In Northern Nigeria particularly, the increasingly intense philosophical struggle between “liberals” promoting outright westernisation of the society and the Ulama advocating the adoption of only what doesn’t contradict the society’s value system features systematic and sustained Ulama-bashing, which has become quite a popular trend.
For the sake of clarity, while the term “Ulama” refers to Muslim clerics in general, it’s used herein to specifically refer to those of them with a particular commitment to the promotion of the Pristine Islam as exclusively contained in the noble Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah according to the perception of the Sahaba and their successors. Because it’s such Ulama who are targeted the most with a view to discrediting and blackmailing them into a compromise on Islamic injunctions against Shirk, Bid’a and immoral worldly desires.
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Though, of course, none of them is infallible, for infallibility is an exclusive attribute of the Messenger of Allah (SAW), yet they, as a whole, remain the custodians of the Prophet Muhammad’s legacy, which underscores the sacredness of their mission. They are, therefore, never beyond criticism; after all, sometimes some of them make inexcusable blunders, thus expose themselves to concerted public bashing.
Having said that, in most cases, the purportedly objective criticism against them suggests pre-existing prejudices and an underlying motive to achieve other objectives in disguise.
The penchant of a typical Ulama-bashing Northern Nigerian “intellectual” for vilifying them and exaggerating their shortcomings and faults is clearly driven by a desperate wish to undermine their credibility and frustrate their mission.
Yet, on social media particularly, and apparently inspired by those “intellectuals”, every attention-seeking Northern Nigerian wannabe “wayayye” and aspiring “thinker” practices his “critical thinking” ability at the expense of the parts of the society’s value system he deems inconsistent with what he considers tolerance and modernity. Likewise, many an English language enthusiast seeking to improve his English writing ability practises on Ulama-bashing and vilification among other related things.
Also, since the beginning of the current Buhari administration, Northern Nigerian Ulama-bashing critics have excessively bashed the Ulama for their alleged hypocritical silence on the Buhari administration’s inexcusable underperformance in terms of the security situation in Northern Nigeria.
This is even though, the Ulama, both as groups and individuals, have never been silent as alleged; they have always spoken out in the course of their respective regular public lesson sessions and lectures in mosques and other places. They have always demanded that the government do all it takes to bring an end to the situation.
Yet, a hate-filled Ulama-bashing critic, who never attends such places nor follows their circulating video and audio clips, would just accuse them of being hypocritically silent. In fact, many an Ulama-bashing dude would unearth or promptly share on social media some maliciously unearthed previous video or audio clips of some Ulama, speaking out on the security situation during the Jonathan administration in an attempt to prove the Ulama’s purported hypocrisy.
Unfortunately, many gullible people have fallen for that hoax. Yet, it’s even more unfortunate that even some otherwise respectable Muslim clerics who often get overly emotional when speaking out on the situation, bash their fellow Ulama based on that unfounded allegation. Apparently, such clerics assume that speaking out on the security situation in the country should always be in an aggressive tone otherwise it’s tantamount to hypocritical silence.
Now, while the Ulama should speak out on issues of public concern, they shouldn’t allow themselves to be distracted from their core Da’awah mission. They should ignore any public pressure on them to speak out unnecessarily on every topical issue. And even when they have to do, they should ensure the authenticity and adequacy of their information. They should also be realistic in their conclusions. Because, unfortunately, many otherwise discerning Muslim clerics often get carried away and end up making analyses, conclusions and even allegations based on unsubstantiated information they were clearly fed with by some people they trust, thereby exposing themselves to avoidable ridicule and possible prosecution.
After all, there are people’s representatives at all levels of government who were elected or appointed and are paid from the taxpayers’ money to not only speak out on behalf of their respective constituencies but to make a difference on the ground with innovative policies and appropriate implementation. So, if indeed the Ulama-bashing critics are sincere, their constant and relentless bashing should be primarily directed at those elected representatives and other public officeholders.
Interestingly, the Ulama’s influence in the eyes of the authorities – if any, is actually extremely insignificant, contrary to what many among their respective followers and others assume. And though a typical Ulama-bashing “intellectual” realises that, he deliberately implies and sometimes even asserts the contrary knowing that it would make it easier for him to convince the gullible that the Ulama are hypocritically silent being part of the beneficiaries of government largesse.