I have never had moments of doubts in my mind whenever I make the assertion that the very word Faith, or if you like- Religion, has caused humanity the greatest problem it is today forced to condone with. I am not an atheist, for those who would want to try me in the ‘court’ of their mind and pass judgment on me. Just like you, I am a believer in a supreme being-God who is responsible for the day-day happenstances in this enclave, providence has pigeonholed us into, albeit, for just some time.
But as a ‘student’ of philosophy and a lad in constant search for wisdom and the truth, and who has summoned the courage to ask questions at any given opportunity, and sifting the truth from the make-belief lies, I have also quite uncannyly imbibed the tenets of Aristotle to the effect that moral virtue is about avoiding extremes in human behaviour. If that goes without debate, ‘In pari materia’, “religion” also should not be observed at a fever pitch level, what conventional language calls extremism lest, humanity loss its soul as nothing can qualify the evils that could be done when a devotee, visit the pub of religion and drunks itself with its wine or if you like – opium as Karl Max will prefer to call it for it is only religion that makes a Man take up arms against his neighbour and yet see no barbarism in his act. We hereby, find no case against Benjamin Franklyn when he said, “The only way to see by Faith is to shut the eyes of reason”.
I have no problem when people choose to spend all their day in some church in prayer or even spend all their night in same in what they call Night-vigil neither do I have a problem with people moving apartment to some mosque. It is their own bargain and they are propelled by their convictions, and as human beings born with inalienable rights, they deserve to be allowed to exercise their right to freedom of religion and association, but people like me become worried when such rights become unbridled, are fed with ideological conceptions gathered from some of these peaces over time and at the same time used to maim and rob mankind of the serenity, nature in her benevolence bequeathed to him.
Haven said so, suffice it then to add, that when people wear the veneer of religious convictions and haven been deluded of some specialties in the life hereafter, they must not interfere with their neigbour neither shall their neigbour’s life be their own legal consideration to derive benefits in some ‘religious contract’, the gods know where they entered same, the gains, consisting Mainly in securing a better station in the Life hereafter that is, if anything like that is tenable. If they are so impatient to wait for their designed time to leave this earth, they could as well put the gun to their mouth, and enjoy a swift ride, to that life after here they so crave to be allowed entrance and which gives them all the ‘fire’ with which they carry out their diabolic acts.
Nature will not be kind to me if i fail to state here that no religion is exonerated here; the 11th – 13th century no doubt, could easily pass as the darkest age of human history where religion (Christianity) became a tool of violence. To this day, the Middle ages has earned the appendage as the period of Ignorance and Religious intolerance what in Islam is called the ‘Jahilian ages’ and Little wonder Sir Steven Runcimann in the 1950’s wrote of the era as one where high ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed. The 8 Crusades (some accounts say 9) of the Church was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God. Historian, Thomas Maden, had no words to hide. He came out more straight and unequivocally stated authoritatively that:“The Crusades first and foremost was a war against Muslims for the defence of the Christian faith – they began as a result of a Muslim conquest to Christian territories” he went further to add that the goal of Pope Urban was that “The Christians on the East must be free from the brutal and humiliating conditions of Muslim Rule”. With these, do I still need further proofs to justify the position in my first paragraph supra? I do not think so. If we take a ride through the melange of religious crisis humanity has seen, we might not end this project.
However, all those may be in the past now, but the lessons it possess for this present age cannot be overemphasized. They provide an opportunity for adherents of the Christian Faith, to travel back in time and have some moments of deep reflection as to the evils their religion committed in the past, and contrast with the relative “good” it has morphed into today.
Though it may be quite bad to state here and i do not dismiss being possibly labelled as an Islamaphobic, but haven learnt that the truth will always be vindicated however long it may be tried, I will unambiguously state that Christianity is not the best of human religions but the world, our world in recent years has not been thrown aghast by those who profess Jesus Christ as the son of God, other wise known as Christians. As far as I can remember, Christianity is not the world’s problem for now, Islam is, and this needs not any explanation. But to cast more light on points, i will attempt a little explanation to keep the accounts straight.
The litany of terrorist cells, that litter contemporary human society today, deriving their inspiration and justification for their illicit acts in the Holy Book of the Muslim ummah- Qur’an, and citing certain ‘Hadiths’ to buttress their standpoints, has made the word- Islamaphobia a common one in the western media circle. From ‘mother’ Al-Qaida in the Arab peninsula to Al-shabab, its branch in Somalia, Boko Haram in our own country, Ansaru and a whole lot of other terrorist formations still springing up and alluding their authority to the Qur’an, and in a purportedly assignment of Allah (SWT) citing ‘Jihad’- Holy War in many circumstances, leaves one obfuscated as to how religion could be used to maim the lives of innocent people in the most wicked and inhumane of manners.
Before you rain the abuses on me, I would like you know that i am a bona fide student of Islamic law. I have studied the Qur’an, I have a good understanding of ‘Sharia’h’ which literally means- The Milky way. I have studied both the primary and secondary sources of the Islamic law to wit: The Qur’an; the ‘Sunnah’ of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), the ‘Ijma’ (consensus Opinion of the Sahabas), the ‘Qiyas’ (Analogical deduction), the ‘Ijtiha’d’ ( the singular opinion of an Al-Mujtahid) all of which must be in consonance with the first and primary source- the Qur’an, else, their authority will not hold.
I have read with admiration bits of the lives of the ‘Al-Rashidun’ (The Four rightly guided Caliphs) who took over the task of preserving the religion after the death of the Prophet of Islam (SAW): Abu Bak’r, Umar ibn-al-Khattab. Uthman Ibn’ Affan and Ali. I have also read about the four schools of Islamic Jurisprudence and their scholars to wit: Imam Abu Hanifa, Iman Maalik, Imam Al-Shafi’i renown for his risala and Imam Hanbali. These were fine men whose lives till today are worthy of emulation. They were men whom but for their modesty and piety, Islam as a religion would have suffered extinction.
They were Men worth their salt, who stood their ground and refused to be compromised even in the face of the vilest of attacks but yet not with any violent recriminations. I am at a loss as to how the compilation of the Qur’an would have been possible without them. I have also overtime crammed several ‘Suras’ of the Qur’an. Out of the many others, I shall lay particular emphasis on the three, that lends credence to our subject and whose impact are of great relevance to this piece viz:. The first revealation, by Angel Jubril at the Cave ‘Hira’ to the prophet in Quran 96 v 1-3 thus,
“Recite in the name of thy Lord and cherished thou who created Man out of a mere clot of congealed blood. Rejoice, they lord is most bountiful”.
The second is the last revelation, to wit: “Behold this day, we have created for you a religion, and i have completed my bounties, and I am pleased with the religion of peace – Islam”. And finally in Qur’an 2.V.56, where Allah (SWT) admonished the ‘faithfuls’ saying: “let there be no compulsion in Religion”. I would have loved to move into knitty-grities, but for space constraints, I’ll leave it at that, at least for now.
I have veered through that part, to correct the notion, so easy to imbibe in the streets that “Islam is a religion of violence”. Let it be restated here for emphasis purpose, that Islam( at least the one i know) does not in any guise propagate violence. In a particular ‘Sura’, on the sacredness and sanctity of the human life, Allah(SWT) was reported to have said: “if you kill a man, irrespective of his faith, it would seem as if you have annihilated the whole of humanity”. Perhaps even before the birth of conventional religion, nature abhors the killing of anybody; and in primitive human societies people who killed, were open to severe penalties. Suffice it then to say that religion, has merely restated what Natural law according to Cicero, abhors in its entirety.
There are so many Hadiths where the Prophet (peace be upon him) refrained his subjects from killing their fellow humans; so it is only a person who is at the margins of literacy and who is not versed in Islamic jurisprudence that will betray logic and aver that Islam is a religion out to exterminate humanity. Despite not being a reliogous devout, I cannot for anyday share in those thought as they smack off illiteracy and unintelligence
Be that as it may, it appears certain elements have chosen to desecrate the tenets and sacred values of the faith it took the prophet of Islam years to propagate citing vistas of paradise as a justification, and naively oblivious of the fact that their acts amount to a profanation of the name of Allah (SWT) Himself and to this, I have never been found in the phalanx of Men and Women who consider military might as the panacea to nip the scourge in the bud. You cannot fight terrorism with terror, it is something near trying to use kerosene to extinguish an inferno; it will only amount to an invidious exercise.
True, the activities of the sect may be contained for sometime with such elements of force from the “boots” but at any given opportunity, they will reorganize and unleash the greater mayhem to their targets and that is why in the last four years, despite spending an approximately 4 trillion naira in security, after declaring the hot bed of the sect- Borno, Yobe and Adamawa as “states of Emergency”, we have ended up carrying more of our friends and relatives to the morgue. The memories of the Westgate attack in Kenya, the sabon gari massacre in Kano, the gory sight of Benishiekh, Mamudo and just recently College of Agriculture and a litany of similar attacks from Islamic terrorists, are still fresh here. Perhaps, even as I write, who knows, the harbingers of death might just be planning to paint the soil red with blood and bring gloom to our faces.
And why not? The more the military come after them, the more they believe they fight the just cause and hence, the more they want to attack.
Let it be said that this fight cannot be those of the military alone and this is where the crux of this piece lies. It takes a lot more than that and that is why I have always been of the opinion that the adherents of Islam as a religion also have a bigger role to play. Undoubtedly, it will come with its own risks and challenges but you cannot allow misguided elements of no significance to desecrate and do harm to the good values of the religion which we are told is one of peace.
It is beyond re-stating times without numbers that Islam abhors violence by its local and global leaders; that to me can be easily mis-interpreted for mere lip-service. A person cannot encroach upon an estate your father has left to you on his death and you go about complaining to anybody who would listen. No. that is not the way to go, only weaklings will act in such manner or those who truly have no stake in the property or even still, those who approve of such act. In the same manner, I charge the musilm ‘ummah’ to take drastic measures to see to the end of these ones who have reduced Islam to a metaphor for death and a near object of scorn and ridicule. Heads may roll in the process, but the next generation will be better for it and that should be the ultimate goal. To this end, the effort of the Civilian JTF is commendable but it begs for more consolidation of efforts.
If Nigeria is to have any prospect, then it is time prominent Muslims rise up to the occasion, reclaim what is rightfully theirs, purge those who are bent on re-writing its codes and be counted on the side of humanity. Islamic leaders beginning with the sultan of sokoto, emirs around the country, Imams and sheikhs ought to not just raise their voices in condemnation and re-condemnation but I venture to say, put their lives on the line in proclamation that it is a taboo if not an anathema to slaughter peoples lives whether Christians, Muslims or even animists in the revered name of Allah. They should realize that each innocent life lost to violence by sectarian extremists translates ultimately to a collective blot on the faith they profess. It is high time Muslim youths voiced their outrage deploring anybody or going against anybody or group that soaks their revered faith in the blood of innocents.
Prominent Muslims like Muhammad Buhari, Alhaji shehu Idris, Namadi Sambo, Kawu Baraje, Atiku Abubakar, Alhaji Maitama Sule, Alhaji Ado Bayero, Mustapha Barkindo, the Shehu of Borno etcetera have a duty to play and a resolve to speak with courage and not being quick to doll out relief materials and cash in the name of compensation for the families of the deceased or shedding crocodile tears at images of terror. That, to me, amounts to treating the symptoms or should I say, addressing the effects and forgetting about the causes.
They must rise in unambiguous condemnation of a group that presumes to be fighting for the enthronement of a corruption-free, and God-centered world-its central ‘modus operandi’ lying in acts of carnage. Apologies to Okey Ndibe. These major voices should be heard saying loud and clear with the least of equivocation that there is no corruption worse than to take innocent lives; the depravity of the act compounded by the invocation of God’s name.
I will end by quoting the last paragraph from wole Soyinka’s reaction to Kofi Awoonor’s death at the westgate Mall in Kenya in his article titled, “Humanity and Against” which influenced my writing this article. He said and I quote:
“ we speak here of that Islam that inspires solidarity with the Tahar Djaots, with the Karimas and the Mariama Bas( without any prejudice to him, i’ll add the Malalas) and not the diabolism of Al-Shabab, Boko Haram and their degenerate ilk. Let us join hands with the former and enshrine their mission as the history prescribed destination of our creative urge…………. I urge upon you this mandate: Seize back your Islam and thus back our continent and in that restrictive understanding-take back our humanity” and to this I must also add, If anything, to correct the notion making the rounds that Islam is a religion of violence.
Many Muslim youth should take a leaf from the courage of Yousafzei Malala the little girl who spoke up for the right of the girl- child to be educated in Pakistan against the authority of the Taliban government not without putting her life on the line. The Muslim World and our world in general need many more people of her guts to defeat the scourge of terrorism that is everyday morphing into a global phenomenon. It is the way to go but certainly not by littering our metropolis with fierce looking soldiers, armored tanks and rocket propelled magazines. I beg to say that such strategies exacerbate the already teething imbroglio.
The writer is a Law student and a public affairs commentator. He is on twitter as @yung_silky