O Lord of the Worlds and their inhabitants, I stand before You today to give this account of happenings here on Earth, not because You do not know already, but because I want to have it on record that I have laid these complaints before Your Preeminent Majesty. My purpose is to cite this action on the Day of Judgement to demonstrate my innocence of the unfortunate misappropriation of Your favours being done in my name by your servants. I wish to not only absolve myself from their unfortunate omissions and commissions, but also make a case against them for spoiling my name. These servants are none other than Nigeria’s Umrah pilgrims.
I remember when You created me and made me a highly recommended (all-year-round) worship, I celebrated my coming into being with fanfare. When Prophet Muhammad (SAW) informed his disciples about me, they celebrated because my arrival satisfied their abiding desires to exalt Your name infinitely through circumambulation and the pacing between Safa and Marwa. I was even called ‘lesser Hajj’ relating me to my (once-a-year) big brother whom I quietly teased.
However, over a millennium ago, I noticed that more pilgrims preferred to engage in me during the holy month of Ramadan. That was to brighten their chances at Your blessings and forgiveness through my intersection with the blessed month. Ordinarily, that was wise.
However Lord, recently my brother (Hajj) and I noticed a new disturbing trend. The ratio of repeat pilgrims to new pilgrims was increasing alarmingly. In the last few decades, rather than seeing new groups and faces that would have underscored the length and breadth of Your magnanimity and beneficence, repeat pilgrims have become the rule rather than the exception. In our ‘mortal’ reckoning Lord, this cannot be good news for the Muslim ummah. And so we began to investigate.
Our preliminary investigation showed that although this trend is observable in other countries, yet it is acute in Nigeria. We could not understand how a country of over 80 million Muslims would keep returning the same few thousands of pilgrims every year. We had to investigate this particular case thoroughly with a view to proffering solutions. In the end, O Lord, our findings were so profound that we thought the only thing to do was to bring the case before You.
Lord, let us begin with stating the obvious, which is that performing my brother, Hajj, is a religious obligation upon all Muslims as long as they have the socio-economic wherewithal to discharge it. But once discharged, then repeating it becomes only but supregatory. In my own case, I am not even compulsory a priori. But Lord, the finding is that your subjects have chosen to prioritize repeating pilgrimage, which is voluntary, over the obligatory, fundamental issue of building a robust socio-economic safety net (at least) for the Muslim Ummah.
Our findings have shown that there is pervasive poverty and acute illiteracy in the land. In the Muslim-dominated regions, it was reported that seven out of every ten people are living on less than N150 a day. As for those within the economically productive age (the age bracket of 15 to 64 years) in this region, at least 5 out of every 10 are unemployed. Yet Lord, the elites’ purse in Nigeria is experiencing the third highest growth rate in the whole world. How can this make sense?
Lord, at 545 deaths per 100,000 live births, Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The life expectancy of the average Nigerian is 47 years. Little wonder, when the elites are sick, they run abroad for treatment since they have failed to build standard hospitals. Not done yet, they have conspired to not care about the provision of quality education in public schools, since they could send their own children to private schools in Nigeria or abroad. This way, not only will they continue to lord it over the masses, but also their children will perpetually perched on top of the children of the masses, till kingdom come.
Lord, the truth is that the blessings that you are showering upon the Nigerian land mass and its population is being cornered by these few elites. Over 90% of the wealth is being shared by less than 5% of the people here in Nigeria. And that is one of the reasons why only this small number (and their lackeys) gets to come on pilgrimage over and over again. But then, You already knew that.
You know exactly how these types of people mercilessly milk the common till to butter their own bread. They are constantly re-inventing ways of hoodwinking the masses. They deceive these poor souls into trusting them only to end up further pauperizing them. Many of these elites have no idea whom their neighbours are. They do not even go to the mosque. Most have small mosques built within their compounds for use by themselves, their wards and their servants.
They do not know if their neighbours had decent meals the previous night and they do not care. They are not concerned if the children of these people do go to school. They do not want to know if they are gainfully employed. No. What they are waiting for is the day when these neigbours will starve to the point of offering their wretched houses for sale. Quickly, they rich will buy off these property at pathetic rates, demolish the houses and expand their mansions. Lord, these are largely the people that come to worship You every year at the expense of those who really need You.
Therefore, I ask you, Lord, not to accept the pilgrimage of anyone that trampled upon your servants and corrupted his way to come to you, not to appreciate the sacrifice of anybody that failed to assist your servants who are in debilitating need, and not to look kindly towards these selfish and malicious souls. We know Lord, you said you are clean and you do not accept anything except that which is clean. Please bear witness that we are dissociating ourselves from those repeat pilgrims who have abandoned the poor and the weak.
Filed Under: Other Columnists