Lessons from the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha (2)
Continued from yesterday
THE symbolism of this episode in the life of Abraham and his son Ismael therefore is in the attitude – a willingness to make sacrifices in our lives in order to stay on the Straight Path (“l-sirata l-mus’taqima” Faatiha: 6). Each of us makes small sacrifices, giving up things that are fun or important to us. A true Muslim, one who submits himself or herself completely to the Lord, is willing to follow Allah’s commands completely and obediently. It is this strength of heart, purity in faith, and willing obedience that God desires from us.
This same narrative is found in the Jewish scripture which constitutes the first part of the Christian Bible referred to as the Old Testament (Genesis 22:1-19). However, unlike the Jews, the Christians interpret this Abrahamic story as a pre-cursor to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. The reason for this has to do with the Christian understanding of human nature, the concept of original sin. (This is the reason for Good Friday and Easter celebrations by Christians). From the Christian perspective, sin and salvation are central categories in theology and spirituality. Christianity teaches that the effects of original sin have corrupted the world and the human beings who exist in it. In Islam, however, there is no such a thing as original sin as pointed out above.
An Appeal to Muslims and Christians
Our President, Muhammadu Buhari, has continued to demonstrate his commitment to living out his religious duties by waging an all-out battle against corruption, stealing of public funds, and lack of transparency and accountability by those who have been entrusted with governance. This writer is particularly thrilled by Mr. President’s commitment to putting into practice his religious convictions.
The President has publicly told Nigerians what he has in terms of possessions as he comes into office as the President of a rich nation with a lot of natural resources. His Vice-President, a Christian, has also done the same and we must believe the sincerity of purpose that has been demonstrated.
In the spirit of this Festival of Sacrifice, this writer is calling on Muslims and Christians whose scriptures contain this story of Abraham/ Ibrahim to stand up and also put their religious convictions into practice as demonstrated by our President.
President Buhari, with the fear of God, has embarked on this crusade against all those in government who stole public funds and property; he has given his support to both the EFCC and ICPC to trace and recover most of these stolen funds.
For him to succeed and thereby leave a lasting legacy for our future political leaders, this writer, in the spirit of Eid al-Adha, is calling on Mr. President to include the following in his plans for Nigerians:
i) The President should not allow anything to distract him from his focus. While he allows investigations to proceed, he should promote a culture of naming and shaming by informing Nigerians what has been recovered and from whom. Transparency should continue to be his watchword.
ii) He was accused of planning to Islamise Nigeria and make life difficult for Christians. Boko Haram was the main reason for this wicked and divisive allegation. Mr. President should continue to publicly support national security by enabling the Armed Forces to clean up what is left of this insurgent group and restore sanity to the N’East of Nigeria in particular and the entire nation in general.
iii) The energy sector is already being changed for the better. He should expose the rot in this sector by again naming and shaming those behind it. This will be a deterrent to future thieves within the energy sector.
iv) Knowing the negative roles religious leaders used religion to play, especially in the last administration, and in order to redeem the image of the One God we all worship, albeit differently, Mr. President is advised against courting the favour of religious leaders who are again poised to continue to divide our nation along religious lines for their monetary gains. He should avoid any acts or statements that will justify the allegation that he is in power to make life difficult for the Christians in Nigeria. It was said, “Buhari is not an option.” The President needs to justify the confidence Nigerians put in him by making a difference.
v) Mr. President should not encourage any rapprochement from religious leaders who would want to control him for their selfish reasons.
Virtually every facet of our public life today is infested by this cancer called corruption. If politicians and civil servants are being purged, the lesson of sacrifice, which this festival draws our attention to as religious people should be used for reflection and action on our side.
As such, the followings are suggested as necessary actions so as to make our nation more respectable:
Religious leaders who collected money from politicians wanting support during the last presidential campaigns should be bold enough to return what they collected on behalf of their religious communities. The allegation made that a huge some of money was given needs to be addressed. As long as this is not investigated and addressed, the moral courage to call on politicians to be people of integrity remains a mockery. In addition to this allegation, vehicles in possession of individual religious leader bought with government funds are to be returned. Religious leaders have a special position in every nation; they are called to encourage the good health of their society. N
Unfortunately, some religious leaders in Nigeria have lost this prophetic charge. The call of President Buhari offers religious leaders a fresh opportunity to retrieve this lost mandate. The sacrificial life of Abraham/ Ibrahim we celebrate with our Muslim neighbours offers these leaders an opportunity to repent, return stolen property and reclaim their mandate to be prophetic.
We are calling on all to emulate Abraham/ Ibrahim who sacrificed his most precious possession. Mr. President has given us an example, now let Nigerians- religious leaders taking the lead, traditional rulers, civil servants and everyone – decide, as we celebrate this common event with our Muslim neighbours, to make some sacrifices so that our country may get out of the mess we have been plunged into. As the Muslims pray when religious duties are performed: taqab al Allah ta’atakum. Barka da Sallah to all Nigerians.
• Most Reverend Idowu-Fearon, Director, Kaduna Centre for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations, Kaduna; is Secretary General of the Anglican Communion St Andrew’s House, Tavistock Crescent, London.