…Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors (Quran 5: 32).
Imagine if Alhaji Abdullah Abubakr had been a member of the insurgent group, the Boko Haram. Imagine if he had been caught in the thick of action spilling innocent blood and destroying lives and properties of his neighbours majority of whom were Christians. Remember that gory picture of that other suicide bomber who came to Abuja a couple of years ago together with his army of evil. Remember how they left landmarks of tragedy and destruction for all to bewail. But remember especially how their pictures were given pride of place on the front covers of our ‘national’ tabloids; how they occupied the front burners of discourse in the media; how their villainous actions were ‘celebrated’ by local and international media outlets. Remember how this society has been sold to evil; remember how fast and quick evil sells more than good.
Yes. Had it been that Imam Abdullah Abubakr joined the forces of darkness and decided to inflict more harm on innocent lives in Barkin Ladi Local government; had it been he was caught in the action, our media would have ‘’celebrated’’ him like they always do. But since his action happened to be the unexpected from the unexpected, no prime time news coverage gave his persona and personage, his action and conduct the recognition he eminently deserved.
Yes. This is always the case. Whenever a Muslim does that which is noble and stellar, his is treated like a dot in the diagram; he is treated like a pebble in the desert. The moment he does the abnormal, the moment he slips from the path of rectitude and indulges in iniquity, he is quickly dismissed as one other evidence of the ahistorical nature of the religion he professes. The Muslim subject is usually celebrated not for positive reasons but for his negative value.
Thus not until recently, nobody knew that Imam Abdullah Abubakr had performed one of the most honourable acts of worship in the reckoning of the Almighty. He found himself in the theatre of war; in Barkin Ladi. He had only three options when his fellow compatriots turned the peace in that local government upside down, when they turned the space of harmony to that of hara-kiri. He could have decided to join the brigands who were killing and despoiling every entity rendered sacred by His will, the Almighty. He could have become another perpetrator in the season of anomie. But he said no. he chose not to be a perpetrator.
Option number two. Imam Abubakr could have become another victim too. Yes. Throughout the days and weeks that Barkin Ladi lost its innocence, the local government became like a jungle where the wild ‘celebrate’ their heinous instincts. Remember, in the wild, two options are usually available- you either eat or you are eaten. But Alhaji ABubakr pooh-poohed that temptation. He knew the Almighty abhors and anathemizes the destruction of innocent lives and for no just cause. He equally knew he had to devise ingenuous means of survival. In other words, he knew he must not ‘eat’ his fellow compatriots; he also knew that he had to find ways through which he would not be ‘eaten’ by those whose souls had become cathedrals of the devil.
Option number three- that of a witness. In other words, having found himself in that roguish theatre of terror where men and women and children were killed simply because they did not share similar identities with the perpetrators, simply because of bread and water, the third available option was for Imam Abdullah Abubakr to take the posture of the witness- the subject without sympathy and empathy. He could have stood by and watch while those innocent Nigerians were being pursued to their deaths. He could have turned the backyard of his mosque to a slaughter slab. But Imam Abubakr chose to follow the Quranic injunction- “he who gives life to a soul, his reward shall be like that of the person who gave life to the whole humanity (Quran 5: 32). Thus he decided not to invite the Almighty into a war by destroying what he cannot create. At that particular moment when others went gaga and banal, Imam Abubakr chose reason and equanimity. He chose to be a nurturer of lives not a destroyer.
Listen to him-“I hid the women in my personal house and after that, I took the men into the mosque and hid them there.” The Deputy Chief Mission and Charge de Affaires of the US Embassy, Mr. David Young captured the above persuasively when he said: “Those who work for peace do not belong to one group or another they are not just Muslims or Christians they are individuals who give up their lives for goodness and fight evil”.
Yes. Evil has no religion; the devil has no creed. But whenever heroes emerge from this hungry land, a land that is acutely poor of heroes, ample efforts should be spared to celebrate them. What Imam Abdullah Abubakr did by rescuing close to three hundred innocent Nigerians from the hands of death has no compere in our recent history. He is eminently qualified for a reward that has no precedent in our annals.
Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
(08122465111 for texts only)