How Scholars Are Encouraging Extremism in Northern Nigeria

A bomb goes off somewhere, a man speaks of the need for change, for social reform and the rights of poor women and without fail, a procession of Muslim “scholars” and community leaders will again be paraded on Rariya, Sunnah TV and all the outlets willing to lend them an ear. They’ll squawk a familiar refrain: “Islam is a religion of peace,”, “Our way is complete and needs nor modernisation”. They’ll insinuate that those engaged in violence of any persuasion in the name of Allah are beyond the pale of Islam.

If one needs to identify the single most important reason why the virus of extremism has infected Northern Nigerian Muslims as a polity, look no further than Islam’s top clergy and its baffling attempts to reduce the faith to a single, amoebic dimension from the rich, diverse and organic mass of truths and contradictions that it really is. Insisting Islam is a religion of peace is not wrong, but it is only half the story.

For Islam, when viewed through pronouncements in the Quran, the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Islamic history, is a system of society for the faithful. It is nuanced, multilayered and with the evolution of contemporary Muslim thought, even non-sequitur in facets of its internal logic. A faith, after all, cannot evolve in isolation from its adherents and their circumstances.

Hence, the term Islam simply cannot be limited to the practice of rituals prescribed in the Quran. From the time of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h), political and martial Islam have stayed in lockstep with spirituality. We cannot sanitise the Sunnah to whitewash all evidence of violence, much as modern-day Islamic scholars endeavour to. When Michael Hart placed the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) at the top of his ranking of “The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons In History,” he did so acknowledging the uniqueness of Islam’s prophet.

But the typical Muslim scholar, while preaching this history and tenets in the mosque, chooses to ignore it during national discourse. In the silence of the Islamiyya, he will preach about the non compromise that exists between Muslims and christians, about how this life is an us vs them  but then attempts to deceive the public by graciously appealing to national unity.

The truth is, Northern Nigerian Islam must come to terms with the fact that this is a national journey and that this journey is an unending one. The victory of Nigerian Muslims is tied intricately to the victory of the Nigerian state. We must, at least in Northern Nigeria cease this unhealthy competition that exists between Muslims and Christians. The first step to doing that, is rooting out the political tendencies buried deep within our religious mindset and replacing them Political Nigeria.


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