Sunday, March 1, 2015


I hear the myriad bellowing voices like the howling of a sandstorm over me. Across the blood-soaked asphalt road, dust rises from a hundred boots stomping frenziedly. All the boots have the same dreary cocktail of dust and blood and sweat from kicking and smashing. I watch as bullets shoot from the sea of black and green… and white; white teeth flashing as adrenalin and spirit run through their veins and blind orders through their ears. I hear Malam’s blessed voice in my head as he says, I will be with you always. 

My beard is dusty and so is my white jallabiya. It’s time for Asr prayers and I should be joining my brothers for ablution. I like the communal ablution in front of the big mosque. Today, there is no call to prayer save the stutter of Kalashnikovs and the loud revving of military trucks but I know it is time. I have no water for ablution but does Allah not say: “if you find no water, then perform tayammum with clean soil and rub your faces and your hands therewith”? They do not know but they have done it for me. My faces and hands are covered in dust.

I am cold. Yet I can think of nothing but what has happened to Malam. Even as the mobile policemen dragged me out of the broken down truck, I thought, ‘is this how they dragged Malam too’? Did they ask him questions or did they just look at his beard and kaftan and say, we got him? How many of them used him for target practice and did he shiver from the cold like I now do? 

I had been promised Malam’s second daughter from his first wife. But for these bullets Malam would’ve become my father. I had never set my eyes on Umm Ayman’s face, but I was assured by Malam that she had heaven in her smile. I wrote her letters with permission from her father and she wrote me back. Her Arabic was excellent and not a few times I needed help with some of her phrases. 

I recall once as she thrilled the judges at the Quranic recitation competition for women. I tried to peer, astaghfirullah, through the dark green niqaab she was wearing. I could see nothing but a tale of beauty in those dark eyes shining through the tiny slit. Her voice was musical and if women could lead prayers, I am sure her call would rouse every lazy believer. That was the only time I actually saw Umm Ayman but her sonorous voice is still clear in my head as she started with Sura al-Fatiha: Bismillahi r-rahmani r-rahim. In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful...

 Allah has been most gracious. I have lived the dream of being with Umm Ayman through every word of her well crafted letters laden with romantic innuendoes. She astounded me with the way she infused life and love into her words. I have followed Malam as he grew to become a father and leader to thousands and seen how he was demonized and called a terrorist. 

Allah has been merciful. I did not have to watch what evil was done to Malam and all I can do is speculate and wish that they did not make him suffer on his way to the hereafter. 

I will not go for the next hajj as Malam promised and neither will he. I will not be his son. I will not see the country united in the peace that only submission to the will of Allah can bring. But Allah be praised, we did what we could. We lived good lives, we fasted and gave to the poor. And insh’allah we shall be united again. La ilaha illallah…
 I am cold…


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. It was great to read a northern Nigerian based story(its something we don't get quite often). The storytelling was magnificent - clear,realistic and emotional. At the last paragraph, I felt tears at the back of my throat. Well done!

  3. Too often we forget that there is always another side to a story. We are always quick to judge and condemn,forgetting that religion is like alcohol : some people drink a drop and lose their heads while others drink gallons and still act responsibly
    Thanks for sharing this other side.

    1. True. Easy to forget there is another human being at the end of the barrel. Thanks for reading.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed it.Thanks for this.It was a very "human" piece

  5. It's the truth. With how desperate the Nigerian government is and their rush to do some damage control before the elections I won't be surprised if some innocent mallams are killed in a bid to increase the number of "Boko boys" killed during their raids. Such a sad country we live in.


You fit vex, bet abeg no curse me. You hear?