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Controversy About Aje among Muslims

By Elder Yinka Salaam

I have listened to argument from many Muslim youths condemning the saying of “Aje awa” or “Eku Oro aje”. Yorubas use both phrases to wish themselves well in business. The expressions literally means: “May you sell well” or “Happy trading”.

However, some often condemn the usage of these two expressions or any expression for that matter that contains aje, contending that, ‘Aje” is a deity in Yoruba land, claiming that since some worship Aje as the god of business or wealth, anyone who uses the expression or greets with the phrase that contains ‘aje’ has inadvertently invoked the god of wealth and has invariably committed shirk (associating partners with Allah).

This argument readily brings to mind the avoidable clashes that often occur between Religion and Culture as well as between Culture (language) and idolatry.

Aje is a Yoruba word that denotes wealth, trade, business or economy. Hence, Nigeria’s economy will be translated into *Oro Aje Nigeria”. Many Yoruba newscasters often translate economic news as: “Irohin Oro Aje”. Hence, ethmologically, aje do not denote idolatry.

When a Yoruba man wants to wish you well in your business, he will say Aje awa (may you sell well). When he meets you in your business or in the market, he/she will say, Eku Oro aje.. (well done in your business or happy trading).

For instance, if, in future, some people decide to deify the synonyms of aje, such as owo (trade) or oja (business) are we also going to drop their usage? Hence, the fact that some people decide to deify Aje or dedicate a god for trade, wealth, economy or business and made it into deity doesn’t essentially mean aje as a word has ultimately lost its original meaning.

The position that Aje was an idol like Sango, Ogun, Obatala and so on remains a myth. Aje was never a personality like them.

And for those who decide to use alternative, claiming that it’s better to shun shubuhaat (doubtful matters), as Muslims, yes I agree. But we must seek the truth and establish the fact. The fact that some people say or believe or make claims is not enough to condemn what should ordinarily not be condemned. Hence, it may not be appropriate to categorise anything under shubuhaat Ignorantly or without adequate knowledge.

Aje written with initial capital letter may mean deity but ‘aje’ as a Yoruba word for trade, business, economy or wealth remains valid until proven otherwise, of intellectually.

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