Power, whether political, traditional or religious, could be more intoxicating than liquor if misconstrued. In this week’s discourse, we shall talk about human power in its most authoritative and prerogative form. Two righteous men of God, Prophet Sulayman (AS) and Zulqarnayn, will be discussed.
Prophet Sulayman (AS) asked Allah (SWT) for a power that none after him would possess and his request was granted.The powers bestowed on Sulayman (AS) by Allah are numerous. He was taught the speech of birds that he may communicate and command authority over their kingdom. Allah (SWT) in Qur’an 21: 81 and 82 explains that Sulayman (AS) could make the turbulent winds obey his orders. By Sulayman (AS)’s command, the wind could cover a distance which may take a man on foot a whole month to cover. Qur’an 34: 12 and 13 both assert how Sulayman (AS) made jinn to work for him under the supervision of his men. The wish of Sulayman (AS) was always the unanimous command of the whole kingdom of jinn.
When Sulayman (AS) heard a public warning from an ant advising a swarm of ants in a valley to get into to their habitation lest he (Sulayman) crushes them without knowing, he smiled and said: “Oh my Lord! Order me that I may be grateful for thy which thou hast bestowed on me and my parents and that I may work the righteousness that will please thee…” The awe expressed by the kingdom of ants did not tempt Sulayman (AS) to become power-drunk. Instead, he sought Allah’s guidance in order to remain righteous. This is the kind of devout and dutiful feeling that should permeate and dominate the mind of every person in a position of power and authority.
Two men, a herdsman and a farmer, once entered upon Prophet Daud (AS). The farmer complained that the herdsman grazed herded his flocks of animals into his farm and devoured his crops. Daud (AS) told the farmer to take ownership of the flock of animals as a re-compensate for the loss of crops he had suffered. Both men were not comfortable with Daud (A)’s verdict. While the loss of crops which could have provided resources for subsistence until the next farming season was a big challenge to the farmer, the herdsman was unhappy for losing his animals to the farmer.
Both men (farmer and the herdsman) passed by Sulayman (AS) and told him about the verdict delivered by Daud (AS) in their case. In his own judgment, Sulayman (AS) said the famer should take custody of the flock of animals and enjoy the likely benefits that may ensue from the animals including their milk and cheese. The herdsman was asked to take custody of the farm and cultivate it until the crops matured to the stage at which they were devoured when both men shall again resume ownership of their animals and farm respectively.
Zulqarnayn as described in Qur’an 18:84 was another righteous and powerful man of God who, unlike Sulayman (AS), was neither a prophet nor a messenger of Allah. The story of Zulqarnayn in the Qur’an illustrates how power, skills and opportunities should be used in the service of the creator of the heavens and the earth for the benefit of humanity. Zulqarnayn punished the guilty and was kind to the righteous. He relied upon Allah (SWT) in his use of power and authority.
When Zulqarnayn came upon a people in the third leg of his triad voyages, the people sought his help over the machinations of the Gog and the Magog who posed serious threat to them; pledging to pay Zulqarnayn a tribute in return for the protection he provides for them. The people wanted a permanent protection that would close the gap between two mountains through which the Gog and the Magog attacked them.
Zulqarnayn was not greedy and was, therefore, not interested in collecting any remuneration from the people. He understood the powers which Allah (SWT) had given him to involve duties and responsibilities on his part. He did not see his intervention with knowledge and skills in the construction of a barrier between the two mountains as anything beyond discharging his duty as a leader. In Nigeria today, gratification is demanded by some authorities before they accept to render services that ordinarily form part of their responsibilities.
Sulayman (AS) was a powerful king held in awe by all and sundry. Yet, he was never tempted. He was able to withstand the enticements and excitements associated with enormous powers. Fair hearing and judgment in some courts of law have gone out of the reach of ordinary citizens in Nigeria. Nowadays, it is justice for the highest bidder in civil as well as criminal cases. In inheritance and land matters, the cleverer and more charitable a complainant is, the higher his chances of having a judgment delivered in his favour; the position of the law notwithstanding. In matrimonial matters, women sometimes fall prey to the illicit tendencies of some wicked judicial officers. Of course, not all members of the bench are blameworthy of these allegations.
It is absurd that applicants seeking for employment sometimes suffer extortion in the hands of those who are supposed to be ‘Zulqarnayn’ in their own right. Some political appointees including PAs, SAs, SSAs and Advisers enjoy doing this as if it were a right. Like some of our security agents in modern Nigeria, some scribes in the traditional institution have also become unlike ‘Zulqarnayn’ in the exercise of the authoritative powers vested on them. For example, when countryside men run to their traditional authorities especially at the hamlet or district level for the enforcement of their rights over their farmlands, the complainants have to ‘drop something’ before they could be listened to. Such corrupt authorities sometimes collect ‘kola’ (Goro in Hausa) from both sides to a dispute. This is forbidden in Islam.
Power and authority must be used fairly and as an instrument for the improvement of the lots of mass majority. Neither Sulayman (AS) nor Zulqanayn misused power or allowed its overwhelming influence to mislead them. Unfortunately, many of us have become unlike these two powerful but righteous men in the administration of justice. May Allah (SWT) guide us to realize that human power, however great it maybe, is meant to test whether the user will remain grateful or supercilious, amin.