His sister’s nagging gestures were more than just another episode to humble him. Her coming was arranged, so were the others’. One by one, he watched his relatives assume untaken floor spaces in his kwargida*. The red bands and black robes they all wore carried Qur’anic verses and pictures of jihadists. This, he knew, was only typical of a Shiite jury. However, he was the only Christian that stood there unrobed—the reason they gathered.
The jabbering amplified as they increased. Issues after issue, buried grievances were exhumed. The extended family hated his conversion, yet the pound of flesh they sought was over one pound after all. Beyond his refusal to enounce Christ was an unrepentant resolve that not one of his daughters will undergo barbaric circumcisions. This was part of their demands; even after his wife had died of consequent infections associated with genital mutilation.
With vibrance and temper, arguments were crested on Arabic swearwords and curses. Carefully and willfully, his son was brought into focus. They wanted to take his son from his as well. How can... his son of weak health... merely ten years... sent begging… hundreds of miles away... under an Imam…? Impossible! By now he heard himself go into heckling.
The only listening audience had been his aged uncle. Frail and weak, he needed much strength to calm the mob. His uncle was literate enough to understand the position this Christian maintained. Yet he was equally traditional enough to understand the consequence of denying the extended family their collective will. He could be slaughtered, at best. With kola-stenched breaths and settling ooze of old age odor, this elder decreed a biased verdict, which he, himself, could not help.
“Mark ye this seventh day of Ashahr Safar, 1429AH*, that; for not coming your daughter to circumcision, nor your son to the service of almighty Allah, you, Bashar ibn al-Maliki, has ceased to be family and must forfeit all benefits of our ventures. Verily, Allah is no longer for you unbeliever, and perish you must in the great beyond …!”
A thundering chorus of Allahu aq’bar* confirmations humanly sealed his fate. He quickly excused himself out; both for air and for thoughts. But then he whispered behind a heart-felt prayer that mingled unnoticed with their concluding suratul fatiya*.
Finally disowned! A familiar stranger…
Outside, the departing mob avoided his seven year-old daughter, who was chasing after kapok cotton balls that were driven by around by Harmattan* winds. She stopped and he saw the slight twin-marks he etched above her check bones. Both accused him of the much control he had lost over his family. Against the dying wish of his wife, he succumbed to scar his daughter with acid, even as a Christian. God, was he sorry!
Across the alluvial plains of Bukuyum Creek, his only son tried hard at his local school sums, consoling his failures with date fruits. Well, that his children were anything but comfortable was not wisdom enough to enslave the boy. No, he needs attention.
Just then a sketchy portion of 1st Timothy 5:8(KJV) crossed his mind: “…if any provide not for his own… house, he hath denied the faith and it worse than…”.
An infidel? His onward gaze caught a gang of rebels on a raft floating outwards beyond reeds, lilies and waterweeds. Yes! Worse than that gang is a failed father!
Destitute of options, he decided to give his family the best—the most of which his instincts say must be Jesus—the place not minding.
He quicked, as he heard his little baby attempt her name in between Arabic lines in a three year-old fashion using his former last name, Malik. Injured by love, he rushed over, snatched the Islamiyya* slate she played with and crushed it to bits. She in turn cracked a big bawl. Tears washed over his face as he realized they had no last name… NO IDENTITY!
Eyes on hers, he lifted her over his towering image.
“Your name is … Maryamu … Bege!” That was it! Mary … Faith!
Christened at once, he did same to the others. And, consumed in a mountain-moving mustard faith, he anchored to battle his children through, physically alone. Or who will?
*Kwargida ………………Guests’ space in a Hausa compound
*Ashahr Safar; AH ..…….Islamic calendar, second month; After Hijra
*Allahu aq’bar …………..Allah is great
*Suratul fatiya …………..Qur’an chapter 1 verse 1
*Harmattan ……………...Dry trans–Saharan North-Eastern trade winds of January
*Islamiyya ………………Arabic schools that teach the Qur’an
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