My Father’s Faith

My father will be 71 this year, an almost surreal fact to me considering just how active and spry he is. He works two jobs, both on different sides of the state that requires him to shuttle between two houses on a weekly basis.
 
 I have never known him to not have multiple jobs. Sometimes I think he wears numerous hats because he doesn’t know how to relax. I can’t think of a single period when he took a vacation, he simply doesn’t function that way. A lot of that is based on the country he lives in. Nigeria can be unforgiving and to survive, many people have multiple jobs to keep up. The other aspect is my dad is one of the hardest workers I know. Yet it’s not his work that defines him, it’s how much of a great father he is.

Everything he does, has been for his family. I was fortunate enough to watch first hand a few months back how he gets through a typical week and how he ensures all of his kids are taken care of. Even his current abode, or at least the one he spends most of his time in, is a testament to how committed he is to making sure his fatherly duties are met. Said place is in a very remote area, far from the city where his kids live and also his friends. Yet in this place, close to one of his jobs, he has made peace with circumstance, doing whatever it takes to make sure school fees are paid, no one goes hungry and all needs are met. To find someone so selfless is reassuring, that he is my father is even more endearing.
 
I rarely discuss my father’s faith. Maybe it’s because its never been an issue for me. I grew up in a household where we were encouraged to be the best we can without being forced to do so. Ours was an interfaith household. Dad was a Muslim, mom a Christian. My siblings are all Christians, I attend church weekly but I am at a stage in my life where I am open to believing, salvation comes in different forms and I don’t believe in a God cruel enough to condemn people like my dad to eternal suffering because they belong to a different religion.
 
But I digress, growing up, dad had no issues going with my mother to church. In fact I am pretty sure there are many friends of hers who didn’t know he was a Muslim. My mother on the other hand, sigh … And this is a bit emotional to talk about, would wake up with him during the month of Ramadan, in the wee hours of the morning to make sure he observed ‘Ashamu’, the early breakfast Muslims observe before undertaking a day of fasting. I bring this particular point up now, because Ramadan is upon us yet again and I can’t help but think of my parents and the unique bond they shared.
 
As a kid, I remember my siblings and I, would wake up to see my dad already eating his breakfast, prepared by my mom of course and we’d jump in too. Even then we tried to emulate him as much as we could. Whatever our hero did, we followed suit. Breakfast I should add, was usually around 4am, the religion stipulates that Ashamu be undertaken before the sun is up.
 
Fast forward to the last few years, after my mom died and fasting during Ramadan is tougher for my dad now. There’s no one to wake up early to cook his meals. It’s a rigorous process to expect someone his age to do this for a month in the early hours of the morning. Especially in a region of the world where convenience is an anomaly. Often times, there’s no power. Nigeria is plagued with a chronic electricity issue. Now imagine waking up at 3am every day to not only start up a generator, but also cook, eat observe the prayer and be ready for work by 8am. 
 
So when my dad told me this week he feels guilty for not being able to fast because he’s under the weather. It struck a chord in me and made me wonder what type of iron clad faith this man has.
 
A lot of people wilt like rotten flowers when challenges appear. My father lost both his wife and a son. Including multiple miscarriages when they were trying for another child after my brother’s death. These things I do not utter lightly or put on page simply to dramatize my point. I have struggled with my faith of late, seeing certain things going on around me, knowing certain things and wondering why God hasn’t answered or waged in.
 
Yet I can’t help but think about my dad, who has faced numerous obstacles, including the loss of his best friend in a period where they had become even more reliant on themselves and I wonder … How does he remain so connected to God? To know that his prayers have consisted of asking God to watch over his family, to also know that those prayers must have occurred prior to losing a son and then a wife, and probably still continues to be uttered even now, really tells me how unshakable my father’s faith is. Some have departed from God for less, this man has gone through so much and yet he still pines for a way to express his devotion to his maker.

Sometimes I wish I had his fortitude. But then again I can’t imagine being able to shoulder the weight he has. It bothers me that he will never get his just due in life. It bothers me when I can’t give him all he deserves. If anything, I have learned the good don’t always get their rewards on this plane. But I hope his faith can at least guarantee a better after life.

Prior to coming to America, my view of Islam has always been a religion that promotes peace. My family was the measure for how interfaith unions could coexist without issue. I lived and went to school with people from different walks of life. That foundation has allowed me to appreciate other beliefs and cultures. It has also allowed me to sift through the dirt and realize that though a few might carry out atrocious acts under a misguided notion of fighting for God, I know there are many like my father who espouse the true teachings of the faith.