A Brief Reflection: How Did We Really Get It Wrong?
-Ajetunmobi Umar Olansile University of Ibadan, Nigeria
I remember when I was still a junior secondary school student at Ilé-kéwú , some of my peers and I were strong believers in and promoters of some lines of an Arabic poem we learnt in Ta’aleemul Muta’alimi : Ta’allam, fainnal ‘ilma zainun lihaaalihi(p.6)…Fainna al-maala yafnaa ‘an qoriibin, wainnal ‘ilma yabqaa laa yazaalu(p.29).” This is literally translated at “Seek knowledge, for indeed knowledge is a pearl to the knowledgeable… Wealth will definitely cease very soon, but knowledge lives and dies not. Do our children still believe that knowledge outshines wealth- in a metaphoric sense? Do our Ilé-kéwús still teach the young ones that wealth without knowledge is anti-development to us as humans and a nation? Do we still tell our Ilé-kéwú students that having a legal means or legitimate multiple streams of income is a necessity for everyone who wishes to run away from all illegalities some “alfas” with mistaken identities brandish around- we all know the illegalities they do? What time did we get it wrong that young people now do everything within their reach to get quick wealth? Which lacunas have we opened that many young boys and girls in our communities now go berserk (uncontrolled)? This article reflects on some of the experiences- reading and practical- the writer has encountered.
The first area where we have got it wrong as a people is that many parents enrol their kids in some Ilé-kéwús purposely to learn about local charms so that they become “spiritual consultants” upon graduation from these local schools. In fact, in many places in Yorubaland, people’s belief is that you should have charms the moment you are called “alfa”! That shows the level of symbolic bastardisation many Muslims and non-Muslims in Nigeria have reconstructed for alfaship. It’s just surprising that this sad practice had been so normalized- in the Southwest in particular- that you who speak against this unIslamic spiritual consultancy are seen as an outcast and garrulous lunatic. It’s a pity that some parents in this century still believe that their children must open an Islamically unacceptable “spiritual consultancy shop” upon their graduation from Ilé-kéwús. How come will someone just sit somewhere and milk you dry in the guise of peeping into your future, seeing how deeply-rooted your familial enemies are, etc.? They are liars, for Allah, our Creator, is only the Knower of Ghayb as rightly alluded to in Qur’an 6, verse 59, Qur’an 27, verse 65, Qur’an 72, verse 26, Qur’an 11, verse 31, among other verses.
For example, historical documentations show us that Islamic scholars of previous centuries had jobs they were identified with aside their theological knowledge. If they were not teachers, they would be preachers. Many of them were even teachers, preachers and merchants combined. They never went to Ilé-kéwú (as practised in their eras) to learn voodoos! It's high time our local Ilé-kéwús brought back this history of ancient learning. Right from the time of the Prophet (SAW), Islamic intellectuals had jobs! The orthodox leaders of Muslims- Abubakar, Umar, Uthmaan and ‘Ali- and their successors were traders despite their deep knowledge and understanding of the religion and the vastness of leadership responsibilities on their shoulders. The Prophet even traded for Khadeejah before the two married each other. We had a carpenter, a weaver, shepherds and teachers among our Creator's messengers. Sitting down somewhere and expecting that orí gbígbẹ and tútù will keep bringing you free money isn't an established culture in Islam at all.
May Allah grant my Mudeer , Late Shaykh Salman Titilope (Oluko Agba), abundant mercies for his tireless grooming throughout my over 10-year stay in Ilé-kéwú. He would always advise us to take things easy- instead of pursuing wealth, we should pursue knowledge first; then wealth would come after we had sought beneficial knowledge. He was so patient that he would still teach students who owed fees- some didn’t even pay till they absconded from Madraasah AlhamdulilLaahi for those of us who listened; we are not yet rich as the society would dictate, but we thank Allah that no one can mislead us at all in the guise of religion! What has now happened in some of our contemporary Ilé-kéwús? Aren’t we the ones brandishing wealth as a compulsory tool every student must seek by all means? Haven’t we seen some acclaimed alfas brandishing hard currencies publicly on the social media? Why have some of our Ilé-kéwús remained lax in the primary duty of imparting knowledge? What do we teach them these days? AlhamdulilLaahi, better Ilé-kéwús are sprouting in many localities in the Southwest! Ilé-kéwús where students are taught how to scam people and practise sorcery through charms aren’t even meant to exist!
The second reason why we have got it wrong as a society is that many parents now see parenting as a voluntary responsibility. Right from our behaviours and practices in front of the children at home to our attitudes to their upbringing, many parents have failed. One, many parents fail to understand that the genres of music and Nollywood movies they show to children from their early development stage really influence the children’s psychological processing of social issues. Social scientists have argued that the nature of audiovisual contents within the reach of children either make or mar their human development and thought processing, especially when they are still young. Is it not in your house that these kids gyrate lexicons such as kala, daju, wu’wa ika ? Is it not right under your roof that the kids watch how a man and a woman copulate with each other? Is it not in those movies you brought home that they learnt the end-time-like dresses? Is it not in those movies they learnt what steps to take in order to get quick wealth? Dear parents, haven’t you failed like the parents of the three teenagers who recently murdered one of their girlfriends in Ogun State, and burnt her head for ritual wealth? It’s just unfortunate! Two, why give birth to kids you won’t be responsible to and for? You have failed if you don’t know what your children eat, drink, wear, know when they leave your roof in the morning and return at night alongside the company of friends they keep. Those three teenage boys started somewhere! They, alongside the murdered girl, were left for the societal hawks to prey upon! What are you doing as parents to guide and guard your children by talking sense to them occasionally? I do argue that our society gets worse because our homes are on holidays; bad homes make a bad society. Look at your community, and see what very young boys and girls have turned into- paraga joints keep growing like a malignant cancer. Many parents now scold their children as if their own parents looked after them in such a foolery manner! It has now become an unwritten sin for many parents to question where their children they know have no known job get so much money to buy the luxurious phones, cars, bikes, gold wristwatches, necklaces, etc. they brandish around. Many parents now worship money, and even go at length to back their children to money ritualists; no wonder the children die very young and run mad at will while such parents end up miserably.
The third important failure is intertwined: the children and the society that breed them. On different occasions, I have given lectures in the local mosques I attend on what children in our communities are turning into. In one of the communities where I have lived for instance, you see boys and girls as young as eleven, twelve, thirteen to seventeen meeting at joints, roaming about, pressing phones and listening to musicals with filthy lyrics, all at nights. These are the children who were supposed to have been under their parents sleeping, eating dinner, reading or even preparing for school. But what happened? They were lurking around as if they had no parents under whom they were accountable! I remember when I was within this age bracket- fifteen in particular-, I was nicknamed 7 to 7 at home because the moment I left the house at 7 for Western education school, my return home would be 7 in the evening. That time, after closing at 4 in school, I would go straight to Madrasah, and close at 6.30 in the evening. Before I walked home, the time would have tick-talked to 7pm. In fact, from Thursday to Saturday, I would still go to a place where I learnt how to operate a computer. Tell me, what time would I have got to be roaming about aimlessly at nights! Aside that my parents trained me within the best of their ability, I also trained myself. AlhamdulilLahi for today! Unfortunately, many children of today need enforcement before they’re motivated to develop themselves personally; some really use this digital age to their benefits while many go haywire with it. When parents put their arms at akimbo, the next is for the society to step in. Who makes up your society? The drug addicts? The ritual monsters? The Yahoo-Yahoo guys/ benefit boys? The alcoholics? The truants? The promoters of school na scam? Just look at your community, and see whether you have failed or about to fail as parents!
At this point, it will be unjust if I just bring back the problems we are already aware of without suggesting some practical solutions. As such, my recommendations are for religious leaders and preachers, proprietors of Ilé-kéwús, parents and children. Although we are presented as religious people in Nigeria, many of us are still found wanting when it comes to the practical aspects of our religious fundamentals and teachings. Because of our acclaimed religiosity, religious leaders and preachers should jointly restrategise and reposition their sermons and talks to social ills confronting us. The fact they are opinion leaders makes them a change agent the congregation can listen to. It has worked for me as a young preacher. For proprietors of Ilé-kéwú, curricula should be reviewed in a manner that some lifelong skills are included among the lessons students can learn; in fact, I totally agree with the Chief Imam of University of Ibadan Muslim Community, Professor Abdulrahman Oloyede, when he recommended this while addressing Muslims in the Jumu’ah of February 4, 2022. In my own view however, these skills should be 70% practical and 30% theoretic; considerable fees should be charged. Then, the proprietors should keep reiterating it to the students that illicit spiritual consultancy and occultism is a taboo in Islam, and such practice withers one’s Islam. Importantly, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) needs to regulate alfaship in Nigeria, and identifies what characterize someone to be addressed as an alfa- illicit spiritual consultancy services rampant among some acclaimed alfas in the Southwest should be outlawed, and backed with a Shari’ah Code that would be binding on all Nigerian Muslims. Then, our parents should really understand that “charity indeed begins at home” and “an idle hand is a devil’s workshop.” Aside these, they should see parenting and parenthood as an amaanah Allah will question them about on the day of resurrection- some parents will be favoured by Allah because of the amaanah they fulfilled on their children, while some will be punished for their woeful failure. Your children shouldn’t just be too free to remain idle for hours per day; enrol them in good Arabic schools where they acquire virus-less knowledge, for this will make you rest very well during your old age. Finally, children should understand that whether you rush to get rich or not, you won’t outshine your destiny. If that is the case, why don’t you then remain patient and receive an everlasting blessing of your Creator? Dear children, steadfastness, hard-work, fervent prayers, commitment, resilience, patience, knowledge and skills acquisition are the fighting tools you need. I can confidently tell you that book no be scam o! Learn first before you rush to earn!