The Kano State Council of Ulama, the apex religious body in the state comprising of Islamic clerics from different sects, is currently embroiled in a leadership crisis following the ousting of his chairman, Sheikh Ibrahim Khalil and his replacement with an appointee of the state government.
The council, seen by many as one of the most influential groups in the state, plays a pivotal role in influencing government policies, especially on religion-related issues, as well as making pronouncements on emerging issues as they affect Muslims in the state.
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While the move for the ouster of Sheikh Khalil has been in the pipeline for a while, according to sources, it climaxed on Monday when some clerics, claiming to be representatives of the council, called a press conference where they announced Khalil’s sack and replacement with Professor Abdullahi Saleh Pakistan in an acting capacity.
They, among other issues, accused Khalil of politicising the council’s affairs and using it for personal gain.
They specifically accused him of holding political functions in the council secretariat, as well as fighting the last two administrations of the state and even the incumbent, which they say has denied the council the privilege of benefiting from the government.
Speaking on behalf of the Ulama, the Secretary of the Council, Imam Jamilu Abubakar, said they took the decision unanimously after consulting clerics from different sects in the state.
However, at a time the conference was going on, some of the clerics at the venue, who were invited from the 44 local government areas of the state, raised an alarm that they were not consulted about the development before being summoned from their respective areas.
They explained that they were only called for a function without being informed of the decision before their arrival, which obviously made them resist it and declare that it was done without their consent.
“We are not aware of this, we were not consulted. How can you accept or reject what you are not part of,” enquired Ustaz Aliyu Bello, a cleric from Kiru LGA.
Several other clerics present at the press conference also voiced their resistance to the move.
Similarly, barely 24 hours after the move, another group, Coalition and Council of Ulama and Islamic organisations in the state also distanced themselves from the announcement.
The coalition, in a statement signed by its Secretary, Dr Sa’idu Ahmad Dukawa, said it was not involved in the decision that led to the suspension, hence, was not in its support.
Other signatories to the statement, were notable clerics and sect leaders such as Professor Musa Muhammad Borodo, Sheikh Kariballah Sheikh Nasiru Kabara, Sheikh Abdulwahab Abdallah, Professor Mohammad Babangida Mohammad, Dr. Bashir Aliyu Umar, Imam Nasiru Mohammad Adam and Dr. Bashir Mu’azzam Mai Bushira.
Daily Trust recalled that the council had sometime in September hinted on moves by some of its members to remove Khalil as the chairman.
The council, in a communiqué issued at the end of a two-day workshop organized by the Department of Islamic Studies and Shari’a of Bayero University Kano, reiterated its support to the leadership of Shaikh Ibrahim Khalil.
The communiqué, which was signed by the Council’s Deputy Secretary, Professor Muhammad Babangida, stated that the council had information on how some of its members were working mischievously to impeach their leader and called on the other members to be vigilant on any move from those “mischief makers” with the aim to tarnish the image of the council and its leadership.
Who is Sheikh Ibrahim Khalil?
Many people in Kano State and beyond see the cleric as a leader who has gained popularity over the years and is mostly considered neutral as he is not known to be affiliated with any of the major sects.
His style of preaching, which many describe as ‘too soft and lenient’, earned him the nickname of ‘Starcomms’.
Also, many see him as a scholar who doesn’t show any difference to followers of other sects and their opinions; hence, the reason for his recognition by the different sects in the state as a leader for years, until this week’s controversy ballooned.
Daily Trust reports that in November 2018, Khalil resigned from his position as Special Assistant to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, barely one month after the release of the controversial dollar videos, and has since been seen not to be in the good books of the government.
However, many people are of the opinion that his removal may not be unconnected with his frosty relationship with the state government, especially with his replacement being a serving official of the Ganduje-led administration.
When one of our reporters contacted Sheikh Khalil for his comment on the development, he declined, saying he had no word to offer about the controversy and would prefer other clerics to speak on the matter.
The man, Professor Pakistan
Professor Abdullahi Saleh Pakistan is currently the Kano State Chairman of Jama’atul Izalatul Bid’ah Wa’ikamatus Sunnah (JIBWIS) and the Executive Secretary of Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board.
Observers noted that even before the 2019 elections, his actions and mode of preaching indicated he has soft spot for the Ganduje-led administration, leading to some people seeing his emergence as the pilgrims board boss as compensation.
Critics of the development in the council said Pakistan’s position as part of the government might have played a significant role in some of the clerics opting for him and one of the reasons for the ousting of his predecessor who was not in a cordial relationship with the government.
Also, as the leader of the Izala (JIBWIS) in the state, some think Prof. Pakistan may not enjoy the same recognition from other clerics as Sheikh Khalil did, as he may not be seen as neutral by other sects, with the position of the Coalition and Council of Ulama and Islamic organisations’ already signalling that direction.
Tijjaniyyah cleric kicks
Reacting to the crisis, a cleric from the Tijjaniyya sect, Sheikh Tijjani Bala Kalarawi, said the impeachment is not good for the religion as it could jeopardise the peace, unity and equality amongst the Ulama.
He opined that many Ulama in the state are not involved in the decision that led to the purported ouster of Sheikh Khalil, hence he is not in support of the move.
“As far as I am concerned, I don’t have any problem with Malam Ibrahim Khalil as well as his method of preaching. Any Muslim who listens to his preaching knows that he is a great scholar,” Kalarawi said.
According to him, the Ulama have always sought to ensure peace and unity among the Muslim faithful, warning that the recent decision is capable of truncating such good intentions.
Recall that Sheikh Kalarawi had recently resigned his appointment as a member of the committee of trustees of Abdullahi Bayero Juma’at Mosque, Fagge on the basis of what he termed indiscriminate buildings and land allocation within the mosque perimeter.
Also speaking, another cleric, Abdullahi Idris Danfodiyo, lamented the removal of the council’s leader, alleging political reasons.
“He is not impeached, because the impeachment is not in order. Those behind the impeachment did it not for Allah’s cause, rather they did it to please someone’s desire. They did not mention anywhere that Sheikh Khalil went wrong in the religion; they only claimed that he was against the state governor. And we say no to their mischievous plan,” he said.
He added that the council has always sought to ensure peace and unity among the faithful of the Islamic religion, warning that such decisions are liable to jeopardising such good intentions.