Thursday, 16 October 2014

My Ramadan Blues

My Ramadan Blues
It is another holy month of Ramadan; a most holy season among the Muslim Ummah. I look at my children and observe that they do not even realize what season it is much less the importance of it in the lives of other fellow human beings and, even more importantly, fellow citizens. Of course they are not bound to come to such realization or knowledge for the simple reason that we are not Muslims, but I know that such is good for them, for it was good for me when I was growing up and it still is good for me.
The mere sound of the word “azumi”, which implies the fast observed in the month of Ramadan fills me with nostalgia and, yet, sadness. The nostalgia arises from the fact of my growing up in the Tudun Wada suburb of Kaduna in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was a period of gay and carefreeness; a period of innocence for me and my mates. At that time, it did not matter whose child one was. All of us children, Muslims and Christians alike, looked out for the Ramadan moon that would usher in the fast because of the abundance that came with Iftar, the breaking of the day’s fast. We, Christian kids, even sometimes fasted along with our Muslim friends and took pride in asking each other “azuminka nawa yau?”, in a bid to boast to each other of the number of fast we kept, fast that was not required of us. Our parents, Christian and Muslim, were just happy to see their children together. We participated in the Iftar at the homes of our Muslim mates as equally as they. No inhibitions. No reservations. In fact if we did not show up, their mothers would send them with bowls to our homes. It was that wonderful.
One very memorable aspect of it was the “Tashe” bit, the recreational activities children put up at the end of a day’s fast, moving from place to place, and were gifted little change. We kids, Muslim and Christian, staged these spectacles together with a lot of glee. Sometimes it would constitute a band of only us, Christian kids, because our Muslim friends were still busy with Iftar things and we did not have the patience to wait for them. I remember, with fun, one such occasion when we drifted rather far away from home on a Tashe outing and one “wicked” bachelor “uncle” from our compound, who must have gone visiting one of his numerous girlfriends that fateful night, saw us. He scolded us fiercely and, after seizing our takings from the Tashe for the night, ordered us home with threats and assurances to flog us upon getting home later that night. Up till this day he never carried out his threats; he was content with our seized coins.
This looks like an exercise in romanticism but I will embark on it again and again because it was real. It is only with the passage of time that I realized the profundity of such communality that we enjoyed. That was real solidarity even though we did not call it by that name then. Indeed you never know the value of what you have until you lose it. That is the sad part of my feelings every year Ramadan comes around. Our children may never enjoy that rainbow experience even though we all still live in the same city.
We have allowed strange people, whose motives we do not even know, to come in between us. We have allowed strange ideologies to violently rupture the bonds that had kept us together to the extent that we do not even recognize each other’s faces. The fact is that our children – posterity – do not deserve this legacy we are leaving behind.
Ten or so years ago we thought that it was bad but what we see today is far ghastlier. We hope that the next few years do not reduce this already horrible situation of today in some child’s play. Even in this holy month, bombs are still ripping people apart in market and other public places. Good people must never keep silent. Because this is a Islamic occasion, one will address the Muslims here. Good Muslims far outnumber the bad ones. Some very few people have dragged the name of Islam into ridicule by using it to cause pain, chaos and doom. Good Muslims must rise up and be heard, both by their word and by their witnessing. We all must stand for justice.
To my Muslim brothers and sisters, I pray that God receive and bless your Ibada. May your children make you smile in your old age. May their day be better and more just than ours. Ramadan Kareem!

BLUEPRINT Newpaper; July 2, 2014

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