This question rang in my mind as I lay on my bed, meditating early this morning. In all truth I have not contemplated this subject, as I have other pressing subjects to write about, and have been doing so; yet this perturbing question popped into my mind and kept tumbling my soul.
You may ask, why Abraham? Why Jerusalem? Is it anywhere in the Bible, in the Quran or in the Talmud that Abraham will visit again? It is not about physical visit. The issue is that if we claim to be the manifest examples of the overly misapplied Abrahamic Order, then there is a need to conjure the image of the patriarch as a mirror through which we can see clearly and possibly correct our religious misconceptions. To put the question in a more lucid and unambiguous way, this is what I mean: which of these competing religions will Abraham, if he happens on Jerusalem today, subscribe to?
Will he choose to worship with Muslims in a mosque, or storm the church [and which of the churches?], to take communion with Christians? Or would Abraham, on this unscheduled trip to Jerusalem – the global headquarters of religious conflicts, shun all the rival religious edifices and prefer to walk into a nearby synagogue to join pious Judaists in their own characteristic obeisance to Yahweh? Or perhaps he would go back to his native Ur to worship the gods of Terah, his father?
I have not visited Mecca or Jerusalem; reason I’m neither an ‘Alhaji’ nor a ‘JP’; and I don’t admire vain titles. But I happen to be one of those people in the stead of Apostle Paul, who encountered Jesus not on the road to a church but on a mission to somewhere else. I was not born a Christian. My father, like Abraham’s father Terah, served the gods of his fathers and had no regret upholding the tradition of his great ancestors. Of course, one would be a renegade toeing a path different from what his fathers believed in. I was actually one, and for the sake of Christ, I would say. And while I have no regrets whatsoever being a Christian, I must confess am pondering, almost all the time, on why humanity is making God a subject of confusion. This is the reason I asked my curious question: If Abraham pays a visit to Jerusalem, where will he worship his God?
Isn’t it curious how God promised Abraham many nations, but many religions, far more in number than the promised nations, sprang up from his loins instead? And I ask, when God told Abram that He would make many nations out of him, did He also say He would make many religions out of him? Can we, as humans, take a little pause from propagating this famous folly to ask ourselves some pertinent questions about religion and faith and creed and worship, and all of that? Was Abraham a Christian? No! Was he a Muslim? No! Was he a Judaist? No! What then was Abraham’s religion? This is the answer: Abraham was simply a man who feared, obeyed and trusted God. He was not a religious man. As a matter of fact, it was to extricate him from the inconsequential entanglements of religious hoodwinking that God instructed Abraham to leave his father’s land and start a fugitive life so He could teach him how best to serve Him.
Abraham’s holiest and most expensive church or mosque or synagogue was his heart. That is why he pleased God, and did not trivialize nor commercialize the worship of God. Abraham could not kill for God except that attempted sacrifice of his son; he did not embezzle for nor steal on behalf of God; his doctrine was just to obey Him all the way.
I still have on my library this thought-provoking novel titled Far from Madina by Assia Djebar, a female writer and one of Africa’s strong voices from Moslem-dominated Algeria. Djebar in this novel exposes the unspoken petty grouse of most Muslims against Christians and pinned it to the domestic rivalry between Sarah and Haggar and the eventual ostracism of Haggar and her son Ishmael by uxorious Abraham, who was ready to obey every whim of Sarah even against his own will.
I have also had to ponder on the popularized disparity of claims by Muslims and Christians on whether it was Isaac or Ishmael that Abraham attempted to sacrifice in the wood after he was commanded by God. For while the Muslims derived the celebration of one of their greatest festivals from this event, Christians on their own part situate the event as the bedrock of the Christian faith. But who was the true character in this episode of the Abrahamic intriguing adventure, Ishmael or Isaac?
I am hoping to make a book on this subject and will do my utmost best to make it punchy, without fear or favour. Be that as it may, I can’t wait to make this assertion, with that same bluntness which most of my readers have ascribed to my works, that the entire world is now in dire need of reason than dogma and except we are ready to serve God as Abraham did, we may be performing religious rites though but not pleasing God one bit. Our problem, as humans, is not which religion to subscribe to, but how to fear and do the will of God. Religion can only teach us about God or gods, the choice is ours to go to the left or to the right.
Emeka Egwuda: Opinion and Features contributor
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