Friday Sermon: The Fall of Nations Revisited

By Babatunde Jose

Then the Blast overtook them with justice, and We made them as rubbish of dead leaves (floating on the stream of Time)! So away with the people who do wrong! (Quran 23: 41).

Frédéric Bastiat’s unwritten History of Plunder ranks alongside Lord Acton’s History of Liberty and the third volume of Murray Rothbard’s Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought as the greatest libertarian books never written. Had he lived to a ripe old age, Bastiat might have finished his magnum opus, Economic Harmonies, and completed his history of plunder.

What emerges from a chronological examination of his writings is his gradual realization that the State is a vast machine that is purposely designed to take the property of some people without their consent and to transfer it to other people. The word he uses with increasing frequency to describe the actions of the State is “la spoliation”(plunder), although he also uses “parasite,” “viol” (rape), “vol” (theft), and “pillage,” which are equally harsh and to the point. In his scattered writings on State plunder, he identifies the particular groups that have had access to State power at different times in history in order to plunder ordinary people. These include warriors, slave owners, the Catholic Church, and more recently commercial and industrial monopolists. He defined the State therefore as: “the mechanism by which a small privileged group of people live at the expense of everyone else.” He said:“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it”

In the course of a discussion of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, R. Briffault, in his book, The Making of Humanity, made some thought provoking observations, which we will do well to ponder over: A society based on false principles inevitably disintegrates. What really happens is that the phase of society, the order of things in which disregard of right is habitual and accepted, inevitably deteriorates and parishes. However much the individual may temporarily benefit by inequity, the social organization of which he is a part and the very class which enjoys the fruits of that inequity, suffer inevitable deterioration through its operation. They are un-adapted to the facts of their environment. The wages of sin is death by the inevitable operation of natural selections: And for a nation, it’s cessation. The two writers must have had Nigeria in mind.

If a nation suffers, it has brought the suffering on itself. It cannot blame it on any outside agency. The Quran has, repeatedly directed our attention to the phenomena of nations that flourished in the past but which went into ruin because of their way of life, the goals they pursued, the values around which their culture was organized, their actions and the consequences of those actions. The Quran tells us to go round the world and see for ourselves “the fate of those who defied God”. History has judged them, as it will, in time, judge us: (Quran 24: 34).

A nation which takes to destructive ways is invariably granted a respite, long or short. It is saved if it retraces its steps and turns back to the right path before reaching the point of no return; which is where we are now.

To every People is a term appointed: When their term is reached, not an hour can they cause neither delay, nor (an hour) can they advance (it in anticipation).  (Quran 7: 34), See also (Quran 13:38).

Success or failures are the eventual consequences of our good or bad conduct. The Quran makes this clear, see Quran 10:44. The Quran says that a nation begins to decline when it pursues wealth and takes to hoard money it should have spent for the general good. The rich, instead of helping the poor and the needy, amass wealth for themselves. The inevitable consequence was that the nation began to deteriorate. See Quran 47:38.

The consequence is clear: If a nation refuses to work for development of its people and for the establishment of Divine Order and pursues the ignoble end of self-aggrandizement, it will be supplanted by another nation carrying more weight in the balance of humanity.

The Quran says that it is the duty of the intellectuals and the leaders of thought, to discover the right path and persuade the people to follow it. When these men do not discharge their duty properly, the nation slides into injustice and tyranny and heads for ruin. The leaders of thought are bound to keep a watchful eye on the nation and to warn when it goes wrong. They are the conscience of the nation.  The leaders are to blame if the nation pursues false values. If a nation begins to decay, the process usually starts at the top. The upper stratum of the society first becomes corrupt and the corruption percolates downwards. It is strange that men of high intelligence should be the first to be corruptedIt is because they cannot resist the temptation to use their intelligence to further their own interests. The above are a glaring testimony of the state of affairs in our country today.

The masses too, are not quite blameless as they allow themselves to be misled by their leaders. As free responsible beings, it is their duty to think for themselves and reign in their leaders when they go wrong. If they fail to do this, they too cannot escape punishment. Resilience under a condition of misrule is tantamount to docility and it’s a crime. Common men, by shirking their duty to think independently, become accomplices in the crimes of their leaders. Had they rebelled, the leaders might have been brought to their senses and checked themselves. Their willing obedience to errant leaders is in itself a crime and they have to expiate it.

The blame for what Nigeria has become therefore falls on you and me. Our wickedness stinks to the heavens; pulling down everyone and everything to become rich. We import substandard products, fake drugs and expired baby food unfit for human consumption, container loads of dangerous addictive drugs, plunder Social Insurance Trust Fund, rob the impoverished Deltans of their development allocations and we have the nerve and temerity to complain about leadership?

We even steal from widows, orphans, and refugees. We take the food of IDPs and sell it for profit. A conscienceless people; nothing is sacred: From the construction of substandard roads and buildings, all for profit at the expense of human life; an invaluable item which all our profit and contract sum cannot buy.

Sadly, the perpetration of iniquities is all inclusive: They are Christians, Muslims, husbands, wives and sadly youths. We pervert justice and enthrone injustice and inequality. Slave traders pale into insignificance in comparison to what we do to ourselves: No surprise, after all, we sold our people to the Whiteman for looking glass and gin. We are wickedness personified. We fast and starve ourselves believing that we are bribing God; we pray and go into trance, speaking in strange language called ‘tonguing’, hold deliverance services and vigils during which we call upon the ‘Holy Ghost’, we invoke the sacred name of God in vain. Our problem today is beyond prayer and fasting.  Where is the hope for our children and our children’s children?

For the downtrodden and the righteous few, there is solace in the words of Malachi: For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 4:1-3

Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith.” (Quran 2:286)

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend


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