Last Wednesday, the governor of Kano state Dr Abdullahi Ganduje banned the popular islamic preacher Sheikh Abduljabbar Nasiru Kabara from preachings and holding all religious activities such as leading prayers and teaching islamic books.
His mosque and religious centres were also sealed. The government explained that the action was meant to ensure peace in the state as the cleric allegedly makes inciting statements in his preachings.
As a governor and chief security officer, Ganduje is empowered by law to provide peace and protect lives and properties of citizens.
To be candid, I don’t blame Ganduje for the action taken against the sheikh even though it is constitutionally and morally wrong. It is wrong because the government never gave Sheikh Abduljabbar fair hearing after receiving complaints from his fellow islamic scholars before making the decision.
Sheikh Abduljabbar’s only fault was bringing new religious ideologies in the state that suggest that there are many unauthentic hadiths (stories about the prophet of Islam) in the two major books authored by the highly revered hadiths scholars; Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim.
He articulated his reasons and based his arguments on the fact that some of those hadiths are incompatible with the contemporary society and lead to the denunciation of religion by nowadays youth who discover that some of these ‘false’ hadiths in the main books contradict science and reality. It is on record that for some time now, the number of atheists in the north particularly in Kano state has been on the increase. Can you recall atheists like Mubarak Bala, Ibraheem Nabeel, etc?
As an outspoken and eloquent preacher, Abduljabbar attracts a lot of followership, especially when other clerics seem unable to come up with superior arguments.
His fellow men of God could not endure the new ideology by Abduljabbar and tried hard to make him stop but he is adamant. Hence, they are aggrieved and resorted to slandering him and seeking government’s intervention. He may be right or wrong in his claims but the truth is that scholars have up till his ban from preachings failed to convincingly refute his arguments.
Why I don’t blame the governor completely for Abduljabbar’s travails is because I am sure he only succumbed to the pressure mounted on him by those clerics who are hostile to Sheikh Abduljabbar. Many governors would do the same when such pressure is mounted on them because majority of the clerics are not on his side. And democracy is a game of number.
Prior to the latest action, the clerics teamed up and conducted Friday sermons against their rival and asked government to bar him from preachings, threatening that if that was not done, their youth followers would take laws into their hands.
It was as a result of the threat that the governor did what he did to forestall break down of law and order. But Ganduje goofed by not giving the embattled Sheikh the benefit of the doubt. The best thing for the government to have done was to organize a debate at government house or police station between Sheikh Abduljabbar and his co-clerics on the contentious issues or at least invite him to defend himself on all the accusations. But that was not done. The government acted to please those clerics and douse tension in the state.
The recent development has continued to elicit reactions from Nigerians some of whom believe that the right of freedom of religion and expression of Sheikh Abduljabbar was violated. I share this view as the Nigerian constitution has allowed all compatriots to practise whatever faith they believe in. As a matter of fact, Nigeria does not care if one decides not to belong to any religion. Even those who deny the existence of God are allowed by the constitution to remain so and propagate their ideologies without persecution.
The Abduljabbar’s ‘foes’ too are divided into sects and groups that often disagree with the beliefs of one another.
One wonders why the gang up against Sheikh Abduljabbar if all the sects cannot agree on all religious matters. Their accusation was that Abduljabbar is deviating from the path many muslims in the state followed for many years by condemning some hadiths (Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and actions).
On his part, Abduljabbar thinks that those hadiths are fake and derogatory against the prophet of Islam, peace be upon him. He said some of them are contrary to science and reality. He believes that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, could never say something that would be contrary to reality. This is of course true. He gives reference to hadith books and asks that muslims should disregard them as they denigrate Islam. I listen to him regularly and also the other islamic scholars that counter him.
In my perception, after hearing from both parties and checking those hadiths in English books and Internet as my Arabic is not good enough to interpret them, I realized that they were written as he qoutes. But his challengers argue that he doesn’t translate them according to how past religious analysts interpreted them. One wonders why we have to rely on some people to understand meanings of hadiths. Hadiths are not like Qur’anic verses that were directly revealed from Allah (God). Allah’s words are sacrosanct. One must surrender to the words of Allah. Of course, I am not among people tagged as ‘Qur’anists’ who do not believe in any hadiths, but I am of the opinion that hadiths are like history books. They report actions of the prophet and his speeches. Some could be true just as some may be untrue. The first book of hadiths was written by Imam Malik years after the passing away of the prophet, his companions and those who followed them. Then came other hadiths reporters including Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, etc.
Malik was born almost 100 years after the exit of the exalted Prophet, Bukhari came 200 years after the prophet. So whatever they reported was like a history as it was not written during the prophet’s time. The hadiths reporters were people of integrity, but like I said no history was perfect 100 percent.
Many islamic scholars that ganged up to fight Sheikh Abduljabbar through Ganduje opine that it is wrong for him to fault the hadiths in Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim’s books on the ground that past scholars had not faulted them or that the past religious analysts interpreted their meanings. One of the known hadith commentators was Ibnu Hajar Al’asqalani who came more than 500 years after Bukhari. Hajar was of course an erudite islamic scholar but the fact that he didn’t live with Imam Bukhari showed that his works too could be questioned by others as nobody could claim monopoly of thoughts on hadiths especially if he did not live during the lifetime of the narrators.
Moreso, Sheikh Abduljabbar is not the first person to deviate from the popular views of muslims especially about hadiths. Sheikh Nasir Albany who lived in my lifetime and died in 1998 wrote books in which he authenticated some hadiths and described others as weak ones. He lived in Saudi Arabia.
Likewise Sheikh Muhammad bn Abdulwahab who was born in 1703, that was over 1, 000 years after the prophet deviated from the common views of scholars in his time who followed the four islamic schools of thought, namely, maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali, Hanafi otherwise called ‘Mazhabs’ arguing that muslims should not follow them blindly but everyone should study Qur’an and hadiths and use them according to their reasonings. He even succeeded to form a government in Saudi Arabia. This means it was common for religious teachers to differ from their predecessors since the beginning of the islamic history.
In Nigeria, the acclaimed founder of islam Sheikh Dan Fodio who died 200 years ago followed the Maliki school of thought and Nigerian muslims followed him until the advent of the Izala over 150 years after him. They came with their new school of thought. Many conservative muslims persecuted them just like Sheikh Abduljabbar is being persecuted now for coming up with new research.
Later, there came Shiite and different sects in Izala, Tariqa, etc. The best way to prevent someone from misleading others is to organize debates among the two opinion leaders where a person with wrong thought could be corrected. Banning and silencing someone is an injustice. For instance, in Zaria, when late Sheikh Auwal Albany suggested that people could perform Friday prayer at 9am which was strange, the emirate organized debate between him and other clerics. Finally, he stopped the practice in the town. Maybe he was convinced by his fellow scholars.
Therefore, I believe that the Kano state government can still organize debate between Abduljabbar and other clerics with a view to resolving the differences among them not to persecute him. It is noteworthy that past scholars like Sheikhul Islam Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya, founder of the ‘Salafiyya’ sect experienced similar gang up by the scholars of his time about 700 years ago after the exit of the prophet from those who could not debunk his teachings with stronger facts. He had to die in prison as his hostiles connived with those in power to victimize him.
In this century when people have passion for philosophy, logical reasoning, conciseness and objectivity, fanaticism will not help our religion.
It is a baseless allegation that the Sheikh is violent as for the past 20 years he has been preaching, he never took weapons or incited his followers to clamp down on constituted authorities or innocent citizens. So he is not a threat to peace. If he were violent like Boko Haram or Mai Tatsine clerics as some people insinuate, I don’t think he would wait that long before he starts launching his atrocities on the state.
Editing hadiths that are derogatory to islam and the prophet and those that promote terrorism is what Sheikh Abduljabbar advocates. Only when there are strong proofs on his alleged incitements, Sheikh Abduljabbar remains a victim of the majority against the minority in Kano.
Please, let Sheikh Abduljabbar be!
Najib is a journalist and author, 08086352355
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily