#Blogfest 2:0 Day 17 – #30dayscountdownto2016
This is purely a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
As he lay bleeding in a corn field somewhere on the outskirts of Maiduguri with a bullet lodged in his hip and another in his collarbone, he couldn’t help thinking about how relaxed he was. With a cool breeze whistling through the corn field, the thought of his life flashing before his eyes was the last thing on his mind. Surprisingly, he was calm and his mind was blank. He couldn’t help wondering to himself if all those stories he was told about one’s life flashing before one’s eyes at the point of death were absolute hogwash. Perhaps it didn’t come automatically; one had to make a conscious effort to make it happen. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to visualize the important moments of his life. Nope. It wasn’t working. For someone with a highly imaginative mind, that particular trait was failing him when he needed it the most. Who knew dying could be such a boring and dreary endeavor? His rush to die had nothing to do with the searing pain which was coursing its way all over his body or the 70 plus virgins his Imam had constantly reminded him would await him upon his death. Something about the blood slowly oozing out of his body, while he wriggled and squirmed in it was unsettling and made him queasy.
As he lay looking at the sky he tried to make a conscious effort to retrace the steps that had led him to his current situation in life. Perhaps that would take his mind off the sticky blood he was squirming in and may help jumpstart his mind to get the flashes of the life at the point of death he had heard so much about. He closed his eyes and embarked on a journey through his life.
Ahmad had always been the favorite child of his parents, partly because he had his grandfather’s name and he was a spitting image of his father. Despite coming from a wealthy family where he and his siblings never lacked anything, Ahmad always got the best and got away with a lot. He was never scolded for taking his father’s newest cars out to parties, neither was he scolded when he grazed or caused some damage to it. His uncles had always made it a priority to point out to his father about the dangers of spoiling his youngest son and urged him to take a firmer stance with him. No matter how many times he promised to do so, his heart would melt once he started chastising his son for any wrongdoing. So, Ahmad skated through life without worrying about consequences and repercussions.
While his siblings all attended private universities in the country, his father saw it fit to send Ahmad abroad to attend university. This decision split the family with Ahmad’s siblings and uncles all arguing about the dangers of letting him go abroad considering his proclivity for waywardness. Alas, nothing would change his father’s mind. Ahmad and his mother had learnt years ago the proper buttons to push to make his father bend to their will. Off to Dubai he went to attend university. With a bank account filled with dirhams, two large wads of $100 bills and instructions to call immediately he was getting low on funds, it was expected that he wouldn’t need to call to have his account replenished for at least a year and a half if he was prudent in his spending. Unfortunately, prudence was not a word Ahmad was familiar with. Upon his arrival he ditched the school apartment he was assigned and opted for a posh apartment on the highbrow and expensive Sheikh Zayed Road. With such a luxurious apartment, it was only fair he take out a lease on an equally befitting car. Considering how young he was, the sales rep at the Mercedes Benz dealership scoffed when Ahmad pointed to the car of his choice; the 2014 C400 4matic. As he usually did when his social status was challenged, he dropped a wad of $100 dollar bills on the table and asked if they accepted dollars. As he recalled the way the employees at the dealership all ran helter-skelter to satisfy their newest client, he couldn’t help but laugh, which made the pain in his hip a bit worse.
For more than a year after his arrival in Dubai for his studies, Ahmad partied and traveled to some of the countries in the Arabian Gulf partying with individuals from some of the richest families in the Middle East. Despite the fact that his father knew his son wasn’t in school, it didn’t stop him from believing him whenever he told him he was doing well, neither did he fail to send the large funds which catered for his son’s lavish lifestyle. Ahmad’s constant reckless and his father’s weakness in standing up to his son soon led to serious squabbles in the family. When his eldest brother told their father that Ahmad was not constantly attending school and was living a life or reckless abandon, Ahmad’s mother who happened to be the younger wife raised the step-sibling jealousy card as is commonly done in polygamous families. His father blinded by the unwavering love he had for Ahmad sided with his young wife, accused his eldest son of being jealous of Ahmad and told him never to set foot in the family house.
Two years after he had arrived Dubai and was pissing away his education and pocket money, a sudden change came over Ahmad. He called his father and siblings to beg for their forgiveness and promised to change his ways. This was nothing new. Since his high school days he had frequently sought for forgiveness for his many transgressions but would still slide back to his old ways. However, when he came home for the holidays after two years away at school, his unusually calm and composed demeanor got everyone thinking perhaps this change was real. Ahmad arrived wearing a long white jallabiya, trousers that stopped above the ankles and a long bushy beard. ‘Assalama Alaikum’, he said to his brother who had come to get him from the airport. If not for his voice which could not be mistaken for someone else’s, his brother almost blurted out “Where is my brother and what have you done with him?” As for the Islamic greeting, no one had ever heard Ahmad use the Salam to greet anyone. Getting him to pray five times daily was a daily struggle. But here was Ahmad standing before his brother a changed man in apparently all respects.
For weeks after his arrival, Ahmad was the trending topic in the family. No one could believe the sudden change that had come over him. The change wasn’t only restricted to Ahmad, he was constantly preaching to his siblings and parents about living a more islamically acceptable way of life. He was always the first to step into the mosque at the front of the house and was the last to leave. When Ahmad wasn’t in the mosque he was constantly reading the Qur’an. Ahmad’s change restored harmony to the family as he put himself at the forefront of reconciling warring members. It wasn’t till his resumption date drew nearer that everyone suddenly realized there was something wrong with the changes that Ahmad was exhibiting.
When his father asked him when he was returning to school, Ahmad without any hesitation said he was never returning to school. ‘Western education is a cancer; it is all that is wrong with the Muslim society.’ His father almost had a heart attack. He had heard about kids from wealthy families becoming easy targets for radicalization but he never in his wildest dreams imagined he would witness it in his household. Upon enquiring from some of his high school friends along with whom he had attended university in Dubai, it was discovered that Ahmad had been conversing with an Imam from Nigeria on Facebook. It was during these numerous conversations that Ahmad gradually shed his opulent lifestyle and began living a Spartan lifestyle. He would constantly roam around in school preaching to fellow students and telling them to change their erring ways. Only then did Ahmad’s family realize he had been radicalized.
Numerous interventions by family member and Islamic clerics failed to sway Ahmad from his decision not to return to school. To make matters worse, he would constantly accuse his siblings and parents of being infidels for trivial matters such as watching TV or attending dinner. Fearing Ahmad may stray into the hands of Boko Haram or ISIS, it was decided to place him under 24hour guard till his family could figure out what to do with him. Unfortunately, it did not occur to anyone to restrict his access to the internet. So, Ahmad carried on his conversations with the Imam and was receiving daily tips on how to play along with his family’s wishes then make his escape when the time was right.
Months passed as Ahmad’s resolve slowly appeared to soften. Yet his family remained suspicious. Like a high level Guantanamo Bay detainee, he was constantly escorted to and from his room to perform the five daily prayers in the family mosque. One day, his siblings heard a sound they had not heard in a long time; loud blaring music from Ahmad’s room. When the door was opened there he was standing and rapping to an imaginary crowd with his jeans sagging to reveal his boxer shorts. He had even shaved his beard completely. Most families would have seen this action as something not to fuss about but for his parents and siblings, it was exciting as it meant Ahmad had managed to pull himself out of the icy grip of extremism and radicalization. Calls were made to relatives informing them that the old Ahmad they knew was back. With this show of receding to his somewhat moderate former lifestyle, the scope of his movement was relaxed to allow him go out with his brothers but they were instructed to never let him out of their sights.
Soon, everyone felt comfortable enough to view him with minimal suspicion whenever he went out. Alas, they had been fooled. One night as the family settled to have dinner, Ahmad’s absence was noticed. It was thought that he had dozed off. When his mother stepped into his room to find the TV on and what she thought was Ahmad in bed with the covers pulled over his entire body. ‘He must have been up all day watching TV’, she thought. ‘I’ll wake him up later.’
It wasn’t until 10pm when she went back to his room to wake him up that she discovered the large mass under the blanket was not her soon but were pillows laid out to make it look like someone was asleep in bed. With a loud piercing scream, she threw the entire house into a state of pandemonium. When the night guard stepped into the compound and heard the commotion, he suddenly realized that Ahmad sending him to purchase top up phone cards was all a ruse. With trembling hands and quivering lips, he slowly approached and told his employer how he had been fooled into leaving his duty post by Ahmad. It was then that everyone noticed one of the cars in the compound was missing.
As he drove to an auto sales point on the outskirts of Abuja to sell the car for the much needed funds to enable him travel to Maiduguri as well as contribute to the Jihad, he couldn’t help but smirk at how, with the help of the Imam and other brothers at the forefront of the Jihad had escaped from home. When he arrived at the auto sales point, he was nervous as the possibility of the salesmen alerting the police to the sale of such an expensive car by a young adult. He had nothing to fear since he was selling a =N=7,000,000 million at a giveaway price. The buyer was so elated at getting a good deal on such an expensive luxury car, he couldn’t wait to hand over the cash and take possession of the car. He handed the original documents to the buyer, placed the money in a duffel bag he had brought along and started the long journey to Maiduguri.
His parents and siblings were beside themselves with grief and despondency regarding his disappearance. Despite constant assurances by the police that they were leaving no stone unturned to locate and return Ahmad, very little was done as the story was usually the same every day; “we are on top of the situation Sir.” His father felt helpless and guilty over his inability to protect his son. As he sat pondering what he should do or who he should call to seek for assistance, his phone rang. He looked at the screen to see there was no name or number on the display, only the word ‘number withheld’. The voice on the other end was unmistakable. ‘Ahmad, where have you been? You gave me, your mothers and sisters quite a fright. Please come back home, we don’t care about the car, just come back home.’
‘Baba, I called to tell you that I have gone to fight for the cause of Allah. All who want to be admitted into paradise must be prepared to fight in the name of Allah. That is the road to true salvation. If you were not so blinded by the lifestyle of the Western infidels and unbelievers who have brainwashed you, you would send my brothers to join me in the cause as well. I am not coming home. Please tell my mother that I have prepared my mind to be martyred in the cause of Allah and shall not be returning home. May we meet in paradise. Good bye Baba.’ Ahmad’s father was dumbstruck and rooted to the spot he was standing, he tried to blink hard trying to wake himself from what he felt must be a nightmare. That night the entire household was thrown into mourning as it became more evident how lost Ahmad was to the deceptive cause he had pledged himself to.
Ahmad was giddy with excitement as he arrived Maiduguri and made contact with one of many brothers all fighting for the cause. As he was led through the winding backstreets of the Boko Haram stronghold in a neighborhood outside Maiduguri, he marveled at the kind of massive support people were giving to the Jihad. In a large thatched house at the end of a street, he finally came face to face with the charismatic Imam he had been chatting with for so long. Two men stood behind the Imam each wielding an AK-47 rifle. He knelt before the Imam and pledged his undying allegiance to the cause as he had done on numerous occasions when they communicated online. In a reverberating voice, which was perhaps accentuated by the shape and size of the room, the Imam stood and addressed all present. ‘Brothers, today we have in our midst our brother Ahmad who has been very supportive to the Jihad we have embarked on. His family, blinded by the deceptive lifestyle of the Westerners sought to prevent him from joining us. But with the support of Allah, we have been victorious as he has managed to escape from their shackles to be with us today. Please welcome him as one of us and teach him about our ways.’
Everyone present shouted in unison, ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they went round shaking Ahmad’s hand and welcoming him into the fold.
To be continued….
Written by Usman Shamaki, he blogs at uashamaki.blogspot.com.ng