You know me, I do not blaspheme. I only struggle to weave thoughts around the commonest sense without offending thinking minds. The desire to ask the people of this country to see the bigger picture grows anytime we turn a deep thought in our minds. I may be like Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz who, on being told of fellow novelist Salman Rushdie’s portrayals of Islamic history in his infamous “Satanic Verses”, said: “I found the insults in it unacceptable. Rushdie insults even the women of the Prophet! Now, I can argue with ideas, but what should I do with insults? Insults are the business of the court.” You see? Ideas. But these days, great ideas are lost in the textbooks of stereotypes written by narcissistic scholars and thinkers.
Confession: I have a case with the African Salafis—that group of Islamic bigots to whom everything out of their definition of Islam is haram. Forbidden. Of the sects, groups, sub-groups, schools and movements that disturb the foundations of Islam, especially the dangerous schism between the Sufis and the Salafis that dominated West Africa, I will befriend a million Sufis before I welcome a Salafi into my world. Allah says, “There is no compulsion in religion (Qur’an 2:256)” and on the strength of this verse, I am always forced to challenge our bigoted brothers to a duel on their literal interpretation of the Qur’an. Interpretations of religious books without acknowledging the context in which cited verses were revealed are the worst forms of terrorism. The intellectual terrorism of the literalists may be at its brightest blaze when they interpret verses from, say, Surah At-Taubah. Our literalists would reference “Kill the mushriqeens [pagans, polytheists, kuffar] where ever you find them (Qur’an 9:5)” whenever they set their eyes on the idols of Africa’s “religions”.
I say, come off it. Africa and the African are concepts older than Abrahamic religions and, for this, attempts to wipe them out are delusions; Political impossibility. This takes us to the Malian iconoclasts to whom the “paganism” of indigenous Sufis is a cause for war, and back to Nigeria where ideologically hollow insurgents kill, apparently for fun! They do not even know that warfare is no longer a form of evangelism, it was never really one. The Black race must resist being the foot soldiers of racial and territorial domination campaigns between Western imperialists and Arab expansionists.
Science teaches us that Africa had existed for millions of years (millions!) before the prophets of Abrahamic religions emerged to the Jews and the Arabs. History books show that Jesus came to the Jews about half a century before Prophet Muhammad happened to the Arabs. The believers felt that the messages brought to humanity by Christianity and Islam were meant for the entire world, thus the propagations and resistances and warfare. The cassock-wearing missioners and turbaned traders came to Africa, but have Black Africans really embraced the teachings of these religions? Our ignorance could not let us do so. Many of us did not know anything about the histories of these religions aside from the Canterbury tales we learnt at Qur’anic schools. This is why an uninformed Muslim would flare up on seeing a non-Muslim fondling a Bible written in Arabic. Uninformed Muslim thinks that Arabic is Islam. Uninformed Muslim takes up the culture of the Arabs in his rush to piety. Uninformed Muslim has been told by an actually uninformed mullah that associations with non-Muslims are outlawed. Uninformed Muslim wants everyone to practise his religion unmindful of the reality that his brothers kill in the name of the same religion. Coercion and warfare, they don’t know, are not forms of evangelism. Uninformed Muslim must realise that his brothers have set a task before him: that of telling the world that the extremism exhibited by his brothers is actually a sub-clinical mental disorder which has no room in Islam.
If Allah had wanted you to be Arab, he would have created you in Yemen. You were first of all Black, before you were Muslim. But your ignorance of this makes you an unwitting lab rat of Arab imperialism. Our obsession with skewed fundamentalism leads us to blasphemy. Blasphemy is when you challenge the creations of Allah, when you preach that your own race is a mistake. That is what you do any moment you attack, kill, or bomb just because the features on your soil are not the same with those on the soils of Arabia. Our diversity, instead of being bullied into one, should be exploited into a prism of inter-religious, inter-racial, inter-cultural, inter-everything harmony.
There is one last thing, there is one simple yet complex question to which answers have never ever been proffered: Why do you want someone to convert to your religion? “Because it is the only Path!” I hear you scream. But, dear evangelist, if your God does not send money down from the sky, it is unwise to label nonbelievers fools. This, and not your spiritual complexity, is the mindset of an uninitiated person. The faith of a man is like a balloon, so evangelism must be tender and genuine. If handled without care, it bursts. This is 21st century, the internet has given everyone access to the truths, propagandas and falsehoods of every belief, tradition and culture. The surest way to convince a man about God and His promises for eternal bliss is by practising what you preach. The world may be at crossroads like the character Mathieu, but it has reached the Age of Reason (pun, this!) – apologies to author Jean-Paul Sartre. May God save us from us.