Our phones have become our ‘Quran’! – Prof Afis Oladosu


And those days (are of different conditions); We alternate them among people…(Quran 3: 140)

He is in Junior Secondary School One in a public school in Lagos. He is the third child. His other siblings are four. His father is a former student of mine and now a younger colleague in another university. Face to face with the challenges of life and living in a city on its path to postmodernity, and in order to track the movement of his beloved young boy, particularly at a time when everybody is either a kidnapper or the kidnapped, his father decided to buy a small hand-phone which cost around #10,000 for him.

He was given the strict instruction that he should not use the phone for any other purpose but to track the movement of his fellow siblings and school-mates with whom he goes to and returns from school every day. Such was the instruction given to the young boy when the school term began. It was like the instruction given by the Almighty during the primordial times to Prophet Adam and his wife never to go near “this tree”. Brethren, I have since realized that the sweetest fruit to human beings is that which is forbidden; sometimes people plunge into their death in the pursuit of the unattainable.

Now when my younger colleague gave that phone out to his young son that day, little did he realize that the device was capable of many other things he could not imagine; things “analogue parents’ that we were would never imagine are possible. In other words, the hand-phone, in the hands of our young children nowadays, serves as a compass to the world. Hand-phones deprive children of their innocence, of their guiltlessness.
In other words, unlike our own days – those days of innocence, of chastity and of morality- hand-phones in the hands of our children function in bringing the world faster to children and bringing them closer to the world. The day I handed a phone to my daughter was instructive, that our own days are long gone- days when we trekked long distances to get to our schools, days when there were no DSTV and other cable television networks to watch, days we spent reading books not WhatApp messages, days the Instagram and the Twitter had not been ‘born’. Those days had long gone. These are in which babies born now want to make sense of the here and now; babies of today are born, unlike before, with their eyes wide open; eyes that are opened to the world, eyes that are beckoning to and reading the world.

On the day the son of my young colleague received the hand-phone, he felt a sense of authority and freedom. He felt the presence of the world. He thought he was now in control of the world. For days thereafter things went well, until that day.

One morning, he left home as usual and headed to join his school mates. However, between his home and the school, he realized that his phone had either been stolen or had dropped from his pocket without his knowledge. Suddenly, the thought occurred to him that the phone was his life; that his life had been stolen.
“If I do not find my phone, I would not go home”, he told himself. He looked everywhere in the school premises for the phone without success. After school hours, he stayed behind. He refused to join others for the homeward journey. His phone had become his life.

The above incident awakened me to the realities of our lives today as Muslims- that our phones have become our Quran; that hand-phones have become markers for opulence and riches. The above event reminded me of a couple of years ago when Blackberry phones became the cynosure of all eyes. During those days and years, not to have a Blackberry phone was to live on the margins of existence.

The talk all around town then did not consist of more than six words: “what is your Blackberry ping number” or was it “pin” number? Thus my wife asked me rhetorically: “where is your blackberry phone now”? Yes. Blackberry phones are no more in vogue; all of a sudden it is “Gamgung” 8; it all about Assle!. The latter is now the most popular hand-phone in town. IPhone 20 is now the costliest device in the city. Every new month, new brands of these products are produced and introduced into the market.

Each time I hear about their emergence, I remember the world we live in. Nothing in this world is permanent. I know that the hours it took me to write this essay, it is likely the owners of “Gamgung” 7 would have given their engineers the deadline to produce “Gamgung” S10 for those who constantly run after the world, for those who constantly run after mirage. But where is your Blackberry phone of yesteryears? Where is that popular iPAD device with which you showed your colleague years ago that you have arrived? Phantasm. Fantasy. Illusions.

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Afis Ayinde Oladosu is a professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies, Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

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