Begging is Ignominious, and Shameful!

Yesterday, after the completion of Solatul ‘Asr, I turned my gaze towards the congregants. I noticed a cart filled with metal scraps outside the mosque. I immediately skimmed through the congregants and I saw a man who was making up his missed raka’ats. By his appearance, I inferred that he is a Hausa man; and the cart belongs to him. Initially, I didn’t intend to give any post-‘Asr reminder, but the man’s condition prompted me to address the congregants. The man was handicapped. Yet, he was making an honest living even though his condition ‘certifies’ him to become a beggar. I continued addressing the Yoruba audience while he was doing his adhkaar. I approached him when I noticed he was about to leave. He couldn’t speak pidgin English let alone the Queen’s language. But despite my poor command of the Hausa language, I was able to initiate a dialogue with him while the entire congregation stayed put.

Usman Garba Mai-Rakunmi. Photo: Abuu-Yuusuf Lawan Afiz Opeyemi, Osogbo

I’m impressed to see a man like you – doing a menial job as this – when you could have resorted to begging as a means of livelihood“, I noted. That was how our discussion started.

His name is Usman Garba Mai-Rakunmi, a native of Kebbi State, Nigeria. He was born when President Buhari was the military head of states. By that, I estimated Usman is probably 39 years old as of today. “Do you lose your arm to an automobile accident or it was a congenital defect?”, I asked. “Neither“, he replied sharply. His response threw me off. “So, what happened”?

“I lost my arm to a camel 10 years ago“, he said. “A camel is not a carnivore. What do you mean?“, I retorted. “My father is a husbandman who has dozens of camels in his herd. Whenever the camels return home from grazing, it is their usual habit to assemble themselves for a while, before matching into their pen. On that fateful evening, the camels returned home and assembled themselves as usual. However, one camel stood far away from the herds. I didn’t know that the herder who led the camels on grazing had struck her, perhaps, unjustly. The camel’s ego had been bruised but she looked calm. By standing aloof, she was literally, protesting but I was unsuspecting”.

I approached her to drive her towards the flock. Just like lightning, she grabbed me by my right arm and began to drag me around the field. I cried, cried, and cried. I yelled with the highest decibel of my voice. People rushed to my rescue. It took them lots of effort before they could subdue her. But sadly, when they finally did, the deed had been done. My arm had broken into pieces beyond repair. I experienced the most excruciating pain of my life. The trauma was indescribable. Amputation was the only option left for me, if I want to live. That was how my arm was amputated and I got my nickname – Mai-Rakunmi. Go to Sabo, here in Osogbo, and ask for Usman from any northerner, you may be misdirected. But should you just ask for ‘Mai-Rakunmi’ (i.e, the camel-man), you’ll be brought right to my doorstep“. At that point, I hid my tears, but my heart was crying. I became emotional as I translate his ordeal to the congregation.

“As regards the issue of begging that you mentioned“, Usman continued, “I used to trade in watermelon. But since I suffered my ordeal, I wasn’t doing well in the business anymore. Some people – considering my condition – advised me to start begging for alms. But, w’Allaahi, I said to them: ‘Begging is ignominious, it’s shameful’. Thus, I had to leave my hometown for Osogbo where I start scavenging for metal scraps so that I can keep up with my family. I have never begged for alms because of my condition; not even for one day. It’s contemptuous, shameful, and disgraceful”, he said.

You just mentioned keeping up your family”, I asked. “Yes, you heard me right! I presently have two wives and four children who are all enrolled in a school”, he said. To be honest, I was stunned when I heard him mention that he has two queens. Regarding his children, I wanted to be clarified what school he meant. “Do you mean Makaranta Islamiyyah?”. “Yes, both Makaranta Boko (i.e, secular school) and the Islamic Madrasah”. “Do you believe ‘Boko’ is not haram?”, I asked jokingly. “Well, like every state, we have our own societal woes in Kebbi State, but alhamduliLlaah, Boko Haram is not one. I strongly believe in a balanced education. All my children are schooling here in Osogbo”.

My discussion with Usman lasted for more than half an hour. I learnt so many things from him and I felt someone else could; hence, this article.


1. If Givers Never Lack, Receivers Will Never…

Truly, no man can have it all; Allaah alone is Al-Ghaniy. Few things you have, countless others you do lack. But when you resort to becoming a mendicant to acquire the things you lack, you’ve just dehumanized yourself. Usman told me he could lead me to a mendicant here in Osogbo, who has five motorcycles that operate and deliver for her on hire. Yet, the woman continues to live as a beggar; but he chose to remain dignified.

Personally, I’ve heard stories of people who have taken professional begging to a new paradigm. They would frequently go on ‘Umrah like a man would visit his toilet or his village market. But when these folks do, they don’t travel to Makkah to worship but to act as being handicapped, and beg other pilgrims for alms. We see and respect them as ‘Alhajis’ and ‘Hajias’ at home, but they are professional beggars abroad. If you claim to have a disease or problem just because you want to beg, it is likely that Allaah will afflict you with that trial before you die!

From the Islamic dignification of the human being is that the rich have been ordered to give, but the poor have been strongly discouraged to become beggars. Our dear Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) once said: “A man will not choose begging as a profession unless that Allaah shall open the doors of penury unto him“.

2. If Begging Is Ignominious, Scamming Is Much Worse

Usman – despite his ‘certification’ to become a beggar – left his hometown, to take up his job as a scavenger with which he feeds two wives and four children. Yet, many of our own over-educated youth complain about unemployment and thus, resort to several dishonest means of acquiring wealth. Listen, till your chicken becomes toothed, yahoo-yahoo, sport-betting and ‘olosho-ism’ will continue to be dishonorable; and you will never rise above your level. Shame on you! You can’t even keep one wife let alone two!

3. If Those Who Are Deprived Still Worship Allaah, Those Who Are Given Are In Serious Trouble.

Allaah’s Protection we sought. But, imagine yourself losing your arm; I mean, your right arm. Where would you start? How would you live? Mai-Rakunmi lost his limb, yet he observes his prayers, at the right time, in the mosque. Sadly, how many Muslims are hale and hearty, but wouldn’t pray at all. When you remind them about solaah, their usual response is: “E bawa be Olohun ko fi wa lokan bale (Ask Allaah on our behalf to grant us tranquility)“. To be honest with you, that’s the height of ingratitude.

4. Islam Transcends Ethnic, Racial And National Boundaries

That a Hausa man (Usman) worships behind a Yoruba Imam meant a great deal about the universality of Islam. This universality cannot be said for any other religion except for Islam. If you think this uniqueness isn’t a big deal, try replicating the same with your faith, and let’s see how possible is that feat.

5. Animal Right

Just as the camel that decapitated Usman, animals too, are emotional creatures. In Islam, they have rights that mustn’t be trespassed. The Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) taught us that a woman would be punished in Hell for mistreating a cat. Yes! You heard me right? Just a mere cat! How much more if you mistreat a fellow human – whether they be Muslim or not.

6. Learn To Learn, Unlearn, And Relearn. Literacy And Knowledge Are Not Necessarily The Same

No matter your exposure and academic qualifications, there are still one thousand and one things you can learn from a man who has no schooling. Usman Garba is unlettered, but I learnt many life lessons from him beyond letters and numbers. The advice of an uneducated gardener might save the marriage of a college professor. Stay humble and don’t look down on people.

You may add your own lessons too which I couldn’t capture. But, I would like to drop my fainting pen for some other time. Till I come your way again, I am your brother and friend – Afiz is my name but my wife calls me Opeyemi. Always remember that: “A man will not choose begging as a profession unless that Allaah shall open the doors of penury unto him”. Should that be the case for begging, what do you think might be the case for scamming? You have no moral nor religious justification for Yahoo-Yahoo. Get a life bro! Repent and turn to Allaah before you meet your waterloo. This might be your last reminder. Peace!

Abuu-Yuusuf Lawan Afiz Opeyemi writes from Osogbo, Nigeria.


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