I opened my eyes to see two women chatting anxiously in the corner of a well lit room. The room was quite simple with a bed and stool as the only furniture. The room was decorated with lots of fresh flowers which gave it a very earthly scent. Across the room was a large portrait of a woman and two children. They were dressed in traditional English garments. They looked so beautiful and radiant. Just looking at their faces and you could see how much they were at peace. At the bottom of the portrait was an inscription written amazingly in my native language. It read ‘Jesus be with you as you sail across the.’ I couldn’t read the last word, which was probably written in the white man’s language. ‘Atlanteek’ I tried to pronounce it in my mind. I guessed it was referring to the great river far away. Suddenely, it hit me that I was in a strange place. I positioned my hands vertically to my body, to balance my weight as I tried to sit up, but the moment I lifted my body, I felt a very sharp pain and groaned out loud. The women both turned to face me instantly. “He is awake!!” The older woman said to the younger one whose face was now white as if she had seen a ghost. “Hurry call the Mallam” The Older woman had barely finished her statement when the younger one rushed out of the room shouting “Mallam!! Mallam!! Halleluyah!! Halleluyah!!” I could’nt understand what all the fuss was about, so instead I tried remembering where I was before I got there. Instead of a memory, I was rewarded with a sharp pain in the head. The woman noticed the strain on my face and came to my side to help me up. “Saanu! Saanu!” She was speaking the Hausa language. The language didnt seem like an everyday language to me to me, but I understood it. 2 minutes later, a white man rushed in with the younger woman and another man. The White man was tall and heavily built. He looked like a commander in the army with his chisel featues, but when you looked at his eyes, there was a kind of softness, like that of a mother. He wore a black shirt, with a white collar. He must be a holy man, I thought to myself. The other man in the room wore our taditional clothes, but didnt have a turban wrapped around his head. The White man spoke rapidly to the other man, but I didn’t understand a word of it. The other man after listening and nodding several times at what the white man said, turned to me an said “The Holy man Teaher says you have been hot like a fire, but you are still fine, pretty like a flower, and now you need to rest in peace.” I looked at the interpreter more confused than ever. I was either amongst crazy people or the Holy man teacher needed to get a new interpreter, but considering how neat they looked, I knew the latter was the case. The Holymann teacher noticed my confusion and ordered the man to probably call someone named Moustafa. About a minute later, a young man walked in. The man although young in age, carried a countenance that was far greater than him. Moustafa explained to me that the holy man teacher had said that I was hurt pretty badly and I needed all the rest I could get and that he also wanted to know my name. I tried searching my head again, but the pain was even greater this time. Moustafa noticed and insisted I lay back down on the bed. 5 minutes later, after drinking an herbal mixture and after a prayer had been said for me by the Holy man, I dozed off to sleep.
“Moustaffa!! Moustaffa!! Get up!!” It was my mother’s oldest sister, Nana Rashidat calling to me. “Get up!! Get up!!” She kept on shouting. I tried to get up, but i coudnt, as a sharp pain pierced close to my heart. I placed my palm on the place where the pain was centered and was immediately rewarded by a sticky red liquid covering my hands. It quickly overflowed my hands and spilled on to the Persian rug. I looked round hoping to find help, as tears streamed down my eyes, but all I saw was fire. The house was on fire. “Nana Rashidat!!” I screamed at the top of my voice, but no one answered. The fire was now raging more and the smoke was becoming unbearable. “Nana Rashidat!!” I screamed again, but still no response. The ground had begun to crack because of the intense heat, with some part already falling into a gulf of fire that lay underneath “Nana Rashidat!!” I called out for the last time, but still no reply. Then I realized what was really happening. Nana Rashidat had been dead for years. She had been stonned to death for marrying a white man missionary and taking his faith. After stonning her, her husband was taken outside the village, where He was brutally wounded and cast off to be finished by the wild animals. While they performed this evil act, their garments laid at my feet. I was barely 6 when this happened, but still I was forced to watch what would happen to those that departed from righteousness. Hearing my dead Aunt’s voice meant I was dying too. As this dawned on me, all I could feel was regret. “Moustafa!! Moustafa!!” She called out to me again ‘’Nana!! Nana!!’’ I screamed back. Suddenly strong arms grabbed me and with a sudden jolt i woke up. The bed was wet, covered in my sweat. It was night time, but the room was well lit by two kerosene lamps on both sides of the room. Moustafa and the holy man didnt seem to notice me wake, as they were on the other end of the room praying in a strange language. The language was unlike any I had ever heard before, but still I understood it perfectly. ‘’Jesus save him from death. Jesus He can’t die now, He’s not yet saved. Jesus please keep him.’’ They were calling on the son of that strange God; That God that got me into this mess in the first place, that God who couldn’t protect His followers, that God who couldn’t protect my Nana, my wife, my children. ‘’Dont call that name!!’’ I screamed out as tears burst from my eyes. In my culture it was a shame for a man to cry in front of another man, but I couldnt hold it inside any longer. ‘’Dont call that name’’ I said again as Moustafa and the holy man came closer. Moustafa looked perplexed. ‘’How can you understand what we were praying about?’’ He asked me ‘’I don’t know.’’ I replied. He looked at the holy man who looked even more confused than him and explained what was happening. The man’s face suddenly brightened and He started saying ‘thank you Jesus!!’ repeatedly, in that same strange language. Moustafa turned back to me and said ‘’you have been dead for the past 2 days. We have been fasting and praying that God would bring you back. Everyone had given up on you, but the Holy man Teacher insisted that we continue praying for you. Infact, we had even run out of words, so we started praying in the Holyspirit.’’ Praying in the Holyspirit was a new term to me. I understood chants and Incantations but a spirit language was quite new to me, but what baffled me most was, he was insinuating that I understood the language. I waved him off telling him, that they may have been speaking my language without knowing, but he insisted, telling me firmly that the holy man teacher didnt even know what water was in my language. The older woman walked into the room. The moment she saw me, her face turned white and she started shaking. The holy man teacher was by her side immediately holding her and trying to calm her down. ‘’Ruwa Mama, Ruwa’’ He kept on saying, while patting her lightly on her shoulder. At least he knew what water was in Hausa. ‘’Alhaji, You have died twice, yet God has brought you back to life. You better not play with Him.’’ The older woman, who I later found out, is called Mama Mariam, said to me as a note of warning.
Five days later, I was able to leave the bed and take short strolls outside the house. The room where I was kept was the holy man teacher’s room. It was the biggest room in the small two bedroom house. The house was surrounded by small neatly built huts some serving as lodgings while others as kitchens, stores and toilet facilities. On one of my strolls with Moustafa, He told the story of how I was rescued. A little boy from the village had gone late in the evening, to fetch water from the river and saw my body floating on the water. He immediately ran to call the village elders, who in turn sent for the holy man teacher. When the teacher got there the village elders had already confirmed me as dead, but the teacher insisted that I was not dead and asked that I be taken to his house. The teacher prayed for me through the night until the next day. As the sun arose, the holy man teacher went out for his prayer walk and left me in charge of Mama Mariam and Mariam. That was when I woke up the first time. Moustafa asked me if I could rememeber how I got to the river. “The last I remember,” I told Moustafa, was being left by the Taliban to die. The Taliban had killed my family, because I professed Christ. Then I remembered that as I lay on the floor dying, someone had tapped me. It had been my Nana Rashidat. ‘’Give me your hand.’’ She said. I gave her my hand and she pulled me up. She walked me out the house and into the cold dark night. As my bare feet touched the cold sand, I passed out. That was all I could remember. Moustafa explained to me, that it had been God who had saved me. This got me really angry. “Why did He protect me and not my family?” I asked angrily. Moustafa tried to explain to me, but it just ended in a heated argument. I left Moustafa and walked back to my room. “Aboki na!” Moustafa called after me. “I will tell you my story tomorrow.”
I couldn’t sleep that night. Every time I tried closing my eyes, I ended up having nightmares. So I sat up in the bed staring out the window into the cold dark night. The Holy man teacher must be a really good man to let me use his room for this long. I thought to myself. Suddenly I heard footsteps in the hallway. It was getting louder as the person approached my room. Gbaow!! The door came off its hinges and headed towards the other end of the room. Two men walked into the room, as they got closer to my bed, the kerosene lamp lit up their face. They were Taliban dressed completely in black. One of them held a pistol, while the other brandished a sharp curved knife, which seemed to gleam in the dark. “Get up and get dressed!” The shorter one of the two said to me. In my fear and confusion, I couldn’t decide if my trouser was meant for my legs or hands. The men noticing my dilemma just simply grabbed me and carried me out, half naked. When I got out I saw the havoc the Taliban had wrecked on the compound. Half of the compound was already on fire. They tied my hands and legs and threw me in a metal caravan. As my eyes got used to the darkness, I saw that I wasn’t alone. Moustafa and the holy man teacher sat across me, both of them with their heads bowed, saying a prayer. The terrible interpreter sat close to one of the windows crying bitterly. The caravan began to move slowly. No sooner had we had left the compound, when the last standing house burnt to the ground. We could hear the cry and screams of the women and children we had left behind. The Taliban had only taken the men in the compound, probably to be sold into slavery. As the caravan rolled on, I tried to stay awake pondering on how God had failed me once again. As I thought through the events that had just taken place, fatigue stole over me and I slept off without knowing.
“Moustafa!! Moustafa!!” It was my Aunt calling again. But this time I was no longer on the floor of the house, but falling through the crack in the floor and straight into the inferno. “Nana Rashidat. Please help me!!” I screamed while holding on to a ledge with my hands. “Don’t call my name. My name has no power to save. Call on Jesus. That is the only name that saves.” I heard Nana Rashidat tell me, in a very quiet and motherly voice. I shook my head vigorously. “That name doesn’t save. Rather, it only brings disaster.” “No Musti.” She called me by my pet name. “The name of Jesus is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and they are saved.” “But it hasn’t saved me so far I” I argued, reminding her that I was about falling into an inferno. “But you haven’t called His name yet.” She said as a smile crossed her lips. I could see her image now. She looked so much at peace. Oh the joy of being dead, I thought to myself. As if reading my thoughts, she looked at me her smile widening and said “No Musti, it’s the joy of having Jesus.” “Moustafa!! Moustafa!!” someone else was calling me. I turned to face the direction of the sound. Maybe this person would actually save me and not lecture me like Nana. “I am over here.” I screamed. The moment I shouted, my hand slipped of the ledge and I started to fall. “Help me!!” I screamed and fainted. I woke up to find Moustafa standing above me. He was shaking me furiously trying to wake me up. “Aboki na. You were having a bad dream.” The sun had already risen, so we all could clearly see how bad our case had become. The terrible interpreter, Abdulamalik was sound asleep on one side of the caravan while the holy man teacher still had his head bowed, a soft prayer escaping his lips. “He still believes his God can save him?” I asked Moustafa. “Yes He does and I too believe, because no other God can save but Him.” Moustafa replied me. “So I promised to tell you my story.” Moustafa continued. There was no way I was going to escape now since I was stuck with him in the caravan.
This is Moustafa’s story:
“It all began with two people falling in love and getting married. After five long years of waiting, the couple gave birth to twins. I was one of the twins. The tradition of my people dictates that when twins are born, they are to be subjected to the vilest of circumstances and the one that survives is to be kept, while the weaker one is to be left for death. I was the weaker twin. On a cold winter night, my mother with tears in her eyes took me out of the village, put a morsel of meal and a skin of water in my hand and left me for fate. Before she left, she pointed to a light in a far distance and told me to walk towards it. She said I would be safe there. I understood that I was no longer wanted at home, so I started walking. After walking about 2km and having exhausted my small supply of food and water I passed out. Not long after I fainted I was awoken by the teeth of a wild Hyena sinking into the flesh of my shoulder blade. Till this day, I still wonder why I didn’t struggle. She dragged me to her den. As she approached the den, the other Hyenas started growling. Dinner was served. She dragged me to the middle of the den and stood over me daring any other Hyena to come close to her catch. I was barely 3 years old, but I still remember it like yesterday. When I got tired of sitting still I stood up and started playing oblivious of how much danger I was in. As I approached the Hyenas, they shrunk back like they were afraid of me. Suddenly I saw someone appear out of the shadows. He was dressed completely in white. “Ya ka ke Moustafa.” He greeted me in my native language while stretching His hands towards me. I ran towards him. He picked me up and held me close, His body providing me with so much warmth that I slept almost immediately. The next morning when I woke up, I was on a hunter’s sled. The bite of the Hyena had healed completely with only a scar to show what I had been through. The hunters had captured two of the Hyenas alive and caged their mouth. Then they took turns teasing the animals. As the Hyenas growled, they feigned fear at first and then started laughing afterwards. The hunters took me to their village, where one of them handed me over to his wife; she was instructed to take good care of me as if I was her own son. As I grew up I realized she never had any sons.
I grew up to be a strong and brave hunter. My new father loved me like his own son and taught me everything about hunting. He taught me how to pray to the gods of the desert and gave me charms to tie all around my body. These charms would ensure that I was never killed by a wild beast and that I never came back home empty handed. By the time I turned 12, I was already one of the best hunters in my village. Most women in the village were already grooming their daughters to marry me, as they believed that I would soon be the richest man in the village.
The first time I saw a white man was when a missionary came to our village. He came with a strange message and a terrible interpreter. We all laughed him to scorn and kicked him out, not even allowing him to stay a night. As we chased him out of the village, we showed him our numerous charms and deities that had been keeping us safe and giving us so much wealth. As he got to the edge of our village, he dusted his shoes and instructed his servant to do the same. The other villagers didn’t make anything out of this strange act, but it stuck to my mind. Several months after this incidence, I went alone on a hunting trip and caught so many animals. The weight of the catch made my sled so slow, that I got home a day after my expected time of arrival. As I got close to my village I saw a cloud of smoke over the village. I quickly Jumped from the sled and ran towards the village. On reaching the village, I saw a group of white men departing on horseback. The village had been razed down, with men, women and children lying dead on the street. I heard a man scream so I rushed to towards where the scream came from. It was Abubakar, my uncle. A tree had fallen on his leg, so he was stuck and the flames were coming towards him. I tried to lift the tree, but I couldn’t. He suddenly pulled me close and said “Moustafa. You have to avenge us. They called themselves crusaders. They killed us because we worshipped gods made of earth and metals. They said they were cleansing the world for the coming of their King.” He handed me a piece of paper which had the following inscription written clearly in my native language
He that believes and is baptised shall be saved;
But he that believes not is damned
The crusaders: cleansing the world for the second coming of the King
I sobbed as I watched him die in my hands. I swore not to worship any God that wouldn’t even allow you plead your case, before condemning you. I left my village that night as the last of the wood burnt red in the dark, armed with my charms and my surplus supply of meat.
I walked for hours until I got exhausted. As I lay on the sand, I realized that I was all alone again, just like I had been so many years ago, before the hunter found me. Tears welled up in my eyes and I tried to fight it back. “A man should not cry.” I told myself out loud, but the more I tried to convince myself the more the tears came. I closed my eyes crying and shaking when suddenly I felt something burn my leg. I opened my eyes to see a fire lit beside me. It was a strange occurrence, but I was too cold and tired to bother. I raised my clothes to kiss the charms, as a way of saying thank you to the gods for saving my life, but the charms were gone. I looked around in confusion, and then looked at the fire. The fire was fuelled by my charms and wooden idols. As they burnt in the fire, I realized that they couldn’t even protect themselves from flames, so how were they going to protect me. I slept off on that thought.
I woke up the next morning to a cold metallic feel on my neck. I opened my eyes to see that I was surrounded by the Taliban, one holding a knife close to my neck. The Taliban were famous for stealing property and not leaving any survivors. The man sunk the knife into my flesh drawing a little blood.”
“Shut up fools.” Moustafa’s story was interrupted by the short man who had asked me to dress up quickly. “Don’t worry I’ll continue the story later.” Moustafa whispered to me. I looked to the other end of the caravan and saw the holy man teacher; his head was still bowed in prayer.
The story continues, please stay tuned and stay blessed.