By Ogundairo Abiodun
Three friends Musa, 27, Eli, 29, and Ahmed, 26 decides to visit their village Seven years after the trio forged their paths to the city of Lagos in search of greener pastures. Ogbama village is one small village in the far northern part of Nigeria with a population of over Four Hundred whose major occupation is fishing.
For the friends whom had vowed never to path ways no matter the challenges that might come their way finally started putting plans in place to visit home. ‘When I get back home, I will tell my mother to stop going to the farm”. Musa who had continued his carpentry work in Lagos have been able to raise some funds to set up his aged mother in the village a small business. “I will make sure she delves into petty trading with what I have saved for her over the years’. He boasted. ‘I will also make sure I rebuild my grandfather’s house close to the Village River so that he will be proud in death”. He concluded while he fold his harms around is uncovered body. Musa sat with his friends inside a one room rented apartment somewhere in Ajegunle slum area of Lagos with his eyes filled with tears as he looked on.
“That is very thoughtful of you brother’, Ahmed started in a voice that is so soft which sounds almost like a whisper. His emotions run through him as the night was cold for such. “I will first of all finish paying up my Awa’s bride price and get my wife back”. Ahmed was supposed to have gotten married Awa, 24. Ahmed and Awa first met at the Ogbama village’s river bank and became friends. The friendship continued and He mistakenly impregnated Awa. Her parent because furious and vowed to ensure that Ahmed take her as wife because it was a thing of shame to be impregnated without the payment of bride price.
Ahmed on his path was at the time jobless and only lived on his father’s menial income from the fish farming he does. “We have to pay; there is nothing we can do. We cannot allow that family to be put to shame and also at the same time drag our family name in mud’. Ahmed’s father told him one night before going to bed.
All effort by the family to pay up at the appointed time failed and had started generating bad blood among the two families. “That we have not paid fully does not mean we don’t want to pay up fully before now”. Ahmed’s father, 70, with his son standing face down behind his father told the elders gathering whom Awa’s father had gathered to intervene. “My in-law you know how poor the family is and aside that, we are in dry season, the rivers are dried up”. He concluded. “I don’t want to hear anything”, Awa’s father, Usman, 69, fleered up. “Your useless son knew that and he went to impregnate my daughter who has the ambition of becoming the first medical doctor in this village’. He rose to his feet for a physical confrontation before he was held back by some youths in the gather.
“You will still need to take it easy”. An elder among the gathering exclaimed. Usman, Awa’s father who has been in and out of sick bed for over a year sat down fuming and whispering to himself with a hard-hitting look.
The village head, Mallam Sule who sat down quietly among the crowd stood up to his feet in a decisive manner. “My brothers, let not fight over what is not’. The atmosphere that was tensed became calm. He had rose to fame as the village head after his aged father died of stroke three years earlier. “As your village head, since the girl, Awa my daughter, is carrying my son, Ahmed’s pregnancy, let him take her as wife from now on till three market days that he will be paying up. I have spoken”. He rose and walked out of the crowd with his entourage briskly.
“I took Awa in and we stayed with my father for market days until trouble started”. Ahmed refreshed his friend’s memory. “Her parents came and took her away because we could not complete the prize that has been doubled. It hurts so much”. He exhaled. “And then I will do other thing”. He concluded.
Eli kept quite in his conner. Eli is the only son of the family. Tall and well built. He couldn’t understand the essence of them going home when they still have not gotten to the height they hope to get before returning. “I will just make sure I take care of my father’s properties if I am given the opportunity”. Eli had scampered away from his family members when it was obvious that they are ready to terminate his life because of the numerous properties his father had left behind after his sudden disappearance years ago. His parents one night left home and had not returned. Search party says they have both probably been killed and eaten by wild animals.
The three friends set out for the journey at the appointed day. The city to their home town is a several hours journey that sometimes stretch to days so they were fully prepared for the long hours in transit. The bus took off early from Lagos in the morning and headed from the park to the far North. Over three hundred kilometers into the journey, the bus derailed and ran into a roadside parked trailer.
Eli opened his blood shot eyes with heavily bandaged head in a hospital. He had seen spaces unknown till he opened his eye that morning. “Welcome back, you have practically been away for almost days. We thought we have lost you”. A doctor who had come to check the life supporting machine Eli had been placed spoke with a smile.
He try lifting his harms and discovered that his body is pained and not in a good condition. He felt his spirit staggered. His jaws also heavily wired and his legs heavy. He saw wires all around in the room tagged with no entry, emergency room in bold. So many questions ran through his mind and he wanted to give voice but his head-ach pined through his brain and he was quickly forced out of his wondering mind. Calmly, he relaxed as the lady doctor walked out of the room holding a file with a look that promised a return. So many thought ran through his mind and he recalls where he could have been since he had the loud bang before he passed out. Several things run through his mind like a quickly running river and the rhythms flow in his brains poetically.
“My soul at peace, returning from God, well-pleased and well- pleasing, entering among, many saints! Entering a garden” He said to himself. ‘The Grave’… “The Grave is a word that inspires fears for me even now. I am pained when it is mentioned not aware of the delight it can contain”. “Indeed, the bliss of the Grave is better than any delight that this world can offer. When a good soul is near to death, angels of mercy come to him. When his soul is taken, they place it in a piece of white silk and bear it to the Heaven’s gate”. They say in smiles, ”We have never smelled a sweeter fragrance than this!” His soul is asked, “How is so-and-so? How is so- and-so?”. “And so on they asked me about my friends”. And another says to the other, “Let them rest. They have just come from the suffering of the world!” He said to himself murmuring and gradually he falls into a deep sleep.
Both of his friends had passed on and Eli was fast recovering from his terrible state of health. He knew what he saw. They are both in death and he needed nobody to tell him. “In a matter of days, you will be discharged to go with your community members who had finished paying your hospital bills through personal contributions I guess”. The regular female doctor he had opened his eyes from the first day to see explained to him. “Some still out there believe you’re a ghost due to the general stereotype thinking since we had first announced your death. Some had seen your body before you sneezed out while we were preparing your body for burial”. She continued in a low tone. Eli looked on while sitting up on his hospital bed with his head bandaged and his left harm in plaster or Paris. “Don’t worry; you will be fine, I am sure they will soon finally come to the reality that you are not dead, but alive’. She concluded while she walked out of the room. After some time, Eli started taking a walk around the hospital un-aided. He has even joined some other kids in the children ward for some celebrations at several occasions.
After his full recovery, Eli was discharged and taken home by his community elders who could not but ask several questions from within themselves how he was able to come back to life. The same night of his arrival, the whole village gathered at the village square to celebrate his return. Some have even argued that he is a special being that needed to be worshiped. “I think he is God sent and he would have had a personal communication with God during his time off this earth”. An elder told the gathering that also has Eli in attendance before he started addressing the gathering.
“The Grave or the Interspaces is the third stage of human existence”. “The first is the domain of the mother’s womb with all the constriction and the three darkness sit contains. The second is the domain of this world in which we grow up, which we are familiar with and from which we acquire good and evil and the means to happiness or misery. The third is the domain of the Interspaces which is wider and vaster than the domain in which we now live -the domain of this world. The fourth and the final stage is the Everlasting Domain which comprises the Garden and the Fire. There is no domain after it for it is the Domain of Eternity”. Eli started.
“What we are at present concerned with is the third stage, the domain of the interspaces between the worlds. It is the first of the stages of the Next World”. “In it the souls are divided into two groups: one group is punished and imprisoned, distracted by its punishment from everything else such as visiting or meeting each other”. “The other group is in bliss, and it is this second group that we are concerned with here”. “The liberated souls of those who are”. “In bliss visit each other and discuss what happened in the world they have left and the people of that world. Every soul keeps company with those of his friends who acted in a similar way to him. Many people have had dreams showing this”. The gathering was startled at what he was disclosing while they listened on.
“The souls who are in bliss enjoy this state from the moment of death”. “When the believer is dying, the angels come to him and speak to him and he speaks to them without the people present being aware of this”. “The soul yearns to meet its Lord and leaves the body with ease. Then the angels bear it to the heavens and a sweet fragrance diffuses from it which is perceived by all the angels and the pure, liberated souls in the heavens”. “They ask each other about this sweet fragrance. His relatives and dearest friends who were with him in the world hasten to him. They advance before him to the next world, crowding around him and asking him for news of the world and those who are in it”. “Then the angels take the soul up from heaven to heaven and every angel in every heaven he passes through prays for blessings on him”. “He is delighted by the sweetest and most beautiful good tidings”. Then the soul comes to a standstill before the Almighty King, may His majesty be exalted! He says to the soul, “Welcome to this good soul and to the body which it left”. When the Lord, the Mighty and Majestic, makes something welcome, then everything welcomes it and every constriction departs from it. Then He says, “Show him his place in the Garden and display before him the honour and blessing I have prepared for him”.
His revelations went on while some elders who are known to be in communication with the gods among the congregation nods on in agreement of Eli’s visions while he was away from the human land.
“Then the angels take him back down to the earth so that he can see his body being washed and they carry on a conversation although the living cannot hear it”. “The angels pray for the soul of the believer in the heavens just as people pray over his body on the earth”. “Finally, the body is buried and the soul returns to between the body and the shroud. This return does not imply the same connection that the soul had to the body in this world. It is not even the same connection which it had in the sleeping state or the connection which it has when it is in its resting place. This return is a special return for the questioning as we have already clarified”.
Then, as I have already mentioned, the two angels, come down and question him. After that a door onto the Fire is opened for him and he is told, “Look! This would have been your place in the Fire if you had rebelled against God and God had exchanged your place in the Garden for it”. “Then that door is locked and another door onto the Garden is opened and he sees his place there’. “This door will remain open until the Day of Rising. Some of the sweetness and fragrance of the Garden reaches him and his grave is made spacious. He sleeps in peace just as if he were in one of the meadows of the Garden. This spaciousness, light and greenery in which the believer remains from the time of his death until the Day of Rising is not the same as we know in our world. If a living person were to open a grave, he would not find any expanse, light or greenness there. He would not find an open door through which he could see the Garden. He does not see bliss or torment. It is only the dead person who is aware of these things and sees them. God, through His wisdom, has the power to veil this from the living”.
“The proof that this is so is shown by the fact that there are other creatures un seen who live with us on the earth”. “They converse in raised voices among us but we do not see or hear them. There were angels who fought with the believers and struck down the unbelievers and shouted at them”. “When a man is near death” he continued. “The angel stretches out his hand to the soul and seizes it, speaks to it and then it comes out”. “A light like the sun’s ray and a sweet fragrance come out to the soul”. “Then it ascends amid rows of angels, but those who are there cannot see or smell this. He is questioned, punished, beaten, and wails and cries out”. “All this happens while he is lying dead and his family are around him, but they neither here nor see it. The sleeper dreams and enjoys his dream or is tormented by it, while someone awake at his side is not able to perceive what is going on at all”.
“God has given inanimate objects awareness and perception by which they glorify their Lord. The stones fall down out of fear of Him”. “The mountains and trees prostrate. The pebbles, water and plants glorify Him. All this is going on but we are not aware of it”. “All these things are part of our world and yet we are incomplete ignorance of them”. “It is not too much of an extrapolation to extend this to our being unaware of the things of the Next World”. He concluded while he walks out of the crowed that had grown into hundreds.