Companionship Lessons From An Islamic Tale

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Felix Oboagwina

A Moslem Priest, an Alfa, told an intriguing story during a political meeting I once attended. Using this anecdote, the man illustrated the virtues of faithfulness, loyalty and companionship. As the Alfa recounted (I have generously reorganised the story to conform with the demands of literature and prose), one morning, an angel (referred to as malaika by Yoruba Muslims) came and told one of the religion’s ancient leaders that later that same day, one very close associate was destined to be taken away by the messenger of death; but the victim would first visit this Seer, and thereafter return home to die. The doomed man himself would know nothing of his date with death. When the man visited, the Seer must say nothing to him about his visitor’s impending death. Thereafter, the angel left. Sorrow immediately covered the Seer, making him lose his composure. He bore on his countenance the overwhelming sadness he felt.

As the malaika predicted, the fellow in question came to visit. But he met the spiritual leader in this dejected, sorrowful mood.

“My leader, what is the problem? Why do you look so downcast? This is weariness of the soul. Do share with me what the matter is,” he pleaded.

But the spiritual leader could not divulge that this very considerate sympathiser was the actual object of his sorrow. The latter pleaded and prodded and cajoled but the spiritual leader refused to open up. How could he tell this visitor that he was destined to die soon? When other people came and found the spiritual leader in this miserable mood; they merely greeted him superficially and left him to his troubles. But this man would not leave.

“How can I abandon you in this mood?” he reasoned. “Let me keep you company whether this dark cloud would lift from you.”

The spiritual leader told him not to bother, that he should go home. The man refused and simply sat with the spiritual leader, doing his best to comfort him and drag him out of this pit of sorrow in which he appeared to have sunk. However, the more the friend tried the more the spiritual leader sorrowed at the prospect of losing such a warm, selfless and considerate soul.

The sun went down and the man remained with the spiritual leader. Night descended and the man sat even yet, keeping his friend company.

“Don’t you have anything worthwhile to do? Don’t let me hold you back from your business. This my foul mood will eventually pass.”

But the friend would not depart.

Eventually, in the witching hour of the night, just after midnight, the angel appeared again to the spiritual leader.

“I have been waiting at the home of this man to slay him as pre-ordained, but he would not show up in his own home, because he has been tied down here by his great concern for your welfare. Heaven is impressed by the care, love and devotion he has lavished on you, his friend. He has won back his life. His death is revoked.”

Whatever you feel about the story, the characters or its origin, don’t miss its sublime lesson –the virtues of loving and caring. We find its equivalent in such Bible passages as: 1 John 3:13-24, Matthew 25:39 onwards. That is the moral of the book of Ruth too.

Today, we live in a world where empathy and care have become scarce commodities.

On the eve of His journey to the cross, Jesus rebuked the sleeping disciples, Peter, James and John, three times, querying them in Matthew 26:40, “Could you not watch and pray with me even for one hour at this trying period of my life?”

The disciples’ companionship was so important to the Saviour that he desired it. Despite His divine nature, the Saviour sought human company; how much more we puny humans beings and mere mortals!

This need for company perhaps explains marriage. Marriage represents a most crucial institution in human society. When the priest administers the marriage vow, he reminds the couple that the primary purpose of this institution is “companionship.” And it began when God surveyed the otherwise perfect world He just recently created and decided that, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18) He thus instituted marriage to solve the problem of lonesomeness and loneliness that He quickly detected. Marriage means a man and a woman sharing together both the good and the bad, both the better and the worse, both the gladness and the sadness, both the poverty and the prosperity. How many of us stick with our friends through thick and thin?

Maybe you have heard the phrase, LONELY IN A CROWD. Even in a large church, you will find many lonely people. They have no friend in the congregation. No one visits them. And thereby some have succumbed to sin and even suicide because they have no one to share their innermost fears, worries and pains.

As the Moslem cleric demonstrated, everything boils down to sympathy, empathy and companionship. And it has its own reward even as our Lord illustrated in Matthew 25:34-40, Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

FROM THE BOOK, HELLO, IS THIS GOD SPEAKING? BY FELIX OBOAGWINA

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