Sunday 5 February 2006

The people are high on opium - I

I have a Muslim heritage
My interaction with Muslims is a lot deeper than appears in my commentary. I never knew my maternal grandfather; he passed on over 4 years before I was born.
My paternal grandparents however, I did know well, I even once had a great-grandmother in that scion and whilst many thought she was old and near death, she went on and on after falls and sicknesses bouncing back stronger that by the time she died she had long lost all her contemporaries.
Many wondered how we just got on so well, as we chatted about everything imaginable for hours on end. They have all since departed, but the memories of their lives abide.
It appears only my maternal grandfather was literate, he kept journals of all sorts of stuff that I have not had the time to examine.
In my early years, we met up with cousins in the long holidays by visits to my ancestral village which had my mother’s people as indigenes and my father’s people as settlers.
No more village people
My father’s enthusiasm for those village visits and patriarchal patronage did not however become the passion of first my mother, then my siblings and ultimately myself.
We are driven to distraction about it, that it made us completely averse to anything to do with that village – a reconciliation of views seems a little bit far off for now.
Whilst my other grandparents were not literate; they were smart, knowledgeable and interesting.
They traded farm produce and ready-prepared labour-intensive foods at the weekly market which was every 5 days, when traders from far off came round with their produce to indulge a microcosm of globalisation – trade still matters for the emancipation of village and country alike.
Muslim marries Christian
My grandfather was a Muslim, he was married to a Christian, they had six children, without duress or prompting; half turned out Christian and the other Muslim.
In a time when women’s rights was completely unheard of; my grandmother was able to go to church without hindrance, whilst my grandfather went to the mosque.
Their children celebrated both religious festivals without prejudice and neither were they ostracised for being who they were.
My father, for instance was the first born; in a setting that meant you carried on the mantle, he is Christian, his only brother, however, is a Muslim.
Pragmatism worthy of emulation
The pragmatism of my grandfather even goes further; they all realised that education was essential and ploughed all their resources into my father’s education – my great-grandmother being the person who did the most to get him through the early schooldays with the help of her brother who was a school teacher.
He became a qualified and certified accountant, a trail-blazer amongst his contemporaries and those after; we ended up with just fewer than 10 certified accountants from our village.
My father was allowed to select a surname that had no religious connotations and when I was born, my grandfather offered a name that had no religious leanings even though it was his prerogative to offer a purely Muslim name.
I see in my grandparents an understanding of religion; tolerance of other faiths; a willingness to accommodate and live in peace; an example worthy of following.
Instruction for others
This quality of religious pragmatism unfortunately did not extend down to my parents in dealing with their affairs and children. It is probably the most divisive element of our relationships; it has caused ructions to the extent that reason cannot gain prominence over entrenched beliefs – this especially from quite well-educated people.
Sometimes, I wonder if this schism with my parents also affects my ability to foster a strong God-son relationship the context that views God as father – Christianity.
My grandparents were not under the influence of opium, driven by dogma, instructed by unscrupulous religious leaders or educated beyond the capability of instructive reason, they were people who worshipped God and were considerate of other people.
My grandfather was a model Muslim; I doff my hat to him.

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