Season of migration here again


Thus the Muslim world began a new year – one thousand four hundred and thirty nine years (1439) after the migration of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) from Makkah to Madinah. Each year a new lunar calendar begins, we always want to plumb the inner portals of the event of the Hijrah both for the Muslim world and the Other world. We always seek to know, using al-Jurjani’s style, the meaning and the meaning of the meaning of Hijrah in Islamic annals and in contemporary existential realities of Muslim life all around the world.

Brethren, each time a new lunar year begins,, I always experience a conflict. I always find myself torn 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. I am afraid of the reality of my existence; that the passage of the past year has meant the passage of life in my life. Thus the Hijrah, for me, is in a continuum. The onset of the new year means I have migrated with life into life; certain elements in my existence have equally migrated away and permanently too!

Brethren! Today is Muharram the 9st, 1439 AH. This means one whole year has been deducted from my account, from my life. It means I could neither migrate back to the past nor effect any changes in my records which are being guarded jealously by the honourable angels! Dear Brother, I learnt you marked your fortieth birthday yesterday. Pause a moment and reflect on this: by marking your fortieth birthday anniversary, it meant that you have spent forty out of the years allocated to you. You marked your birthday in complete ignorance that birthdays are actually death-days. Dear sister, 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!

Let us side-step the eschatological in the Hijrah for the existential. Brethren in Islam! It was Ibn Khaldun who says “the past resembles the future just like water resembles water”. This is particularly true of the event which made the Hijrah a categorical imperative. In other words, 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. Thus I make bold to say that Nigeria, my country and yours, is, today, like Makkah of over a thousand four hundred and thirty nine years ago. Nigeria is the Makkah of today awaiting the emergence of its own Muhammad. Hardly would historians of Islam, both Christians and Muslims, be faulted should they suggest that there is a strong necessity for Nigerians to migrate from this “Makkah” to that “Madinah”; that the need for Nigeria to migrate has become urgent and important. But where should Nigeria and Nigerians migrate to? Is it to London like that of Mustafa Saeed’s in Tayyib Salih’s novel, Season of Migration to the North”? Is it to America as has been the case going by the long queues of visa applicants at the American consulate? Nigerian emigrants to Malaysia and other Asian countries have also painted a scenario of a country suffering from an implosion. But all emigrations to these countries do not, in my estimation, constitute the real emigration. They are “selfish” migrations – the migration of the individual for the sake of the individual, not the migration of the nation for the sake of all its citizens.

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. For Nigerians to migrate with their country from their “Makkah” to their own “Madinah”, therefore, there is an urgent need for the emergence of a “Muhammad” for this country. Yes we are waiting for our “Muhammad”. We are waiting for a leader who would confront the Abu Jahls and Abu Sufyans of Nigeria. Yes we are waiting. We are waiting for our “Muhammad” who would effectively put an end to the unceasing oppression of the poor by the rich. We are waiting. We are waiting for our Muhammad who would migrate with Nigeria from the abyss of greed and selfishness to that Madina where the rich would not be happy until the poor is fed and become joyous. Yes we are waiting. We are waiting for our Muhammad who would be responsive and responsible while in office. Yes we are waiting. We are waiting for a leader who would take Nigeria to a Madina where there would be no moral depravity and the commoditization of women’s bodies by men and women. Is the “Muhammad” here already?

While we are waiting for that important migration, let us use this occasion to seek more closeness to the Almighty and seek His forgiveness. Our Prophet 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…”

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