By Muhammad Ajah

“I personally dedicate myself to work untiringly for the progress and happiness of the new Nigeria. I swear in the name of Allah, that if I die today, I would leave nothing but legacy of struggle for the liberation, welfare and dignity of the masses of this country”, Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardauna.

This is a follow-up on my earlier message to my Nigerian Christian patriots. I call on Muslims of Nigeria to value and enhance the coexistence between them and their Christian counterpart-citizens. If believing in Jesus as a messenger of God implies believing in Christianity, then all believers in Islam are also Christians. Everyman knows the existence of a Supreme Being. But how to reach the Supreme Being is the problem. As for Muslims and Christians, the status of Jesus is basically the difference. No Muslim can claim true belief without believing in Jesus Christ who was one of the five “exalted” prophets of God. There is also the belief of Muslims in destiny which implies that the creation of Muslims and Christians to coexist in Nigeria by God is not a mistake. The amalgamation of Nigeria is not also a mistake because God allowed it.

I want to refer my Nigerian Muslim compatriots to some verses of the Holy Qur’an which can solve most, if not all, of the misunderstandings between them and their Christian counterparts in Nigeria. A Muslim must distinguish himself/herself wherever. Islam is a religion of peace, knowledge and social equity. It is a well-known fact that despite the accusations against Islam, it spread in the past because of the exemplary lives of the early Muslims. It was said in the past that when a Muslim in Nigeria swore by saying “Wal-Laahi”, that was the last truth. But now some Muslims do worse things: they lie, they cheat and they commit different kinds of crimes yet swear many times to cover up. It is even believed now that the swearing of some Muslims is the beginning of their lie. It is unbelievable that some Muslims take oath of office with the Holy Qur’an and act contrary to their allegiance, thus they disobey Allah’s commandment.

Muslims in Nigeria should be guided by the exemplary life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). That is the solid solution to their problems. “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and (who) remembers Allah often. (Q33:21). They should do what they say. They should not take the gravity of saying what they do not do with levity. They must stop calling people of other religions with filthy names like “arne”, “yamiri”; they must stop abusing others or even their gods. This is the teaching of Islam. Let us search the Holy Qur’an and hear Allahu (SWT) speaking to the believers: “O you who believe! If an evil-doer comes to you with important news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance [out of haste in belief and making decision], and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done.” (Q49:6). “O ye who believe! Let not a group (of men) scoff at another group, it may well be that the latter (at whom they scoff) are better than they; nor let a group of women scoff at another group, it may well be that the latter are better than they. And do not taunt one another, nor revile one another by nicknames. It is an evil thing to gain notoriety for ungodliness after belief. Those who do not repent are indeed the wrong-doers.” (Q49:11).

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“O ye who believe! Avoid being excessively suspicious, for some suspicion is a sin. Do not spy, nor backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would surely detest it. Have fear of Allah. Surely Allah is much prone to accept repentance, is Most Compassionate. (Q49:12). O ye mankind! We created you all from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Q49:13). And many Qur’anic verses that teach good neighbourliness, manners and leadership/followership qualities.

“On the authority of Jabir (Ra), the Prophet of Allah (SAW) said: “Fear injustice for verily a single injustice will multiply on the Day of Resurrection. And fear stinginess for stinginess destroyed the nations before you. It led them to spill their blood and violate their dignity.” Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with both of them) narrated that the Prophet of Allah (SAW) passed by two graves and said: “Verily, both of them (the inhabitants of the graves) are being punished but they are not being punished for a major sin. One of them was not protecting himself from his urine, and the other was spreading defamation”. And many other Prophetic solutions to worldly indices of spiritual madness of today!

It is true that the 19 years of uninterrupted democratic governance in Nigeria have seen Christians dominated the era. What were the demands by Muslims during those periods? Surely, they were peaceful and engaged government in a peaceful manner. I cannot remember any violent protests carried out by Muslims against the leadership under Christians. That is the teaching of Islam – to respect and obey any constituted authority. In fact, obedience to a constituted authority is the third right after obedience to Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (SAW). But unfortunately, the northern majority was, as ever, complacent that a few of their people were engaged by the Christian leaderships. They felt they were, and have been, in the comfort zone. The majority, as ever, did not bother about the socio-political status of their minority in the country. Out of the 19 years, Muslims have led the country for only five years. 14:5 equation! The same trend of the majority being complacent of their political status continues.

During the military eras, Muslims ruled longer. But what did Muslims achieve during the military regimes they predominated. Why are there still, till today, high level of poverty, illiteracy and villainy in the north? Why has the minority Muslims remained a forgotten species of citizens in Nigeria? The facts, being as they are, require a rethink by the Muslims of Nigeria. If the thoughts that Islam stands for equity, fairness and justice, Muslims should work harder to rescue the country. They must practically display the tenets of Islam for other religions to understand. Justice demands that any citizen who does not obey the constituted authority of Nigeria should be exposed and punished according to the laws of the land. The way the perpetrators of crimes in Nigeria are treated with kid-gloves can hardly subdue them. The Judiciary has to work harder in favour of Nigerians and the constitution.

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There is no other country for real patriotic Nigerians than Nigeria. Disunity in Islam is never a solution to any problem. There is no justification for Muslims of Nigeria to be divided. Violence and inhumanity are not part of Islam. Preaching and standing against Buhari is not good. Muslims must support a just leader. Buhari is trying his best. The herdsmen imbroglio is not his making but a stage-managed plan to destabilize his administration. Patriotism must be upheld by Muslims who must live with their Christian compatriots as it was practically done by the noble Prophet. How should Muslims treat Christians? In a time when tension between Islam and Christianity is high, Muslims must stand out, remain firm in reminding Christian compatriots that a true Muslim cannot hurt a Christian in any way, neither by his hand, nor by his tongue. The letter Prophet Muhammad (SAW) wrote to all Christians requires no explanation; it is an order that must not be contradicted or disobeyed till the end of the world.

Let us look at the letter – the English translation from ‘Muslim History: 570 – 1950 C.E.’ by Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq: “This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far. We are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, or damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

This letter contains the oath given unto them, and he who disobeys that which is therein will be considered a disobeyer and a transgressor to that whereunto he is commanded. He will be regarded as one who has corrupted the oath of God, disbelieved His Testament, rejected His Authority, despised His Religion, and made himself deserving of His Curse, whatever social status the person may be holding. On this note, there is the need for Muslims and Islamic organizations such as Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) and others, which have been peacefully engaging their Christian counterparts with wisdom and correspondences, to intensify efforts in building peace and unity amongst the citizens of Nigeria. The leaderships of these defenders of the Islamic faith in Nigeria, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, Professor Ishaq Oloyede and Professor Ishaq Akintola should redefine the method of confronting the diehard Christian bigots rather than being reactionary all the times. They should put up issues for dialogue with the Christian leaders. I want a situation where CAN and JNI or NSCIA meet from time to time to discuss, rather than being on each other’s neck.

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My same wish is to the Muslim leader in Nigeria, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III. There should be a steady contact with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), led by Rev. Samuel Ayokunle. All the religious misunderstandings that have created disaffection amongst the people of Nigeria can be amicably resolved through continuous meetings. The campaigns of calumny, the religious-induced killings, the herdsmen-farmers’ violent clashes and the quarrel over equitable distribution of federal appointments and infrastructure, amongst other national issues, can be resolved irrespective of the religion the President of Nigeria belongs to. There is an urgent need to push for ministry of inter-religious affairs or an inter-religious commission to be co-headed by a Muslim and a Christian.

But alas! I am yet to understand the postulation by the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) which noted that one vital issue for discussion at the amalgamation of Nigeria was the national ideology of the emerging country. The elders made reference to a quote credited to the Sardauna of Sokoto, late Sir Ahmadu Bello in The Sardauna of Sokoto Parrot Newspaper of October 12, 1960 where he said on 1st October, 1960 that: “The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grandfather Othman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the north as willing tools and the south as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future.” If this quote is true, what could be its meaning? Or did he speak in parables and was misinterpreted by the press? This statement remains pregnant to many citizens. However, it should not be. So, for now, let all the qualified Muslim compatriots get their permanent voters cards and vote with their conscience in 2019. Nigeria will remain one, stronger and progressive. In sha Allah. Ameen.

Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail mobahawwah@yahoo.co.uk.