Four Little Birds: Many Big Lessons
By Doctor Karamo Muhammad Sonko(from Ghana)
This is a story of four little birds: the one that died and the three that didnít but could have.
Last evening, as we got out of the car, having just driven into my compound, I heard a flutter of wings. "Are these birds fighting? " I asked.
"Your garden has become a bird sanctuary," said my sister, "and your birds are always fighting over territory."
But then the flutter continued, with feathers falling all over. I looked and I could see one of the pillars of my house and the great green leaves of the creeping plant that crawls all over it. From the increasing intensity of the flutter and falling of feathers I suspected something worse than a struggle for territorial integrity and independence. "Hurry!" I urged my driver. "There seems to be a bird in trouble!"
Evans, my driver, jumped like a leopard, and forced his hand into the leaves. Out it came, with a dark blue bird which dropped on the floor. There was blood coming through the birdís beak and only the feathers moved in the gentle evening wind as it lay dead on the tiles. It appeared to have fallen from the nest into an entanglement of leaves, shoots and wood. Its security became the insecurity and its protectors became the killers. As I looked at the poor bird, I realized that there is no shortage of channels of exit from this world for life.
Surprisingly, I was struck with a very strong sense of sadness. I used to be a hunter in my village and I have shot and trapped many an animal, including birds in my very young days. Why then should the death of one little bird, for reasons that have nothing to do with me, bother me? Twenty five years ago, as the hunter boy, I might have considered myself lucky (if the bird had died as halal) and gone for a barbecue with my village friends. After all, Evans, a non-Muslim, seemed to have done this with the dead bird, for when I told him to take it to the garbage bin, he headed for a direction which I didnít need navigational expertise to calculate the coordinates of. Even as a 21st century traveler without a compass, I could tell that he was headed for the direction of his kitchen and not my garbage bin.
Twenty five years is a lifetime and, like the wind, man does change direction. I do not intend to divert to that direction here, which, I believe, is obvious to you. Instead, let me tell you about the unfortunate little bird and three others it reminded me of.
The dead bird, a dove, was among many that have hatched, and continue to hatch, in nests around my garden. I saw this one, like most of the others, from the time that it was just a white egg, freshly laid by the mum. There were two eggs, but one dropped and was shattered, shortly afterwards. I thought the second one was the lucky one. The nest was placed with the competent care of a mother dove on the shoot and leaves of the creeping plant, held by the wooden support that a carpenter had nailed on the pillar for the plant to coil up and around. The nest was in a very secure place. Over the weeks I had seen the mum come and go for her natural maternal responsibilities. Only the day before, I saw her with a visitor, who looked like the daddy or some other relative, trying to entice the baby dove to take his first leap into the air. Although they didnít seem to have succeeded, I knew, from experience, that the little bird could take to the skies any day now. Obviously, he was not meant to.
Two years ago, a few months after moving to our new home (this house), I got impatient with one of the bougainvillea plants that my gardener had planted along my front wall. It took this plant ages to pull itself along the wall, produce beautiful leaves and flowers, like the rest of its family in my garden. I wanted, so badly, to pull it out. Finally, when it started moving, the leaves were small, the stem ugly and short, and the flowers pale. I wanted, so badly, to pull it out. I told the gardener repeatedly to do it for me, but then he got uprooted himself before he could finally uproot the plant. I guess the plant was meant to stay.
One day, after we have had a new gardener, I walked with disgust to the bougainvillea. To my utter surprise, a dove flew into my face when I bent over the plant. Right in front me was a nest and inside it were two beautiful white eggs! This was the plant I wanted, so badly, to get rid of. The plant was so short and its "branches" looked so thin, that it was absolutely crazy for any bird, particularly of the size of a dove, to lay eggs there. But this particular dove did: the eggs were as visible as my palms. These eggs wont survive! Impossible, they canít! When I told my principal adviser (my wife), she, as usual, was calmer than me: "Allah put them there. He will protect them." Protect them, He did. In spite of the heavy rains and winds that summer, they (both of them) hatched and two beautiful young doves flew out of our home, as we watched, one day. The once-stunted bougainvillea is now a vibrant plant, with colourful green leaves and red flowers, leaning robustly over my front wall.
Then, last week, while on my daily morning walks, I came across a little bird, that looked like a member of the lark family, lying in the middle of the tarred road. A car zoomed toward it from ahead. It looked sick or hit by a bird of prey, although there were no visible external injuries. Twenty five years ago I might have considered myself lucky and gone for a barbecue with my village friends. Twenty five years is a lifetime and, like the wind, man does change direction. So that morning, lucky was the lark. I quickly grabbed some sticks and moved it, with difficulty, out of the way into a patch of grass near the road. Just in time to avoid being ran over by the Ghanaian Schumacher. Making sure it was comfortable on a bed of dry grass with grains, I left. When I passed by later, I looked in order to find out how my little patient was doing, but it wasnít there. Lucky indeed was the lark. This is the fourth little bird of my story.
Now, for those of you who may be analytically oriented, spiritually, I shall leave you with food for thought:
The little bird in the most protected nest was the one to have died, and just when it was about to fly away;
I disliked the bougainvillea and I wanted it "dead", but even the gardener couldnít do that for me. Instead, he ended up being sacked, instead of the plant, for reasons that had nothing to do with the plant;
The two other eggs and, subsequently, the second and third little doves, survived the winds, rains and the fragile branches of Shortie the Bougainvillea, something only my principal adviser could have imagined as possible; and
If I had arrived, even three minutes later, the fourth little bird (the lark) would have been turned into minced meat by the crushing tyres of the approaching car.
Like everything else, the Qurían offers us insights as we ponder over this story about Four Little Birds:
"And no one can die except by Allahís Leave and at an appointed term" (3:145).
"And every nation has its appointed term; when their term comes, neither can they delay it nor can they advance it an hour" (7:34).
MAY ALLAH ENABLE US TO UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIATE THE MANY BIG LESSONS OF THIS LITTLE STORY.
By Doctor Karamo Muhammad Sonko(from Ghana)
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