In the renewal of our literary series, Dr. Ashraf Ssemwogerere, continues with the elevating stories of interviews he has held with various people who committed crimes unintentionally, or even pre-meditatingly. We start with the story on Yasiin, a chapter (Sura) in the Quran. This Sura was a death threat to us. If you committed a sin and did not confess it, you could be threatened with the recitation of this Sura. Before it was started the criminal would come out for fear of death. We all feared death, so it was never recited.
The year was 1975 at the home of the late Jjaja Hajj Zakaria. There was Muwalimu Muniilu (now an important sheikh at the Old Kampala Mosque), who used to come in the evening to teach us the Quran.
He was a calm Muwalimu, unlike some of those who could beat you until you cried tears. But he was tough once you went against his teachings. Before we started his lessons, it was a must to go first for ablution (okufuna udhu). Nobody touched the Quran without udhu. This was a grievous offense if you did it.
During Ramadhan, he would come on Saturdays in the morning and teach up to noon. One Saturday, Muwalimu came a bit early for he had other engagements that very morning.
As usual, it was ablution, first. We all sat down on our mats under our mango tree waiting for him patiently as he greeted Jjaja Mukyaala. He came and greeted us with that beautiful Salaam. We then started on our recitations.
Remember, it was morning in Ramadhan, when the abdominal enzymes start working on daaku to release the residues. In the middle of our recitation, one of us silently gassed.
The gas was very smelly and filled all the fresh air around us. Muwalimu waited for the culprit to excuse himself and go back for ablution, but nobody stood up, nor did anybody put his Quran aside. He became impatient and requested all of us to put our Qurans aside.
Muwalimu became tough and asked us to find out who had gassed. We all kept quiet. He repeated the question three times, before picking the Quran.
He opened page by page as he said repeatedly, “Yasiin”. It was clear to us he was going to recite Yasin, the death trap. We all got scared as one of us was going to be buried for gassing. The Muwalimu continued to hold the Quran flipping it page by page.
Before he could start to recite the dreaded sura Yasin, my uncle, who was also in the class, opened his mouth and said;
“Sheikh, Bansonyiwe Nze Nfu….” (Forgive me, for I am the culprit….)
Banange kwolwo dalasa yakoma awo. Even the Muwalimu could not hold his laughter. Okuffa kutiibwa! (Death is scaring).We stopped there that day and we all left.