Dominant ideas in Igbo religious philosophy -Chp 4

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Respect for Morality

The traditional dominant Igbo orientation to the ultimate is their great respect for morality and so dreaded the consequences in-built in committing any offence against the Supreme Being, the ancestors, local divinities and deities. We have earlier indicated that part of what the traditional Igbo were known for is that they were a very spiritual people. That is the philosophical understanding behind their morals, customs, traditions, beliefs, and myths. The ultimate which a traditional Igbo person cherishes is to live a good and worthy life here on earth, die and receive full and proper burial rites and finally rejoin his ancestors who lived well and died a good death. This could only be achieved within a decent moral order.

This perception of Igbo cosmology meant that the moral order must be maintained so that they can live in peace and have abundant life. The Igbo ancestors constructed a number of socio-cultural controls. The first was to emphasize characters. Character refers to moral uprightness, peace with the gods and peace with human beings. Purity among the Igbo was seen as essential in blocking the anger of the gods or the ruin of evil spirits, this is the implication of onye aka ya di ocha. Hence seasonal festival included purification rites.

They devised elaborate system of moral codes known as omenala or omenani, which regulate the behaviour of the people including their social, economic, and political lives. Omenala is believed to have been handed down from Ala (the Earth goddess) through Ndi Ichie (the ancestors) and so literally means action in accordance with the stipulation of the land. Omenala in Igboland contain prohibitions which regulate human behaviour, maintain purity and sustain community life. These prohibitions are known as Nso Ala (taboos). They also involve seasonal celebrations like Iri ji/Ahiajoku and Igo Arọ. Ndi Igbo explain some aspects of their life- experiences, namely, natural disaster and calamity, as resulting from pollution of the land somewhere along the line by which harmony between man, nature/environment and the spirit would have become broken. Hence the essence of Igbo morality was primarily to keep the harmony, well- being and effective co-existence of members of the ‘community’ made up of the living, the dead ancestors and children yet unborn.

The implication is that among the Igbo omenala is communal rather than individual. Every Igbo is born into a community where the person shares in the community life, spirit and collective responsibility. Thus the concept of a man as a person who co-exists with others gives rise to the idea of collective responsibility, inter-dependence and humane living which is an important aspect of Igbo social and religious life. As Chieka Ifemesia (1978:70) rightly argued that interdependence is a fundamental principle of Igbo philosophy of life because ‘a tree does not make a forest.’ The Igbo ideology of interdependence recognizes that unity is strength – ọha/Igwe bụ Ike, it among others promotes discipline, reduces crime, and humanizes relations. Igbo religion recognizes personal/individual salvation, but it exists mainly for the preservation of the collective life (umunna/ikwunne) and of the community (ọha). Respect for religious philosophy which inspires them to look up to future with hope and expectation for a good reward here and hereafter.

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