“Remember those orphans in your neighbourhood”
Brethren! He was an eight year old young boy. He was found inside the mosque. Seated beside him was his younger sister. With palms opened up to the heavens, the young boy and girl were muttering silent supplications to the Almighty. They were calling on Him, the Almighty. Somehow they were certain that nobody else could be called besides Him. The boy and girl were well apprised with the fact that it is He who hears the silent supplications of the ant in darkness that could intervene and change their hopeless circumstance for the better.
Soon an old who had been watching them decided to talk to them. He, therefore, moved closer to the spot where the boy and his sister were huddled together. At a time bearded men were uncertain of where their Lord is and how they might reach out to him, the boy and the girl caught a picture of an image in deep spirituality. When he got to them, he contemplated the boy and girl. The boy looked emaciated. His shirt bore testimony to the good old days; days when children had parents who cared and catered to their needs and comforts. But to wear old patched clothes does not mean they should be dirty. Thus even in his state of deprivation, the boy’s shirt was very clean. It was as if he was aware that it is only the clean who could talk to and talk with the Clean, the Almighty.
Meanwhile, the boy and girl were not aware that they had invited the attention and interest of the man. This is because they were fully engrossed in their supplications. It was as if they knew that in the presence of the Almighty, the heart of the servant must not be absent. It was as if they knew that the moment the worshipper raises up his hands and proclaims
“Allah is the Greatest”, every other thing in the world becomes inconsequential. Soon he began to weep. Tears fed by fear, hope and feeling of nothingness in the presence of the Creator filled his eyes. Then the man went to him and asked him as gently as possible thus: “what is it that you are asking from the Almighty?’ The young boy looked the strange man straight in the eyes and said: ‘My father is no more. I’m praying to the Almighty to grant him paradise. My mother has not stopped crying since. I am asking the Almighty to give her patience and fortitude.” But the young boy was not done yet. He continued: “My sister always cries for clothes, I want money for her.’
Then the man asked ‘Do you go to school?’ The boy replied: ‘Yes’ ‘what class you are you now?’ The boy said: ‘I don’t go there to study, my mother makes boiled chickpeas. I go to that school to sell the chickpeas for her. Many school kids buy from me. That is how we survive.’ At this point, the man could not bear it any longer. He too started to wipe tears from his eyes. Every single word being uttered by the little boy had started to pierce his heart. Then he asked the boy again: “Don’t you have any relatives? The boy responded saying: “My mother has told us that the poor have no relatives. My mother always speaks the truth. But sometimes whenever she serves us food and whenever we ask her to eat with us, she would say she had finished her meal. At that time I can see that she is not speaking the truth.”
The encounter between the young boy and the man soon reached its climax when he asked the former: “If someone takes care of your school fees, will you study?’ The boy’s response read: ‘Never. Educated people hate the poor. None of the literates here have bothered to talk to us or tried to help us. All these people knew my father when he was alive. But now they do not want to know us anymore”. To drive his point home, the boy added: “Uncle when your father dies, every single person whom you know becomes a stranger.”
When I chanced upon the above story, I remembered my story and the stories of many orphans and orphanated subjects all around our cities, our mosques. Children who are orphanated by chance, never by choice; children who became orphans simply because they have absent fathers and mothers; children who are orphanated by government; children who are orphanated by their societies, our societies. Ask yourself this simple question: how many orphans like the hero of this story has met with your care, attention and compassion? Is it indeed true that the more educated we are the more we lose our humanity and spirituality? Remember, each breadth you take represents a decrease and increase: a decrease in the number of moments and seconds apportioned to you by your Creator and an extra opportunity given to you by Him perchance you would ‘invest’ in what would last and outlast you not in the ephemeralities and nothingness of this earthly pleasures and deceits.
Afis Ayinde Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies, and Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan.
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