A flash of lightening lit up the mosque and in a few seconds a thunder clap made its way down to the earth. The men sitting in a circle on tattered mats cringed at the sound before they resumed their discussion. It was late at night, they had just finished praying Isha’ but because of the rain they had decided to stay in the mosque for a while. The rain tapped on the old roofing sheet making it hard for them to hear each other. ‘’Abu Jaiz, congrats! The Amir has just told me that you will be martyred tomorrow,’’ Al Zambi announced as he put the phone down on the mat next to his AK 47 rifle. The men now turned their faces at Yunus—who they normally refer to as Abu Jaiz. Yunus’ countenance disappointed their curiosities as it spoke nothing but silence.
‘’Abu Jaiz,’’ Al Zambi resumed, ‘’ I said the Amir just confirmed to me that you will be carrying out the attack at the airport tomorrow, aren’t you happy?’’
Yunus’ face now glowed behind the kerosene lantern which stood at the center of the circle, releasing the mosque from umber. He regarded the serious faces of his compatriots and a wide grin embraced his lips. ‘’There is no life except the life of the hereafter,’’ he replied in a stern tone, ‘’I’m happy to lay down my life for God.’’
A smile escaped from his mouth again. ‘’Takbir!’’ Fadl, sitting next to Yunus, encouraged. ‘’Allahu Akbar!’’ the congregation chorused in elation. Al Zambi rose and Yunus followed suit. Al Zambi drew Yunus to a hug, touching his cheeks with his three times. ‘’Die well, brother.’’ Al Zambi patted Yunus’ arm.
The torrent was not in a dissipating mood that night in Kelwa, a village neighboring a dense forest in North Eastern Nigeria. The heavy shower pelted the earth with strokes of water drenching whoever spent as little as few seconds inside it. Yunus now in his room, lit up the white candle on a stool next to his bed. His room was the third in a small house deserted by its owners. He looked at his bed and wondered if that indeed would be the last time he would be sleeping on it. The image of his fellow fighters hugging and wishing him well came to him and he felt happy. His phone gave out a tone signifying that his battery was dying and as he removed the phone from his trousers’ pocket, his mother came to his mind. Perhaps I should give her my final call.
The phone rang and rang but his mother didn’t pick up so he gave up and let himself fall on the bed. He began to think of what life after death would bring. He thought of the tales of Solahudeen Ayyubi, the liberator of Palestine from the grips of Crusaders, and as his mind drifted toward Bin Laden, his eyes had grown weary; he then fell into oblivion.
‘’Wake up,’’ Abu Birna tapped Yunus, ‘’it’s time.’’ Yunus eyes opened without any sign of grogginess. He jumped off his bed and grabbed his shirt from the door. He reached for his rifle under the bed but Abu Birna told him he had no use for it. ‘’Bh….burr…But why not?’’ He stuttered, trying to avert his gaze from the bearded face of Abu Birna, the Amir. ‘’Because you don’t need it. A bomb vest will be strapped on your back and you will detonate it at the airport so that those kuffar can know our might.’’ Yunus throat became dry. He would have loved to ask for water but he knew better. Abu Birna counted such demands in moment like that as sheer display of cowardice. One time, he had slit the ear of a bomber who showed signs of hesitation. Yunus swallowed saliva.
When they got outside, Yunus was surprised to see the sun at its zenith. The mystical lantern shone over the gigantic trees which surrounded the village. A white Toyota pickup truck was parked meters away from the house near an abandoned power plant pole. Yunus saw three men in turbans whose faces were covered in a way similar to the Tuaregs’. ‘’Who are those people behind the truck?’’ he asked. ‘’Don’t worry yourself, they are our brothers who just arrived from Libya, they will help you attain martyrdom,’’ Abu Birna responded. ‘’They’re bomb experts.’’
Yunus sat at the backseat along with the Libyans, Abu Birna in the front beside the driver as they set forth toward an abandoned factory en-route the airport.The factory was a large building. The Libyans got to work and after an hour the bomb vest was ready. Yunus was given a shirt and a trouser. A phone was given to him and he put it in his pocket.
‘’That phone,’’ one of the Libyans explained in broken Arabic and Abu Birna translated to the Kanuri tongue, ‘’is the detonator. Press the green button and everything will scatter.’’
‘’It’s time for Dhur, shouldn’t we pray now?’’ asked Yunus. ‘’No, what you’re about to do is more important,’’ replied Abu Birna.
They headed out where they found two vehicles. One was the vehicle they had driven to the factory and the other was a Chevrolet pickup truck with a camouflage paint. Abu Birna and the Libyans boarded the Chevrolet while Yunus left with the Toyota.
The journey to the city was smooth. The only time Yunus’ heartbeat rose was when the vehicle was stopped at a police checkpoint. ‘’Oga, wetin you get for me now?’’ the officer, a man whose face exhibited a slanting tribal mark that ran over his nose, asked the driver. The driver took out a thousand naira bill from the chest pocket of his white shirt and squeezed it into the hand of the officer through a subterfuge handshake. ‘’Na’gode,’’ the officer hailed, ‘’you can go sir.’’ Yunus sighed in relief and the vehicle drove out of the sight of the police officers in green khaki trousers and jet black uniforms.
The atmosphere at the airport was tense. Police and other security officials scattered around the airport as a Nigerian American teenager’s arrival was announced by a phony voice through the terminal speakers. The girl had traveled in order to pay visit to the families of the abducted girls whose plight caught the world’s attention and to advance the campaign to bring the girls back safely.
Yunus stood at a corner, shivering and reciting prayers, awaiting the final get-go from Abu Birna. The get-go was given in form of a text message and Yunus began to perspire upon seeing it. His lips moved as he said another silent prayer. He took out the phone but before he lay his hand on the green button, he did a double take at the security officers, and that’s when his eyes fell on a dark young lady in short navy blue skirt and suit that hugged her frame. The lady’s high heels spoke behind her and as she walked past him, Yunus couldn’t help but notice the jutting of the young lady’s hips accentuated by her cat walking. In a surreal way, Yunus felt a connection to the lady who now stood at a counter beside the ventilation system few inches away from Yunus.
The text message reminded him of his task. He wiped the beads of sweat now covering some parts of his face. To detonate meant to kill the beautiful lady, he reflected; so he started to think of ways he could save the lady. ‘’Hey, you there, come here!’’ An army officer beckoned Yunus. Trepidation permeated his body and he pressed the green button, and darkness covered everything.
If one looked at Yunus, he would see a tiny man on a vast land of white sands, a red sky tarrying over the alien land. To his left was a river of blood and he saw a man by its bank throwing pebbles inside the mouth of the person who seemed to be swimming without purpose. He would swim to the other side of the river, turn back, and return to the bank where the man would throw another stone in his mouth. Yunus kept walking, and he saw a cave from a distance, he moved towards the cave but as he got nearer a foul odor greeted him and hues and cries emanated from the cave. He turned back and he saw a tree meters away from where he was standing, beneath the tree were people attired in rich fine brocades. He quickened his steps towards the tree, even as the quick sand made it difficult. He was about to get there when a man caught him by the wrist and threatened him with sword if he moved toward the tree.
The man’s skin was bright but Yunus couldn’t make out his skin color.
“These are good people, and you’re not allowed to be with them,’’ the man explained.
‘’But why?’’ Yunus asked. ‘’I like to be among them.’’
‘’If you had really liked to be among them, you wouldn’t have detonated the bomb.’’
Yunus eyes widened. ‘’So the bomb went off? I am now dead?’’
‘’Yes, you killed the people who didn’t do you any wrong,’’ reproached the man.
‘’b…bur..but I was doing Jihad,’’ Yunus stuttered. ‘’Jihad?!’’ the man’s voice rang as though a thunder. Yunus cringed and he began to shiver.
‘’Is this what you call Jihad,’’ the man pointed to the floor and Yunus looked down and corpses of people covered in blood filled his sight. A severed head stood by a baby’s intestine and Yunus felt like puking as he realized they were back at the airport. ‘’Her name was A’isha, I ask you again,’’ the man now leading Yunus to see a lady in Hijab who lay dead, her legs absent, ‘’is this Jihad?!’’ Yunus felt his heart pound. ‘’But I didn’t want to kill her, it was just a coincidence,’’ he managed to reply. The man’s face grew red, ‘’Haven’t you read Surah Al Fath?’’ Yunus nodded that he had. ‘’So why are you saying a Muslim life was a collateral damage?’’
‘’In ayah twenty five of Surah Al Fath,’’ the man resumed, ‘’ God informed Muslims to accept the unfair treaty of Hudaibiyyah so that they wouldn’t mistakenly kill a Muslim in Makkah while engaging their polytheists opponents. God said it would be a sin on them to kill a Muslim even though they didn’t intend to. So how dare you trivialize the lives of Muslims?’’ Yunus kept mute.
A woman threw herself on the marbled floor, hugging the dead young boy, tears on her face. ‘’Chimooooo! They have killed my son o!’’ she threw away her scarf. The man fixed a sad gaze at Yunus, ‘’Is this Jihad?’’ Yunus remained quiet for a moment and then replied, ‘’But he is an Igbo, a Christian.’’
‘’What?’’ the airport trembled and Yunus collapsed onto the floor as the man spoke in anger. ‘’What difference does it make? Where did you find in the Qur’an or from the mouth of the prophet that a Christian’s life is of inferior value?’’ ‘’But that was what our leaders told us,’’ now back on his feet, Yunus confessed. The man shook his head in sadness and gave a copy of Qur’an to Yunus, instructing him to read Surah Mumtahina.
And Allah has not forbidden you to deal justly and kindly to those who do not fight against you on account of religion, nor drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those that are equitable.
‘’So, you misguided boy, what have the Igbo Christians done to you? Have they declared a war against you?’’ ‘’No,’’ Yunus responded in a faint tone. ‘’Have they driven you out of your places?’’ ‘’No.’’ ‘’Then why did you terminate lives created by God?’’ Yunus had no answer but as he looked around the terminal his gaze fell on the young lady he had admired before he detonated the bomb. He ran towards the lifeless body lying bare on the floor and tried to see if she was alive. ‘’You see this lady,’’ the man, now behind him, started, ‘’ was the hope of her family but you crushed the family’s hope.’’
Yunus began to cry. The images of the victims of his suicide bombing popped through his mind. He looked around him and saw that they were back on the strange land and the man was now retreating to the company of the good men underneath the tree. ‘’Please let me come with you,’’ Yunus cried on top of his voice. The man turned back and faced him and merely shook his head in pity. ‘’Where would I go and what is your name?’’ Yunus shouted, his body becoming tepid. ‘’I am Solahudeen Ayyubi, the liberator of Palestine. You have committed horrendous atrocities claiming Jihad. I was sent to show you the evils of your actions but I do not know what God will do to you. For every sin is a set punishment by God. What I can tell you is to read the Qur’an I gave you, and you would find where you’re eligible to enter.’’
‘’Away with you!’’ a voice descended from the heavens and Yunus saw that his body was already in inferno. He started screaming and then he heard the sound of adhan. He opened his eyes to the reality of his cozy room in Kelwa. The time for Fajr—the Dawn Prayer—had arrived. He took his shirt which was now dry from the door and put it on. As he was walking towards the mosque, he saw a number of young ladies emerge from the forest, basins and buckets on their heads. A lady carrying an orange bucket walked slowly behind the rest and Yunus felt like he had seen her somewhere before that morning. As he joined the prayer that dawn his mind was on the lady he had just seen, and as the prayer was about to be completed he realized where he had seen her.
She was the young lady from the nightmare.
To be continued…