Is Nigeria ready for Hijrah?
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful “Indeed, those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah – those expect the mercy of Allah. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 2: 218).
Yes. It is the beginning of a new Islamic lunar calendar- 1438 years after the migration of Prophet Muhammad (a.s) from Makkah to Madinah. It is customary that on occasions like this, we should plumb the inner portals of that event in search of possible lessons both for the Muslim world and the Other world. Again, On occasions like this, al-Jurjani’s rhetorical style is always very apposite. According to him, one way by which the past can be past imperfect, one way by which the past can be seen in the present is to look not simply for what it meant but indeed for the meaning of the meaning of Hijrah in Islamic annals and in contemporary existential realities of Muslim life all around the world. Remember the great thinker and philosopher of history, Ibn Khaldun. He it was who said “the past resembles the future just like water resembles water”.
Thus, when carefully contemplated, it is arguable to say that the Hijrah was a history and the history of history; it was about women and men of history. The Hijrah was about the struggle between truth and falsehood; it was about the triumph of truth over falsehood. The Hijrah was about the departure and arrival of Islam. It was about the return of Islam as a “hero” after if it was first declaimed as a rebel. Thus in this sense, the Hijrah should not be viewed as an event with relevance only to the past.
It is an event with strong lessons for the “Makkahs” of today waiting to discover their own “Madinah”. Nigeria is the “Makkah” of today awaiting the emergence of its own Muhammad. Or perhaps I should rather say that Nigeria is the new “Makkah” in which a “Muhammad” has emerged. But unlike Prophet Muhammad, the “Muhammad” in Nigeria of today is awaiting his own companions; companions who would be prepared to confront and outstay adversity; followers who would join the train destined for a corruption-free “Madina”; companions who would work with the belief that adversity is a necessary prerequisite for prosperity.
The circumstance of the “Muhammad” in Nigeria today is reminiscent of the circumstance of Prophet Musa (A.s) among the sons of Israel. Before his emergence, the sons of Israel were in dire straits; they were in bondage and anchorage of destitution and persecution. Prophet Musa soon emerged. He requested for one thing, only one thing from Bani Israel-patience with the Almighty; perseverance in acts of righteousness. But like Nigerians of today, the sons of Israel could not and would not be patient. Their hero (Prophet Musa) quickly became a subject of scorn and derision. The obdurate nation of Israel was consequently made to embark on a journey in a wilderness for forty days and nights as retribution for their querulous and dissolute life.
But I know we do not want to embark on a migration of the type chronicled above. I however hold that it is urgent and important we migrate from this “Makkah” to that “Madinah”. Indeed, Nigerians have actually been migrating. Yes. They have been migrating to London like Mustafa Saeed in Tayyib Salih’s novel, Season of Migration to the North”. Nigerians have been migrating to America. If in doubt observe the long queues of visa applicants at the American consulate. Nigerians have also been migrating to Asian countries like China and Malaysia.
But all emigrations to these countries do not, in my view, constitute the real emigration. They are “selfish” migrations – the migration of the individual for the sake of the individual, the migration of the citizens not for the sake of the nation but for themselves. Thus the real emigration that Nigerians and Nigeria should embark upon is that migration from non-performance and lack of development to that of consolidated and comprehensive development and growth in all spheres of life. The Hijrah is about the necessity for the migration from selfishness to philanthropism; it is about the need to think less of ‘I’ in the season of “We”.
But again brethren, on occasions like this, I usually experience some internal conflicts; I am always torn and worn between a past I could not give a detailed account of how I spent it and a future the portents of which practically lies outside my control. In other words, my brother, on occasions like this, I am always afraid of the reality of my existence; that the passage of the past year has meant the passage of life in my life; the passage of the past year has meant a whole three hundred and sixty or sixty-five days has been deducted from my unknowable account.
Thus, dear Sister, every time we mark the beginning of Muharram, I pay attention to the fact that we just marked the end of Dhul Hijjah. Thus, our life is all about beginnings and endings; it is about openings and closings; our life is about arrivals and departures. Thus for me the Hijrah is not about a point in history; nor is it about chapter in a book- the book of Islam. Rather it is an experience in a continuum. Brother, the Hijrah means you have migrated with life into life; it means certain elements in your existence have equally migrated away and forever too from your life!
Dear Brother, I learnt you marked your birthday yesterday. Pause a moment and reflect on this: by marking your, for example, fiftieth birthday anniversary, it meant that you have spent fifty out of the years allocated to you by your Creator. Meanwhile, you are completely lost in the revelry of the moment, totally ignorant of how many more years you have left on earth. Your birthday is nothing but a signifier: that your body and mine are in constant migration- we are all preys of time; we are all destined for extinction. Whether we like it or not, the season of migration from this world to the otherworldly is as constant as the rising of the sun each passing day!
While we are waiting for that important migration, it is important that Muslim members of the Nigerian polity use the occasion of the beginning of the new Hijra Calendar to do self-assessment. This country has not risen because its Muslim elements have failed to measure up to their Quranic destiny. Let us use this occasion to seek more closeness to Allah and forgiveness.
The Prophet says that Allah says: O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you… “. He says again: “The Muslim is one who does not harm other Muslims with his hands or tongue and the Muhajir (the migrant) is the one who shuns all that Allah has forbidden.”
Oladosu A. Afis
is Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Ibadan.