Conscience and Help in Uncertain Times

By Abdulwarees Solanke,

In an address to the nation, President Buhari extended the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown that is already past two weeks by another fortnight of uncertainty in the land.

But in uncertain times like this that the world is under an emergency, a pandemic of unimaginable proportion that has claimed a chunk of the global population, it is an opportunity for some to be smiling. They smile because they a making it from the misfortune of humanity.

Their happiness comes from milking the nation, from exploitation, from hoarding, from price inflation of essential commodities, instead of helping to mitigate the pains of the time. It is all in the smothering of their conscience. It is in the corruption of their humanity and morality.

It is because they lack the personal, innate regulatory and enforcement instruments or the Criterion, Al-Furqan or al-Bayaan that clarifies life choices, decisions and actions for them. This is the moral police, Conscience.

I am ever enthralled by the words of Sheikh Uthman ibn Fuudi (Usman Dan Fodio), the 19th century Islamic revivalist whose struggle assisted the reawakening of Islam in pre-colonial Hausaland and beyond, and created today’s Sokoto Caliphate. “Conscience is an open wound; only truth can heal it,” he poignantly wrote in one of his treatises to his followers. This aphorism has been abridged to “Conscience nurtured by truth” and adopted by a prominent national newspaper as its motto.

Conscience is, of course, a moral and spiritual policeman that clarifies what is right, true and just. It is a personal prism or gauge for measuring individual actions, choices and decisions in contexts one finds itself. Conscience is not a situational value. It is neither subjective nor relative. Conscience is constant. Because conscience is associated with discreet values that have no variants or colorants, it is measured in absolute, altruistic terms.

It is either your conscience is living or dead. There is nothing like weak conscience or ailing conscience. Conscience like truth [a1] is constant. To be aligned with conscience however is courage. The health and vitality or existence of one’s conscience is, therefore, to be seen in the courage that one possesses or applies in the defense of truth or ones conscience.

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Courage gives life to conscience. Courage is not mere bravery or bravado. It is more than being able to speak out or dare. There are times when you speak out and challenge and you eventually regret. The one with real courage never regrets his action. Why? Courage comes from conviction. It comes from firmness of resolve. Courage is not blind bravery, nor is it associated with ignorance. Courage is rooted in foresight, knowledge, faith and steadfastness.

When such is the courage that powers your conscience, you are unwavering, you are forthright and righteous. Your actions and judgment are not dependent or colored by any other consideration or motivation, except that it is true, just, right, fair and moral.

This is because you know and you have taken wider cognizance of the consequences as your knowledge and faith convince you of the rightness of your decisions, choices and actions. Conscience, powered by courage does not give room for doubts and prevarication. The irony, however, is courage is also required to smother conscience. It is in the death of conscience that impunity, criminality and immorality thrive.

The criminal is not ignorant. Before he smothers his conscience, he also weighs the choices before him. He sees before him rewards and he also understands the consequences of his choice. He is acting on knowledge. So he is certain of his choice and he is ready to face the consequences. This preparedness and ability to face consequences of the smothering of conscience is also courage.

What are the consequences of the death of conscience? Loss of peace and security. The one who smothers his conscience is aware of this and he can mortgage or invest huge resources to insure against his loss of peace and security. He is aware of the investment required to cover the putrescence of his dead conscience.

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It is a huge stake and he should be prepared for what is required to retain the profit from the murder of his conscience just as his profit expectation. Therefore, the corrupt and immoral also requires courage to make negative and difficult choices and decisions.

Another reality is that conscience is self-redemptive. But the redemption of conscience is also in the quality of the courage that powers it fundamentally and the direness of consequences that flows from its murder. That is why it may not be necessary to preach heaven and earth to change a criminal.

That is why you do not need to appeal to the corrupt to give up what he has amassed illegally and promise him reward for giving it up. If he wants to give it up or gives himself up in search of redemption, his courage will propel him to the choice or decision…

I am, therefore, always amused and amazed at the notion of ‘plea bargain’ that is making nonsense of our judicial process. It legitimizes corruption and allows the criminal to retain his loot without bearing the full consequences of his actions.

In a nation crying for redemption from corruption, we use plea bargain to rationalize the odium of corruption and justify dead and putrid conscience as pure and noble. The problem with this generation is that the training and exposure available to it hardly build the contents of conscience.

Today, ethical underpinnings are mostly situational. Courage finds illustration mostly in perfidy: ego, pride, assault, oppression and domination. Truth, fairness and justice are now predicated on rewards, gratifications and opportunities. Crime avoidance, prevention and abstention or deterrence are rooted in fear or aversion for punishment and not self-enforcement of conscience.

These are fundamentally responsible for the death of conscience. And every man should be held accountable for the life or death of his conscience, giving others no room for excuses, because conscience is self-reproaching and self-redeeming.

Now, in the perversion or death of conscience, I take respite from the Criterion of the Law ever, truly, he succeeds that purifies it. And he fails that corrupts it (soul, conscience). Here I am led to conclude that failure or destruction of man and society or polity is rooted in death or dearth of conscience or the soul, because if conscience atrophies in any society, impunity, exploitation and corruption preside in the conduct and regulation of public life and business.

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But can law and regulation truly kill corruption? Can smothering of conscience be prevented by law? So, wat can heal conscience or wat can keep conscience alive? Wat prevents the death of conscience? These questions are amplified in the Four Way test of an international philanthropic organization. They essentially are the kernels of the message in every book of guidance.

So, in tis uncertain time of a global pandemic of Corona Virus Infection that first broke out in Wuhan China December last year and has spared no region of the world without sins of abating, let us give a thought that this is a time to to wake dead Conscience, to give and not to steal. This is a time to help and heal, not to exploit.

This time of uncertainty is wen to bring out the beauty of our humanity and not to bare the talons of man’s bestiality.  From our soul and conscience, let the milk of compassion to give the infirm, the threatened, the poor and the vulnerable to be able to cope with this COVID of a pandemic so as to live to tell the story of the unity of humanity and Oneness or sameness of our Lord, the Grand Architect of the Universe.

And soon, being overcomers over COVID-19, we shall declare and sing songs of victory, celebrating the praises of Allah, Alhamdulillah Robbil aalameen.

By Abdulwarees Solanke, a member of the Publicity Committee of the Muslim Coalition Against COVID-19

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