Celebration or celebrations may refer to a social gathering of people to express happiness over a particular thing or object of joy. At a time in our social history, open-air party was the poplar form of celebration among elites in this part of the world. It progressed to be known as cock-tail party. Now, it is called reception or walimah. People rejoice to celebrate wedding; birth and naming of a newly-born child; graduation from school, university or a particular training programme; career progression and promotion to next level; winning an election; birthday anniversaries; victory in sport competitions; acceptance of a traditional or chieftaincy title, etc. Little do we hear of celebrations in respect of the everyday favours we enjoy from the Creator of the heaves ad earth including good health.
Of course, the place of celebrations in the life of the living cannot be ignored. The expression of happiness through celebrations is one of the ingredients of a meaningful life. Through celebrations, we are able to relax from the stresses of daily life orchestrated by the unceasing challenges of modern life including the complex world of information technology.
However, when celebrations become too often than not, they lose their fundamental essence because the happiness sought through celebrations could literally become a burden. “Too much of everything”, they say, “is bad”. This is an old African adage which implication cannot be more relevant to the ostentatious life of many Nigerians than now. Celebration is one aspect of our social life that has somehow reached a worrying level in modern Nigeria.
Saturdays, in most parts of Nigeria today have traditionally become days specifically designated for social activities; most of them celebrations. Nothing is wrong with that except for the level to which celebrations are taken and the frequency at which they are organized. Dozens of invitations to such occasions is in recent times the common experience of VIPs especially political office holders in Nigeria. Repeated invitations sometimes within short intervals may be seen to be monotonous. In the opinion of this writer, some of us may have taken celebrations far when huge sums of money are spent on the printing of invitation cards, almanacs, memo pads as well as the purchase and distribution of souvenirs that often include handbags, handkerchiefs, key holders, and wristwatches; to celebrate the graduation of a child from nursery school; nursery school for that matter. This is aside of the women wahala called ‘anko’ or aseobi’ that decides how guests are expected to appear at a particular occasion.
For everything we do in life including celebrations, there is need for moderation to underscore it. The Prophet (SAW) said, “The best of (all) affairs is the middle course”. We are required by the teachings of Islam to be modest in our eating, talking, sleeping and in all other personal habits. As for moderation in eating, the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) teaches that we divide our stomach into three and fill one-third of it with solid food, the second part with water and the third with air. In talking, moderation finds expression in listening more than we speak. I once mentioned on this page that God gave us one mouth and two ears because we are required not to talk too much. We could fall ill if we excessively deprive our body of adequate rest and sleep just as we could miss observing the daily obligatory prayers at the right time if we develop bad sleeping habits.
In the search for or acquisition of wealth too, it pays to be in the middle course. I once wrote a piece with the title “Not too rich, not too poor’ on this page in which, I gave reasons why it may be more gratifying to be moderately well-off than to be strikingly rich or extremely poor. I would not be surprised if some readers of this column in developing economies of sub-Saharan Africa such as Nigeria fanatically disagree with this opinion. Those who are too engrossed in the search for every naira and kobo in marketplaces across the north, south, west and east of the country sometimes pay costly prices for their excessive love for wealth. Their homes could become breeding grounds for scoundrels. This is usually the consequence of parents who fail to create time for the moral training of their children and wards Some mothers, nowadays, are also now ‘too busy’ watching Telemundo and Zeeworld on satellite television channels; with no time for things that are ordinarily regarded as part of a woman’s routine duty such as monitoring children’s activities in the home including asking children to do their assignments.
Even in religion and religious matters, a middle course is exhorted by Islam. For instance, the practice of wisal is discouraged by prophetic traditions. Wisal is the practice in which a Muslim fasts for most days of the year. Allah (SWT) exhorts believers in the Qur’an to practice Islam without necessarily ignoring their share of the good things of this life. This is also implied from the Prophet (SAW)’s message delivered during his farewell pilgrimage at mount Arafat when he (SAW) declared that our physical body has rights over us as human beings. Qur’an 27:77 states “But seek (with the wealth), which Allah has bestowed on thee the Home of the Hereafter, nor forget thy portion in this world….”
The disproportionate passion exhibited by some sports fans is not only far from the middle course but also condemnable. The act of betting over the results of football matches is tantamount to taking football too far. The wild orgy by football fans in which a life or lives are sometimes lost when celebrating a club’s victory in a match is an extreme form of merrymaking. Even when we are naturally compelled by irresistible factors to express anger, Islam requires that we do that with moderation. May Allah (SWT) guide us to be in the middle course in all that we do in our private and public life, amin.