By Misbahu El-Hamza
Growing up in the community where I grew up, like many children, I was in the company of half-learned and unlearned friends. In this company, I was told two processes that will unveil the world of the “unseen” to my human eye. I tried one of the two processes both of which requires no visiting the sorcerer or a voodooist to be completed.
Starting with the one I couldn’t try, it has to do with getting abundance riches. And I can only remember a bit of the processes. One was waking up in the middle of the night, naked, under no roof, uttering some words like a pastor speaking in tongues. (Cannot remember a single word but they’re like summon.)
The result? I was told a very huge and scary creature – jinn – will descend from the sky and ask me couple of questions. If I am not frightened by all the scary things he’ll do and say, the jinn will give me all that I asked (riches) else, I will be doomed from the minute I show a sign of trepidation. And he’ll ascend laughing, mocking me. I didn’t try this. Why should I appear naked to be rich. Above all, I fear it’ll be horrible and my mother will literally kill me if she finds out. That’s if I even escape.
We had a dark good looking dog we called “Baura”. I was in primary 2 or 3 when Baura was brought to our house, a puppy, by my brother, late Saboji. We milked Baura and grew up together as family, even though my mother doesn’t like her at first.
Unfortunately, Baura was shot and killed by the Nigeria military Peace Keepers in September, 2001. One day, I almost strangled Baura to death myself, trying to extract rheum (kwantsa) from her eyes to apply to mine. I was told that animals, especially dogs, see beyond human sight; they can see ghosts, spirits and angels.
My goal? It was simply to see the nature of the spirits I believed in as a Muslim boy. Nothing much. 🤷🏾♂️ Poor little Misbahu! Baura, however, despite our closeness, didn’t allow me extract her eye discharge. To date, I couldn’t see beyond human sight the nature of the spirit except perhaps in my dreams.
Since childhood, I believe in the unseen. I believe, for instance, in spirits, the existence of God, the prophets I didn’t meet, the hereafter and of course, the realities beyond human comprehension, etc. These realities, one of them, was what my poor curious mind wanted to explore back in the days. Only God knows why Baura refused me her rheum.
I struggled with the fact that the eyes’ ability to see is limited, but what many adults are struggling with, today, is to accept the fact that even the mind’s cognitive capacity is limited. While there are many beings which the human eyes cannot see, so are many truth that cannot be comprehended by the human mind. They fall outside our cognitive capacity and so, reason alone cannot comprehend it. A higher (transmitted) knowledge is required.
We may find similarities in objectives and other matters between philosophy and faith (in this case Islam), but we must not be blind to the fact that our faith, is based on Divinely revealed truth where as philosophy is based on human (limited) intellect. One relies on rational faculty and the other goes beyond just that, having its roots to revealed knowledge.
As Muslims, we are told to (un)conditionally explore the world and what’s within it. We are taught a great importance to reason or the intellect. We are encouraged to ‘reflect’ upon the truths of life and the universe (but NOT as I tried to strangled a dog as a means, please). In fact, only those who are intellectually and mentally sound are considered religiously and morally accountable in the eyes of Allah the Almighty.
Today, I know, that the quest to see the nature of the spirit didn’t started with me. I know that “even philosophers have shown utmost effort throughout the centuries to get to the truth about the nature of the spirit,” says Osman Nuri Topbaş, a Turkish Sufi spiritual leader in his book ‘The Islamic Approach to Reason and Philosophy,'”But ultimately deciding on the ‘unknowability’ of the spirit, they [philosophers] were forced to settle with purely accepting it’s existence on the basis of its behavioural manifestations.”
Isn’t this what the Qur’an established many centuries ago, that the nature of the spirit cannot be known and that in matters of the spirit, only a few knowledge is given to us, humans? Allahu Akbar!
If I would be opportune to travel back twenty-something years I’ll be glad to inform little curious Misbahu what a great Muslim scholar, Ibn Khaldun, who’s considered to be the father of sociology and the philosophy of history, says. That “human reason is a set of scales, a balance, whose capacity for measurement is exact but limited. But the intellect should not be used to weigh such matters as the Oneness of God, the Hereafter, the truth of Prophethood and REALITIES BEYOND HUMAN COMPREHENSION. This is an effort in vain.” Surely, my effort was in vain. But AlhamdulilLah!
And I’m thinking of telling parents and little kids to know who they befriend. But then, had little Misbahu didn’t mingled with those company and grew up in such a society, could he be telling this story today? I actually didn’t know the answer to this, now.