Nigerian-Ileya Syndrome: Towards a Pristine Festival

Coined from the Yoruba word meaning, “time to go home”, Ileya or Salah, is a prominent Islamic festival celebrated by Muslims all over the world regardless of sects—Shia, Sunni, Sufism—to replicate the historic faithfulness and obedience of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). In Nigeria, Ileya is celebrated by Muslims and some Christians, as well as the adherents of the African Traditional Religion,ATR. This corroborates the Yoruba adage that: ”Eni T’Odún bá ba’laiye, O ye ko s’ope” which connotatively means, “Whoever witnesses a season should celebrate.” The Yoruba also use the assertion to justify their love for festivities. Many Nigerians celebrate festivals not minding the ideology they practise. Ileya has therefore become every Nigerians festival!

The festival which symbolizes faith, worship, patience, obedience, love, and the relevance of promise in Islam spurs a happiness accompanied with anxiety. Only few people ponder the pristine relevance of the celebration. Many consider it a season of dressing: a season to show the world how luxurious you are; a season to uncover your achievements from the city to those villagers you meet annually; a season for slaughter; a season to “make it” from ram fight; and a season to break the long desertion from the village. Those, among others, are the burden that come with Ileya festival. Having minor the major of the Ileya significances mentioned earlier—worship, and obedience, among others—Ileya has become a year of oppression to many. A Nigerian woman must plait the trending hairstyles, wear the owambe cloths and jewelry, and be driven in the latest cars. The “burden bearers”—men—have to work harder to meet these demands to enable them secure their “burden.” What an expensive season!

As a solution to the self-imposed burden, I appeal to the readership to appreciate the relevance of pristine knowledge in humans endeavors. The festival should be an avenue to obey God’s ordainment by following the strict recommendations of the festival: the will to obey God; to slaughter sacrificial animal; to glorify God; to express happiness; and to show love. It is high time we ceased doing the contrary of what we ought. While good outfits is one of the rites of the festival, wearing extravagant dress that affect our economic life is contradictory. As a matter of fact, the slaughtering of sacrificial ram is not compulsory in a case of financial constraint. Plaiting expensive hairstyle to celebrate the festival is another self-imposed burden that the Nigerians should avoid as the Islamic religion places emphasis on the plaiting of natural hair rather than adding artificial materials. Religion as well as humanity also detests engaging animals in fights, especially sacrificial animals. The essence of the festival also reflects charity to the poor, by extending the chevon and beefs of the sacrificed animal to the less privileged; It should not be based on, “they give us, so we must give” which is a prevalent acts in Nigeria, especially among the Yoruba, more as it is unhealthy keeping chevon and beefs that may not be consumed till the next Ileya season.

Likewise, the bud of the assertion that festivities come with injuries and deaths “Òdún ń fe woń”, can also be nipped if we take cautions by reinforcing peace during the festival. As opposed to popular belief of many that, going home other than a day to the Eid is not honouring, I suggest that the celebrants of Ileya travel to their destination earlier before the fixed date—provided they have no responsibilities to attend to in their workplaces. This will help to solution the ubiquitous hold-ups on the roads which often cause accident. Unnecessary carnivals should not hold during festivals as some people have marked the period a season of bloodshed. This answers the question of why cultists and hoodlums carry out operations during fiestas.
Avoiding competition of dress, rams and alcohol can help solution unholy oppression and enhance acceptance of acts of worship, for “God does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.”

As usual, I join the muslim readership and others alike, to felicitate the Eid-el-Adha, 1444 AH (Ileya/Salah 2023) as I advocate that the festival be celebrated in peace, love, and joy, free from oppression.

Abdulkabir Muhammed writes from Lagos State, Nigeria.


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