My parents are Muslims; they’re hajj performing faithfuls that have been slaughtering rams every year during Sallah for as long as I can remember. But there was this year that something happened and they didn’t.
My dad comes from a large family with 17 brothers and too many sisters to count. My grandfather had five wives and each of the wives bore him 4 sons each, excluding two of my father’s brothers that were late at the time I was growing up so you can imagine the size of the family.
And among my father’s brothers, a few married more than one wife! Among them was one who became an Alfa…that should be expected in a large Muslim family, I guess.
Alfa had two wives and this particular family had opinion on everyone else in the family.
Our family house is five stories high; it was built by my grandpa, he had apportioned each wife and children a floor with eight rooms to themselves.
Like most children in the neighbourhood, we engaged the rams in fights… without the knowledge of our dads, of course. It was our thing every Sallah. We were only meant to feed the rams and give them water before the day of slaughter, however, we still found ways for ram fights with kids in the neighbourhoods.
Once we stuffed the rams’ nostrils with local snuff, the rams would be super charged!
Ok, ram is ram, if you have plenty of them, like my father’s family, chances are that you are unable to tell which is yours, especially as they aren’t marked; unless of course at the point of sale, your ram has special markings or spots like my father’s, that year that I am talking about.
Now, that year, my dad had been complaining he couldn’t buy two rams like he normally did because of “austerity.” That was in the 80s. Yeah austerity measures, things were hard.
The one ram dad bought that year was black, no white spots whatsoever. It was the only black ram in the herd that year. I over heard Alfa telling one of his wives that dad bought the devil’s ram. I didn’t tell my dad because it would mean I had eavesdropped, which was a sin to adults.
My dad had warned my cousins not to use his ram for fights… but that ram was a born champion on the field, that year! It knocked out so many other rams; snuff after snuff and fight after fights!
Until the family’s Alfa came to us at the field and told us he would report us to our dads!
Meanwhile, my Alfa uncle never bought nor killed any ram because he depended on our dads for pieces of meat every year and at the end of the day, he got more than everyone! We the children never liked him because he derived joy from flogging us whenever we couldn’t recite portions of the Quran!
“You don’t know your surahs!” He would bellow so that every one around could hear him, especially the parents. “You will not be given Sallah meat!” And the parents would make us go recite or we would forfeit fun and meat!
Alfa Tirah, he was like a family pastor, a sort of spiritual advisor to the family and he played a prominent role during Sallah.
Ok, when it was time to slaughter the rams, Alfa Tirah presided over this ritual; he would stand by each ‘owner of ram’ and begin to chant qur’anic verses…as prayer. A knife is given to the ram owner, in this case, my dad to place the knife at the throat of the ram…of course, the ram would have been tied and on the ground; hind legs and fore legs bound, its neck drawn and a hole dug in the ground to hold the blood.
After the Alfa’s prayers, my father would say some prayers while holding the knife to the ram’s neck. Then he would give the knife to the professional butcher, who had been hired beforehand to kill the ram(s) and prepare them for the women to cook.
We the children would be watching from a safe distance. That year I was positioned with some cousins on the first floor balcony overlooking the slaughter site…which was at the front of the family house. Now, my father was given the black ram…to slaughter. He placed the knife on the ram’s throat, said his prayers and handed the knife over to the butcher.
What happened afterwards baffles us to date.
The butcher proceeded to slaughter and he had gone half way on the ram’s throat; he sliced back and forth and we could see blood gushing as the ram began fighting for its life..then suddenly, the ram kicked the butcher off and stood up! The ropes holding its legs snapping.
Everybody scattered screaming as they fled! Except righteous Alfa Tirah!
While some screamed , “Egba mi, ooo” or “Ewooo!” Depending on what came to their lips, I watched Alfa Tirah chant, Astagafrullaihi! as if he was about to perform an exorcism on the bleeding ram!
The ram went for him and I swear, he sounded like a child!
Mo gbe, o!
That’s didn’t stop the ram from charging at him! I saw Alfa Tirah gather his over sized jalabia above his knees and flee.
“I have said that ram is alshaitani!” He screamed out with his oversized jalabia billowing behind him; his cap and tesibiu flung away. My dad took off, too. He was so fast, I couldn’t make out where he ran to.
Our delighted screams brought more family members to the balcony. I watched with open mouth as the ram charged at the onlookers who tried to rein it in.
“It must be the taba!”
“It’s a devil ram!”
“This one is a human being, turned into a ram….it will turn back into a human being…”
All kinds of theories were postulated.
Very quickly, a few brave men came to their senses and tried to lasso the ram because it was drenched in its own blood and yet, charging at people madly.
You know, people were astounded, how can a ram with its throat cut open – we could see the flesh hanging from the cut… not he dead, not be stumbling but enraged?
After it had done a few damage, the ram was finally caught by a group of men…
My father wanted the ram properly slaughtered but Alfa Tirah had an opinion. He totally refused to have anything to do with the ram…he said he would neither touch it, eat it nor share to anyone.
He was convinced alshatini (satan) had a hand in the ram and it was no longer haral!
As soon as he said it wasn’t haral my dad agreed because you see, the ram had been injured as people tried to capture it, all manner of objects were thrown at it as it raged. it was now a ram with blemish.
We the kids thought otherwise; there was nothing devilish about the ram, maybe the butcher didn’t quite cut the artery well and all of that snuff in its system could be responsible for the fight left in it…we didn’t share our theories with the adults. It was best to be quiet about such things or we could get the beating of our lives for such divine insights
My father instructed the butcher to kill the ram properly and cut it to bits and bury…
What a shame, good meat gone to waste. That’s how we didn’t have a ram to share but our relatives shared theirs with us, though…and of course Alfa Tirah got even less because everyone wanted us to have to makeup for what we lost!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)