only one, among his brothers, who stuck with one wife. I won’t describe my father at that time to be a very religious man, no but he loved my mother enough to at some point in their marriage, let her go to church with us kids.
He would drive us there, hang around and after church take us home. That’s not the mark of a true Muslim by today’s standards.
During Sallah, we would all pile into my father’s well pampered Volkswagen beetle and head for the dusty town of Oke Iddo in Abeokuta, Ogun state to celebrate with a multitude of cousins, uncles and aunts. There were Christians amongst the extended family and they always showed up for the larger feast of Sallah, for the sake of the family.
My family isn’t unique in its happy blend of Muslims and Christians; I’ve seen many families like this, here in the south and even in the north as well. We often teased one another over our religious beliefs but never did we take one for granted over the other. There was mutual respect and tolerance for one another’s belief.
We lived in this cocoon of bliss until somebody whispered to my father, “How can a Musulumi ododo” (aka true Muslim, one who hopes to make aljanna) let your keferi wife take your children to church?”
I guess the whispers grew loud enough to make father issue an edict over his household, Henceforth and till forever, mother, on the pain of death, MUST never take any of my sunnah named kids anywhere near a church again!
My mother complied; of course, I do not know if they had a long standoff and mother blinked first. I just know that we stopped going to church and mother was later to perform the hajj with my dad years later.
Naturally, with us banned from church, the vacuum for religious activity had to be filled with another religious activity, so we were enrolled at makaranta aka Islamic school, where we went every Sunday morning and there the Imam with his long stick that drew blood from our ears taught us to memorize the Quran, first the alphabets and then the hadiths. Soon enough, these recitations began to push to the back of my mind, the verses I had learned from the Holy Bible.
I have, due to the circumstance of my birth, a fair knowledge of both religions. I have therefore learned that, first, there is a God; infinite, tolerant and full of love (otherwise, a good number of us should be dead by now, just at the batting of His eye lid) and because this God is not dead, judgment still lies with Him.
And believe this God I know hasn’t asked any of his believers to go striking down non-believers in His name. As evidenced both in the Quran and in the Bible, to every man his own belief. Both the Bible and Quran support this.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Say: “Oh, you who disbelieve!
“I do not worship that which you worship,
“Nor do you worship That Which I worship.
“Nor will I worship that which you have been worshipping,
“Neither will you worship That Which I worship.
“To you your religion and to me mine.”
“2 Chronicles 20:15 – And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle [is] not yours, but God’s.”
“1 Samuel 17:47 – And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle [is] the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands.”
I won’t claim superior knowledge of either the Bible or Quran but I have learned that the predominant message of both the Bible and Quran is one; peace and faith in a loving God.
It’s the season of peace and goodwill once again; (see how the word recurs for both faiths?) but that peace is being threatened each time tiny groups of extremists claim they are being sent by God to cleanse the world of unbelievers.
They continue to stamp on the peace when we keep silent. Keeping silent suggests acquiescence and emboldens the extremists and before we know it, their bigotry engulfs the rest of us.
I still think the silence of our Muslim leaders way back when Shekau and his horde of murderers first began to ravage and kill Christians up north, is the reason we still have the scourge living amongst us.
Very few of our Northern Muslims spoke up to denounce christain killings even when Christian South was screaming itself hoarse. I expected to hear the Muslims rise up and condemn these acts of bloodshed; I expected statements and agitations from Muslim youths distancing themselves from these demonic acts and labeling them un-Islamic. I expected leaders in the North to warn their children, and the almajiris in particular against these group of murders.
But many Muslims didn’t think it was their problem and when all hell breaks loose, peace is the first to flee. Little wonder Shekau grew tired of shedding Christian blood, there were no more churches to burn, no more Christian soul to thirst after, yet his thirst for blood is as voracious as ever, so he went for Muslim blood. He hounded souls praying during jumat, he went after those who dared to go to praying grounds during sallah, he pursued them to the market places, schools were not off limits, the homes of imams were targets and emirs fled openly before him.
From the look of things today, Boko haram seems to have consumed more Muslim souls than Christians. I’ll leave the statistics to NEMA and the Red Cross, I’m assuming they are the only two bodies that have accurate or at best, near accurate figures.
And that is why I was stunned when the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) did not immediately denounce the army’s brutal response to the Shiite provocation. We must all be our brothers’ keepers.
But it’s the season of peace again and no matter how much the extremists want to poison our world, we will all rise above it, we will send rice to our muslim neighbours, they will come in and sup with us, we will dance together and shame the lines that threaten to divide us. We will ignore their lies and defy their threats, we will stand as one, just as the Kenyan Muslims a few days ago refused to expose their fellow Christian passengers when al Shabab and its horde of murderers stopped the bus to identify and kill only Christians.
Let’s have some peace this season!