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He stole because of his children!

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(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent the Merciful
And know ye that your possessions and your progeny are but a trial; and that it is Allah with Whom lies your highest reward. Quran 8: 28

Yes. Across centuries and civilizations, crimes have always been committed for one reason or the other.

But no matter how ribald and extremely incredulous they may appear, there is always a reason for indulgence in corruption, in sins and in infractions. When asked by the Almighty for the reason it refused to prostrate to Prophet Adam (a.s), Satan provided a very “strong” argument. It said” O! God, how can I, a subject created from fire, prostrate to Adam whom you created from dust”. Since we are rational beings, we often seek justifications for all our actions even when such do not and cannot stand up to reason. The former senator who became a Commissioner would tell you ‘life has to go on.”; the Professor who take up appointment as local government Councilor might argue that in times like this reason has lost its value. The other day the lady was caught in Saudi Arabia for peddling narcotics to the Kingdom, she was said to have pleaded that she was a widow. She resorted to drug trafficking in order to make ends meet.

At a discussion on campus recently, the question agitated our minds: for what purpose would men and women sacrifice their honour and integrity for countable sums of money? Exactly how much does a man need to steal in order to attain eternity on earth? Exactly how much would a woman need to steal in order to escape senility and death?

A colleague here on campus offered a perspective. According to him, those who engage in these horrendous and humongous acts of corruption are probably suffering from undetected and therefore untreated insanity. As a cultural critic, I am always fascinated by the insanity argument. As an intellectual, I have discovered that madness furnishes an interesting subject of inquiry. I concur that it is nothing but madness to experience pleasure and happiness in the atrocious acquisition of wealth which one knows one cannot by oneself manage or be in need of either in the long or in the short term. Here I recall the intervention of a friend of mine. He used to be a chain-smoker. One day I asked him this question: “Akin what pleasure do you derive from smoking?”. He looked me straight in the eye and said: “Prof! There are pleasures in being mad which none but the man knows”.

Yet another response was that people often engage in acts of corruption not for themselves but for their children. In other words, the man who stole ten billion naira was in the know that the money cannot buy him extra years on earth. He knew that by the time he attains the age of 80 or 90, the world would have lost all its allure and adornment in his estimation. He would have lost control of almost all his sensory organs. He would have discovered that though he is still in the world, the world had actually left him behind. Thus the reason people steal what they do not by themselves need is the egregious assumption that parents by themselves can secure the future of their children at least in material terms. These are parents who desire to become gods for their progenies. However, revelation and reason, history and experience speak to the contrary. Consider the following story.

Muqatil ibn Sulayman once entered into the palace of Caliph al-Mansur, one of the Abbasid rulers. Al-Mansur then told him: Admonish me O! Muqatil”. Muqatil then said: Should I admonish you with what I have seen or with what I have heard?”. al-Mansur replied: “Admonish me with what you have seen”. Then Muqatil said: O! Amir. Caliph Umar bn Abdul Aziz gave birth to eleven children. On the day he died, he left a total sum of eighteen dinar behind. He was shrouded in a white cloth which cost five dinars and was buried in a grave the cost of which was four dinar. What was left behind was then shared among his children.

There came after Caliph Umar bn Aziz another Caliph, namely Hisham bn Abdul Malik. On the day Hisham died, the shares of his children from his estate were in thousands of dinars. But I swear by the Almighty O! Leader of the Faithfuls, one day I saw one of the children of Umar bn Abdul Aziz giving charity of a hundred horses in the service of the Almighty; shortly thereafter, I saw one of the children of Hisham bn Abdul Malik begging for money in the market. I remember that Umar bn Abdul Aziz was asked, while on his death bed: what are you leaving behind for your children?”. He replied: I am leaving behind for them fear of the Almighty: if they are righteous, the Almighty would be their shield; if they are not, even if I leave behind for them an estate that is high in worth as the mountain of Uhud, it would avail them nothing when the reckoning of the Almighty comes.
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Afis Oladosu is Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan.


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