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Ramadan and war against corruption Part 1


Brethren! This year’s fasting period is taking place at a time government at the centre is waging war against corruption. It is taking place at a time corruption is equally fighting back. Whereas there is consensus on the seeming intractability of the incidences of corruption in government ministries and agencies, hardly do we spare thoughts for the other corruption- corruption in places of worship; corruption in mosques and churches. Each time the category of corruption is mentioned, we hardly note the insidious impacts of sleaze and lucre on our idea of religion and the religious. Today’s sermon attempts to fill that gap.

I guess we all know what corruption is. But I doubt whether we all know what religion is. Yes. It is my presumption that we do not know exactly what religion is the same way we do not know the air that we breadth, the same way we do not know the soul without which we are dead. When carefully contemplated, it is incontrovertible to say that the negative uses to which we have put religion in this country is largely responsible for the disharmony and crises that have continued to threaten the corporate existence of this nation. While the ethnic impulse in Nigerian is local, that of religion is global; whereas it is difficult if not out-rightly impossible for an individual to be an Igbo and a Yoruba at the same time except for reason of birth, it is only religion whose geography cuts across all ethnic, social, political and economic divide with ease. The hold religion has on Nigerians appear to be uncanny; its role as a causative factor for national ‘disintegration’ and national corruption is equally and probably the most iconic, the most problematic and, I dare say, the most choleric.


You all remember him, Karl Marx. He it was who said, religion is “the opium of the people”. It has become a palimpsest- the more it is defined and theorized, the more enigmatic it becomes. It is enigmatic, in part, because though it is a concept which is ordinarily accessible and within the reach of majority of humanity it is probably the most misunderstood and most misrepresented.While scholars may refer to it as “the propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man, which are believed to direct and control the cause of nature and human life” trends in this country is portentous of a situation where the sacred, where ‘powers that are superior to man’ is now in full service of the secular. Consequently the barrier separating the two realms has been occluded. Thus that which is sacred, paraphrasing Shakespeare, is profane; that which is profane has become sacred.

But I should sound a note of warning. Whenever we check religion as a factor for corruption in the world today we are actually indulging in an odious conflation of the spirit with the ‘spiritual’; a conflation of religion with the religious, a conflation of the car with its driver. We forget factors such as ignorance of the fundamental dictates of the various religions by its adherents; we gloss over wrong interpretations of religious texts by a coterie of incompetent scholars most of whom are, in line Khalid Abou El-Fadl, usually ‘authoritarian’ in their approach to religious texts. This situation has become worsened by poverty and penury in which the led, the laity and the ordinary masses are steeped. We equally usually forget factors of greed and materialism. Muslims and Christians and others who want to take more than their fair share of the commonwealth. Religious leaders who posture as if they know Islam better than Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w); Christians who seek to build cathedrals of wealth not of faith. It is the combination of these factors that has turned places where religion could be found to, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “confraternities of the faithless”.
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