ON THE SEASONS OF MIGRATION
In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful
“If you do not help the prophet, (it does not matter) Allah did help him when the unbelievers drove him out of his town, the second of the two, while the two were in the cave and (the enemy came to the opening of the cave) he said to his companion (Abu Bakr, later the first of the rightly guided caliphs), “Do not worry, Allah is with us.” So Allah sent down his serenity on him and strengthened him with forces, which you cannot see, thus, He made the word of the unbelievers lowest, while words of Allah remain supreme. Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. (Quran 9; 40)
“Indeed, those who have believed and those who have emigrated and fought in the cause of Allah – those expect the mercy of Allah. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 2: 218).
“The Muslim is one who does not harm other Muslims with his hands or tongue and the Muhajir (or emigrant) is the one who shuns all that Allah has forbidden.”
“An act of worship performed during the time of Fitnah (trials) is equal to an act of emigration to me in reward.”
THUS the Moslem world began a New Year – one thousand four hundred and thirty-two years (1432) after the migration of Prophet Muhammad (upon him be blessings and mercies of Allah) from Makkah to Madinah.
A year ago, we tried to plumb the inner portals of the event both for the Moslem world and the other world. A year ago, we sought to know, using al-Jurjani’s style, the meaning and the meaning of the meaning of Hijrah in Islamic annals and in contemporary existential realities of Moslem life all around the world.
Rereading that sermon today occasioned in me a conflict. I found myself turn between a past I could not give a detailed account of how I spent it and a future the portents of which practically lies outside my control. I became afraid of the reality of my existence; that the passage of the past year has meant the passage of life in my life. I discovered that the Hijrah, for me, is in a continuum. I have migrated with life into life; certain elements in my existence have equally migrated.
Brethren! Eleven days ago, when it was Muharram the first, 1432, I realized that 365 days have been deducted from my account, from my life. It dawned on me that I could neither migrate back to the past nor effect any changes in my records, which are being guarded jealously by the honourable angels.
Dear Brother, I learnt you marked your 40th birthday yesterday. Pause a moment and reflect on this: by marking your 40th birthday anniversary, it meant that you have spent 40 out of the years allocated to you by your Creator and there you are completely lost in the revelry of the moment, totally ignorant of how many more years you have left on earth.
Your birthday is nothing but a signifier: that your body and mine are in constant migration- we are all preys of time; we are all destined for extinction. Whether we like it or not, the season of migration from this world to the other world is as constant as the rising of the sun each passing day.
Let us side step the eschatological in the Hijrah for the existential. Brethren in Islam! It was Ibn Khaldun who says “the past resembles the future just like water resembles water.” This is particularly true of the event, which made the Hijrah a categorical imperative. In other words, the Hijrah was a history and the history of history; it was about women and men of history. The Hijrah was about the struggle between truth and falsehood; it was about the triumph of truth over falsehood. The Hijrah was about the departure and arrival of Islam. It was about the return of Islam as a “hero” after it was first declaimed as a rebel. Thus in this sense, the Hijrah should not be viewed as an event with relevance only to the past.
Thus I make bold to say that Nigeria, my country and yours, is today, like Makkah of over 1432 years ago. Nigeria is the Makkah of today awaiting the emergence of its own Muhammad. Hardly would historians of Islam, both Christians and Moslems, be faulted should they suggest that there is a strong necessity for Nigerians to migrate from this “Makkah” to that “Madinah” that the need for Nigeria to migrate has become urgent and important. But to where should Nigeria and Nigerians migrate? Is it to London like that of Mustafa Saeed’s in Tayyib Salih’s novel, Season of Migration to the North? Is it to America as has been the case going by the long queues of visa applicants at the America’s consulate? Nigerian emigrants to Malaysia and other Asian countries have also painted a scenario of a country suffering from an implosion. But all emigrations to these countries do not, in my estimation, constitute the real emigration. They are “selfish” migrations – the migration of the individual for the sake of the individual, not the migration of the nation for the sake of all its citizens.
Thus the real emigration that Nigerians and Nigeria should embark upon is that migration from non-performance and lack of development to that of consolidated and comprehensive development and growth in all spheres of life.
For Nigerians to migrate with their country to their own “Madinah” there is, therefore, an urgent need for the emergence of a “Muhammad” for this country. Yes, we are waiting for our “Muhammad.” We are waiting for a leader who would confront the Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan of Nigeria. Yes, we are waiting! We are waiting for our “Muhammad” who would effectively put an end to the unceasing oppression of the poor by the rich. We are waiting. We are waiting for our Muhammad who would migrate with Nigeria from the abyss of greed and selfishness to that Madina where the rich would not be happy until the poor is fed and become joyous. Yes, we are waiting. We are waiting for our Muhammad who would be responsive and responsible while in office. Yes, we are waiting. We are waiting for a leader who would take Nigeria to a Madina where there would be no moral depravity and the commoditisation of women’s bodies by men and women.
While we are waiting for that important migration, it is important that Moslem members of the Nigerian polity use the occasion of the beginning of the new Hijra Calendar to do self-assessment. This country has not risen because its Moslem elements have failed to measure up to their Quranic destiny. Let us use this occasion to seek more closeness to Allah and forgiveness. The prophet said that Allah said: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you…