In civilized societies, crucial political decisions come out of informed public opinion. Political debates through the media lubricate a polity, thereby ushering a transparent political process. In Africa, especially in Nigeria, citizens have greater affinity and adherence to their religions more than they have for their polity or political affairs. In the on-going imbroglio engendered by the rancorous controversy on preaching styles of Abdul-Jabbar Nasiru Kabara, big surprises are coming from some respected Islamic clerics, and even Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI).
A score of scholars complained to the Kano State Government (KNSG) on the preaching styles and utterances of Abdul-Jabbar Nasiru Kabara, which to their estimation amounts to desecrating the stature and personality of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).
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Though in recent times I haven’t been quite a fan of Dr Umar Ganduje, the Kano State governor, he has now won me over to his side by doing the right thing and in time. Because of security implications of the nature and style of Abdul-Jabbar’s preaching, the Kano State government announced a ban, precisely stopping his preaching in Kano State. So, the controversy developed organically.
Upon the Islamic jurisprudential principle of fair hearing, which was also upheld in Nigeria’s Constitution, Abdul-Jabbar appealed to the KNSG for him to be allowed to “sort it out” with the Ulama in a debate. Ganduje also did the right thing again, by taking the responsibility of organizing the debate. It also made the process comprehensive by inviting other prominent scholars nationwide, to moderate the process, so that the matter can be laid to rest, without degenerating to chaos. To respect the Sultanate as the institution in charge of Islamic affairs in Nigeria and JNI, the KNSG also involved them through a special invitation. But alas; to throw spanners into the process, a host of Islamic clerics, prominent among whom Sheikh Tijjani Bala Kalarawi, Sheikh Daurawa condemned the debate, citing that it was not going to be beneficial to the society. JNI and the Sultanate also issued a public statement declining to participate in the process.
Let me begin with the flimsiness or weakness of Tijjani Bala Kalarawi’s argument. He said the scholars to face Abdul-Jabbar are in themselves divided in their creed and theology within Islam. Therefore, they should have wiped their differences to have the legitimacy to face Abdul-Jabbar in a debate over this sensitive issue. In logic, Kalarawi’s stance is called the category mistake fallacy. He is mistaking uniformity as a condition for unity. Nobody has ever claimed that the Muslim community or society needed to be uniform before it could face what is perceived as blasphemy, especially on an issue over the sanctity of the person of Prophet Muhammad.
On his part, Sheikh Daurawa claimed that there was no point debating since Abdul-Jabbar said what he said, and those who were not satisfied gave their reply, so everyone knows the stand of both sides. But the problem with this argument is, no side was given an opportunity to ask the other questions. Secondly, only through coming face-to-face would they verify the claims of each side, and the public would judge.
The most perplexing stance is taken by JNI. I would wish to encourage the Sultan, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, to constantly guide the JNI, otherwise, it would lose focus and bear because of its objectives and the perceived role it has to play in Nigeria, given its composition and structure, containing as members almost all the emirs in Nigeria. The organization must be on the pursuit of the truth wherever it leads to.
The only options before Governor Ganduje in place of the dialogue/debate is either to allow Abdul-Jabbar to continue with his characteristic alien style, which would never be condoned by Kano and other Nigerian Muslims or forcibly stop him, which would be uncivilized and barbaric. The only way is to allow the truth to come out in an organized and controlled situation. Islam is not an opaque religion, and like a plant, it thrives only under the light.
In a WhatsApp post attributed to Dr Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, the JNI Secretary-General, he said, “JNI based on most jurisprudential deductions feels that it is not even proper to debate with Abdul-Jabbar as someone who openly blasphemes against the Noble Prophet (S.A.W.) his fate is sealed Islamically”. If this post actually belongs to Dr Khalid on behalf of JNI, I am seriously stunned. He did not say what the jurisprudential deductions are… and he did not quantify what makes them most out of other deductions
But beyond that, Abdul-Jabbar is claiming to be protecting the person of the prophet through that characteristic style, and by extension, working for Islam. So, the only way anyone could sort out these claims and counterclaims of other Islamic scholars who complained is through a dialogue/debate, where contending parties would lay their facts and sources on the table.
The JNI ruling stance should have been that if the position of KNSG was unIslamic, or haram, in which case every one should have gone with JNI. But contrariwise, the dialogue/debate option happens to be the hard way, the only way for the Nigerian Muslim community to guard itself against the excesses of the whims and caprices of scholars who play on the ignorance of the majority to cause confusion, thereby profiting from cheap popularity.
Still, in the above-cited post attributed to Dr Khalid, he said, “it appears the issue is blown out of proportion by giving it undue publicity by the government and individuals, thereby making a hero out of a cowardly and disrespectful act”.
Now is it possible to say an issue regarding the sanctity and personality of Prophet Muhammad has been blown out of proportion? No matter how little, if an issue has to do with him, it already assumes unquantifiable proportion.
I was surprised when the Sultanate went with JNI on this matter because I am aware when Sultan Saad Abubakar, soon after assuming the throne, and worried about the division among Nigerian Muslims over Ramadan, Shawwal and Zhul Hijjah moon sightings, convened a conference for all those who had anything to say on the astronomy of the moon and its Islamic jurisprudence. The Sultan achieved a gargantuan success at the outcome from the degree of harmony among the Muslim Ummah on the subject.
I knew the Sultan with this kind of spirit, we praise him for that and now urge him to also be firm and resolute on this Kano issue of Abdul-Jabbar. The Sultanate is a principal stakeholder in that which Gov. Ganduje is organizing.
Some interested sections of the Nigerian society went to court to stop this process which is a criterion for the truth to emerge, thereby forming a reasonable basis for KNSG to take a firm stance on the matter based on evidence and decide on the issue based on the knowledge that is clear to all.
By Dr Adamu Muhammad Hamid who lives at No. C290 Railway Road, Bauchi