Monday, September 22, 2014

THE SHARI’AH RENAISSANCE



...By Tijjani Muhammad Musa

“Assalam Alaikum, Assalam Alaikum” meaning “Peace be upon you, Peace be upon you.” Thus concludes a prayer or As-Salat, which is one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam. The others being Al-Iman (Declaration) that “Ash hadu alla Ilaha illalah, wa ash hadu anna Muhmmadar rasulillah - I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah (SWT) alone and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” Next is Az-Zakat, the giving of alms from the rich to the poor. As-Saum is the fasting of the month of Ramadan and lastly Ah-Hajj, which is pilgrimage to the Holy Ka’aba in Makkah for those who can afford. Believing and practicing these 5 pillars qualifies a person among the over 1.8 billion Muslims world wide.

It all began in Makkah in the early 7th Century, 610AD to be precise, when Muhammad (PBUH) was 40 years old, at the outskirt of the city, inside a cave called “Hira”, arch angel Gabriel appeared and commanded the Prophet with the very first word of the very first verse of the Glorious Qur’an to “Iqra!” meaning “Read!” “Iqra bismi rabbikallazi kalaq – Read in the name of thy Lord who created.” Thus signals the beginning of the last divine revelation from Allah Azza Wa Jallah to all mankind. That message is “Al-Qur’an”

The revelation lasted for a period of 23 years, 10 of which was in Makkah and the rest 13 years in Madinah. At the end of these formative years, the Islamic faith was completely institutionalized, not just as a way to worship the one true God, Allah, but also as a complete and perfect way of life with guiding principles, laws and commandments (the Shari’ah), as regards politics, learning, social interaction, commerce, sports etc for the followers of Muhammad (SAW)

When Prophet Muhammad (SAW) died in 632 AD, his four rightly guided Caliphs namely Abubakar, Umar, Usman and Ali each in turn inspired and united his other disciples and the warlike tribes of Arabia and consequently embarked upon a conquest mission that saw to the expansion of an Islamic Empire to the east as far as China through North India. To the north through Jerusalem into Turkey and Constantinople. And to the west across North Africa through Egypt into Spain, Sicily and part of Italy. The known world has never witnessed so many a conquests in so short a period. And to each new territory conquered, Islam brought with it a new and highly civilized way of life, based on the injunctions in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet.

Islam’s first contact with Africa was as early as about 620 AD when some of the early followers of Muhammad (SAW) fled to Ethiopia to seek for political asylum. This was even before the famous ‘Hijra’, which occurred in 622 AD. And later in 640 AD during the reign of Umar, the second Caliph, the Muslim conquerors marched into Egypt and from there moved along the coast of North Africa until they reached the Atlantic Ocean.

By 1000 AD, Islam has crept into West Africa via the Camel Caravan Traders. Arab Muslim merchants, who trade in various goods, took the trouble to introduce the religion along their routes. Northern Nigeria and in particular the Hausa land of Kano and Katsina, which are both ancient commercial centers were the first to receive such Islamic influences. Kano, an old and ancient city with a historical background, which dates back more than 1000 years, received Islam in 1349 AD during the reign of Sarki Ali Yaji.

Early spread of the Islamic faith in West Africa was mostly through the ‘Jihad,’ which is a holy religious war prescribed by Allah in the Qur’an and exemplified by the Prophet. In West Africa, the most significant Jihad was that of Usman Dan Fodio, which started around 1790 AD and lasted for about a century, successfully spreading Islam first through the Hausa States of Gobir, Kebbi and Zamfara. Later it swept far and wide westward across the Niger River to Timbuktu, eastward as far as Borno and Western Cameroon. Towards the north, deep into Agadez in Niger Republic and southward into Ilorin and Bida.

As earlier mentioned, with the introduction of Islamic administration came peaceful and progressive co-existence in the conquered territories. Efficient form of government, judicial and educational systems was established by the administration. It seems to be a common denominator wherever Islam reaches, be it Asia, Europe or Africa, be it east, west, north or south, there always was recorded prosperity, equality, fairness, justice and moral uprightness in the polity.

The Shari’ah, almost a millennium and a half old originated from a divine source. It is no wonder that the prestige of the law among Muslims worldwide is without parallel in history. The Shari’ah Law, the product of the Holy Qur’an, which serves as its basic source, together with the teaching and practice of Muhammad (SAW) and centuries of stored experiences in Islamic societies is the embodiment of the Islamic ideal life. It is essentially the frame work of Islam itself. For although religion describes what the ideal life should be, the Shari’ah indicates the road to follow in order to achieve this life. Thus this law of Islam, the Shari’ah has the characteristic of a religious obligation and at the same time being Allah’s Will and Justice; it constitutes a political sanction of religion. Sincerely and devotedly followed, the Islamic Shari’ah ensures peace and tranquility in all spheres of life in the society. It was this system of jurisprudence that the British Colonialists found entrenched in Northern Nigeria and upon which the famous Indirect Rule System of government was based by the first Governor-General Lord F.D. Lugard, when he came to Nigeria in the late 19th century.

In 1914, the colonial masters found it essential to amalgamate these two richly endowed protectorates around the Niger River, the North and South and subsequently named it NIGERIA. But before this event, the mostly Muslim dominated northern part of this newly created country, with its very successful judicial system, based on Islamic laws and principles was stripped of this establishment even though, through the indirect system of government, most of the judicial powers were left in the hands of the emirs. In its place however, a British Constitution was forced on the region, with a modification of the Shari’ah into a Penal Code, which was originally drafted and meant for British India.

By the time the country finally became independent in 1960, there was evidently a lot of dissatisfaction with the imposed constitution and a lot of disharmony between the two regions despite the fact that political as well as traditional leaders and statesmen from various part of the country tried their best to dissolve such differences. In certain instances, they even made secret pacts and compromises that are completely contradictory to the norms of their people in order to forge a unity. This was due to diverse cultures, traditions, customs and religious differences running across the length and breadth of the country. Till date, a national identity has eluded the people. What the founding fathers of the country fail to acknowledge was that the unification of the two very different sides was a calculated and deliberate move by the colonialists to ensure the resulting problems the people are currently saddled with.

In 1966, the military staged a coup d’etat, derailing the hard earned infant self-rule and ventured into governance, which eventually led to a civil war, when the South Eastern part of the country, that had the highest percentage of the most senior ranking officers in the military then, opted to declare an independent nation, called Biafra. This civil war lasted till 1970 (4 years), the cost in terms of lives, properties, resources, time and development can best be imagined. At the end of it, Nigeria remained one indivisible entity with the famous “No Victor, No Vanquish” declaration. There came to pass several other military, semi-military and civilian regimes through coups, counter-coups and electoral processes, all trying in various ways to meet the aspirations of the people, but to no avail. After 3 different trials at democratic governance, the last military administration kick-started a so-called 4th Republic.

The most important development as far as Muslims are concerned with the current democratic dispensation was a constitution issued out to the politicians at the exit of the military junta. In this constitution, a certain Section 38 provided a means and legal base for the Muslims to bring back their long overdue denied right and freedom of choice and expression. The right to practice and live according to their religious laws and commandments, which is the Shari’ah. The Muslims have patiently endured this denied freedom, taken away from them for the last 100 years, before and through the amalgamation, till now.

Several political parties were floated, but only 3 could initially meet the requirement of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) established to conduct elections, which eventually produced the political actors of the 4th Republic. Of all the persons that emerged, the most prominent as far as the Muslims in Nigeria and the rest of the world are concerned is one Muhammad Ahmad Sani, Yariman Bakura, who emerged as the first democratic Governor of Zamfara State, created recently in 1996. It is this Prince that was used by Allah to re-establish His commandments (The Shari’ah Law), so that it may outshine all other man-made decrees and laws, even though the non-Muslims would detest it.

By divine guidance, together with his fellow executives, they discovered that enabling Section and set out in earnest with full support of their citizens, on a mission impossible. To exploit the enabling Sections to the fullest for the benefits of all Muslims. They demanded for the unimaginable and dared the devil himself by deciding to re-launch Allah’s Shari’ah in their young state, in the hope that a better life would be their lot and as a result other Muslim regions not just in Nigeria, but throughout the world would adopt it as well and benefit from the mercy of their Lord Allah.

The decision was received with outright shock, outrage and disbelief the world over. But for sincere Muslims, it was like a dream that provides them with hope, because they have been experiencing some of the worst oppressions in their own land by their elites. To the hypocrites, however it seems to be a suicidal joke, too dangerous to allow to happen. Anything that would put an end to their established “ways” of life, even if it is from God should be thrown back with contempt to its source. And by the non-Muslims first due to ignorance of the Shari’ah system, next due to phobia of anything Islamic and thirdly they believed it is a deliberate and calculated attempt to end their false security, self-deceit and imaginary dominance in the polity. To the government of the day, it was a plan by their political “opponents” to truncate their hard earned (victory) democracy and so must be quashed at all cost. It was wished to die a natural death. And to the western world, it was simply barbaric, tantamount to setting the clock back 1400 years. With so much progress made in selling their form of democracy to the rest of the world and the New World Order in the making, there is no accommodation for any Shari’ah State.

Threats and intimidations became the order of the day. The print, electronic and other media were awash with all sorts of propaganda and campaigns to panic the Muslim Ummah, that was so sure of what it wanted; it was like sugar to its tea. The sleeping giant has finally awakened, sobered and sized up the damage done. The spirit of Islam has revived and is on the rise once again. There is an Islamic renaissance sweeping across Europe and America, yet the Africans are playing the slackers once again. Possibly waiting until the West is overwhelmed by Islam and the developed nations have become so advanced in Islamic matters, for this is sure to come and pass, then subsequently give Africa its approval, before the continent would change and embrace it too. But not the northern part of this country. As Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Gombe, Niger, Yobe States etc all adopted the legal system for their people.

“It is unconstitutional” the ignorant were quick to point out. “No, it is in the constitution” said the learned. Some others argue “Nigeria is a secular state, this Shari’ah thing is wrong” but were countered “But Nigeria is multi-religious; we must recognize that fact and stop fooling ourselves.” Just some discuss that trailed the progress of the Shari’ah resurrection. There was even an order military style to all states of the federation indicating interest in adopting the Shari’ah legal system to return to the “status quo ante.” Regrettable. To think this is a democracy. Anyway Zamfara State launched its Shari’ah programme in October 1999 with a mammoth crowd and commenced full implementation of the system in January 2000.

Fresh threats like guided missiles were fired not only at Zamfara, but the whole Muslim Nigeria. Court actions, sanctions, constitutional interpretations were sought, some even called for outright dissolution of the Nigerian project. Even bloody clashes were engineered and executed in Kaduna, all in an attempt to stop further development of the Shari’ah resurgence, but to no avail. In fact the movement became a hurricane, sweeping across the northern states like wild bush fire. Even the south west Muslims demanded for its establishment as one of their fundamental human rights. They were denied by their governments, despite all assurance that it would affect only the followers of Muhammad.  Up north, the saga continued as Sokoto State defied all odds and followed in Zamfara’s footsteps, but without a public launching. Not much fuss was heard about this. The intimidations showed signs of working or so it seems.  

Now Kano. As earlier stated this state together with Katsina are the earliest places to receive Islam in Nigeria. It was also in Kano that the first Shari’ah educational institution was built during the era of Sarki Rumfa. With about 95% indigenous population as Muslims, it is the largest Muslim state in the country. Also being a commercial center since the 6th century AD, it was a historic and ancient city and one of the most important, not just in Nigeria and West Africa, but even in the African continent. Shari’ah in Kano was inevitable and trying to stop its manifestation was like stopping an avalanche with a toothpick. When Zamfara launched, it was only a matter of time for Kano. And so every body held their breath. The old city and its Muslim devotees did not disappoint. The government of the day upon receipt of a bill on Shari’ah established several committees and mandated for thorough researches and asked to be advice appropriately. Among such were the advisory, planning and implementation committees. But due to certain political reasons, the government turned the whole issue into a cat and mouse episode. Unable to understand the delay, the whole Muslim populace turned against all officials of the ruling government. Nobody was spared, from the Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso down to the least important Local Government Councilor.

Muslim scholars who sponsored the Shari’ah Bill fought a battle like no other, with their wealth, strength and knowledge and also with their minds, bodies and souls. The fight was so intense that utterances made from government quarters against the proponents of the legal system would be remembered for generations to come. The government even imposed a ban on all discussions on Shari’ah matters in all its media outlets. Total censorship. So lectures, seminars, symposia etc were privately and regularly organized by people to express their desires for the law, as well as to express disgust with the non-chalant approach of the civil administration, while special prayers and al-qunuts were daily observed in congregation mosque and at individual level late into the nights seeking for divine intervention. Threats of arrest of prominent imams and sheiks were rumoured, but for fear of a full public reprisal, it would have been actualized. Tensions were so high that as spacious as Kano and environ is, the Governor and members of his cabinet found it so tight and almost impossible to breath or freely move about. The number one citizen of the state became “Public Enemy No. 1” Left with no choice, the government had to succumb to the wish of the people, who have spoken with one voice “We want Shari’ah”

It took very high pressure and some form of mob action to compel the Governor to yield, forcing him to declare a launching date. Yet the embrace of his people’s wish offered him instant but temporary relief. All of a sudden the attitude of the populace changed. The people, who were so staunch and hostile towards their leader for the sake of Allah, became so accommodating and tolerant towards him also for the sake of Allah. On Wednesday 21st June 2000, at the Kano Eid-Ground, the old ancient city and its people received Muslims from all over the world that came and witnessed a monumental and historic occasion, the Return of Shari’ah Law to its rightful place. And both the Muslim and non-Muslim world were held spell-bound on the fateful day as about 5 million adherents, from various states of Nigeria and neighbouring countries honoured the invitation and became part of history.

Kano fought for its wish and duly earned it, but the implementation of that wish which happens to be in the hands of a reluctant government was another subject matter entirely. While cases on theft, adultery, sodomy, embezzlement, robbery, drunkenness etc were being tried and judged in other Shari’ah states, Kano witnessed nothing of such. In fact it was as if the whole episode came and left with that monumental launching. Firstly, the ‘Hisbah Group’ (religious police) who usually provides the first checks on violators of the Islamic codes and injunctions in a Shari’ah system were not officially formed nor recognized by the government. Secondly, there was conflict of interest between the Police and the group, which generated so much tension. This led to members of Hisbah getting harassed and intimidated if found at any scene of a violation or crime, and were often arrested and detained. Thirdly, the elites whose wives and daughters would be “inconvenienced” with the Islamic way of dressing for women in public teamed up with some leaders of certain Islamic sects, who were either pro-government or whose contributions in the struggle were minimal if not non-existent, openly opposed and declared that their women would not observe the ‘Hijab.’ These and other obstacles in no small way sabotaged the much anticipated moral change expected to sweep across the whole state. With the Ulamas divided and the struggle nearly exhausted, the government completely abandoned the Shari’ah project to the disappointment of the masses. The whole issue became more or less like a huge joke. The populace decided to be patient, but promised however to ensure the removal of the Governor, his subordinates and political party from office come the next general elections.

Being one of the most politically aware states in the country, the people once again fought and won against the incumbent Governor, with the best weapon in a democratic dispensation, their votes. But not without some staunch resistance. After the vote casting, Kanawa waited. They have made good their promise, voted for change, voted for a Malam (a teacher, an Islamic scholar) that would ensure they get their full measure, the Shari’ah. There was delay in announcing the results, some political maneuvering, negotiations, transactions and then a few intra/interstate phone calls to inform that the people are still outside the electoral office, at 3.00 am in the morning. Waiting. They have refused to be shooed away, refused to be denied. And they are fully ready for any misgiving, armed to the teeth for the defense of their choice, in what was tagged “The 419 (4 for April and 19 for the date) Elections 2003”. It is widely believed that this is the boldest open-day electoral robbery, the dirtiest and most rigged elections in the history of Nigeria. While other states of the federation were denied their desire for change, Kano stands alone as a shining example of triumph of the human spirit, with patience and perseverance over tyranny.

Though beyond his wildest imagination, the unbelievable has happened, the incumbent has lost the old ancient, historic city. Kano was offered as the sacrificial lamb in order for peace to reign. For if the results of the election had been manipulated to give victory to the wrong candidate, the revolt such a move would have caused, might definitely kick-start a chain-reaction of electoral crisis nationwide. At about 3.20am, the Electoral Officer announced the winner of the Kano State Gubernatorial Election as “Malam Ibrahim Shekarau” There was instant joy, happiness and jubilations among Kanawa rising to the heavens. The mission has been accomplished. One thing good move performed by the out-going Governor Kwankwaso was to immediately submit to the will of Allah and wish of his people by accepting the results and congratulating the eventual winner Malam Shekarau. In this he demonstrated a high sense of maturity and true sportsmanship which is very commendable. This further buttress Kano’s political advancement and doused any major post-election catastrophe likely to have erupted in the state.

Upon assumption of office, the people of Kano naturally anticipated instant action on the Shari’ah implementations issue, after all that is why they have chosen the new Government. But instead of rushing into it, the newly elected Governor, a seasoned administrator and experienced civil servant decided to first and foremost thank ALLAH for the victory and then thank his subjects for choosing him as their new leader. Then he indulged the people to be patient, so that proper stock taking of the responsibility placed on his fragile shoulders would be conducted. Realizing it is a Herculean task, the new government solicited for full support and cooperation of the populace, if any meaningful success is to be achieved. The government’s main aim is to change the way the people THINK. Give them a Re-Orientation. Educate and enlighten them about the full implications of what they desire. Only if they are able to grasp what it entails to live in a Shari’ah system, would they be able to meet up to its challenges and expectations on them. The Kanawas have obliged and are now being prepared. Soon they would be fully ready.

It is our ardent hope and desire that in the course of Shari’ah implementation, the problems of delayed, selfish or bias judgments as observed in other states, which were engineered by external forces to ridiculed the project, would not be allowed to mar the delivery of prompt justice in Kano. We offer here an appropriate, yet simple advice; the hadith of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) thus: ‘The people of Quraish worried about the lady from Bani Makhzum who had committed theft. They asked, “Who will intercede for her with Allah’s Apostle?” Some said “No one dare to do so except Usama bn Zaid, the beloved one to Allah’s Rasull” When Usama spoke about that to Allah’s Apostle; The Holy Prophet said (to him), “Do you try to intercede for somebody in a  case connected with Allah’s prescribed punishments (Shari’ah)?” Then he got up and delivered a sermon saying “What destroyed the nations preceding you was that if a noble amongst them stole, they would forgive him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they would inflict Allah’s legal punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand.” This should be one of our major guiding principles.

However we must not forget to point out that necessary infrastructures for a just and fair execution of this legal system is still not fully instituted, giving the opposition a crack to penetrate. We believe this aspect should be pursued with utmost vigour and seriousness. There is also the issue of Shari’ah application in a modern society like ours with its even more contemporary problems/cases e.g. ruling on subjects like plastic surgery, cloning, invitro-fertilization, surrogate motherhood, fellacio/cunnilingus etc never before addressed by past Islamic societies. So there is a need to create a Fiqh Council of Ulama, whose membership should comprise both the traditional and western educated scholars, who should brainstorm on a continuous basis and provided informed fatwa to these issues among others.  It is also crucial to embark on a mass enlightenment campaign in the media to create Shari’ah awareness in both the Muslims and non-Muslims in the state. Seminars, lectures, courses, symposia must be organized regularly to update the executing agencies about current developments and approaches, both locally and internationally. A team of brilliant, seasoned and experienced legal practitioners must be assembled by the state government and challenged to develop a resilient defense mechanism against the most critical of Shari’ah antagonists, from any where in the world. There must also be networking among the various arms of the Shari’ah legal system both within and outside Kano State, in order to have a unified focus. Lastly, we must positively take advantage of the Internet. 

The Kano State Assembly has recently passed into law the necessary Bills that provide the legal backing for constitution of the Shari’ah, Zakat and Hisbah Committees. Subsequently on 8th November, 2003 at the Sani Abacha Mini Stadium, these three essential outfits were officially commissioned to commence operations. As the full programme takes off, there is a need for sincere prayers to Allah for its success and it will surely succeed in sha Allah. There is also a need for understanding by the people, who must patiently endure its consequences through the initial difficult stages and resist all forces from both within and without, that are gearing up to sabotage, discredit and ultimately stop it and so deny the people the opportunity to change a fast deteriorating system of living. To us the Muslims it is our challenge to make it work. And to the non-Muslims we challenge them thus “Give Shari’ah A Chance” and it is guaranteed they would desire it too for their communities, states, countries and the whole world. Let it be known that on this issue, the first and the last Muslim standing would never give up; the striving would continue for generations to come, Allah willing. Know that Allah, the Supreme Lord is a witness over all things. May Peace and blessings of Almighty God be upon whoever is on the right path.

“So that there might grow out of you a community (of People) who invite unto all that is good, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong: and it is they who shall attain A HAPPY STATE!”Q3:104

Tijjani M. Musa c2003
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